Kent State Golden Flashes

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2015 PRESEASON TOP 25

#119 Kent State Golden Flashes

NATIONAL FORECAST

#119

MAC East PREDICTION

#6

HEAD COACH: Paul Haynes, 6-17 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Don Treadwell | DEF. COORDINATOR: Brian George

Kent State’s 11-3 season and MAC East title in 2012 is a distant memory. The Golden Flashes are 6-17 in two seasons under Paul Haynes and regressed from three MAC wins in 2013 to one in 2014 (over Akron by a field goal in the last game of the season). Improvement will be expected for the Flashes in the third season under Haynes, but they will need the offensive line to grow up fast and a veteran defense to improve to make a major move.

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Previewing Kent State’s Offense for 2015 
 

The Kent State offense needs bruising 250-pound tailback Trayion Durham to return to his sophomore year form. In 2012, Durham teamed with Dri Archer (now with the Pittsburgh Steelers) to lead the Golden Flashes to the MAC East title and the school’s first bowl berth since 1972. But Durham was slowed by injuries in 2013 and held to 766 yards rushing. In 2014, a foot injury kept him out of all 11 games as KSU went 2–9. A healthy Durham and Nick Holley (team-high 516 yards rushing in 2014) could form a productive duo in the Golden Flashes backfield.

A potent running attack would take the pressure off junior quarterback Colin Reardon, who has had two inconsistent seasons as the starter. In 2014, Reardon threw more interceptions (16) than touchdowns (14) and was the leader of an offense that ranked 12th in the MAC and 116th nationally in total yardage.

Reardon lost his two favorite targets in tight end Casey Pierce and receiver Chris Humphrey, but there is strength in numbers because coach Paul Haynes and his staff have recruited well at those positions. Look for strong seasons from Kris White, James Brooks, Ernest Calhoun and prized recruit Johnny Woods.

The line is bound to be improved since it was one of the youngest in the MAC last season. Seven of the 10 linemen on the two-deep from 2014 are back, and that doesn’t include senior right guard Anthony Pruitt, a former regular in the rotation who missed 2014 with an injury.

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Previewing Kent State’s Defense for 2015 
 

There is good news and bad news. The good news is that the top 11 tacklers from 2014 are back, along with two starters who missed 2014. The bad news is the players on that defense were part of a group that allowed 430.3 yards per game. Still, coordinator Brian George expects major improvement throughout his defense because those players are one year older and have one year more experience.

The defense is led by what could be the best pair of safeties in the MAC. Junior free safety Nate Holley earned first-team all-conference honors in 2014 after recording 137 tackles, the most at KSU since 1996. Senior strong safety Jordan Italiano ranked second in tackles (96) and added three interceptions.

The front four will be led by tackles Nate Terhune and Chris Fairchild, who missed the 2014 season. Highly touted junior college transfer Anthony Johnson, a defensive end, will be expected to make a big contribution.

At linebacker, Matt Dellinger (third in tackles with 89) returns in the middle, and Elcee Refuge (fourth with 58) is back on the outside. Outside backer DeVante’ Strickland, who had 53 tackles as a starter in 2013, missed 2014 with an injury.

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128

Previewing Kent State’s Specialists for 2015 
 

First-team All-MAC punter Anthony Melchiori had a 44.3-yard average, which was first in the conference and 12th nationally. He was not as productive as a placekicker, making 10-of-18 field goals, so he may be pushed by Brad Miller.

Final Analysis
 

The Golden Flashes have nowhere to go but up after beating only Army and Akron in their abbreviated 11-game 2014 schedule (they had a game snowed out). Haynes had big shoes to fill after replacing Darrell Hazell in 2013, and his two-year record of 6–17 places him on the hot seat.

Improvement does seem to be a given because so many starters return, along with a large group of reserves who saw extensive playing time. The keys on offense are improvement by Reardon at quarterback and a productive Durham-Holley running combination. The defense has plenty of experience but must get tougher, especially against the run. 




COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2014 PRESEASON TOP 25

#114 Kent State Golden Flashes

NATIONAL FORECAST

#114

MAC East PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Paul Haynes, 4-8 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Brian Rock | DEF. COORDINATOR: Brian George

The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 114 Kent State.

Previewing Kent State’s Offense for 2014:

This unit must show major improvement in order to avoid a second consecutive disappointing season under coach Paul Haynes. In 2013, Kent State ranked 88th nationally in total offense, with injuries and inconsistency often being the culprits. A fresh start in 2014 comes with no promises unless quarterback Colin Reardon makes progress, bruising back Trayion Durham returns to form and a young group of receivers and linemen can fill significant voids.

Reardon was a redshirt freshman last season when he took over for four-year starter Spencer Keith. His numbers (58.9 percent completions, 12 TDs and nine INTs) reflected his inexperience. The job is his again, and Haynes and offensive coordinator Brian Rock believe great strides will be made in 2014.

The 250-pound Durham was slowed by injuries and gained only 766 yards rushing in 2013 after having 1,346 in KSU’s bowl season of 2012. He was limited in spring drills with a foot injury, but the hope is that he will be ready in the fall — and ready to return to his former self.

Reardon will be throwing to receivers Chris Humphrey (No. 1 on the team in catches with 51 for 613 yards) and Josh Boyle (19 for 210 yards) as well as tight end Casey Pierce (33 for 364 yards). William Woods, Kris White and James Brooks lead the list of young prospects.

The line, a major question mark, will be dominated by underclassmen. ­Tackles Terrell Johnson and Jason Bitsko are the only returning starters.

Previewing Kent State’s Defense for 2014:

The departure of the celebrated Roosevelt Nix, a four-time first-team All-MAC tackle, is part of an overhaul of the front line that concerns coordinator Brian George. Nate Terhune and Chris Fairchild will be asked to fill the middle after decent but uneven seasons in 2013. The hope is that end Nate Vance will be healthy by the opener after a shoulder injury limited his time in the spring.

Linebacking should be an area of strength with Matt Dellinger (77 tackles) in the middle and DeVante’ Strickland (53 tackles) on the outside. The development and reliability of Elcee Refuge and Darius Redmond allowed the coaches to move Jordan Italiano (76 tackles) to safety.

With Italiano patrolling the back end, and experienced corners in Dylan Farrington and Malcolm Pannell (who combined for five of the team’s nine interceptions in 2013), there is reason to be optimistic about the secondary. Sophomore transfers Najee Murray (a corner from Ohio State) and Nick Cuthbert (a safety from Georgia Tech) add talent and potential to the mix.

Previewing Kent State’s Specialists for 2014:

Placekickers Anthony Melchiori and Brad Miller are back after combining for 59 points last season. Melchiori (44.5-yard average) returns as one the MAC’s best punters. Much improvement is needed on the return teams, which ranked 110th nationally in punt returns and 118th in kickoff returns last season. Speedy Ernest Calhoun is expected to be the primary threat in those areas.

Final Analysis 

No one was quite ready for last year’s fall from grace. The 2012 season was marked by a school-record 11 victories and the first bowl game since 1972. Then coach Darrell Hazell left for Purdue, and Haynes, a former Kent State player, replaced him. With a new quarterback and a new coach, KSU stumbled to a 4–8 record overall and a 3–5 mark in the MAC.

That was a collective shock to the Kent State faithful, and now comes the uncertainty about whether the program just suffered a temporary setback or whether the bad old days of the past are back.

This promises to be an interesting season around the confines of Dix Stadium. Whether it will be a successful one is far from assured.




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