The Kent State football team’s 2009 season will get under way on Friday evening when the Golden Flashes take the field for practice at Dix Stadium at 5P.M. Here are NewsFlashes’ five keys to a successful season in 2009
FIVE KEYS IN 2009 - KENT STATE FOOTBALL
1. SPECIAL TEAMS
Anyone that has followed the Kent State football program over the last few years knows that the special teams have not been very good and that is putting it nicely. This unit cost KSU two wins in 2008 against Akron with a muffed punt and a missed field goal and against Ohio with a missed field goal, two missed extra points and another field goal that wasn’t attempted because the coaching staff had no confidence in the kicking game. The punt return team ranked just 115th out of 120 teams in the country last season. Coach Martin has hinted and perhaps RB Eugene Jarvis has lobbied to return punts so we will have to stay tuned about that. Also, the kick return team ranked 116thin the country last season. Punter Matt Rinehart returns after a solid freshman season in 2008. The past recruiting class saw the program bring in Freddy Cortezfrom Florida and Martin says he will compete right away with Nate Reed for place kicking duties. If this unit can at least be consistently decent, it will be a big boost to KSU’s chances in 2009. Zane Vance will be the special teams coordinator this season.
2. WIDE RECEIVERS
Another glaring weakness of the program for the last couple seasons has been inconsistent wide receiver play. It’s a unit that Martin has publicly called out multiple times. Martin will be going with a youth movement as five of the top eight receivers on the depth chart are underclassmen. The staff is looking for someone to step up and catch the football consistently, as well as provide a deep threat. Derek McBryde, Kendrick Pressley, Tyshon Goode and Sam Kirkland will be some of the receivers given the first opportunity to make plays in the offense in 2009.
3. QUARTERBACK PLAY
Recently at media day Coach Martin continued to say that redshirt sophomore Giorgio Morgan and senior Anthony Magazu will compete for the starting position. I expect Morgan to win the job and if he does he will have the ability to give the offense a vertical passing game that they didn’t have under Julian Edelman. Sophomore Sal Battles might also figure into the mix and make for some creative play calls withhis ability to make plays with his feet. Nobody is expecting the Kent State quarterbacks to be Julian Edelman, and all of the options this year will be much different than he was. If Morgan or whoever it is in 2009 can protect the football and make wise decisions, that will be a positive thing for Kent State.
4. GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START
For years Martin has wanted to open up at home vs. a FCS opponent. This year he gets that chance when Kent State opens up against Coastal Carolina on Thursday, September 3. There are other winnable games at Boston College and Baylor as well as a home game vs. Iowa State. If this team can get off to a good start, the confidence will be raised and hopefully that will help them once they get into conference play. Hopefully last year’s season ending victory at Buffalo combined with early season success will propel the team and make them believe they can win the MAC East Division.
5. SHAKE THE LOSING CULTURE
The time for Kent State football to win is now. The MAC East Division is there for the taking and Kent State has as good a chance as anyone to win it. If Kent State wins those two games last season vs. Akron and Ohio, they finish 5-3 and they are the MAC East Champions, not Buffalo. What is it going to take for the players to play consistent, competitive football on every down of every game? Coach Martin has said that people can talk about all the improvements the program has made in other facets, but until the program wins it doesn’t mean a thing. Will this be the year that the program knocks down the door and plays winning football? The talent appears to be on board and if Martin and staff can convince his players that they had nothing to do with the past losing culture of Kent State football, they just might do that.
-KentStateSports.com has released a position by position breakdown of the team. Fans will also find a video interview with coach Martin conducted by Ty Linder.
-Eugene Jarvis was named as one of 45 preseason candidates for the Doak Walker award, which recognizes the nations top running back.
-Kent State's game at Dix Stadium on September 19 vs. Iowa State will be broadcast on ESPN360.com. It joins the Boston College game on ESPN360.com.
-I am doing more blogging on Kent State football this season at Phil Steele's website. Check it out.