KSU 2014 RECORD: 2-9 (1-6 in MAC play) seventh place in Eastern Division
2015 PRESEASON POLL: Seventh
HEAD COACH: Paul Haynes – third season (6-17 overall & at KSU)
► Will new offensive coordinator Don Treadwell give a jump start to a problematic offense a season ago?
► Will the return of Trayion Durham from a broken foot before the 2014 season bolster a running game that already returns talented starter Nick Holley?
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► Now in his fourth season, will head coach Paul Haynes bring the Golden Flashes back to competiveness in the MAC
► The Flashes’ offense averaged just 16.4 points per game and gained 316 yards per contest last year. In the off-season, KSU promoted Don Treadwell to offensive coordinator . The former head man at Miami was the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati and Michigan State before his head coaching stint with the RedHawks. With his time at Miami and a 2014 season as KSU running backs coach, Treadwell is generally familiar with his personnel.
► At the on-field controls of the offense will be junior QB Colin Reardon. He completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,466 yards with 14 touchdowns in 2014. However, he also tossed 16 interceptions. Reardon can leave the pocket and run, especially on quarterback draws and the read-option plays. He gained 148 yards and two touchdowns a season ago.
► The running game will get a major boost as Trayion Durham comes back for his senior season. He was lost for the entire 2014 campaign due to a broken foot. However, when healthy he is one of the best running backs not only in the MAC, but potentially on a national level.
One person who will be helped greatly by the return of Durham is junior Nick Holley. He led KSU in rushing a season ago with 516 yards and scored three touchdowns. In addition, look for sophomore Miles Hibbler, who had a solid spring.
► The passing game will need some work as the Flashes’ two best receivers from a year ago, WR Chris Humphrey and TE Casey Pierce, have both graduated. The top returning pass catcher is junior Ernest Calhoun, who snagged 33 passes in 2014 for 319 yards and a touchdown.
Look for improved numbers from sophomore Kris White and senior Josh Boyle, who looks to get back to receiving numbers in 2012 and 2013. Nick Holley, who had 27 catches a season ago, and Connor Arlia, a transfer from West Virginia, also could make some noise for the receiving corps.
► The offensive line allowed 13 sacks over the first four games last year. The rest of the way, they allowed only five. The key man on the line is junior LT Reno Reda, who started all 11 games a season ago. The rest of the offensive wall consists of junior LG Wayne Scott, senior RG Anthony Pruitt, and sophomore RT Brock Macaulay. The inexperienced part of the line to start the season will be at center as sophomore Nathan Puthoff who was moved from right guard in the spring.
►The 2014 KSU defense allowed 29 points (7th MAC) and 430 yards (9th MAC) per game. It was totally manhandled early in the season, especially in the road games at Ohio State and Virginia. Overall, defensive coordinator Brian George has his work cut out for him in his 3-4 alignment.
► The defensive front brings back two starters in senior Nate Terhune (35 total tackles and 3.5 sacks last season), along with sophomore Jon Cunningham (35 total stops and a sack). Look for redshirt freshman Kalil Morris and junior Chris Fairchild to see their playing time improve greatly in 2015.
► The linebackers are a strength. They are led in the middle by senior Matt Dellinger (90 tackles and an interception) and junior Elcee Refuge (58 tackles). On the outside, there is junior Darius Redmond, who had 37 stops, along with junior Terence Waugh (35 tackles and 1.5 sacks). Look for senior Devante’ Strickland, sophomore Matthew Sommers, and sophomore Marques Moore to add much needed depth.
► The defensive secondary improved as the season went along and made some big plays. The quartet is led by senior SS Jordan Italiano, who was second on the team in tackles with 96 and led the team with three interceptions. Lining up next to him is junior Nate Holley. The brother of Nick Holley led the Flashes in total tackles with 137 one of the top totals in the FBS. On one corner will be sophomore Demetrius Monday, who had 40 total tackles, an interception, and seven pass breakups. On the other side will be Najee Murray, the transfer from Ohio State. He played sparingly a season ago and had 23 total tackles. Look for junior Nick Cuthbert, Jimmy May, a transfer from Youngstown State, and freshmen like Quan Robinson, Carlos Pickett, and Darryl Marshall to add depth.
Over the past two seasons, punting and the place kicking has belonged to Anthony Melchiori. He averaged 44.3 yards per punt, with 26 of his 72 kicks landing inside the opposition’s 20-yard line. On the place kicking side, he was just 10-of-18 on field goals and 16-of-18 on extra points. He could well be doing double-duty again in his senior season. However, redshirt freshman Shayne Hynes could push Melchiori in the place kicking battle. Ernest Calhoun is back to return kickoffs after averaging 20.8 yards per return last year. Punt returns may be returns by committee.
► You could say in 2014 for the Flashes “Oh what might have been’ in the season opener they drove down the field late to tie Ohio 14-14, only to see the Bobcats hit a 47-yard field goal at the gun. From that point on, they incurred five straight losses. The low point was definitely the game at Ohio State -- not only the 66-0 final score, but also only crossing midfield once the entire game (and that was on their final possession of the game).
► In MAC play, four of Kent State’s losses came by 10 points or less. They also battled both Toledo and Bowling Green to the bitter end before losing. One bright spot was that they regained possession of the Wagon Wheel in the season finale, beating arch-rival Akron.
► To start 2015, the team left campus for fall camp at an Athletes in Action complex down in Xenia. They look to bond and be a family both on and off the field…
► The early portion of the schedule includes a pair of Big Ten road games at Illinois and at Minnesota. Sandwiched in between is a home opener against FCS opponent Delaware State.
In all KSU will open the season with three of its first five games at Dix Stadium. The stretch includes a visit from Marshall and the MAC opener against Miami.
A two-game road swing to Toledo and Massachusetts follows before a home tilt against Bowling Green. November brings home games against Buffalo and Central Michigan, with road tilts to Ohio and Akron to close the season.
► Prognosticators aren’t bullish about KSU improvement in 2015. Some parts of the schedule, however, play to the Flashes favor. If the team can stay relatively healthy and make improvement in some key areas, there are wins to be had.