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Blue Ribbon Analysis
Head Coach: Darrell Hazell (Muskingum, '86)
2011 Overall/Conference Record: 5-7 (4-4 MAC)
Offense Starters Returning/Lost: 7/4
Defense Starters Returning/Lost: 8/3
One of these years, Kent State has to crash through the five-win ceiling. One of the years, the members of the 1972 Tangerine Bowl team won't be the only ones able to say that played a postseason game in Kent State uniforms.
Is this the year? It depends on whether you believe Kent State solved its offensive problems during the latter half of 2011. Remember, the Golden Flashes finished 119th out of 120 FBS teams in total offense (253.5 ypg) and 114th in scoring (17.1 ppg.)
Kent State closed out its 2011 season by winning four of its last five games. And most of its key players on both sides of the ball are back in 2012, seeking the program’s first Mid-American Conference title since 1972.
While the offense clicked in the final five games, the defense remained stout throughout the season. Led by 2010 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Roosevelt Nix, the Golden Flashes finished first in the MAC in total defense for conference-only games. Nix, a junior defensive lineman, is joined by senior linebackers Luke Batton and C.J. Malauulu and junior safety Luke Wollet among last year’s all-conference honorees on defense. Those four are joined by end Jake Dooley, nose tackle Dana Brown, safety Calvin Tiggle and cornerback Norman Wolfe on Phil Steele’s 2012 Preseason All-MAC Defense. Cornerback Sid Saulter gives the Flashes nine players on defense have made at least eight career starts.
On the offensive side, nine players have made at least six career starts, led by two-time All-MAC selection and left tackle Brian Winters. Winters, along with right tackle Kent Cleveland and left guard Josh Kline, have combined for 78 career starts.
The Golden Flashes also bring plenty of experience back with the combination of quarterback Spencer Keith and wide receiver Tyshon Goode. Keith has made 31 starts and ranks third in career passing yards (6,041) and touchdowns (33) at Kent State. Goode, an All-MAC selection in 2010, has played in 36 career games and ranks fourth among Kent State’s career leaders in catches (136) and receiving yards (1,814).
Returning to the backfield and the slot receiver spot is speedster Dri Archer, who missed the 2011 season. Trayion Durham joined Winters on Phil Steele’s Preseason All-MAC Offense after rushing for 630 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman. Seniors wide receivers Matt Hurdle and Eric Adeyemi started seven and six games respectively last season, while tight end Tim Erjavec started eight.
Senior Freddy Cortez ranks second among Kent State’s career field goal leaders with 37. His strong leg will prevent many opponents from returning kickoffs.
The coaches are counting on improved quarterback play - Hazell says he hopes to choose a starter by Aug. 19 to give that person two weeks to prep for the opener - as well as more explosion plays from the likes of running backs Trayion Durham and Dri Archer and receiver Tyshon Goode.
If Kent State merely improves to become a middle-of-the-pack MAC offense, then this is the year the bowl drought comes to an end.
Players To Watch/Kent State Watch List Members
*Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Best Defensive Player) –DT Roosevelt Nix, Kent State
*Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman) – DT Roosevelt Nix, Kent State
*Rotary Lombardi Trophy (Down Linemen) – DT Roosevelt Nix, Kent State; OL Brian Winters, Kent State
2012 Kent State Golden Flashes Schedule
Aug. 30 - Towson
Sept. 8 - @Kentucky
Sept. 19 - @Buffalo
Sept. 29 - Ball State
Oct. 6 - @Eastern Michigan
Oct. 13 - @Army
Oct. 20 - Western Michigan
Oct. 27 - @Rutgers
Nov. 3 - Akron
Nov. 10 - @Miami
Nov. 17 - @Bowling Green
Nov. 23 - Ohio