Spring practice readies gridders

Deanna Stevens

For the Kent State football team, what happens in April is just as important as what happens in November.

Now in their second week of spring practice, the Flashes are without some key contributors, and Kent State coach Doug Martin said that’s something the team is just going to have to get used to.

“Late in November, this is what we’ll have to face,” Martin said. “We’re treating this spring practice like it’s November.”

Starting quarterback Julian Edelman will miss the entire spring workout after having shoulder surgery. Missing from the defensive side of the ball are linemen Collin Ferrel, Prishod Koonce and linebacker Cedrick Maxwell. All of the injured Flashes are expected to be ready to play this fall.

And without the staples on offense and defense, Martin said that this is the time to find players who will be able to fill in as backups or even compete for starting roles.

Martin said one area of focus has been the quest for a backup quarterback. And this season, the Flashes’ roster has several potentially reliable backups.

Sophomore Darren Rogers played wide receiver last fall, but the former high school quarterback will only be taking snaps this spring.

“If Darren isn’t the starting quarterback (next season), then he’ll be at wide receiver,” Martin said.

Also in the competition for the backup job is sophomore Anthony Magazu, who’s returning from a back injury, and Jon Brown, who was redshirted last season.

While Rogers will be quarterbacking this spring, another group will be giving him a run at wide receiver.

The wide receiver core, Martin said, has been the team’s “pleasant surprise.”

Competing for the vacancy left by senior Najah Pruden are sophomore Phil Garner, junior Shawn Bayes, redshirt freshman Leneric Muldrow and grayshirts Aaron Robinson and Derek McBryde.

Another point of emphasis for Kent State is the kicking game. The Flashes were plagued by inconsistency last season, but Martin said things are looking up this spring.

Freshman Nate Reed hit five of seven field goals in practice Friday and, according to Martin, “has been really solid.”

After the graduation of Danny Muir, Andre Kirkland and Usama Young, Martin said the Flashes will be the most inexperienced in the secondary.

Returning starters for the Flashes are Fritz Jacques and Jack Williams, but joining the ranks are safeties Dan Hartman and Brian Lainhart. Kirk Belgrave and Curtis Eaton make up the “four quality guys” adding to the defensive effort.

After last season’s second place finish in the Mid-American Conference East Division, the Flashes are ready to fight for another crack at the top spot.

“They’re a hungry group,” Martin said. “They got a taste of success last season, and they’ve proven to themselves that they can play at this level.”

Kent State will open up the season on the road against Iowa State and Kentucky before traveling to Ohio State midway through the season to cap the BCS tour.

“We are going to have to win those types of games,” Martin said, “to take this program to a new level.”

Contact sports reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].