Football loses 14 players to transfer portal after coach Lewis heads to Pac-12


Matthew Brown

Kent State quarterback Collin Schlee runs the ball downfield.

Jacob Hansen, Reporter

A week after the departure of fifth-year football coach Sean Lewis, 14 players from Kent State’s program have entered the transfer portal.  

Coach Sean Lewis announced his move to offensive coordinator at Colorado University Dec. 7.

Kent State hired Kenni Burns, Minnesota’s former assistant football coach, to replace Lewis just three days after the news. 

“There’s two ways of looking at [the transfer portal],” Burns said at his first Kent State press conference appearance Dec. 16. “You can say it hinders your roster and that you’re losing guys left and right, but there’s a lot of guys in the transfer portal with the crack on their shoulder that want a shot – guys coming up from FCS that are terrific football players, guys who are sitting at some of the bigger schools who are looking for a shot to come down and be where they can fit in a little bit more. 

“We’ll definitely have a big emphasis on looking at our needs in this first transitional year, and seeing that we make sure we get our roster right, but it will not be what we focus all of our attention on. It’ll be something that’ll be just another element to what we’re building.” 

Kenni Burns, Kent State’s 23rd football coach in program history, gives his opening remarks at his first Kent State press conference Dec. 16, 2022. (Isabella Schreck)

Burns inherits a team without its starting quarterback, redshirt junior Collin Schlee, and its star running back, junior Marquez Cooper. Both players entered the transfer portal and have two years of eligibility remaining. 

Cooper, who is now committed to fellow Mid-American Conference school Ball State, is Kent State’s sixth all-time leading rusher with 2,818 yards over his three seasons with the Flashes. 

He is tied for fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns, totaling 29, and is eighth all-time in rushing attempts. Cooper was selected to the All-MAC First Team Offense this season after rushing for 1,331 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Kent State junior running back Marquez Cooper runs for a touchdown against Eastern Michigan during the final home game on Nov. 16, 2022. (Mychelle Oliver)

In his first year as a starter, Schlee threw for 2,109 yards and 13 touchdowns and was named to the all-MAC third team offense. He rushed for 492 yards and four touchdowns. 

These moves came after redshirt junior wide receiver Dante Cephas announced his decision to enter the transfer portal. 

Cephas has been named to the all-MAC first team twice and exits as Kent State’s third all-time leading receiver with 2,139 career receiving yards in his four collegiate years. 

He is fourth all-time in receptions for Kent State with 145 and is tied for seventh place in all-time touchdowns with three other KSU players. 

Senior wide receiver Ja’Shaun Poke and junior offensive lineman Marcellus Marshall are also in the transfer portal. Poke is Kent State’s third-leading receiver, and Marshall was named to this year’s all-MAC first team after appearing in all 12 games. 

Other players transferring from Kent State are:

  • Graduate student cornerback Montre Miller, who played in all 12 games last season. He was the team’s sixth-leading tackler with 52 tackles. He had eight pass break-ups and two interceptions.
  • Senior safety Dean Clark, who has played for four years at KSU. He had 157 total tackles and two interceptions in 34 total games in his collegiate career. 
  • Sophomore cornerback Emon Hill, who was a three-star  and had played in one game last season 
  • Junior offensive lineman Savion Washington, who started 11 games for Kent State last season. 
  • Sophomore running back Shakhi Carson, who played in one game against Long Island. He rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown. 
  • Sophomore safety Gage Michael, who played in three games this year with seven tackles. 
  • Senior running back Daniel Bangura, who saw action in two games this year. 
  • Sophomore cornerback Emon Hill, who did not play this season.  
  • Sophomore wide receiver Marcus Harris, who saw action in two games last season. 

Offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle confirmed he will be following Lewis to Colorado. He has been with the program since 2018. 

“There’s more high school kids than ever being missed because guys are just going right to the portal,” Burns said. “There’s a give and take there with it all, and I believe [the transfer portal] has a place, but I don’t believe it should be the foundation of your program at all. It starts with high school kids and developing them in all periods of their life for four years.” 

Jacob Hansen is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]