There are still over months left before Darrell Hazell takes his Kent State football team to Tuscaloosa to open the 2011 season at Alabama, but the Golden Flashes open spring drills on Tuesday.
Hazell, in his first year as head coach of the Golden Flashes, will have a lot on his plate this spring. Here's a position-by-position look at some of the things that Hazell will have to deal with this spring.
The Flashes enter the spring with seven quarterbacks on the roster, including returning starter Spencer Keith, who will be a junior in the fall, and early enrollee Evan Shimensky, who has yet to attend his senior prom.
Keith, who has started 19 games the past two seasons, is the obvious leader to start the season under center. But, he regressed last season as a sophomore and will need a solid spring to gain the confidence of a new coaching staff.
Giorgio Morgan will push Keith for that starting spot, but he'll need to shake off the rust, as he hasn't seen much action in his three seasons at Kent State. And, when he played, he struggled, though he was much better last season in a reserve role.
Shimensky is the wildcard. He had a very productive career at nearby Roosevelt High School in Kent and has drawn comparisons to former KSU quarterback Julian Edelman, but his listed height reportedly is very generous and he'll have a lot to learn before he makes a serious run at playing time.
Hazell said he'd like to run the football more than the Flashes had done in the past and he even intends to use a fullback.
That could alleviate some of the pressure the KSU quarterbacks have dealt with in the past, but first the Flashes have to identify the player that could fill the fullback role.
Walk-ons Larry Dawson and Lamar Washington are the only players on the roster listed near 200 pounds, with Dawson listed at 199 and Washington at 215.
Reports indicate the Flashes will still throw the ball more than they'll run it-with some estimates coming in at a 60-40 split-and most of those carries will go to senior-to-be Jacquise Terry.
Dri Archer will get his share of the load, but he'll have to protect the football better than he did last year or yield some touches to redshirt freshman Rob Hollomon, whose off-season focus should have been on adding some weight to his lean frame.
The Flashes are deep at wide receiver and now possess one of the top wide receiver corps in the Mid-American Conference. That's a far cry from where the program was just a few years ago.
Tyshon Goode and Sam Kirkland are proven commodities and are among the best the MAC has to offer. Kendrick Pressley also is valuable as a third receiver, but he'll be pushed by several others looking to make their mark this season.
Chris Gilbert, a wide receiver turned defensive back then returned to his natural position, should be among the top four or five pass catchers this spring. Matt Hurdle, who switched to wide receiver from quarterback last year, has loads of athleticism but still must hone his skills catching passes rather than throwing them, and Eric Adeyemi, a transfer from Kentucky who sat out last season, also should make a push this spring.
Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Sam Miller. He showed flashes of brilliance last fall and could be counted on to crack the rotation. If he doesn't, he should get a look at playing in the defensive backfield, as he's just too good to stand on the sidelines.
Former Solon, Ohio standout C.J. Matthews has transferred to Kent State from Saginaw Valley State via West Virginia, and should bolster the receiving unit. It will be interesting to see where he factors in with the Flashes this season.
Jon Simpson returns after redshirting the 2010 season. His presence gives the Flashes a huge weapon in the passing game. His size and speed are suited for the NFL, but first he'll have to find a way to be productive not only in practice but in games. That's something he's been unable to do in his first four years at Kent State.
Justin Thompson and Tim Erjavec were adequate in Simpson's absence, but Simpson has all-MAC potential. Hopefully his year off has driven him to work hard every day.
Mike Fay left the team, leaving the Flashes with four of five returning starters up front.
This unit has taken a lot of heat in the past and rightfully so. They often had breakdowns that led to broken plays, quarterback sacks and poor rushing performance.
But, it's a unit that over the past couple of seasons has endured on-the-job training.
A lack of talent and depth at the position forced many of the four into action before they were ready. Now, it's an experienced group that should really thrive this season.
Chris Anzevino will become a four-year starter at center, Brian Winters will start his third season at left tackle and Josh Kline should start at right tackle. That leaves Kent Cleveland and Tyler Arend to fill out the rotation at the guard spots and both have plenty of game experience.
Depth has always been a concern and should again be the focus this spring.
Stay tuned to KSR for a look at the defense.
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