Kent State begins preparation for fall

Doug Gulasy

Flashes hope roster moves will pay off

Kent State’s football team opened its spring practice season this weekend with a new quarterback, new coaches and a new offensive mindset.

Now, the Flashes are hoping those changes will lead to a significant change in one all-important area: improving the team’s 4-8 record from last season.

“We’re going in a new phase – we’re trying to win games now,” senior wide receiver Derek McBryde said. “That’s the main focus, regardless of coach or player. If you’ve got change, you’ve got change because we want to win.”

The overall change is most apparent on offense, specifically at the quarterback position. With three-year starter Julian Edelman gone to graduation, sophomore Giorgio Morgan and senior Anthony Magazu are competing to replace him.

Morgan is currently listed first on the depth chart, but Kent State coach Doug Martin said he doesn’t expect a final decision to be made this spring.

“So far with the competition, it’s neck-and-neck,” Morgan said. I feel that every day after practice, I can’t go and tell somebody, ‘Oh yeah, I’m the starter for Kent State’s football team.’ Every day, it’s competition. You can never get settled. You can never get satisfied.”

The team’s new quarterback will likely be directing a more pass-oriented offense than fans have seen in recent years.

Because neither Morgan nor Magazu has the scrambling ability of Edelman, who rushed for 1,370 yards last season, the Flashes expect to pass more to take the pressure off senior running back Eugene Jarvis and the rest of the team’s ground attack.

“It’s pretty obvious that we have a great running game with Eugene, and our offensive line has done a great job as well,” senior H-back Jameson Konz said. “What we need to do is be a little more balanced this year, and everybody knows that.

“With Giorgio and Magazu, guys with both great arms, we’re going to get the ball out there and hopefully distribute it to the wide receivers and make plays to help the running game out.”

The Flashes admit that for their passing game to improve, their wide receivers need to show more consistency. No returning wide receiver had more than 17 catches in 2008, and the player who made those 17 receptions – senior Phil Garner – isn’t even currently listed on the team’s depth chart.

In hopes of boosting the passing attack, the coaches switched redshirt sophomore Matthew Hurdle from quarterback to wide receiver and moved Konz from tight end to H-back, where he could line up as a tight end, running back or wide receiver.

Still, the coaches said they need to see more from the receivers this spring before deciding which of them can help improve the offense in 2009.

“We had one receiver make plays all the way through the year last year,” offensive coordinator A.J. Pratt said. “His name’s Shawn Bayes, and he ain’t here anymore. Right now, we’ve got a bunch of guys out there that have not made a single play. In fact, I don’t know how many guys we’ve got on our offense that have scored a touchdown at wide receiver.

“We’ve got to get three or four guys to show up and play every Saturday (next fall), and right now, we’ve got no idea who they are.”

Martin gave Pratt the responsibility of improving the team’s wideouts, naming him wide receivers coach to go along with his offensive coordinator duties in March.

Pratt got right to work in the team’s first practice Friday morning, getting in the face of several wide receivers after they ran a bad route or dropped a pass.

“He brings attitude: You know you’re going to hear him,” McBryde said. “He brings that edge, though you need it sometimes. Sometimes, people get off the goal. The goal is to win. He’s nailing it in there. We’re going to get it.”

McBryde, who is currently listed as a starter, said the wide receivers are “going to be the surprise of the team” next season, and he expects the team as a whole to make a turnaround in 2009.

“It’s really one of those years where we just take off with it,” he said. “You just can’t expect anything (to just happen). We’re expecting for the best, and we’re working as hard as we can. So we can’t have any excuses.

“We’re going real hard, no excuses. We’re going to work hard and get the job done – period.”

Contact sports editor Doug Gulasy at [email protected].