The Kent State Football team will begin spring practice on Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. The Flashes will have 15 practices before holding their Spring Game on April 30 at Dix Stadium.
With eight starters returning on offense, seven starters returning on defense in addition to all specialists, Kent State is striving to win their first MAC title since 1972.
SPRING PRACTICE STORYLINES
WELCOME BACK EUGENE - It's been an unbelievably emotional last seven months for Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis. In September 2009 Jarvis takes a hard hit in a game vs. Boston College. It results in a lacerated kidney which causes Jarvis to miss the rest of the season. Jarvis also finds out he was born with only one kidney. It appears Jarvis' Kent State and possibly his football career is over. Then in February the NCAA grants Jarvis a sixth year of eligibility. Kent State will ease Jarvis back into the fold during spring practice.
“Eugene has been cleared to practice, and he is going to be out there on Monday,” head coach Doug Martin told the Record Courier. “We are still going to take it slow with him for the first few practices and try to keep him from getting hit until the second week.”
Jarvis is the nation's second-leading returning rusher with 3,426 career yards.
KEITH RETURNS TO ACTION - It will be exciting for Kent State fans to see the progression of sophomore QB Spencer Keith. While Martin has said it will be an open competition for the starting spot, Keith did more than enough last season to earn the undisputed starting nod for KSU in 2010. Keith suffered a separated shoulder in the 11th game of the season against Temple and had to miss the season finale against Buffalo. In 2009 Keith completed 57-percent of his passes for 2,174 yards with 14 TD's and 11 interceptions. In the off-season Keith changed his number from 11 to 3. The more interesting battle could be for the backup quarterback spot. Giorgio Morgan is back and will receive competition from Sal Battles and freshman Cedric McCloud.
DEVELOPING THE DEFENSE - New assistant coach Jim Fleming comes over from Akron and should provide experience and expertise when helping coach Kent State's linebackers. Cobrani Mixon returns at middle linebacker to help lead the defense. Mixon's good buddy, free safety Brian Lainhart is back to help him lead the defense. Lainhart emerged in 2009 as not only the leader of the defense, but the leader of the program. Joining Lainhart in the defensive secondary is something that will need to be decided. While Josh Pleasant returns on one corner, look for Chris Gilbert, Sidney Saulter and Darius Polk to compete for the other spot.
SPECIAL TEAMS ARE SOLID - It's been a long time since Kent State could enter into a season and say that their special teams' specialists return and everything is in good shape. Punter Matt Rinehart returns after an All-MAC season while place kicker Freddy Cortez performed well in his freshman season.
DOUG MARTIN'S FUTURE - Head coach Doug Martin enters the 2010 season in the final year of his contract. When new athletic director Joel Nielsen was hired it became clear that one of his main priorities was to get the struggling football program in the right direction and turn it into a consistent winner. Is Doug Martin the coach that Nielsen wants to guide that program? Martin will have one season to make an impression upon Nielsen. After playing football at Minnesota State University, Nielsen is no doubt a "football guy." Does Martin lead Kent State to their first MAC championship since 1972 and get a new contract? Or does Kent State struggle to a 4-8 record and Nielsen decides its time for the program to have a new voice. Maybe the team goes 6-6 and finishes second or third in the MAC East. For Kent State and Martin's sake, hopefully the first situation plays out.
NEWS AND NOTES
Stephanie Storm from the Akron Beacon Journal previews the start of spring practice.
Dave Carducci at the Record Courier is writing about some of the Flashes that are coming off injuries from the 2009 season, including RB Eugene Jarvis and QB Spencer Keith.
Steve Hare is the man at the Kent Sports Report, and his site is one to check out if you are a fan of the football Flashes.
KentStateSports.com has got fans covered for the start of spring practice.