The Kent State football team reported to fall camp on Friday, with a new head coach and Heisman Trophy candidate in its backfield.
After Darrell Hazell defected to Purdue at the conclusion of the 2012 season, former Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes accepted the Golden Flashes head coaching job, taking over the program that he played defensive back for from 1987-91.
"When I got into this profession, one of my goals was to be the coach at Kent State," Haynes said upon being hired las December. "I can't believe it. It's a dream and I haven't landed yet. It's been a whirlwind."
Following a 2012 campaign that saw the Golden Flashes amass an 11-2 record and a MAC East Division championship, Haynes' debut season will hardly be a walk in the park for the former Ohio State assistant. Fortunately for Haynes, however, Kent State returns six starters on offense, including all-purpose weapon Dri Archer.
The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder led the nation in both rushing yards per carry (9.0) and kick return average (36.9) a season ago, leading his school to kickoff a Heisman Trophy campaign for the senior running back, which includes a website (Dri4Heisman.com) and a Twitter account (@Dri4Heisman).
"When you think about the Heisman and the best college football player, it should be someone who is exciting," Haynes said. "When you look at how electric he is and the plays that he made, he's a natural fit. He's one of those players where every time he touches the ball he has a chance to make a big play, and I think people are really going to legitimately look at him as a Heisman candidate. Dri is all about doing what's best for the team, but when it comes to catching the attention of fans and media, we want to put him front and center."
With the Heisman Trophy ceremony still months away, Archer still has a long way to go before he makes Kent State history. But his journey to New York starts today, alongside 102 teammates camping under Haynes for the first time.