They’re all back, all of them

Joe Harrington

The Kent State football practices last Saturday during spring football at Dix Stadium. ELIZABETH MYERS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

The Kent State linebacking corps returns everyone next season.

In his junior season, Derek Burrell had an impressive 112 tackles, eighth in the Mid-American Conference. He’s back for his senior year.

Stevon Moss had 57 tackles, despite missing a third of the season because of a leg injury. Moss started every game in 2006 and racked up 42 solo tackles that season. He’s back for his senior year.

Cedrick Maxwell started nearly every game for the Flashes and was the unit’s second leading tackler with 74. He’s back for his senior season.

Throw in Kevin Hogan’s junior year and Michigan transfer Cobrani Mixon’s first eligible season and the Kent State football team may have the most talented unit in the conference.

The only loss is Jameson Konz, who moves to tight end in 2008. This is important to note because if the cliché is right – and by judging from past history, it’s usually right- defense does win championships. And few defenses are successful with poor linebackers, but defenses with hungry linebackers are usually down right scary.

“Our guys are not satisfied with the way things have been here,” defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis said. “Certainly last year left a bad taste in their mouths.”

Despite some of the final scores, the Kent State defense had success in stopping the run, and the linebackers were a big factor. If it weren’t for a late season funk, such as allowing Northern Illinois to run for 261 yards, the unit may be entering the 2008 season as the most hyped in the conference.

“We want to be viewed as the best defense in the MAC. If that’s to be the case, these seniors need to be improved and play that way,” Rekstis said.

Burrell is one major key to the defense. The Virginia native was one of the biggest surprises of Spring football in 2007 and was able to carry that momentum to the regular season. In the last three games, Burrell had three weeks of career-highs in tackles, topped off by 16 in the Buffalo game.

In five practices this spring, Burrell continues to improve.

“It appears in this offseason and so far (this spring) he’s continued to work hard and not be complacent,” Rekstis said. “He makes as much improvement as he did from the year before, (and) he’ll be a tremendous player.”

The Flashes run a form of a 3-4 defense. This means there is supposed to be three down lineman and four linebackers. Because of Kevin Hogan’s ability to rush the quarterback, expect to see him lining up on the line more in 2008. Hogan has looked impressive every day of Spring practice and may be this Spring’s Burrell.

Mixon’s arrival meant that Kent State has finally landed one of the biggest recruits of a few years ago. If he can get past the off-field issues, Mixon can, and is almost expected to, be one of the best linebackers in the conference.

“He’s playing good, just all around,” Burrell said. “I like playing with him.”

With the conference’s leading rusher, junior Eugene Jarvis, back, and a quarterback competition in the spring that is expected to be taken into summer camp, the linebackers may get lost in the shuffle. Judging by this spring, if the defense is successful, the linebackers will be right there on the sports page.

“We have a chance to be real good,” Burrell said. “We got a lot of depth. A lot of young players, we all got speed. I think we can be real good, one of the best there’s ever been (at Kent State).”

Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected].