MOBILE, ALA.: New Kent State coach Paul Haynes has spent the past few days here in Mobile working behind the scenes, stealing as much time as he can with outgoing coach Darrell Hazell to discuss team matters pertaining to next season, touching base with recruits and assembling his coaching staff.
“I’ve just been picking [Hazell’s] brain a little bit about thoughts that he has about the future, but really mostly talking recruiting — how many scholarships we have, where our needs are.”
That’s because this morning, Haynes, a former Golden Flashes walk on, officially takes over as Hazell departs for Purdue.
“Most of the guys, a lot of the new guys on staff, are coming in [to the office] at different times Monday,” he said. “So we’ll actually get together Tuesday for the first time and really just tackle recruiting.”
Haynes said he doesn’t expect his entire coaching staff to be named until Friday, but he did confirm that at least two of the current coaches on staff will return in offensive coordinator Brian Rock and defensive line coach Brian George.
Big three on offense
Arkansas State interim coach John Thompson was quick to identify three Kent State offensive players that he was impressed with — do-it-all Dri Archer, fullback Trayion Durham and left tackle Brian Winters.
“[Durham] will pound it inside and then you go the offensive line where [Winters] is probably the best we’ve seen all year long — and that includes Nebraska,” Thompson said.
The compliment was no stretch, as the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Winters will return to Mobile in a few weeks to play in the prestigious Senior Bowl that’s also played at Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium. He was the only Mid-American Conference player chosen.
“That’s where all of our success starts — with those guys up front — especially with Brian,” Hazell said. “He’s been so solid and consistent throughout these last two years. Then once we moved Josh Kline over to his side, I thought those two together are the most consistent guys we’ve had on the offensive side.”
Manager and more
The most popular description of Flashes senior quarterback Spencer Keith over his four years as a starter is that he’s a “game manager.”
But when Thompson uttered those same words about Keith, he stopped himself to clarify exactly what he meant.
“I know it sounds like a backhanded compliment,” he said. “It’s like you have a blind date and say she has a good personality. But that’s not the case with [Keith]. He gets the ball to the right spot. You have to defend the whole field.”
Hazell has said for months that he’s most proud of Keith’s development this season.
“We tried to bring in guys to replace him [junior college quarterback David Fisher and true freshman Colin Reardon],” Hazell said. “Spencer never said a word, just kept working to get better and fought them off.”
Back for more
Having already seen the sights and sounds of Mobile last year before losing to Northern Illinois in the bowl game, the Red Wolves have come back to town focusing on one goal: leaving this time with a win.
“The players were here last year and they feel [this year] there’s some unfinished business,” Thompson said. “I think last year there was so much inexperience in the bowl process — what they were doing and what they were going through. But our players aren’t allowing that this year. They’re making sure [they know why they’re here].”