TEAM: Kent State Golden Flashes
2015 RECORD: 3-9, 2-6 MAC (4th in MAC East)
HEAD COACH: Paul Haynes (3rd year)
MAC MEDIA PRESEASON POLL RANK: 6th in MAC East
When you have the lowest scoring offense among FBS teams, you better have a really good defense.
That kind of summarizes much of the 2015 Kent State Golden Flashes and may speak some of 2016, as well. Seventeen starters (9 offense and 8 defense) return off a team that won three games overall and two MAC encounters. One of the wins was over a team (UMass) no longer in the conference. The other was over one of college football’s youngest teams (Miami) entering its third year of a rebuild.
The Flashes scored . . .
BIG PICTURE STAT OVERVIEW
Scoring offense: 13th (13.1 ppg)
Scoring defense: 5th (26.1 ppg)
Total offense: 13th (270.8 ypg)
Total defense: 3rd (350.1 ypg)
Turnover margin: 11th (-3/-0.25)
If there is one question hovering over Kent State, it is how can the Flashes pick up production from the quarterback position.
Colin Reardon and George Bollas completed just 51 percent of their passes last year. They also combined to throw nine TDs against 10 interceptions. Ultimately, struggles with passing affected the running game and vice versa.
Bollas is back and likely has the edge over redshirt freshman Mylike Mitchell and true freshman Justin Agner. Reardon has moved out to an end spot. At this stage, whoever can get things going will be welcome.
There is some talent to work with, and the offensive line returns four starters. The return of Nick Holley, who missed the last nine games with an injury, could be a real boost for the running game. It likely won’t be a return to the days of Eugene Jarvis (1,669 yards in 2007) or the 2013 thunder-lightning duo of Trayion Durham and Dri Archer, but it could certainly be better than last year’s No. 11 rushing rank with 132.8 ypg.
Three starters return among the wide receivers, which are young overall, but they have potential.
You look at our games last year; we would drive the ball and then have a stupid penalty … or turn the ball over. You know you can’t beat two teams on Saturday. We can’t beat ourselves. It comes down to execution. We’ve got to execute better. -- Head coach Paul Haynes.
The outlook should be a little brighter on defense. Senior Terrence Waugh (DE) and Nate Holley (FS) were both First Team All MAC players. The latter led Kent State with 141 tackles, including 79 solos and 5 TFL. Waugh topped the team in TFL with 12 and also sacks (9.0). Three of four linemen and two of three linebackers are returning starters. Elcee Refuge (70) and Darius Redmond (34) combined for 104 stops from the linebacker level.
Demetrius Monday and Najae Murray are an experienced duo in the secondary. Combined with Holley at the back end, KSU should again fare relatively well in defending the pass. The Flashes ranked third in pass defense (206,2 ypg) last year and were fifth in pass defense efficiency.
Punter Anthony Melchiori, a stalwart at punting, is gone, so that is one of the “fill needs” for Kent State this season. Placekicker Shane Hynes is back after hitting 7 of 11 field goals and all 13 extra points.
We (threw) a lot of guys into the fire year one that we were there, and now all those guys are fourth year (and) fifth year players. Now we should see it on the field as far as changing from 3-9 to something better. … Definitely, our expectation level goes up with those guys. -- Head coach Paul Haynes
The Flashes are a great example of just how important the quarterback position is. It’s not a good sign if you have to say your team can go as far as your defense takes it.
But there are a lot of weapons at hand if QB play improves and Kent State can stay relatively healthy. The non-conference slate includes dates at Penn State and Alabama. The rivalry Battle for the Wagon Wheel, in fact, follows KSU’s game at ‘Bama as Kent State hosts Akron.
Certainly the last third of the schedule will be tough as KSU faces Central Michigan and Bowling Green on the road, while hosting Western Michigan and Northern Illinois at home.