KENT: When it comes to the fastest player on the Kent State football team, there’s Dri Archer speed, then there’s everyone else.
Archer, who boasts a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, is often compared to NFL return man Devin Hester for his small stature and ability to whiz by and around most defenders.
But if there’s a close second to Archer — or maybe even the Golden Flashes’ next Archer in the making — it might be redshirt freshman Ernest Calhoun.
Currently, the 5-foot-6, 150-pound Calhoun is battling for playing time this upcoming season among a group of receivers. But like Archer, Calhoun’s speed could eventually open more doors to other roles for the Flashes in the future.
What Calhoun lacks in size, he begins to make up for with the kind of speed that has stood out in fall camp a couple times already on plays where he’s caught the ball and then quickly shot past defenders with impressive breakaway speed.
Calhoun is an Akron native who, in addition to football, also lettered in baseball and track at Buchtel. As a football standout, Calhoun was an All-Region and All-District selection during his junior and senior seasons as well as an All-City honoree as a senior.
But so far at KSU, his main claims to fame are being the son of Griffins’ football coach Ricky Powers, his comedic skills and dance moves.
“As Ricky Powers’ son, Ernest has the pedigree,” said Paul Haynes, KSU’s first-year coach who spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State under former head coach Jim Tressel. “But I won’t hold it against them that [Powers] played at Michigan.
“But seriously, Ernest has been good for us in camp. He can give a little spark, he’s really quick and I love his attitude — he’s a great attitude kid.”
Despite being an underclassman, Calhoun even gets Haynes’ vote as being one of the team’s “favorites.”
“He’s a very funny kid, very funny,” Haynes said. “And he might be the best dancer on the team, too.”
A much-anticipated major part of the Dri4Heisman campaign kicked off at midnight Tuesday on Twitter with the first installment of a season-long series of comic strips based on KSU’s multi-dimensional standout player Archer.
The comic is called “The Archer” and is illustrated by Akron resident and Kent State alum Chuck Ayers — of Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean comic fame.
The Archer debuted with an introduction of the Flashes’ speed demon, noting how Archer was offered a handful of college track scholarship offers coming out of Florida’s Venice High School, but only one Division I school — Kent State — offered him a football scholarship.
Despite his 5-foot-8, 175-pound stature, Archer became the Flashes’ Heisman hopeful heading into this season — named to the Doak Walker, Paul Hornung and Maxwell watch lists — after a breakout junior campaign last year as he helped lead KSU to a national ranking, a school-record 11-4 mark and its first bowl appearance in 40 years.
As a triple threat running back, receiver and kick returner, Archer led the nation in yards per carry (9.0) and led KSU with 1,429 rushing yards on 159 carries — with 16 of his 23 touchdowns coming on the ground.
This season, Archer is also adding the role of punt returner in an effort to pad his resume for next year’s NFL draft.
While Kent State will travel to Happy Valley to play Penn State for the fourth game of the season Sept. 21, this season the Flashes could never be confused with Penn State’s old nickname of Linebacker U.
That’s because the linebacker position has been an area of concern for Haynes (a defensive-minded coach) since the moment he took over for former head coach Darrell Hazell (an offensive-minded coach) in December, due to a lack of experienced returners.
Still, Haynes pointed out the progress he’s seen in youngsters such as true freshmen Darius Redmond and Jake Houts and sophomore Matt Dellinger as well two upperclassmen — junior DeVante Strickland and senior Danny Gress.
“I’d say those five guys are at the top of the list right now,” Haynes said. “But we still have two weeks to go to determine who is going to start. But those five are starting to separate themselves a little bit.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/sports.abj.