Real quickly, thank goodness football is here--my favorite sport is still probably baseball for the pure "spirit" of it (if you're a baseball purist, you know the feeling in the pit of your stomach you get every February as word of spring training rolls around), but there's just nothing better than football season as a reporter/fan of the game. The collegiate gridiron is good to us (a special thanks go out to extra sports channels on Time Warner Cable, Dish, etc. etc. and that little yellow line for first downs, which should be the only thing considered as the greatest thing since sliced bread).
Game Previews will be built up as the season grows, but with only intrasquad action in the books and Murray State playing in the FCS, week 1 will be shorter than the norm.
Breakdown on Murray State--The Racers will go under the lights for the first time with new Head Coach Chris Hatcher, so the forecast is a tad cloudy on what to expect. Hatcher should run a spread offense, usually in a shotgun formation, that utilizes wide receiver screens. Coach Martin and his staff are planning to face both a 3-3 stack defensive formation as well as a 4-3 (it's believed this is now the base formation).
What To Watch For: Kent's aerial attack--With a year under his belt, Spencer Keith looks like a new man behind center. If he and fellow sophomore Tyshon Goode can pick up where they left off towards the end of last season, the sky's the limit. The offensive first unit looks much smoother with Goode on the field, as made evidenced by Fan Appreciation Night (Keith's first drive with Goode in a scrimmage resulted in three catches and a touchdown for Goode).
Another factor of Keith's development centers around what he does before the snap. Keith is being handed the keys (slowly) to the offense and now has some freedom to call audibles and change pass protections at his discretion. How he deals with multiple defenses and the decision he makes on the fly will go a long way to how well the offense moves the ball as a unit.
Keys To Victory: 1. Attack through the air--Again, how Keith, Goode and the rest of the passing game mesh will be a big keynote to build upon entering the Flashes two toughest games on the schedule, Boston College and Penn State, and then on to MAC play. Look for passes to the perimeter complimented by a power running game.
2. Control the tempo--The Flashes should be able to control both lines, and Time Of Possession should be in KSU's favor the entire night.
3. Attack the QB--KSU has the tools to be one of the better blitzing teams not just in the MAC, but the country as far as sacks and tackles for loss are concerned. The Flashes won't be able to blitz as much as they and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis would probably like due to Murray State's spread offense, but pressure should still come early and often.
Biggest Question Mark: CB--Senior Kirk Belgrave has returned and appears to be healthy, but whether or not Belgrave is up to speed with the rest of the defensive backfield remains to be seen. With Brian Lainhart, Dan Hartman and Josh Pleasant accompanying him, this unit stands as one of Kent's best. Junior Norman Wolfe Jr. is second in line, and keep an eye on true freshman safety Luke Wollet. The entire coaching staff is very high on Wollet, and Martin believes Wollet has the skills to make jump to corner if the occasion should arise. Redshirt freshman Darius Polk is also an option.
Additives and Fillers: Coach Doug Martin is very impressed with backup quarterback Giorgio Morgan as of late, who should see a significant amount of snaps in Thursday night's game. Coach Martin says Morgan is becoming, once again, the quarterback he thought he had the potential to be upon coming to Kent. No quarterback competition is present at the moment, but if Keith falters Martin will be eager to retest Morgan.
Eugene Jarvis appears to be 100% healthy, but Jacquise Terry and Dri Archer could (maybe should is a better word) see an equal amount of carries in Jarvis' first live action since lacerating his only kidney last season. Terry will also act as the fourth wide receiver while in the "Pistol" offense (shotgun formation with four wide receivers and a running back in the backfield). Dri Archer will act as a kick returner. Freshman running back Robert Hollomon, who may not be north of 160 pounds but excelled in both scrimmages, will be redshirted.
Worthless Prediction Of The Week--Kent State 27, Murray State 7