KENT: The Kent State football team practiced inside the Field House and in helmets and shoulder pads Sunday for the first time this preseason, getting work in on the third day of camp despite rainy weather outside.
Players usually prefer to practice outside at Dix Stadium, but being inside had one advantage for the coaching staff.
“It gets so loud inside there, you figure out pretty quickly which kids know what they’re doing and which ones don’t,” one coach said. “For the guys who’ve been around, it gives them a distinct advantage.”
One young player who hasn’t been fazed early in camp, regardless of where the team practices, is quarterback Colin Reardon. A true freshman from nearby Poland Seminary (about an hour’s drive from the KSU campus), Reardon has impressed his new teammates and coaches alike.
“He’s going to be good,” coach Darrell Hazell said of the 6-foot, 190-pound Reardon. “There’s no question” he’s in the mix to compete for the starting job.
During the first day of camp Friday, Reardon threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman James Brooks during seven-on-seven drills. But it was another pass play that really caught Hazell’s eye.
“He dropped back and was going to throw a quick out cut to the receiver,” Hazell said. “But the receiver stumbled. Usually when that happens, a young quarterback doesn’t understand and will just cut that loose, throw the ball outside and say, ‘The guy fell down.’ But he didn’t. He readjusted his throwing motion and took a little bit off it. And that’s the most important thing, completing the pass no matter what happens. There’s a lot to be said for that.”
It appears the competition is stacked against Reardon winning the quarterback job this season. Hazell has said he plans to decide the starter by Aug. 19 to give the winner nearly two weeks to prepare for the season opener Aug. 30 against Towson at Dix Stadium.
Ahead of Reardon on the depth chart is three-year starter Spencer Keith, followed by junior college transfer David Fisher, who have had more time in the Flashes’ offensive system. Yet, every time Hazell is asked about Reardon, he smiles and says not to count out the kid.
“Coming in, my goal was to fight for a spot so I could at least get reps in practice,” Reardon said. “I want to get better every day so I could learn and get to know the system.”
As prepared as Reardon has looked, he admitted Sunday during the team’s media day to being somewhat taken aback after the first day of practice Friday.
“None of the freshmen were ready for it after our first day,” he said. “We went back to our dorms after practice and we’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, it went so fast.’ We didn’t know what to expect. The first day was a little rough and I was shaky in the huddle.”
By Saturday, however, Reardon, a three-sport prep standout (football, basketball and baseball), said he felt “better.” Sunday, he said he felt “confident.”
It also helped him being able to ask the more experienced quarterbacks questions.
“Guys like Spencer, mainly because he knows it the best, he’s helped me out,” said Reardon, who passed for 1,100 yards and ran for 278 yards and 10 touchdowns as a high school senior. “He’s been a great leader so far and I really appreciate it.”
Other offensive players have been quick to lend a hand, as well.
“The first day I kept messing up the huddle, still getting used to a different system and how to call it,” Reardon said. “After they switched guys to go in, [sophomore tight end] Kyle Payton comes up to me on the sideline and went through the huddle with me. That really meant something to me and it says a lot about the team.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Rock is being careful not to put too much pressure on Reardon too soon.
“He’s very bright, but I don’t want to push him faster than he’s ready to be pushed,” Rock said. “To me, it’s a fine line because confidence is a huge issue with quarterbacks. You don’t want to do anything to weaken that.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.