Healthier football team looks to win

DKS Editors

Flashes hope recovery from injury-plagued 2007 season will mean good things in 2008

The Kent State football team seemed to have enough talent last year to take any blows the season could throw at them, but by the end of the year the injury-plagued Flashes looked like a punch-drunk heavyweight whose manager should have tossed in the towel.

Thanks to an infusion of new talent and a returning group of veterans who have learned tough lessons, coach Doug Martin said he thinks the team is ready to fulfill the promise of last season.

“When we were healthy last year, we were beating Iowa State and we were beating Ohio on the road, which was a great win,” Martin said. “So if we have a healthy quarterback, we’re capable of making a run at this thing.”


&bull Eugene Jarvis, junior running back: Jarvis is coming off a record-breaking sophomore year and should be even more dangerous if the quarterback position has any stability this year. Look for Jarvis to be more involved in the passing game this year so he can get into one-on-one matchups.

&bull Julian Edelman, senior quarterback: Although sophomore Giorgio Morgan is being tagged as the quarterback of the future, Edelman returns this year as the starter because of his elusiveness as a scrambler and the respect his fellow offensive players have for him. If Edelman stays healthy – a big maybe – other teams will need to devote almost as much time to figuring out how to contain him as they do with Jarvis.

&bull Derek Burrell, senior linebacker: Burrell brings toughness and leadership ability to a solid linebacker unit featuring seniors Cedrick Maxwell and Stevon Moss and transfer Cobrani Mixon. Burrell led the team in total tackles last season with 112 and was named a third-team All-Mid-American Conference selection.


&bull Cobrani Mixon, sophomore linebacker: Mixon sat out last season because of transfer rules after leaving Michigan for Kent State. Mixon is already generating buzz because of his athletic ability and speed despite not playing for the Flashes yet. He brings Big Ten talent to the MAC and should play a big part in the talented linebacking corps.

&bull Jameson Konz, senior tight end: Konz played his last three seasons as a linebacker but moves into the tight end slot because of the depth at the linebacker position and his potential as a weapon on offense. If this experiment with Konz on offense succeeds, it could help take some pressure off Jarvis and a young group of receivers.

&bull Matt Rinehart, freshman punter: The punt may be the most important play in football, and the Flashes need their young punter to come in and bring consistency that has been lacking in the past. Rinehart should challenge junior Jake Kilroy for the starting spot and help the Flashes win the battle for field position.

Senior linebacker Derek Burrell said playing on a team hampered by injuries was not easy, but he looks forward to trying to fix that this year.

“It’s been tough, but that’s in the past,” he said. “This is my last year, so I see us going out good this year, and that’s all that matters.”

The team showed promise coming into last season but sputtered to a 3-9 finish after winning three of its first five games (including a 24-13 win at Iowa State to open the season).

The Flashes were hit hard by injuries at the quarterback spot, losing senior Julian Edelman, junior Anthony Magazu and sophomore Giorgio Morgan at different points last year.

The team ended the season on a seven-game losing streak, mostly against Mid-American Conference opponents. Martin said while Edelman will be the starting quarterback this year, he hopes to take some pressure off of him and keep him healthy by playing Morgan more.

“Giorgio’s going to play in every game,” Martin said. “I’m really planning on treating those guys a lot like I did our quarterbacks at East Carolina. Giorgio’s going to get at least one series of each half to come in and play.”

Martin said Edelman is 100 percent healthy, and the knee injury that hurt him last season should not affect his touted scrambling ability. Edelman’s 455 rushing yards last year were second on the team to junior running back Eugene Jarvis, whose 1,669 yards ranked him seventh overall in the nation.

Jarvis, the leading rusher from last season returning to college football, said the team has a different mindset after last year.

“A lot of players are hungry,” Jarvis said. “We don’t want to feel like we felt last year ever again.”

Jarvis said although he achieved a great deal on the field individually, this season will not mean much to him without a solid result for the team.

The Flashes were 1-1 against Bowl Championship Series teams last season, and they go into this year with two more BCS matchups. Kent State plays its season opener against Boston College in Cleveland in the Patriot Bowl Aug. 30 and travels to a rematch with Iowa State the next week.

Martin said the team learned that it can upset big-time programs last year with the win at Iowa State.

“Last year, beating Iowa State, I think was a great learning curve for our players,” Martin said. “They finally realized that they can go and win those games. You don’t just have to go play them and keep it close – you can win that game. I think we go into (the) Boston College (game) and we’ll go into Iowa State fully expecting to win.”

After a technical knockout because of injuries last season, the Flashes go into this year with the talent and depth to last the full 12 rounds and possibly come out with a MAC championship.

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].