Beacon Journal: Keith in Lead to be Flashes Starting Quarterback
Stephanie Storm, Akron Beacon Journal
KENT: The past two seasons when Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith approached the line of scrimmage, his job was simple — run the play that former coach Doug Martin called.
This season, under first-year coach Darrell Hazell and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Rock, Keith’s role in the Golden Flashes’ playcalling has increased dramatically.
“This year, I have a lot more control at the line, which I really enjoy,” said Keith, a junior. “Seeing the defense, I can check to a play I’d like to run against a certain defense. Last year, I just ran the play that was called. So I feel it will help me a lot more to help the offense that way.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Keith enters the season ranked fifth in passing yards (4,359) on the KSU all-time list. He also has 22 passing touchdowns and 383 completions.
Yet, Hazell made no promises to Keith upon arriving on campus in December. That left the quarterback job up for grabs among Keith, fifth-year senior Giorgio Morgan, junior Sal Battles, redshirt freshman Cedric McCloud and freshman Evan Shimensky from Kent Roosevelt.
“It’s fun to go out there every day knowing you have to work for what you’re going to get,” Keith said.
Morgan is no longer with the team. And early in preseason camp it appears Keith’s previous starting experience and emerging leadership skills have him in position to be the starter when Kent State’s season kicks off Sept. 3 at Alabama.
The key for Keith will be consistency. His career has been up and down the past two seasons. He struggled with turnovers last season.
In 12 starts for the Flashes (5-7) last season, Keith completed 215 passes for 2,212 yards. But he also threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (eight).
“I want to see [Keith’s] game step up as well,” Hazell said on the first day of camp Monday. “It’s all new information for him, but he’s gotta be at another level this year more so than he was in any of the previous years.”
Rock is confident in his new pupil.
“Spencer is a student of the game,” Rock said. “It’s very important that Spencer learn the ins and outs of what we’re trying to do on offense. I told the guys when I came in that the guy who needed to understand the offense most of all — maybe even including me — is the quarterback.
“And Spencer has done everything he can to learn and understands that operationally, it all starts with him. So he has progressed very well running our offense. I feel very good where he is right now.”
Sunday evening, Keith and the rest of the Flashes were handed a 404-page playbook that includes a new, complicated offensive system. It’s heady stuff for even the most intelligent players.
“You almost want them to feel so [overwhelmed], like you want to get the barrel empty so that when you fill it up it feels so good,” Rock said. “That way, then all of a sudden when they do get it, and they will get it in time, they have a sense of accomplishment.”
Keith shrugs off the idea of being overwhelmed with anything so far.
“Spring ball helped a whole lot in getting the offense put in,” he said. “Now we have to make certain corrections and learn what checks to make. It’s a process.”