Former YSU head coach leading Flashes’ defense


Senior defensive lineman Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and junior linebacker C.J. Malauulu rush to tackle Loiusiana’s ball-carrier during Kent’s loss to Louisiana on Sept. 10. Photo by Matt Hafley.

AJ Atkinson

Kent State (0-3) vs. South Alabama (2-1)

When: Saturday at 3:30 pm.

Where: Dix Stadium

The city of Kent is starving for a better football program. When Ohio State’s assistant coach Darrell Hazell was hired as head coach of the Flashes, it kindled hope in Flashes’ football fans.

However, Hazell has not had the easiest of starts as the new head coach. Hazell did not get an easy schedule, as the team’s first two road games were against Alabama and Kansas State. Nonetheless, people are still upset at the team’s performance and 0-3 record.

This is why Hazell is happy to have a guy like defensive coordinator Jon Heacock on his staff. With his nine years of head coaching experience and a 60-44 record at Youngstown State, Heacock provides Hazell the support and guidance he needs.

“He’s a guy that I can lean on for resources because he’s been there before,” Hazell said. “Sometimes when you haven’t been in (the head coaching) role before, you don’t see all the pictures. But he sees all the pictures as a former head coach. He sees how I would see it. You don’t compartmentalize. You see the whole thing.”

Heacock said being a former head coach has prepared him to be an even better assistant. He said knowing all that Hazell is doing and going through enables him to do a better job at helping Hazell.

“I’ve always said I would be a better assistant after being a head coach because I can try to solve some problems before it ever gets to coach or I can manage my own guys better so that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing because (the head coach) is swamped,” Heacock said.

Heacock said he is enjoying his role as defensive coordinator. Meeting individually with the players and getting to know them personally is what he said he missed most as a head coach.

He said practices are also more enjoyable because he is not looking at the whole picture anymore like Hazell, but instead is only focusing on the defense. This concentration is also what allows Heacock to intimidate and use his booming voice on the field.

“I tell my players I try to make it as hard on them and put as much pressure on them in practices as I can,” Heacock said. “I tell them that ahead of time that that is my individual goal. I’m going to run around all crazy and put as much pressure on you as possible so that when you play in front of 15,000 or 30,000 or 100,000, it’s not a real big deal.”

Hazell said Heacock’s defense responds well to this because they know Heacock personally from individual meetings and know his fire is just to make them better.

“Defense is emotional because it’s all reaction,” Heacock said. “You don’t get to line up and know exactly where you’re going all the time. You have to react, and with that you have to play with passion and emotion, and I think that’s how you have to coach it.“

Heacock said this team will pull together and turn the season around. He said he was not happy with how the defense could not stop Kansas State’s running game, but believes he has made the changes on defense that will show this weekend against South Alabama, who has two very talented running backs.

The two teams meet up Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Dix Stadium. The Flashes (0-3) are seeking their first win against the Jaguars (2-1), who lost their first game last weekend against North Carolina State since their program started in 2009.

Contact AJ Atkinson at [email protected].