The 2012 football season proved to be special for Kent State as nearly everything fell into place for an 11-3 record that included a MAC East title and the Golden Flashes’ first bowl game appearance in 20 years! The 11 victories were the most in the 90-year football history at the school.
Such success, however, often comes at a price the price being a head coaching change. Such was the case with KSU, who lost its architect of success. When coach Darrell Hazell accepted the HC position at Purdue, Kent State moved to fill the void by hiring alumnus Paul Haynes. His immediate challenge is to orchestrate another “special” season. Can the Golden Flashes pull off a repeat?
Haynes played for the Kent State from 1987-90 as a walk on defensive back after blowing out his knee as a senior in high school. He played for three coaches in his career: Glen Mason, Dick Crum, and Pete Cordelli.
Haynes returned to KSU after spending last season at Arkansas as defensive coordinator. Prior to that, Haynes spent seven seasons at Ohio State under both Jim Tressel and Luke Fickell. Haynes and Hazell, in fact, were on the same staff, and in 2011Haynes was co-defensive coordinator of the Buckeyes.
As Haynes embarks on his collegiate head coaching career, he moves forward with a cupboard that is far from bare. Here is a look at the 2013 Golden Flashes as they prepare to defend their MAC East Title
In 2012, KSU was primarily a running team. It should be that way again this season under offensive coordinator Brian Rock as he makes use of a talented tandem junior Trayion Durham and senior Dri Archer. The pair combined for an astounding 2,745 rushing yards last season.
Durham is the big, physical workhorse who bangs between the tackles. He pounded out 1,429 yards with 14 rushing TDs.
Archer, meanwhile, flashes speed and quickness. For much of the season he was one of the most elusive running backs in the entire country. He was slowed late with an injury in the regular season finale against Ohio but still registered1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also caught 39 passes for 561 more yards and four scores.
The receiving corps will get a boost with the return to Tyshon Goode, who missed last season with a hamstring injury. Among the returning wide receivers, Josh Boyle had 38 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns, Chris Humphrey, who became a pleasant surprise in 2012, had 26 receptions for 319 yards. Tim Erjavec who had 19 grabs out of the tight end position for 181 yards.
The offensive line must weather the departure of Josh Kline, Brian Winters, and Kent Cleveland. Two starters return C Phil Huff and LG Pat McShane. Look for Terrell Johnson at LT, Max Plunkett at RG and freshman Reno Reda at right tackle when the Flashes open the season.
The biggest question for the offense will be at quarterback following the departure of Spencer Keith. Senior David Fisher, who spelled Keith when the offense sputtered early last season, will get the nod to start. However, do not be surprised to see Colin Reardon give Fisher a run for his money in camp.
Defense has been the backbone of KSU for the past two seasons. New defensive coordinator Brian George will have just four returning starters. However, the biggest is up front. Senior NG Roosevelt Nix has the potential to become the first player in school history to be on the All-MAC first teamer four straight years. Coming into this season, Nix has 52 tackles for losses, 20.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles over his three years.
Along with Nix up front, look for seniors Mark Fackler, who had a solid season in 2012, and Zach Hitchens to take some pressure off Nix.
Linebackers Luke Batton & C.J. Malauulu have departed. Look for senior Danny Gress to be the head man, while sophomores Matt Dellinger and Jordan Italiano may get the start on opening night.
The defensive secondary has two returning starters. Senior SS Luke Wollett was second on the team in tackles with 119 and had four interceptions a year ago. Fellow senior CB Darius Polk had 58 stops with three sacks, two picks, and nine pass breakups.
Place kicker Freddy Cortez is gone after a stellar career that made him the school’s all-time leading scorer. Look for freshman Brad Miller to be the man when called on.
Punter Anthony Melchiori became one of the best first-year punters in all of the FBS, averaging 42.6 yards per kick with 16 of them going 50 yards or better.
The ever-dangerous Archer headlines Kent State’s return game as he performed as one of the best in the nation on kickoffs. He averaged 36.9 yards on KO returns with three touchdowns.
After the Flashes open the season at home with FCS member Liberty. The next week brings the MAC opener against Bowling Green. The Falcons will be looking for some payback after their heartbreaking loss to the KSU last November.
After that comes three straight road games at LSU, Penn State, and Western Michigan before returning home for a MAC title game rematch against Northern Illinois .
After road games at Ball State and South Alabama, the Flashes return to play Buffalo. KSU follows with a short trip to Akron for the Wagon Wheel game against the Zips. Miami comes in for the Flashes home finale and KSU wraps up the regular season at Ohio.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Kent State won’t sneak up on anybody in 2013, especially the road games at LSU and Penn State.
In MAC play, it does not get any tougher than by opening with Bowling Green. Some publications are picking the Falcons to win the Eastern Division. Games against Northern Illinois and an improving Ball State before finishing the season exclusively inside the division with games against Buffalo, Akron, Miami, and Ohio also add to the challenge.
Paul Haynes, however, will have this team ready when they open for real on August 29. Realistically, they will be in the hunt for the East title and should be bowl eligible. KSU needs the running game to be as good as a year ago and the defense to step up.