The Kent State Golden Flashes will have a new look to their game this year as they embark on the Sean Lewis era.
Lewis takes over what has recently been a struggling Flashes program. After a 2-10 mark in 2017, KSU decided it was time for a change and brought in Lewis, who became the youngest head coach among college Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Lewis (now age 32) came . . .
In all, Lewis spent six years on the staffs of Babers (Eastern Illinois, Bowling Green and Syracuse). That will be reflected in many ways.
Chances are, this is a rebuild that could take some time. However, Lewis is upbeat about moving into a dynamic system now and recruiting to it for even more success later.
“I’ve been around the block a bit,” Lewis said, noting his MAC experience. “I know where to go, especially within the state of Ohio … and (also) how the teams play in this league.”
Here’s more on the Flashes . . .
KENT STATE 2017 RECORD: 2-10 ( 1-7 MAC)
2018 PRESEASON POLL: Sixth in the Eastern Division
➤ Lewis and offensive coordinator Andrew Sowder will bring the spread offense to KSU. Over the past couple of seasons, mostly due to injury, the Flashes were an option-based offense that relied on the running game.
➤ To run the spread, you need a skilled quarterback, and Lewis has worked with some very good ones. That list includes signal callers like Jimmy Garrappolo at Eastern Illinois and Matt Johnson at BGSU.
➤ Dustin Crum returns and will battle it out during fall camp with JUCO transfer Woody Barrett for a QB starting gig. “Both kids are doing a phenomenal job,” Lewis said. “They have different strengths (and) different weaknesses.”
➤ At 6-2 and 230 pounds, Barrett has the body to endure the pounding of FBS football. Crum, who completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 232 yards and a touchdown last year, has the arm and MAC experience. However, the spread offense will be new to him.
Kent State has not had a particularly strong-armed quarterback since the days of Spencer Keith. Lewis hopes the current two can start the Flashes back on that road to becomes more of a passing threat.
➤ In the meantime, KSU’s running game is led by Justin Rankin, one of the more underrated running backs in the MAC. The junior paced Kent State in rushing with 490 yards and five touchdowns in 2017. In addition, he caught 70 passes for 311 yards and a pair of scores.
Rankin’s numbers would have been higher, especially in the running game, if KSU had tweaked the option game which often rode its quarterback over the past two seasons. In Lewis’ spread, Rankin could flourish.
“He’s doing a phenomenal job,” Lewis said. “He’ll have a major impact on what we’re doing going forward -- no doubt.”
➤ Look for fellow juniors Will Matthews and Jo-El Shaw, a community college transfer, to aid the run game, as well.
➤ To play the spread offense you must have speed and hands at the skilled positions. KSU will have the speed in junior Antuwn Dixon who missed the past two seasons due to medical issues.
➤ There is also talent at wide receiver. Junior Trey Harrell tops the list of returning receivers with 18 catches for 331 yards and a touchdown. Also available is Mike Carrigan, who grabbed 14 for 281 yards and a pair of scores.
➤ Look for contributions from senior Johnny Woods, Raekown James, Donte Ross, and Kavious Price. Mandela Lawrence-Burke moves to the offense after playing cornerback a season ago and freshman Isaiah McKoy is another option.
➤ A key area of focus, however, is improvement up front. The offensive line allowed 46 sacks and 116 plays for losses a season ago. That unit must give the quarterback enough protection so he can find his intended receiver.
The offensive line has three starters returning in junior C Nate Warnock, junior Adam Gregoire, and junior LT Bryce Gibbs. Look for competition at LG with junior Mike Marinelli and sophomore Zach Corrigall. Right guard possibles include redshirt freshman Sam Allan, who is battling redshirt frosh Julian Sams.
➤ “Everyone is at their best when they know they have to compete and they have to get better,” Lewis said.
➤ The KSU defense under defensive coordinator and associate head coach Tom Kaufman will use the 3-4 alignment. That unit is led by senior LB Jim Jones. He had a great 2017 campaign, leading the team in tackles with 98 (52 solo), also registering six sacks, eight tackles for losses, a pair of forced fumbles and a fumble recovery en route to first team All-MAC honors
➤ The defensive line is led by senior end Theo Ebogbe (39 total tackles, a pair of sacks, a fumble recovery, and five TFL) along with fifth-year senior Jordan Silva, who comes from Nevada.
➤ Along with Jones, the linebackers include sophomore Kaesean Gamble, fifth-year senior Matt Bahr, and junior Nick Faulkner (28 total tackles and three pass breakups).
➤ Kent State’s brings back senior S Juantez McRae, fifth-year seniors Quan Robinson and Erik Simpson, along with junior Jamal Parker (57 total tackles 10 tackles for losses and a forced fumble). Look for sophomore Elvis Hines, K.J. Sherald, and junior Jae’Vante Ray to contribute this season
➤ One of the strengths of the Flashes in 2017 was special teams, and such should be the case again in 2018. Junior Derek Adams was one of the best punters in the MAC as he averaged 43.6 yards per kick a season ago. The return game was solid on kicks with both Mike Carrigan, Raekwon James, and Kavious Price each averaging over 16 yards per return.
➤ Following the graduation of Shane Hynes, one battle to watch is for the place kicking duties. Redshirt freshman Colt McFadden and sophomore Grant Urenovich begin the battle in fall camp.
➤ KSU opens the season on September 1 at Illinois. After the home opener against Howard, it is back on the road for games at Penn State and Ole Miss before opening MAC play on September 23 at Ball State.
East favorite Ohio comes to Dix Stadium on October 6, but they do not face any of the top teams in the conference until Toledo comes in for a night game on November 15.