Freshman safety quickly adjusts to collegiate play

Lance Lysowski

In the first quarter of the Wagon Wheel game on Oct. 2, Wollet substituted for senior safety Dan Hartman. Before the ball was snapped, senior safety Brian Lainhart yelled to Wollet that he was lined up on the wrong side of the field, but it was too late for him to adjust.

Wollet’s mistake turned in his favor. The freshman intercepted Akron sophomore quarterback Patrick Nicely’s pass and returned it 12 yards for the game-tying touchdown.

Lainhart, who along with Hartman is mentoring the Poland, Ohio native, said Wollet is still trying to grasp college football.

Kent State to open 2011 at Alabama

Kent State and Alabama have signed a contract to open the 2011 season in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 3. The date will mark the first football game between the two schools, while Alabama coach Nick Saban will play against his alma mater. Saban played defensive back for Kent State from 1970-72 as part of the last Flashes team to appear in a bowl game.

“He’s come a long way,” Lainhart said. “At first, he was kind of confused by x’s and o’s and playing college football. Once he really started to pick things up, you know, watch extra film, study the playbook a little more, he was really able to move on. He was able to just play football instead of thinking. That’s the biggest thing. He knows what he’s doing. He’s confident now.”

When the former Division III player arrived on campus for summer football camp, he did not have a place to stay. Lainhart and Hartman let Wollet sleep on their couch. Every year, the team’s starting safeties, along with senior linebacker Cobrani Mixon, give an incoming freshman a place to stay during camp.

For Wollet, the situation could not be more perfect. The 6-foot-1-inch safety, who chose Kent State over Eastern Michigan for the opportunity to learn under Lainhart and Hartman, was given the chance to start learning from day one.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said that Wollet reminds him of the Football Bowl Subdivision’s leader in career interceptions.

“He is very similar to Brian Lainhart,” Martin said. “They’re very similar players. He’s really intelligent, he’s got a good feel for the game, he doesn’t get wide-eyed. If he makes a mistake he doesn’t panic, and he’s going to be a good player.”

The freshman was told entering fall camp that he would watch Lainhart and Hartman from the sidelines to learn the system, but knew he was capable of earning playing time.

“I took that as a personal challenge,” Wollet said. “As long as I’m here at Kent State, I’m going to challenge myself to get better every day. I’m just trying to gain their trust and keep grinding out here, doing whatever I can to get better and make this defense better.”

Wollet has not started a game yet this season but is making an impact in a reserve role. The freshman has appeared in the last two games, recording two tackles, an interception and two punt returns for an eight-yard game against Toledo.

At the end of this season, Lainhart and Hartman will graduate, leaving a void at both safety positions.

Martin said Wollet will be competing for a starting job next fall, and he is learning from the playing time the team is giving him.

“Luke will be a guy next year to be competing for a starting role and have to be a leader back there,” Martin said. “Our safeties make a lot of calls for us in our defense. Setting things up, coverage and sometimes blitzes. All of the experience Luke gets now will only benefit him and he’s making plays. He goes in and good things happen.”

While Wollet is showing the coaching staff that he should be considered for a starting role next season, he knows he is capable of more right now.

“If I practice like I did this week, then I shouldn’t play at all,” Wollet said.

He’s still learning.

Contact Lance Lysowski at [email protected]?.