CFN Preview 2013 - Kent State Golden Flashes
Kent State WR/RB Dri Archer
Kent State WR/RB Dri Archer
Posted Jun 3, 2013 2013 Preview - Kent State Golden Flashes

Kent State Golden Flashes

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Paul Haynes
1st year: 0-0 
Ten Best Kent State Players
1. WR/RB/KR Dri Archer, Sr.
2. DT Roosevelt Nix, Sr.
3. S Luke Wollet, Sr.
4. RB Trayion Durham, Jr.
5. CB Darius Polk, Sr.
6. WR Josh Boyle, Soph.
7. WR Tyshon Goode, Sr.
8. C Phil Huff, Sr.
9. DE Mark Fackler, Sr.
10. P Anthony Melchiori, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/29 Liberty
9/7 Bowling Green
9/14 at LSU
9/21 at Penn State
9/28 at Western Michigan
10/5 Northern Illinois
10/12 at Ball State
10/19 at South Alabama
10/26 Buffalo
11/2 at Akron
11/13 Miami Univ.
11/19 at Ohio
So how, exactly, did Kent State go from being the master of the 5-7 season and a MAC afterthought to within a heartbeat of getting to the Orange Bowl, and can lightning strike twice?

Was that the start of something big for a program that spent years on the verge of being slightly above-average, or was it a fun aberration?

The Golden Flashes went from 2002 to 2011 without coming up with a winning season and had just one winning campaign – 2001 – from 1987 until last season. After getting destroyed 47-14 by a miserable Kentucky team, it didn't look like last season was going to be anything different, but everything went right, the Golden Flashes made their own breaks, and everything came together with a year that wasn't just good; it was dominant.

The close loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC title game was obviously a massive disappointment, and the changes in the coaching staff had a little to do with the bowl loss to Arkansas State, but over a tremendous ten-game winning streak, KSU only had one truly close call – a 45-43 win over Ball State – and came up with a nice win over Rutgers and a good blowout over Ohio to go along with the victories over the dregs like Akron and Eastern Michigan.

Along the way, the penalties were kept to a minimum outside of a rough early stretch, and the offense didn't screw up with just 18 turnovers, and the defense forced several big mistakes with takeaway after takeaway. The pass rush worked, Dri Archer hit home runs from all over the field, the punting game was magnificent, and it all came together in the greatest season in Kent State football history.

Darrell Hazell worked wonders, and he parlayed the big year into the Purdue job, and now it's up to former Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, a true Kent Stater who knows the program and will be a tireless recruiter. But for now, just keeping the momentum going will be good enough.

Several huge pieces of the puzzle are gone with quarterback Spencer Keith, offensive linemen Brian Winters and Josh Kline, defensive tackle Dana Brown and linebackers Luke Batton and C.J. Malauulu just a few of the stars who need to be replaced. Fortunately, there's still a strong base to work around with Dri Archer one of the nation's most dangerous all-around playmakers, Trayion Durham an all-star running back, Luke Wollet a tone-setting safety and Roosevelt Nix one of the most decorated defensive linemen in MAC history. And now, more than anything else, there's the belief and the knowledge that it's possible to do big things at Kent State.

What to watch for on offense: Dri Archer as a receiver. One of college football's most explosive running backs, averaging nine yards a carry with 1,429 yards with 16 touchdowns, also led the team with 39 catches for 561 yards and four scores. While he'll still get plenty of carries, the Golden Flashes have another excellent back in Trayion Durham who needs the ball, too. The big, pounding Durham ran for 1,316 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he's the thunder to Archer's lightning. Moving to a slot receiver role, Archer will save on a bit of wear and tear, while also showing off to the NFL scouts what his next level position will probably be.

What to watch for on defense: Patching the holes in the secondary. It was a tough season for a pass defense that got torched time and again, and now there's going to be some massive changes needing to be made. Darius Polk is like a starter after a big statistical season, but three other starters are gone. Even so, there's a decent base returning starting with Luke Wollet, one of the MAC's top defenders. Not only does KSU have to replace a ton of talent, it has to be far, far better because …

The team will be far better if … the secondary isn't so miserable. It was one of the strangest anomalies of the great season. The defense was good overall, the pass rush was terrific, and the secondary was fantastic when it came to helping out against the run, but the pass defense was absolutely torched time and again. Even Army, the worst passing team in college football, saw something to exploit throwing for 132 yards and a score, and after that the floodgates opened up with five straight games allowing 312 yards or more. The team was able to overcome the problem, but there has to be more production.

The schedule: Liberty is a nice and breezy way to start out the year, but it gets extremely ugly very fast. The Golden Flashes get an awful break of facing two of the toughest teams from the West – Ball State and Northern Illinois, but that's not nearly as bad as going to LSU and Penn State in early September. To make matters worse, the NIU showdown is the only home date in a run of six with Ball State and South Alabama coming after the MAC championship rematch. Fortunately, Buffalo, at Akron and Miami University should allow for a bit of a breather before closing out at Ohio.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Dri Archer. And now he's going to start returning punts. Devastating whenever he gets the ball in his hands, he did it all leading the team in rushing, receiving, and coming up huge as a kickoff returner averaging a whopping 36.9 yards per pop with three touchdowns. The coaching staff is going to do everything possible to keep him healthy – he's only 5-8 and 175 pounds – but it's not going to be shy to get the ball in his hands. He has to be accounted for every time he's on the field.

Best defensive player: Senior DT Roosevelt Nix. He might be getting by a wee bit on reputation at times, and he hasn't been able to replicate his dominant freshman season, but he's still one of the MAC's best interior pass rushers with phenomenal quickness and a high-end motor that doesn't stop. One of the league's best defensive players over the last three seasons, he needs to come up with a whopper of a final act with so much defensive turnover.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB David Fisher and/or redshirt freshman QB Colin Reardon. Spencer Keith wasn't exactly Tom Brady, but he was a veteran gamer who ran well, did a decent job at times throwing, and more than anything else, helped move the chains and was a steady leader. A four-year starter, it's going to be tough to replace his intangibles, but Fisher or Reardon shouldn't have a hard time replacing the production. Fisher is the safer choice, but Reardon is the better all-around athlete and could be an X factor when he gets his chances.

The season will be a success if … the Golden Flashes get back to a bowl game. Remember, before last year the previous bowl appearance came against Tampa in the 1972 Tangerine Bowl. It wouldn't take too much of a slip to get back to the old 5-7 ways. Is could be a rough start with the three road games at LSU, Penn State and Western Michigan followed up by the home game against Northern Illinois followed up by two more road games, but there's no reason the Golden Flashes can't close out strong, start the year with a win over Liberty and sneak out another victory to get to six wins.

Key game: Sept. 7 vs. Bowling Green. The Falcons should be among the favorites to win the MAC, but the conference home opener is a must-win for Kent State with so many road games over the following six weeks. The BGSU defense is going to be fantastic and the offense is full of veterans, but a Kent State win could show early on that the 2012 momentum is continuing.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Average Yards Per Carry: Kent State 5.4 – Opponents 3.8
- 1st Quarter Scoring: Kent State 93 – Opponents 30
- Passing Yards Per Game: Opponents 272 – Kent State 162.5

- 2013 Kent State Preview | 2013 Kent State Offense
- 2013 Kent State Defense | 2013 Kent State Depth Chart