2008 class second in the MAC

Joe Harrington

There will be 22 new faces on the Kent State football team next season, after coach Doug Martin announced the new recruits at the 2008 “National Signing Day” press conference, yesterday at Dix Stadium.

The class features nine defensive players, 10 offensive players, one player listed as an athlete and two special team players. With just six recruits from Ohio, the Flashes hit the recruiting trail hard, signing seven players from southern states Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina.

“I congratulate our staff. They did a fantastic job recruiting,” Martin said. “We signed a relatively large class this year. We didn’t anticipate to have this many scholarships, but things worked out.”

Martin said the team had three main areas where recruiting could have an impact, with punting being number one. Last season, sophomore Jake Kilroy struggled with consistency, and Martin said the Flashes would have a new punter in 2008. They do now, after signing Matt Rinehart from Dover. Rinehart, along with Martin’s second recruiting priority, long snapper Ryan Hidalgo from Fayetteville, Ga., will instantly compete for starting jobs in 2008.

Martin’s last recruiting priority was on the offensive line, where the Flashes must replace seniors Bill Starry, Joe Marafine and Shawn Donaldson. The Flashes signed four offensive lineman, including one of the more prominent players in the class, Mike Roder, from Scottsdale Community College. Roder is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 310 pounds. He is already enrolled at Kent State and is preparing for spring football practice.

“It was really important for us to get an experienced, older junior college offensive lineman in here, and we really felt like we hit a home run with Mike Roder,” Martin said.

After taking care of the immediate needs, Martin said the next goal was to build depth on the roster. The defensive back field, which has produced NFL players Usama Young and Andre Kirkland, will have six new players. Josh Pleasant, from Germantown Md. and recruited from Hargrave Academy, is expected to contribute for the Flashes next season.

“Josh is very explosive, a great kick returner and could see early playing time for us,” Martin said. “Josh is big enough, strong enough, physical enough to play.”

Sal Battles is one of two high profile Ohio recruits. Battles is from East High School in Youngstown, where he played quarterback and was awarded Division II Player of the Year for Northeast Ohio. Battles could see playing time at wide receiver or at running back. Martin said Battles was being recruited by most Mid-American Conference teams, but he chose Kent over Toledo and Akron.

The other high profile Ohio recruit is offensive lineman Josh Kline. The 6 feet 4 inches tall, 270 pound Mason, Ohio native is currently the top heavy weight wrestler in the state. Kline is currently 32-1 this season and was 38-8 in his junior season.

The large recruiting class is the third straight strong class for Kent State, according to Steve Hare, a Rivals.com recruiting analyst and publisher of Kentsportsreport.com. Hare said the Flashes have been upgrading their classes the past three years and took another big step by signing 18 players who are six foot or taller.

“In the past Kent State never matched up well, having 5-foot-9-inch defensive backs covering 6-feet-5-inch wide receivers,” Hare said. “Now the Flashes are starting to get 6 feet1 inch, 6 feet 2 inch players that should create better match-ups.”

Hare said most of the recruits are players who could be playing in bigger conferences, but fell through the cracks and wound up at Kent State.

Kent State’s recruiting class was ranked second in the MAC, according to Hare.

“Obviously, I think they met their needs,” Hare said. “The guys are getting bigger, the skill sets are better and the type of players they are getting are hungrier.”

Martin said there are at least four scholarships that are being held so the Flashes will have the ability to sign late recruits over the summer.

Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington

at [email protected].