He’s back. He’s healthy. He’s Spencer Keith

Lance Lysowski

Spencer Keith’s freshman season looked destined to be spent on the sidelines holding a clipboard.

That all changed last season when the Flashes visited Boston College in week two and then-starting quarterback Giorgio Morgan sprained his ankle. Keith was called on to make his first appearance against the Eagles, a Bowl Championship Series Conference school. On the first play of his college career, he was picked off.

Two games later, Keith threw a 56-yard touchdown pass in his first attempt against Miami. Two weeks after that, the freshman was tabbed the starting quarterback.

Keith’s career may not have began smoothly, but the quarterback went on to set freshman school records with 2,147 passing yards and 14 touchdowns, while starting seven games in ten appearances.

Kent State coach Doug Martin said Keith’s playing time last season has put him in a position to lead the Flashes in 2010 and his play in fall practices is showing it.

“He has been remarkable,” Martin said. “The experience he got last year is invaluable and mentally he is at a different level than he was last year.”

Keith’s freshman campaign was cut short after suffering a shoulder injury during the Flashes’ 47-13 loss to Temple in November. While rehabbing during the off-season, Keith continued to show Martin his ability to command the huddle.

“We’re doing so much more with him at the line of scrimmage, game-planning wise and changing protections,” Martin said. “He is the leader of our offense now. There’s no doubt about it. When he steps in the huddle, he’s not a freshman; he’s demanding things get done.”

After becoming the team’s starter, Keith observed senior safety Brian Lainhart to help himself grow as a leader. Lainhart said Keith’s development has been obvious this fall.

“He has better control of the offense and he knows it more,” Lainhart said. “That’s going to be huge for our offense — knowing that he can go up there and make adjustments to what he sees.”

Keith first displayed his talent and intelligence at his high school, Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark. As a senior, the signal caller set a state and national passing record with 5,310 yards in the season. His performance brought his team the 5A State Championship.

But scholarship offers did not follow. Keith, who played in an unconventional offense that rarely kicked or punted in high school, gained the attention of only one coach in the nation: Martin. While Keith had the option to forgo his football career, he accepted Martin’s scholarship offer.

“I love football and the offer definitely helped,” Keith said. “I’m just glad I came here now. I really didn’t know much about Kent in the first place, but when I got here, I saw these guys want to win.”

As the Flashes kick off their season tonight by hosting Murray State at 7 p.m. in Dix Stadium, Keith is relieved that he can finally get back to playing the game he loves.

“It’s been a long off-season, and you don’t realize that,” Keith said. “It’s my first year not having basketball to play in the off-season, and it’s working out. I’m really glad the season is here now.”

Contact sports reporter Lance Lysowski at [email protected].

What to know about going to football games:

Transportation: Hop on the bus from the Student Center to the stadium. Be sure to arrive early to check out the new tailgating experience in the field house.

Tickets: KSU games are free to students. Just show up at the gate with your FLASHcard in hand.

Food and Beverage: The concession stands do not accept FLASHcash. Be sure to bring cash with you.

Seating: Sit in the student section on the east side of the stadium. The football team needs the support of the fans so be sure to make noise early and often.