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The college football calendar shows that we are inside of two months before Kent State looks to build on its 5-7 record in the 2011 season with a Thursday night opener against Towson to start off year two of the Darrell Hazell era at Kent State. There were plenty of highlights to go with last year's season but the team came up short in a quest to becoming bowl eligible and will be looking to build upon that.
The Golden Flashes return nine starters on offense and defense, and look to be in a position to continue their ascent to the top of the MAC standings. We've take a look at the quarterbacks, led by returning starter Spencer Keith and the talented returning offensive backfield highlighted by the talented Trayion Durham.
Today we continue to look at the offense, and specifically the wide receiver group that hopes to find a way to replace the top three pass-catchers from a year ago (Justin Thompson and Sam Kirkland each caught 32 balls, and Chris Gilbert hauled in 27). Who will be the key components in the passing game for the navy blue and gold this fall?
The Returning Starters
Goode is currently fourth on the all-time receptions and receiving yardsd lists at Kent State, and the 6-foot-1, 185-pound wide receiver from Syracuse (N.Y.) will get plenty of chances to climb up those lists this season. As a junior, Goode started five of the team's twelve games, and had a team best 129 yards receiving against Eastern Michigan. As a sophomore in 2010, Goode led the Golden Flashes in receptions, yards and touchdowns and earned second team All-MAC honors. With the offense struggling a year ago, he saw his numbers dip to only 24 receptions and 316 yards. Which Goode shows up goes a long way towards defining the Kent State offense in 2012.
Listed as a starter on the Golden Flashes official depth chart, Humphrey played in eight games a year ago, mostly on special teams, and also served as the team's backup holder on field goals and extra points. A 6-foot-1, 179 pound sophomore from Solon (Ohio), Humphrey was a first team all-state selection as a senior in high school when he gained over 1200 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. Humphrey is a talented athlete who also played safety in high school, but now looks to make his mark in offensive coordinator Brian Rock's offense.
As we hinted to in the running back preview, Archer returns to the Kent State team after a year off for academic issues, and his presence offers some versatility to an offense that needs all the weapons it can get. In 2010, Archer caught 16 passes in 12 games for 75-yards and one touchdown. He's a valuable weapon out of the backfield and in the slot and should add a different dimension to the Flashes offense.
The Next Wave
With twenty catches as a red-shirt junior a year ago, Hurdle finally sees himself in the lineup with a chance to regularly compete for playing time. He scored his first and only career touchdown on an 85-yard catch against Central Michigan en route to his first career 100-yard performance. At 6-foot-3 and 185-pounds, Hurdle possesses the size and speed to make a difference for wide receiver coach Thed Jamison. Originally recruited as a quarterback, Hurdle made the transition to wide receiver after graduating from Richmond (Va.) Highland Springs high school. As a senior year in high school, he threw for 2300-yards and 28 touchdowns against only four interceptions. Can he find a way to match his output from a year ago?
What the Golden Flashes lack in returning statistical numbers at the wide receiver spot, they make up for in experience and years inside of the program. Adeyemi is another fifth-year senior looking to make the most of his opportunity to shine. A commitment to the University of Kentucky from Miami (Fla.) Southridge high school, Adeyemi has all the physical tools to make an impact for the Flashes. He's 6-foot-1 and ran a reported 4.4-forty out of high school, and with although he only caught five balls as a junior (in eight games), he looks to make an impact this season. He's listed as a starter on the team's official website, so it appears that Coach Hazell and company believe that this year could be his breakthrough season.
Another slot-receiver who started his career in the backfield, Dawson hopes that his senior season will provide him a chance to make his first real splash with the Flashes after his transfer from rival Akron after the 2010 season. He's 6-foot-tall and 200 pounds and keeps his 40-yard time around 4.5, but it's not yet known what Dawson can bring to the Golden Flashes offense. He burst onto the Kent State scene in the 2011 spring game when he rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries, but with NCAA rules requiring him to sit out a year, he may have faded out the collective conscious for most Kent State fans. That could change this year as he gets a chance to show off his skills. His long road to Kent State has seen him committed to Cincinnati, signed with Akron and now trying to make a mark in a position that he's just learning after only two carries a year ago. How can he adjust and how can he contribute?
In February, four new wide receivers put pen to paper and became the newest members of the Kent State wide receiving corps, highlighted by Groveland (Fla.) native James Brooks, who 5-foot-10 and 196-pound lightning in a bottle with a reported 4.3 40-yard dash. Whether game-breaking speed translates into being a successful college receiver, is of course another debate. What it does mean is that Brooks will likely have a chance to be an asset and a weapon for the Golden Flashes in some way if he's able to make the transition into collegiate life as smoothly as he runs a post pattern. He chose Kent State over offers from Memphis, Tennessee State, Florida A&M and others, and garnered recruiting attention from Notre Dame as well.
The majority of the other incoming freshman are likely bound for a red-shirt year, but with a veteran group on their way out the doors, it's a group that could pay major dividends down the road for Hazell and his staff. Charles Chandler from Columbus St. Francis De Sales, Anthony Melchiori from Aurora High School and William Woods from Cleveland Shaw High School will all provide depth and talent moving forward.
For Kent State's passing game, it comes down simply to one thing: can Spencer Keith revert to the form he displayed his sophomore season when he was completing 60-percent of his attempts as opposed the to 51-percent he completed as a junior? In 2010, Kent State's leading receiver (Goode) had 59 catches for 743 yards and he closely followed by departing Sam Kirkland who collected 56 catches for 599 yards. Last year's team required five different wide receivers to eclipse that same 115 receptions total. Yes, Hazell's offense is a bit less aggressive than his predecessor, but the Golden Flashes only attempted 42 fewer passes in 2011 than they did in 2010. Can Keith, or perhaps incoming JUCO transfer David Fisher (listed as the 'or' with Keith as the starting QB on the official depth chart) provide enough consistency to let this group of unproven veterans shine?