The Kent State offense has issues.
The quarterback position has two capable starters, senior Julian Edelman and Giorgio Morgan, that will compete for the job. The offensive line will have two new starters, and Pat Reedy, who played sparingly last year, is considered a returning starter. On top of it all, the receiving corps is counting on a few new players to jump start the passing game.
But all is well at running back. In fact, the running back position is so deep at Kent State that the team's leading rusher, also the nation's leading returning ball carrier, Eugene Jarvis, barely saw the field this spring, because Kent State just didn't need him. Jarvis is likely one of the preseason front-runners for MAC Player of the Year, after rushing for 1,669 yards in his sophomore season.
"This year he could run for less yards, but have a better year, because hopefully we're going to have a healthy quarterback, and have a little bit more balance on offense," Kent State coach Doug Martin said.
Another reason Jarvis could run for fewer yards is Andre Flowers. A true sophomore, Flowers showed this spring that he could be a featured back for the Flashes this season. Flowers may be bigger than Jarvis (at 5-foot-5-inches, who isn't?), but calling Flowers a power back is misleading. Jarvis's quick burst and strong legs make him the best in-between the tackles rusher, while Flowers possess more breakaway speed.
The combination of the two, along with the healthy quarterbacks, and the new play action passing game spurred on by tight end Jameson Konz, should make the Flashes one of the more trickier offenses in the MAC. Especially when both Jarvis and Flowers will be in the same backfield.
"(It) just gives the defense just one other key element to watch out for, "Jarvis said.
Martin said the challenge for himself and his coaching staff is trying to come up with new formations that include both Jarvis and Flowers, and the formation will likely be geared toward passing, primarily with the elusive Jarvis.
"When you get him involved in the open field, he's really dangerous, and the passing game does that" Martin said. "If we can develop him a little bit more on the receiver side of things, I think it can really help our offense, and help make him a lot more effective to."
Flowers and Jarvis both had impressive off-seasons. Flowers won the most improved player award this spring, while Jarvis established himself as one the strongest players on the team (his squat was 605 pounds, three times his body weight). And as impressive as the players' off-season, the coaching staff may have matched them.
Jacquise Terry, known as Speedy to his friends, of Georgia, and Sal Battles of Youngstown East, both committed to Kent State. While Battles played quarterback in high school, and will likely experiment at running back, cornerback and safety, Terry has a one-track mind: running back.
Terry said his strength is making defenders miss him, while his weakness is running between the tackles. Martin told the young running back that he was a threat to score every time he touches the ball, which was apparently the right thing to say. Other schools were recruiting Terry as a defender, but Kent State was one of the few schools that promised him he would run the ball.
The quarterback mystery will be solved in late August. The offensive line is, at this point, settled and the receivers will know where they stand when the new recruits arrive. But it's a sure be that running back coach Jerry McManus falls asleep a little quicker than the rest of the staff.
"I'm really excited," Terry said. "It's going to be nice. Eugene Andre, Sal-- looking at the talent we have-- it should be a good year."
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Joe Harrington is spending his summer interning for Kent Sports Report. When school resumes in the fall, he'll take over as the sports editor of the Daily Kent Stater.