2011 Kent State Preview
Kent State QB Spencer Keith
Kent State QB Spencer Keith
Posted Jul 22, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Kent State Golden Flashes

Kent State Golden Flashes

Preview 2011

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Darrell Hazell
1st year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 18, Def. 21, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best Kent State Players
1. DE Roosevelt Nix, Soph.
2. WR Tyshon Goode, Jr.
3. P Matt Rinehart, Sr.
4. WR Sam Kirkland, Sr.
5. CB Norman Wolfe, Sr.
6. DT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, Sr.
7. DE Lee Stalker, Sr.
8. DT Dana Brown, Jr.
9. WR/KR Eric Adeyemi, Jr.
10. OT Brian Winters, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 at Alabama
Sep. 10 Louisiana
Sep. 17 at Kansas State
Sep. 24 South Alabama
Oct. 1 at Ohio
Oct. 8 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 15 Miami Univ.
Oct. 29 Bowling Green
Nov. 5 Central Michigan
Nov. 12 at Akron
Nov. 19 Eastern Michigan
Nov. 25 at Temple

Kent State hasn't been totally miserable, like Eastern Michigan miserable, but it hasn't exactly set the MAC world on fire over the last several seasons. 2001 was the last winning season, and it's the only winning campaign since 1987, but things are far better now than they were from 1989 to 2000 when the Golden Flashes won a grand total of 16 games. New head coach Darrell Hazell, though, has to take the program over the hump.

Doug Martin got Kent State really, really close over the last two seasons, thanks to a phenomenal pass rush and great defense that overcame a lousy offense, but in 2009 the team was 5-4 with three games to go before blowing three layups against Akron and Buffalo and getting blown out by Temple. Last year, the Golden Flashes were 4-4 with three home games in the last four to go, and they were blown away by Temple, Army, and Western Michigan to end any hopes of a winning season. Hazell needs to be good enough to get that one big November win to change everything around.

Hazell, a former Ohio State receivers coach, wants to get the passing game moving and he wants to put together an offense that might finally match the defensive production. Kent State has had some great ground games from time to time, and it has had a few strong offensive playmakers like former QB Josh Cribbs and the RB Eugene Jarvis, before the injuries hit, but it hasn't found the consistency needed to come up with the key wins. In the five wins last season, the Golden Flashes scored a total of 160 points, averaging 32 points per outing, and scored 96 points in the seven losses, scoring 13.7 points per defeat.

So now Hazell will try to jump-start the offense and the passing game that gets nine starters back. Quarterback Spencer Keith has good skills and nice upside, but he needs to be able to push the ball down the field on a regular basis and he needs to use good targets in Tyshon Goode and Sam Kirkland to keep the chains moving. Jacquise Terry is a nice, quick back who could do big things if the veteran offensive line could up open up a few holes.

The defense, despite the loss of some key starters, will keep bringing the heat after leading the MAC in total defense, run defense, sacks, and tackles for loss. The problem, though, was that the ultra-aggressive defense was able to shut down the weak and the sad and got lit up by the decent teams. The star pass rushers, particularly Roosevelt Nix, are back up front, and corner Josh Pleasant is back to lead a decent-looking secondary.

For a program that ranks among the lowest in the nation in attendance, and hasn't had a history of winning, there are real, live expectations now. They're not big, but they're there. Getting to six wins shouldn't be asking for the world, but for Kent State, being one game better than the last two years is a mountain for Hazell to get over.

What to watch for on offense: The passing game. Hazell wants to spread out the offense and get something moving through the air, but with a balance to the offense. He's looking for a quick, up-tempo offense that keeps defenses on their toes. The Golden Flashes finished 102nd in the nation in total offense and 99th in scoring offense, but the pieces are there to improve in a hurry. The line couldn't generate any sort of a push for the ground game, but it was good in pass protection. The receivers are strong, the backs are slippery, and Spencer Keith has two years of experience. If Keith isn't getting the job done, though, Hazell will change things up in a hurry to try to get the nation's 102nd most efficient passing game moving.

