KSU prepares for football on and off the field

Dan Stroble

Sophomore quarterback Julian Edelman throws a pass during Kent State football practice in Dix Stadium. Edelman came to Kent State after spending his freshman year at the College of San Mateo where he rushed for a school-record 1,253 yards. The Golden Flas

Credit: Steve Schirra

The Kent State football team hopes a few changes this season, both on and off the field, will bring more wins — and fans — to Dix Stadium.

“This year, we’re not gonna stop until we win,” said junior offensive lineman Josh Perry.

The squad opens up its season on a large scale Thursday, Aug. 31 against the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. It will be the first time Kent State hosts a Big Ten team. The Flashes then travel to West Point, N.Y., to battle the Army Black Knights for the first time.

“That’s a real key game for us to get back on a winning track,” head Coach Doug Martin said. Entering his third season at the position, he said he feels more comfortable.

Martin acknowledged the team’s defense, especially its speed and experience, as its biggest strength.

Standout players on defense include honorable mention freshman All-American defensive back Rico Murray and 2005 All Mid-American Conference defensive lineman Daniel Muir.

The Flashes are hoping to gain from a bigger and stronger offensive line, which, for the first time ever, will have players who each weigh 300 pounds or more. Martin said an improvement for this season is the running game.

“Our running backs, Eugene Jarvis and Tony Howard, are two players who didn’t play last year and should be real impact players for us this year,” Martin said.

Jarvis was red-shirted and Howard transferred from Michigan State.

Other key offensive players include senior wide receiver Najah Pruden.

Off the field, Kent State hopes that it will draw in higher attendance with its new Tailgate Alley. Starting about two hours before each home game, Kent State athletics will offer food, beverages, giveaways and live entertainment.

“I would love football to become an atmosphere at Dix Stadium,” Martin said.

He said the college’s attractive campus and high enrollment could allow this to happen.

The event will also feature special offers from sponsors, inflatables for the kids, chances to meet university student athletes and coaches and visits from mascot Flash.

Martin said it is difficult to decide which comes first — winning football games or increasing fan support. He said the team needs to start winning more. He also urged fans to get more into the action.

“We need desperately for this community and student body to embrace this football program,” he said.

Perry said a new sense of leadership is one improvement for the season.

“The leadership has developed among all the players,” said Perry, who was red-shirted his freshman year.

Sophomore wide receiver Mark Woodson said another strength for this season is the increased team unity that has developed since winter workouts.

“We’re more of a team,” Mark Woodson said. “We’re coming together more as a family.”

He also said an improvement the team needs to make this season is to limit its turnovers.

Of the entire team, 18 starters have returned for this season.

Martin said that the Flashes had 16 true freshmen last season. But he views this as a benefit that could surprise opponents, fans and the conference this season.

“I think we’re a much more confident team,” he said. “So I think their level of play would rise dramatically.”

Martin, who also serves as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, leads a staff of nine assistant coaches. He says it is the best group the team has had in a long time.

The head coach is optimistic for the upcoming season.

“There’s no reason we can’t be one of the most dynamic programs in the MAC,” Martin said. “It’s just time that we step our whole level of play up.”

Contact general assignment reporter Dan Stroble at [email protected].