2014 CFN Preview - Kent State Golden Flashes
Kent State WR Chris Humphrey
Kent State WR Chris Humphrey
Posted Jul 10, 2014

Preview 2014 - What can Paul Haynes do to make sure that 2012 wasn’t an aberration? (Getty Images)

Kent State Golden Flashes

Preview 2014

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Paul Haynes
2nd year: 4-8
Ten Best Kent State Players
1. LB Matt Dellinger, Jr.
2. SS Jordan Italiano, Jr.
3. RB Trayion Durham, Sr.
4. WR Chris Humphrey, Sr.
5. TE Casey Pierce, Sr.
6. P Anthony Melchiori, Jr.
7. CB Malcolm Pannell, Sr.
8. QB Colin Reardon, Soph.
9. NT Chris Fairchild, Jr.
10. WR/KR Ernest Calhoun, Soph. 
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Ohio
Sep. 6 South Alabama
Sep. 13 at Ohio State
Sep. 27 at Virginia
Oct. 4 at NIU
Oct. 11 UMass
Oct. 18 Army
Oct. 25 at Miami Univ.
Nov. 4 Toledo
Nov. 12 at Bowling Green
Nov. 19 at Buffalo
Nov. 25 Akron

What can Paul Haynes do to make sure that 2012 wasn’t an aberration?

Kent State fit the MAC cliché for teams that come up from out of nowhere to shine. Program struggles for years, no one expects anything, it all comes together in one big season, coach capitalizes on the moment and goes somewhere else, program goes back to mediocrity.

In his second year at the helm, it’s up to Haynes to make Kent State more like Central Michigan, who rose up from out of nowhere and rocked for a few years, than a Buffalo or Akron, who shocked the world with one massive season – 2008 for Buffalo and 2005 for Akron – and couldn’t sustain the momentum. Ball State is another good example, dipping back down after the great Brady Hoke era and rebounding under Pete Lembo.

And it’s not like Haynes was awful in his first year, and it’s not like the Golden Flashes went into the tank. No, going 4-8 isn’t anything positive, especially considering three of the wins came against Liberty, Western Michigan and Miami University, but the team got better as the season went on, there weren’t any really bad losses – although the 50/50 road loss to Akron wasn’t a plus – and losing to LSU, Bowling Green, Penn State, Northern Illinois and Ball State is nothing to be down about. However, the difference between 4-8 and a respectable 6-6 were winnable losses to Akron and South Alabama, and now this year’s team has to start coming up with the wins over the average.

The biggest differences between 2012 and 2013? The schedule was a wee bit harder, but the offense just didn’t show as much pop. The defense did the job late, for the most part, but the offense failed to keep thing moving and didn’t show the same pop or consistency. This year, Dri Archer might be gone, but there’s enough experience to be better, and the coaching staff has a year under its belt.

Kent State is only a year removed from being fantastic. There won’t be a 2012 repeat, but there’s enough talent in place to improve.

What to watch for on offense: Can the offense score? The 2012 team put up 463 points on the season scoring 30 points or more ten times. Last season the Golden Flashes scored more than 30 just twice in wins over Western Michigan and Ohio. The rest of the way, KSU failed to generate more than 24 points in any game and struggled. What was the difference? The passing game was actually a bit better last season, and while the running game dipped, it wasn’t devastating, averaging 43 fewer yards per game. The red zone offense wasn’t the problem, either, scoring one more touchdown two years ago with two more games. Overall, the offense averaged just 20 fewer yards per game. The big difference turned out to be the opportunities. The 2012 team dominated in turnover margin, generating 38 takeaways, and the offense took advantage. The Golden Flashes can’t count on those coming this year, so they need to find more pop to the passing game and be even stronger on the ground, grinding out more long drives.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush has to be ramped back up. Roosevelt Nix dominated behind the line, leading the team with 13 tackles for loss and coming up with 3.5 sacks, and now he has to be replaced. Overall, though, the defense has to start hitting the quarterback more, generating just 21 sacks last year after coming up with 34 in 2012. The other big difference? The D came up with just 54 tackles for loss after generating 79 in 2012. The run defense took a major step backwards last season because of the lack of pressure behind the line, and now D coordinator and defensive line coach Brian George has to work on generating even more pressure.

The team will be far better if … the Golden Flashes have to put themselves in a position to come up with scores. The offense isn’t going to crank out long, sustained drives, and the talent isn’t there to blow up the passing game to generate big plays, so the team has to manufacture opportunities in other ways. The return game was inexcusably bad, averaging just 3.88 yards per punt return and 17.42 yards per kickoff try. The defense has to generate more takeaways, and the field has to start being tilted a bit more.

The schedule: The Golden Flashes will know where they stand right out of the gate with Ohio at home in a huge MAC East showdown before September arrives. South Alabama is solid, and that needs to be a must win with no more home games between September 6th and October 11th’s date with UMass. Getting Northern Illinois from the West is a bad enough break, but making it even worse is that it’s in DeKalb. The other interdivisional game is Toledo – one of the MAC’s top teams. With road games at Bowling Green and Buffalo in November, Kent State needs to either rock on the road, or forget about making any noise in the East.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Trayion Durham. He’s not as talented as former running back-turned-receiver Dri Archer was, and he wasn’t nearly as explosive, but he’s a good-sized power back who can thump between the tackles and provide a steadying force for the offense. He didn’t get the ball enough, and defenses keyed on him, but with a little bit of blocking up front he should be a threat for 1,000 yards.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Matt Dellinger. Luke Wollet might have been the emotional leader and star of the defense, but Dellinger came up with a season every bit as good. Not big, he’s a fast, tough option in the middle of the linebacking corps and has the range to get in on every play. He has to hold up, and he needs help from Darius Redmond, DeVante’ Strickland and Elcee Refuge around him, but he’ll be the leading tackler and the star of a defense that has to be far stronger.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Richard Gray. The Golden Flashes have to come up with a pass rush from somewhere after generating just 21 sacks last season. Gray missed all of last year after looking like he’d grow into one of the MAC’s more dangerous pass rushers. The 6-2, 250-pound fifth-year senior got an extra year, and he should be ready to roll after making 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2012 showing a tremendous burst and pop off the line. He needs to be a focal point for the defensive front.

The season will be a success if … the Golden Flashes get to six wins. They won’t catch every break and do everything right like they did in 2012, and they won’t struggled and sputter as much as they did in 2013. It’ll be more of a regression to the mean with winnable games against UMass, Army and Akron and a must-win road game at Miami University to match the four wins of last year. Haynes has to improve by two games – there have to be a few upsets thrown into the mix.

Key game: Aug. 30 vs. Ohio. It was the one big bright spot in an otherwise disastrous season. Kent State won a few games against some of the miserable teams on the schedule, but it was the 44-13 blasting in Athens that gave the program something truly positive to build off of. Ohio has the potential and talent to be a factor in the MAC East, but Kent State can start off hot with a third win in a row in the series. With a road trip to Northern Illinois the next MAC date, the Golden Flashes could easily be 0-2 in conference play if they can’t take care of the Bobcats.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Fumbles: Kent State 16 (lost 8) – Opponents 13 (lost 5)
- Field Goals: Opponents 15-of-17 – Kent State 10-of-18
- Punt Return Average: Kent State 3.9 yards – Opponents 2.2 yards

- 2014 Kent State Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players