KENT: To play or not to play.
That’s the main question facing the Kent State football team this week as it prepares to travel to No. 8 LSU.
The question is not whether the Golden Flashes will show up in Baton Rouge, but whether or not senior all-purpose star Dri Archer will return to action.
Archer, whom KSU had touted as an early Heisman Trophy candidate, suffered a left ankle sprain during the Flashes’ season-opening drive Aug. 29 and has not played since.
He spent the second half of the win over Liberty in a walking boot, then watched last week’s 41-22 loss to visiting Bowling Green from the sidelines dressed in street clothes.
“Dri’s trying to do everything he possibly can to come back,” said KSU coach Paul Haynes, who met with Archer one-on-one Monday morning to ensure both parties were on the same page moving forward. “It’s a nagging thing. And when you’re a runner and you feel limited in running, it’s kind of a mental thing and a physical thing with him. But he’s going to try to go and do everything he possibly can to get back on the field, as he knows it’s important for this team and important for him to be out there.”
Archer participated in practice Tuesday on a limited basis.
“I hate to keep saying he’s day to day, but it is going to be a day-to-day thing for him,” Haynes said. “We’ll start him a little bit slow with a little bit of individual [work], then we’ll go with a little more team stuff as the week goes on and then we’ll see how [Archer’s ankle responds].”
No doubt that the Flashes’ (1-1, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) best shot at upsetting the Southeastern Conference’s Tigers (2-0) is with Archer lining up in the backfield at running back behind fullback Trayion Durham, in the slot as a receiving option and returning kickoffs and punts.
Not only do the Flashes miss Archer’s sprinter speed and big-play ability, his absence makes it easier for opponents to defend others, namely Durham.
With Archer sidelined, Bowling Green held Durham to 29 yards on 11 carries.
“Trayion may fly a bit under the radar with the hype [surrounding Archer this season], but not by our opponents,” Haynes said of the 6-foot-1, 238-pound junior fullback. “Our opponents know exactly where he is and he’s getting keyed on, especially when we don’t have a guy like Dri out there. Now, the focus is Trayion. [Defenders] are keying on Trayion a little more, loading the box and making sure they get three and four hats on him to get him down.”
But there’s also plenty of reason to make sure a key player like Archer is as close to 100 percent as possible, instead of rushing him back to the field and causing the injury to linger.
“Right now, [Archer is] in the same boat along with [left guard] Pat McShane [recovering from a preseason knee injury], where you have to look at your final goals,” Haynes said. “With knees and ankles, if you keep beating them up and banging them up, they never get right, and then you’re killing them for the rest of the season. If you let them go out there at 70 percent and they get injured some more, then we’re without them for six to eight weeks. And when we come off this [road stretch at LSU and Penn State], we have to be ready to go win the MAC, so we need them healthy.”
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.