Second-year head coach Darrell Hazell and Kent State opened fall practice Friday afternoon, braving the 90-degree heat in helmets and shorts.
Hazell has the benefit of entering camp with offensive and defensive schemes already installed and understood with 18 starters returning from last season.
For now, it's a matter of shaking off the cobwebs of summer.
"Assignment wise, [we are] way ahead of where [we] were this time last year," Hazell said. "Guys gotta get in football shape. That's the one thing you notice right away. You can run all you want with the straight-line stuff but until you actually change directions and do all the football drills, you're not there."
All eyes will be on quarterbacks Spencer Keith and JUCO-transfer David Fisher. Keith has a year under his belt in this offense and a clear advantage and Fisher has had the spring and summer to digest as much of the playbook as he can. Both feel the competition will make each other stronger.
"Seeing how [Keith] reads plays and looks into the defense, his cadence and everything, I've installed that into my game a little more and it's actually helped night and day in reading the defense," Fisher said. "You can see I kind of know where to go with the ball a little more easily."
Fisher showed a strong arm on Friday but overthrew several receivers, a couple on fly routes down the seams. He said his arm was loose, and being from Oceanside, Calif., isn't used to the cold of March or the heat of August in Ohio.
"It's definitely hit me a little bit," he said.
Fisher and Keith both welcome the competition.
"As coach always said, competition always makes people better," Keith said. "We're still fighting out on the field, battling and trying to do our best and compete day-in and day-out and then we're off the field trying to get better in the film room."
Hazell says he's seen improvement in both with how they understand what the offense is trying to do.
Freshman Reardon stands out
True freshman quarterback Colin Reardon, from Poland Seminary High School, had a couple of very nice throws and undoubtedly the throw of the day, a 30-yard strike to fellow freshman James Brooks down the seam.
"He's gonna be good," Hazell said. "He's got some touch. He's got a little savvy to him. Obviously he can't call the cadences or the formations yet, but that's all a part of being a freshman."
Keith said many of the QBs and receivers worked in skeleton-type drills over the summers, picking plays and "seeing what happened." He also said the main part of the first couple days of practice is just getting used to wearing a helmet again. "We haven't worn this things in months."