All practices are closed to the public with the exception of the Spring Game, which will kick off at 7 p.m. and features free admission, great food vendors and plenty of family fun.
Coming off a solid 4-4 showing in the Mid-American Conference in 2009, Kent State is poised to make a run at the program’s first MAC title since 1972, as the Flashes return eight starters on offense and seven on the defensive side of the ball.
Under head coach Doug Martin, Kent State has finished .500 or better in the conference three times in six seasons (just twice in the previous 16). Here are three areas in which Martin and his staff will keep a close eye on this spring:
• The Flashes’ cornerbacks must improve. Armed with a pair of fifth-year senior safeties, including a potential MAC Defensive Player of the Year and Thorpe Award candidate in Brian Lainhart, Kent State must get better on the edges. Look for junior Josh Pleasant to hold down one side, while junior Chris Gilbert, sophomore Sidney Saulter and possibly redshirt freshman Darius Polk vie for the other spot.
• Martin needs someone to step up and take the number two spot at quarterback. With sophomore phenom Spencer Keith back from a shoulder injury suffered in the next-to-the-last game of 2009, junior Giorgio Morgan is the natural choice to step up into that role. However, look for freshman mid-year enrollee Cedric McCloud and sophomore Sal Battles to fight for playing time.
• With new assistant coach Jim Fleming now mentoring the linebacking corps, developing depth will be a key this spring considering the number of injuries over the past two seasons. A first team All-MAC pick at middle linebacker, Cobrani Mixon will sit out contact drills this spring to give the fifth-year senior time to return to 100 percent following off-season knee surgery. Sophomore Luke Batton will look to assume the starting role at weak side, while senior Will Johnson (a converted safety) is tabbed to start opposite Batton. Going a solid two-to-three deep at each spot will be important.
Martin also touched on a few players to keep an eye on this spring:
• Six-year senior Eugene Jarvis. The nation’s second-leading returning rusher with 3,426 career yards, Jarvis will be eased into full contact drills this spring. While spring practice is nothing new for the 22-year-old, the coaches are anxious to see how he re-acclimates himself to contact after suffering a season-ending kidney injury in week two last fall.
• Redshirt freshman Ed Cazanave and sophomore Matthew Hurdle. At 6-2 and 6-3, respectively, these to players could give the Flashes a much-needed boost in size at wide receiver. Both could make some inroads this spring if they demonstrate a consistent ability to go get the ball.
• Redshirt freshman Darius Polk. The aforementioned Polk showed tremendous promise both as a defensive back and an explosive kick returner before breaking his collar bone in the final preseason scrimmage. A healthy Polk could give Kent State a tremendous boost on special teams wile adding size and speed to the defensive backfield.
• The coaching staff is so excited about mid-year freshman Tom Pizzuro, that the Hargrave Academy product is already slated to start at right guard. If he can step into the void created by the graduation of senior Dante Campbell, it could really help solidify the offensive line.
• Freshman Brandon Hazzard. Another mid-year Hargrave find, the 6-1, 261-pound linebacker could be a difference-maker with his strength and size.
The Golden Flashes are scheduled to open the 2010 campaign in Dix Stadium against Murray State Thursday, Sept. 2. Call (330) 672-2244 for season ticket information.
|Spring Depth Chart|