Where’s the beef

Joe Harrington

There is no doubt about it: The Kent State football team could run the ball last season. The team finished with 2,403 rushing yards last season, second in the Mid-American Conference.

Imagine what that number would be if the Flashes hadn’t lost three quarterbacks by the end of the season. Had the Flashes been able to keep eight defenders off the line of scrimmage, the team’s rushing numbers might have been some of the best in country.

A lot was made of sophomore Eugene Jarvis’ tremendous season, when he rushed for a conference leading 1,669 (that’s roughly 70 percent of the team’s rushing yards). But as Jarvis would probably say himself, he had some help. Namely a gigantic offensive line that averaged 6 feet 4 inches and more than 300 pounds.


First Team Offensive-line

LT Augustus Parrish (6-5, 305 pounds)*

LG Michael Fay (6-4, 265 pounds)

C Josh Perry (6-2, 295 pounds)*

RG Mike Roder (6-4, 310 pounds)^

RT Pat Reedy (6-4, 280 pounds)*

* 2007 starter; ^ entering first season at KSU

However fans look at it, the offensive line was a key to the unit’s limited success last season. When Jarvis rushed for 242 yards against Ohio, the line led the way. When Central Michigan recorded five sacks against the Flashes, the offensive line might have been blamed – maybe unjustly, considering Giorgio Morgan was starting his first game as a freshman.

Gone are Joe Marafine, Shawn Donaldson and tight end Tom Sitko- all seniors last season. Marafine entered the season as the most hyped lineman on the roster, with pre-season All-MAC aspirations. At 6 feet 4 inches, 305 pounds, the guard may have been considered the best NFL prospect on the team. But by the end of the season, Marafine was struggling with false starts and holding calls. Regardless, Marafine, along with solid play from Donaldson at tackle, were very effective on the line last season.

So who is opening holes this Fall?

First and foremost, 6 feet 5 inches, 305 pound, All-MAC second-team tackle, Augustus Parrish returns to the line. Other returning starters include center Josh Perry, and 6 feet 4 inches, 280 pound Pat Reedy, who saw action at a number of offensive line positions last season. Travis McGraw, 6 feet 5 inches and 305 pounds, brings experience and depth to the line. While 2007 red-shirt freshman Michael Fay is currently penciled-in at left guard.

Replacing Marafine on the line is the gem of the recruiting class, Mike Roder.

At 310 pounds, Roder is literally the largest man on the offensive line. A junior-college transfer from Scottsdale Community College in Ariz., Roder enrolled at Kent State this January, and is already practicing with the offensive first team.

With cohesiveness being a key attribute to blocking success, Roder’s participation with his teammates is an encouraging sight.

“I’ve been here a couple months,” Roder said. “We’ve gone through some lifting, so I’ve kind of bonded with them there. I feel like I fit in here, and that’s the reason I came (to Kent State).”

Roder played tackle last season, so the move to guard could be a tricky one because of the extra athleticism that pulling guards need.

“It’s a little bit different, but (I’ve) been in the film room with (offensive line coach Terry Tilghman) a lot and he’s taught me a whole lot,” Roder said. “It’s been a little bit difficult transferring over, but I’m getting it and excited about getting out there.”

Kent State coach Doug Martin has nothing but praise for his new defensive plow.

“Physically, Mike is as good of a player as we had here,” Martin said. “He’s 300 pounds… he’s real explosive in the weight room. I think everyday he’s out here and learns a little bit more, he gets better and better. He’s at the starting guard position right now and definitely will help us.”

With Roder arguably being an up-grade, along with Jarvis not going anywhere, and new offensive coordinator A.J. Pratt being the offensive tackles and tight end coach last season, the line will have high expectations entering the 2008 season.

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