Coach: Paul Haynes (6-17, entering third season, 6-17 overall)
2014 record: 2-9, 1-6 in Mid-American Conference, sixth in East Division
Look back: It seemed a gray cloud hung over the Kent State program right from the start last season. Catastrophic injuries to star players like Trayion Durham left the team reeling before the untimely death of offensive lineman Jason Bitsko shook the program to its core. The Golden Flashes never seemed to recover. The team opened the season with six straight losses and won just two of its next five games to finish with one of the program’s worst seasons since 2005.
Offensive starters returning: 8
Offensive starters lost: 3
Defensive starters returning: 8
Defensive starters lost: 3
Key losses: WR Chris Humphrey, TE Casey Pierce, RB Anthony Meray, DB Malcolm Pannell
Top returnees: QB Colin Reardon, RB Nick Holley, RB Trayion Durham, WR Kris White, WR Ernest Calhoun, OL Reno Reda, OL Wayne Scott, OL Alex Nielsen, OL Nathan Puthoff, DE Terence Waugh, DE Jon Cunningham, DL Nate Terhune
Strengths: Don Treadwell’s move to offensive coordinator provides a spark for an offense ranked next-to-last in both scoring offense (16.4 points per game) and total offense (315 yards per game) in the Mid-American Conference last season. Luckily for Treadwell, he’ll be working with Colin Reardon. With 21 career starts under his belt, the junior quarterback provides the program with an extended period of continuity. Reardon was one of four quarterbacks in the conference last season to attempt at least 400 passes, completing 57 percent of them for 2,466 yards with 13 touchdowns. His growing confidence in the offense provides the Golden Flashes with a valuable asset in 2015.
Despite losing reliable receivers in Chris Humphrey (51 receptions, 635 yards, 5 TDs) and tight end Casey Pierce (60 receptions, 641yards, 6 TDs), the offense returns valuable production at the receiver position thanks to juniors Ernest Calhoun and James Brooks. Kent State’s secondary ranked one of the best in the MAC in 2014, allowing just 216 yards per game through the air. Safeties Nate Holley (137 tackles) and Jordan Italiano (96 tackles, 3 INTs) led the group that also returns defensive back Demetrius Monday (40 tackles, INT).
Weaknesses: Kent State’s ground game was abysmal last season, with the Golden Flashes finishing last in the MAC in rushing offense (88 yards per game), rushing touchdowns (6) and average yards per carry (3.3) last season.
The defense, as a whole, ranked last in the league in sacks with just nine. If the team expects to improve on its performance from last season, it needs more production up front.
Outlook: In just two seasons, Kent State went from a program fresh off an 11-win season to two wins in 2014. It’s normal in the MAC, where programs walk a paper-thin line between success and failure. The Golden Flashes survived so much as a team last season, it’s impossible not to believe better things are on the horizon. If Kent State stays healthy, the schedule should allow the team to net more than two wins in 2015.
Sept. 4 at Illinois
Sept. 12 Delaware State
Sept. 19 at Minnesota
Sept. 26 Marshall
Oct. 3 Miami (OH)
Oct. 10 at Toledo
Oct. 17 at UMass
Oct. 24 Bowling Green
Nov. 5 Buffalo
Nov. 10 at Ohio
Nov. 18 Central Michigan
Nov. 27 at Akron
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com