What to watch for on defense: The back seven. As long as Roosevelt Nix is turned loose into the backfield, the pass rush will aggressive, fast, and athletic, but some key parts of the puzzle are gone from last year's No. 4 ranked defense. Dorian Wood (96 tackles), Brian Lainhart (88), and Cobrani Mixon (82) were the team's top three tacklers last year and cleaned up a ton of messes that allowed the front four to do whatever it needed to in the pass rush. Wood and Mixon were machines who did a little or everything for the linebacking corps, while Lainhart was a big-time tackler who owned the secondary for the last few years. There are good players returning, and six starters are back, but the back seven has to be steady.

The team will be far better if … the offense could convert on third downs. New Mexico State, Vanderbilt, and San Jose State; those are the only three teams in America worse at third down conversion percentage than Kent State, who converted just 30.6% of the time. Considering the defense finished a solid 34th in the nation in third down defense, the offense didn't take advantage of its opportunities and is showed, losing the time of possession battle 32:15 to 27:45.

The schedule: What better way to kick off a new coaching era than to start out at Alabama? The Golden Flashes get the payday games out of the way in the first three weeks against the Tide and at Kansas State, but September home dates against Louisiana and South Alabama are winnable. The MAC slate kicks off like a punch in the face with road games at Ohio and Northern Illinois, but there's a nice stretch of three home games in a road and four in five, with a week off before dealing with Bowling Green, but closing out at Temple means that getting the sixth game is a must before going to Philly.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Tyshon Goode. The 6-1, 182-pound No. 1 receiver came up with 59 catches for 743 yards and five touchdowns, highlighted by a 12-grab day against Bowling Green, and that was with a spotty quarterback situation. He has size, deep speed, and consistency, and now he needs to get the ball come his way on a regular basis. He'll get overlooked on the all-star teams because his numbers won't be as crazy as other league receivers, but he'll be as good as anyone in the conference.

Best defensive player: Sophomore DE Roosevelt Nix. He's only 6-0 and a squatty 255 pounds, but he's a flash of lightning off the ball and is a terror in the backfield. The reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year ripped often sacks with 20 tackles for loss, but his production tailed off over the second half of the season once teams started focusing on stopping him. Even when he wasn't getting to the quarterback, he was still excellent against the run as one of the nation's best all-around ends. He'll be the one the defense works around.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Spencer Keith. In his third year as a starter, he has to take the offense by the horns and make it work. He has the 6-3, 215-pound size, he has the arm, and he can move a little bit, and now he has to put it all together. While bombing away down the field would be nice, simply being a game manager who keeps the chains moving would be good enough for the offense to be far better. Over a thumb injury that bothered him all of last year, and past the separated shoulder of two years ago, he should be far better. He has to be.

The season will be a success if … The Golden Flashes win six games. Knocking on the door in each of the last two seasons, now Kent State has to get past the five win mark and be in the mix for a bowl appearance. Beating Louisiana and South Alabama at home is a must, and winning home games against Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, and Central Michigan might be needed, but it'll take a few upsets to get to six wins. It'll be tough, but if the offense can be just a little better, and if the defense can keep on producing, it's possible.

Key game: Oct. 1 at Ohio. In a total shocker, Kent State rallied after three straight losses that killed the season to close out with a dominant 28-6 win over Ohio. Can the Golden Flashes come up with the same type of performance in the MAC opener? If they can, they'll take a big step forward in the East right off the bat, and with a near-certain loss at Northern Illinois to follow and with a date against defending MAC champ Miami coming after, beating the Bobcats might be a must, or an 0-3 start to the conference season is possible.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Kent State 35 for 260 yards – Opponents 22 for 139 yards
- Time of Possession: Opponents 32:15 – Kent State 27:45
- Fourth Down Conversions: Kent State 10-of-17 (59%) – Opponents 8-of-19 (42%)

- 2011 Kent State Preview | 2011 Kent State Offense
- 2011 Kent State Defense | 2011 Kent State Depth Chart