Three years ago, Kent State defenders were chasing Miami’s Austin Gearing around the field. Come this Saturday, Gearing will be doing the chasing, and likely his No. 1 target for the day will be Golden Flashes quarterback Nick Holley.
The two have at least one thing in common – a change in position. Holley was a KSU running back until recently. He was thrust into the quarterback job after injuries took out the Flashes’ other QBs. Holley has responded well in two outings, nearly orchestrating a Kent State victory against rival Akron in his first start and then running for over 200 yards in a win over Buffalo last week.
Gearing, meanwhile, came out of high school as a quarterback and initially played that position at Miami. After the . . .
Although MU struggled again in 2014, Hendrix brought the passing game back and was able to contribute considerable offense while playing in front of family and friends making the trip from nearby Cincinnati.
Gearing, meanwhile, was dealing with a significant wrist injury and began to consider his alternatives. Brief experiments at end and tight end didn’t work out. “When it came to catching the ball, it was very difficult, just because of the feeling thing (in my hand),” Gearing said.
After a discussion with his head coach about possibly moving to defense, Gearing told Martin, “I’ll be willing to play any position you want me to – defensive side of the ball would be awesome.”
He knew it would be important to teammates that he was “not looking at just kind of messing around” on the defensive side. Although he hadn’t played defense since the fifth grade, Gearing said, “I took the approach (that) this is a serious change for me, and it gives me another opportunity to get on the field.”
There was, of course, a learning curve.
“There’s a lot more mental (demands) to the defensive end position than you would think,” Gearing said. “You really need to kind of understand the entire defense, and that is what I have learned, especially this past offseason. … The more you understand what the defense is doing, the more you can understand where you need to be.”
Although he saw limited action in the 2014 campaign, his transition was underway. He played in all 12 games last year, finishing with 14 tackles, including three tackles for loss.
The front line of defense will certainly be challenged this week with a good runner like Holley getting a touch on virtually every offensive snap. But limiting Holley is a key ingredient for what Gearing hopes will be a Miami win – and that chance to finally sing the victory song in front of the band and home crowd.
“Two years ago, I had a thought in my head that I might not ever be playing football again, let alone the position of quarterback,” said the former Fenwick High School star. ‘I’m enjoying every day of it – even practice.”
Gearing carried 24 times for 81 yards in Kent State’s 2013 victory over Miami. If MU can keep Holley down to similar numbers – or less – it would certainly give the winless RedHawks a fighting chance against the one-win Flashes.
“I’ve watched two or three games on (Holley), and he’s impressed me,” Gearing said. “But if we are where we need to be, we could stop any offense in the country. … He can run the ball very well, so we’re looking forward to it.”
With victories at a premium, both teams should be looking forward to it.