COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2011 PRESEASON TOP 25
MAC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Darrell Hazell, 5-7 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Brian Rock | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jon Heacock
The Kent State offense had trouble adjusting to the new system installed by then-first-year head coach Darrell Hazell last season, ranking 119th in the nation in total offense (253.5 ypg). The unit was especially anemic during the team’s 1–6 start, but it did show improvement in a closing 4–1 run. In fact, the Golden Flashes’ five best offensive games of the season (in terms of yards) came in the final five weeks.
Spencer Keith returns at quarterback after an inconsistent junior season that saw him struggle early and play well late. Eight of his 11 touchdown passes came in the final five games, and he did not throw an interception during that stretch. Keith, however, is being pushed hard by junior college transfer David Fisher, a California native who enrolled in time for spring drills.
The running attack could be one of the MAC’s best. Bruising tailback Trayion Durham, who has cut his weight from 260 pounds to 245, is back after being a big part of the late-season surge. Durham was used sparingly early in his true freshman season, but he ran for 371 yards in the final five games. Dri Archer, who missed last season with academic issues, is expected to play a big role as well.
Wide receiver Tyshon Goode hopes to return to form as a senior. He caught only 24 passes in 2011 after leading Kent State with 59 catches and 743 yards receiving in 2010.
The line, which prospered after several midseason changes, returns three starters, including senior left tackle Brian Winters, a second-team All-MAC pick.
Seven starters return on a defense that ranked 21st in the nation in total yards allowed (326.2 ypg) and helped the Flashes rank seventh nationally in turnover margin (plus-12). The unquestioned leader of the unit is junior tackle Roosevelt Nix, who was first-team All-MAC for the second straight season. His numbers were down from his spectacular freshman season because he was slowed by a turf toe injury, but Nix still managed 17 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks.
The two leading tacklers are back in linebackers Luke Batton (102) and C.J. Malauulu (83). Both earned all-conference recognition. The secondary features several veterans, including safety Luke Wollet and corner Norman Wolfe. Watch out for true freshman cornerback Adam Maxie, a Texas native who could play right away.
The Golden Flashes have to replace Matt Rinehart, one of the best punters in school history. The job likely will not be decided until fall drills. Placekicker Freddy Cortez had a decent season in 2011 but has a formidable challenger in incoming freshman Anthony Melchiori.
Kent State has had three consecutive 5–7 seasons, but the 2012 edition of the Golden Flashes could be the team to break through and record the school’s first winning record since 2001. Hazell is a coach on the rise and has brought a winning mentality with him from Ohio State.
The offense should be improved, thanks in large part to the running attack that will feature both Durham and Archer. And an improved ground game will no doubt help Keith and/or Fisher be more productive throwing the ball down the field. The defense, led by Nix, will once again be stout.
Ohio is the team to beat in the MAC East, but Kent State is in that next tier of teams that could put some pressure on the Bobcats. A winning league record is a reasonable goal.