Football combs Ohio, signs 14 recruits for 2006 season

Matt Gottfried

While many of college football’s powerhouses were busy roaming the country for the nation’s most elite players, the Kent State football program was honed in on finding Ohio’s top young talent.ÿ

Kent State coach Doug Martin said this 2006 recruiting class, which consists of nine players from Ohio, is one that should allow them to match up well with teams such as Miami in regard to speed.ÿ

“What we put together here was done emphasizing speed,” Martin said. “There are a lot of defensive players in this class, but we wanted to continue to get more and more athletic. With all the experience we have coming back, and a couple of the kids we have here, I think we can compete with anyone in the conference.”ÿ

With nine of the 14 recruits coming from the Buckeye state, Martin has now accounted for 21 Ohio-raised players in his two years at Kent State. That’s a trend he would like to continue for years to come.ÿ

“On top of what we did last year, we put together two back-to-back classes of Ohio players that is unprecedented here in Kent State football,” Martin said. “When you recruit guys from Ohio, they already know the (Mid-American Conference) and the rivalries. We believe Ohio is as good a state in high school football as any.”ÿ

Among those coming from Ohio is Dan Hartman, one of four safeties signed in the defensive dominant recruiting class. Hartman received All-Ohio Second Team honors his senior year while playing defensive back and linebacker at LaBrae High School in Leavittsburg. He also was a three-year letter winner in basketball, scoring over 1,000 points in his career.ÿ

Brian Lainhart of Cincinnati and Curtis Eaton of Akron also will battle for playing time in the secondary, as will Ja’Darrin Bell of Ellenwood, Ga. ÿ

Lainhart played in the 2004 Ohio State Championship for Colerain High School, a team that compiled a 37-3 record over the last three years. He posted 62 tackles and four interceptions during his senior year. Eaton, meanwhile, was named All-Ohio First Team as a senior at Buchtel High School, scoring three defensive touchdowns and recording 17 tackles for losses.ÿ

Bell tallied 16 interceptions and 193 tackles during his four years at Decatur High School in Georgia. Martin feels all four players enter the 2006 campaign with an opportunity to challenge for playing time as a true freshman.ÿ

“We wanted the most athletic guys we could find,” Martin said. “We wanted to recruit speed with size as much as we could, and if they added something else, great. We felt like we had to become a faster and more athletic team to compete with teams like Miami.ÿAny of these safeties could see playing time next year.”ÿ

Kirk Belgrave, the Flashes’ only other defensive back, earned all-district honors on both the offensive (wide receiver/running back) and defensive (defensive back) side of the ball while playing for Granby High School in Virginia.ÿ

Rounding out the recruits on the defensive side of the ball are lineman Kevin Hogan and linebackers Anthony Mirando and Quinton Rainey. Hogan played for Chardon High School where he posted 67 tackles his senior year. He stands at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, which Martin said creates a good frame to hold additional weight in an effort to get bigger and stronger.ÿ

Mirando earned honorable mention all-state accolades in 2005 and was named to second-team All-Ohio his junior year at Jefferson High School in Jefferson. He recorded 133 tackles as a senior and 127 in his junior season through just eight games.ÿ

Rainey played his last two seasons with Landstown High School in Virginia Beach, Va., where he played for the state championship in 2005. He accounted for over 100 tackles in each of his junior and senior years, also while rushing for 354 yards and eight touchdowns.ÿ

Quarterback Darren Rogers from Quaker Valley High School in Ambridge, Pa. headlines the team’s offensive recruits. Rogers threw for 2,225 yards and 13 touchdowns in his career while also rushing for 830 yards and five scores. He also hauled in 215 receiving yards as well. The standout athlete has drawn much comparison to Kent State alumnus and current Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Joshua Cribbs.ÿ

“Rogers is probably one of the most impressive men we’ve signed at quarterback,” Martin said. “He’s very similar to Cribbs, very athletic. He can run, he can throw and is extremely bright. He will actually be coming to Kent State with 16 college credits already under his belt.”ÿ

Also looking to make contributions offensively are wide receivers Phil Garner and Leneric Muldrow. Garner, who played at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., posted a Class 5A championship in 2004 in addition to finishing runner-up in 2005. His team finished No. 10 in the USA Today Super 25 National Rankings.ÿ

Muldrow, a true freshman from Rose High School in Greenville, N.C., has already begun taking classes at Kent State this semester.ÿ

Tony Howard, a sophomore transfer from Michigan State, sat out last season due to transfer rules and is expected to battle for playing time at the running back position. He will have three years left of eligibility after coming from Garfield Heights.ÿ

One of the most recognizable names in the 2006 recruiting class is running back Christen Haywood of Hilliard Davidson in Columbus. Haywood is a two-time All-Ohio First Team selection running back, rushing for 1,981 yards and 25 touchdowns his junior year. ÿ

Martin also added two to the special teams roster. Jake Kilroy joins the squad from West Holmes High School in Millersburg. The 5-foot-10 punter was the Ohio Cardinal Conference Special Teams Player of the Year in 2004. He averaged 41.8 yards per kick his senior year and was a three-year letter-winner.

Kicker/punter Nate Reed hails from Wadsworth and was named to the All-Ohio Second Team and the All-County, All-Suburban League and All-Northeast Inland District First teams. He was the leading kicker in Wadsworth High School history. Not only was Reed a star on the field, he also lettered in track and field and wrestling.

“Nate is a very good athlete, not just a good kicker,” Martin said. “He has good range and gets great distance on his kicks.”

After a 1-10 overall record and 0-8 record in the MAC, the Flashes lost nine seniors, including three who received All-MAC accolades at the end of the 2005 season.

“We only had nine seniors last year, so we didn’t have a huge recruiting class to sign,” Martin said. “But even though it is a small class numbers-wise, we filled a variety of needs. I’m excited to see what they can do.”ÿ

Contact sports reporter Matt Gottfried at [email protected]

Sports editor Kali Price contributed to this story.