Preview No. 3: Kent State Golden Flashes

This is the third in a series of articles previewing Ohio State’s 12 opponents for the 2014 season.

Kent State head coach Paul Haynes, left. (Photo courtesy of the Record-Courier)

Kent State head coach Paul Haynes, left. (Photo courtesy of the Record-Courier)

Following the Virginia Tech game, Ohio State hosts in-state foe Kent State on Sept. 13. The start time and television network has not been announced as of press time.

Last Season:

Kent State was just 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference last season after going 11-3 with an appearance in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in 2012.

In 2013, the wins came against Liberty (17–10), Western Michigan (32–14), Miami University (24–6) and Ohio (44–13). The losses were to Bowling Green (41-22), LSU (45-13), Penn State (34-0), Northern Illinois (38-24), Ball State (27-24), South Alabama (38-21), Buffalo (41-21) and Akron (17-6).

History & Coaches:

Kent State fielded its first football team in 1920 and played small college ball as a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference before joining the Mid-American Conference in 1951.

It its’ history, Kent State football is 320–499–28 (.394) overall with just one conference title, one divisional title and two bowl appearances.

In 1971, future College Football Hall of Fame honoree Don James became the head coach at Kent State, where he compiled a 25–19–1 record (.567) in four years. There he coached eventual NFL great Jack Lambert, a Hall of Fame linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1974-1984, and current college head coaches Nick Saban (Alabama) and Gary Pinkel (Missouri). During his tenure at Kent State, the Golden Flashes won their only Mid-American Conference title in 1972, and played in their first bowl game, the 1972 Tangerine Bowl.

Following the 1974 season, James left to become the head coach at Washington, where he guided the Huskies to an overall mark of 153–57–2 with six Pac-8/Pac-10 titles and one national championship in 1991. James was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1997. He passed away last October at the age of 80.

Entering his second season, Kent State head coach Paul Haynes was hired in December of 2012 to replace Darrell Hazell, who left for Purdue.

Offense:

In 2013, Kent State ranked 88th nationally in total offense, so things need to improve on that side of the ball if the Golden Flashes hope to have any success on the gridiron in 2014.

Sophomore quarterback Colin Reardon returns after completing 186-of-316 (58.9%) of his passes for 1,957 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a redshirt freshman last season, taking over for four-year starter Spencer Keith. While his numbers reflect his inexperience, the job is his again, and offensive coordinator Brian Rock believe great strides will be made in 2014.

At running back, 6-foot-1, 250-pound senior Trayion Durham was slowed by injuries and gained only 766 yards rushing last season after having 1,346 as a sophomore. He was limited in spring drills with a foot injury, but the hope is that he will be ready in the fall.

Reardon’s top targets are senior wide receiver Chris Humphrey, who led the team with 51 receptions for 613 yards and three touchdowns, fifth-year senior tight end Casey Pierce, who had 33 catches for 364 yards and five TDs, and junior wideout Josh Boyle with 19 catches for 210 yards.

The offensive line, a major question mark, will be dominated by underclassmen. ­Fifth-year senior tackle Terrell Johnson and junior tackle Jason Bitsko are the only returning starters.

Defense:

No unit faces as many questions as the Flashes’ defensive front, which replaces four of its top five including tackle Roosevelt Nix, a four-time, first-team All-MAC selection, which is now in complete overhaul mode under coordinator Brian George. Juniors Nate Terhune and Chris Fairchild will be asked to fill the middle, while the coaching staff is hopeful that fifth-year senior end Nate Vance will be healthy by the opener after a shoulder injury limited his time in the spring.

The linebacking corps should be an area of strength with junior Matt Dellinger (77 tackles) in the middle and senior DeVante’ Strickland (53 tackles) on the outside. The development and reliability of sophomors Elcee Refuge and Darius Redmond allowed the coaches to move junior Jordan Italiano (76 tackles) to safety.

With Italiano patrolling the back end, two starting corners return with seniors Dylan Farrington and Malcolm Pannell, who combined for five of the team’s nine interceptions in 2013. Also, sophomore transfers Najee Murray from Ohio State, and Nick Cuthbert from Georgia Tech, will also be in the mix.