The Kent State football team will hold its final spring football scrimmage at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Dix Stadium. Although the scrimmage won’t be the final determination on who will start, who will play and who should buy the Brady Quinn customclip board, it will be a good first step in determining who is taking the coaching and who is not.
So what should fans who decide to shake off their Saturday morning hangover to watch some spring football expect to see?
Junior linebacker Kevin Hogan and sophomore defensive end Monte Simmons will dominate the Mid-American Conference in 2008. Simmons entered last season as a true freshman and gradually improved over the course of the 2007 season. This spring he has done just about everything a person could do to secure his starting spot in 2008, recording 13 tackles and unofficially leading the team in sacks over the last two scrimmages.
KENT STATE SCRIMMAGE
Where: Dix Stadim 11 a.m.
When: 11 a.m. tomorrow
The scrimmage is free of charge. The Kent State Athletic Department is asking fans to park in the Kent State Field House parking lot on the east side of Dix Stadium because stadium renovations are under way.
Hogan started every game in his junior season, playing linebacker and defensive end in the 3-4 formation. The hybrid has simply gone off on the young offensive line, routinely making the quarterbacks run for cover. Last Saturday, Hogan had 3.5 sacks in the scrimmage.
Hogan and Simmons may not see as much playing time on Saturday, as coaches will look to build depth by giving senior defensive end Darrius Carter, whose 6-foot-5 inch frame certainly makes him a physical presence.
The defense has been outstanding this spring, but that begs the question: What does that say about the offense?
Well, it says the offense needs to improve by becoming more consistent, as Kent State coach Doug Martin has mentioned often this spring. The offense turned the ball over frequently last season and struggled with penalties. The Flashes struggled during the first scrimmage, but cut down on both last week.
There’s no doubt that the Flashes have more confidence this spring, knowing that they have junior Nate Reed, a kicker, who has been making long field goals this spring. That little addition takes a lot of pressure off the offense. But they’ll need more than field goals to increase the win totals of 2007, and it will start with the offensive line. With two new starters on the line, the unit has had a roller-coaster spring. Facing quick and physical pass rushers on the defense, the line allowed 11 sacks during last scrimmage.
The injury to starting center, senior Josh Perry, hasn’t impacted the first team offense as much as it has the second team. Red shirt freshman Chris Anzevino has played in Perry’s place, while walk-on sophomore Aaron Cooper has had to fill in for him on the second team. The center exchange has been a struggle for the second team all spring, but is sure to change once Perry returns this summer.
Of course it would be foolish not to talk about the quarterback situation. Senior Julian Edelman will probably enter the summer as the starting quarterback, after showing coaches that his knee is healthy and his arm is getting stronger. Edelman has been back to his old tricks this spring, finding running lanes and avoiding tackles, so expect coaches to limit him during the scrimmage. Which means sophomore Giorgio Morgan will take most of the snaps with the first team.
Morgan, whose biggest contribution this spring has been showing up late for the first scrimmage, has thrown the ball well but has struggled with pocket presence all spring. An impressive showing for the Georgia native will put him in prime position to take a run at the starting job in the summer. The good news is that Morgan is the most naturally talented quarterback on the roster and has fully recovered from the torn knee ligament this spring.
If Kent State wants to improve on its three-win season from a year ago, the wide receivers are going to have to improve. Sophomore Leneric Muldrow has been one of the more consistent receivers on the field, which could propel him to Edelman or Morgan’s top target. However, Muldrow, senior Shawn Bayes, sophomore Aaron Robinson, and juniors Phil Garner and Coleman Lynn are virtually the same receiver. All are quick and fast, but neither has grown into the “go-to” receiver.
But with senior Jameson Konz now at tight end, safeties and linebackers will have to pay more attention to the middle of the field, which will open up the passing game. New offensive coordinator A.J. Pratt has sparked excitement from wide receivers such as Muldrow by pushing the ball down field more.
The key to the Flashes’ 2008 season is depth. It’s something that affected them last season as injuries mounted and it’s something every successful football team has. So if you don’t see junior running back Eugene Jarvis or senior tackle Augustus Parrish play as much as you expect, remember the Flashes play Boston College in August and depth will certainly be a factor.
Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected]