KENT: When new Kent State coach Darrell Hazell arrived on campus in the winter, he began envisioning a quick-strike offense.
That offensive philosophy is welcomed by the offensive players, who were often held in relative check under the grind-it-out, ball-control system of former coach Doug Martin.
“Our new offense utilizes every weapon that we have,” senior running back Jacquise Terry said. “When [new offensive coordinator Brian] Rock was at Western Michigan, he had a couple 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. So it is all about getting all your playmakers into open space.”
Terry and junior Dri Archer lead a stable of running backs that are looking forward to the change.
“It’s a little more exciting,” said Archer, who gained 140 yards on 40 carries last season. “Basically, the offense is built around the running back. It’s designed to get us out into the open field and let us do what we do best. It has a lot of different options of running inside or outside and a lot of different styles.”
Another difference for the Flashes this season is the overall lack of experience at running back.
“It’s different than in the past years,” said Terry, who has run for 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns in his KSU career. “Then, we had at least two players in each class. But now, we have four freshmen coming in to go along with myself and Dri. So there’s still depth, there’s just a difference in experience in that depth.”
What one freshman, Trayion Durham out of Cincinnati Colerain High School, lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in sheer size at 6 feet, 260 pounds.
“He’s still young and doesn’t quite know how to use his size yet,” Archer said. “But once he matures, he’s going to be a great back.”
It’s not just Durham’s unusual size that has already caught the eyes of the coaching staff.
“For a big guy, he’s got some quickness,” Hazell said. “He’s got the agility to make people miss.”
But there’s been a big learning curve for Durham as the Flashes’ preseason camp reaches the week-and-a-half mark.
“He’s seeing things pretty well, but he still needs to go out and get them a little quicker than he is right now,” Hazell said. “But that’s something he’ll learn. Right now, the game’s a lot faster at this level than he’s used to. Here, when you hesitate, things are gone before you can get there.”
Kent State’s new offensive style might take some time to develop.
“The whole system’s new, even to Dri and I, despite us being upperclassmen,” Terry said. “So we have to grasp it a little quicker to set an example for the younger guys. But they all have come out trying to learn the plays and are putting a lot of effort into it.”
Hazell likes what he’s seen so far.
“We have a great blend of running backs,” he said. “You got Jacquise Terry, who although he’s been a little banged up, when he’s in there you can see he’s a seasoned guy who sees things extremely well. Then there’s [freshman] Rob Hollomon, who’s come in and given us some flashes like when he broke one for about 45 yards the other day [in practice].
“Trayion is doing a good job and even [freshman] Tristin Boykin is starting to understand what we’re expecting out of him. So by the time it’s all said and done, I think we‘ll have four or five guys we can play with. And at that position, we’ll need them all. It’s a position that gets beat up a lot.”
All in a name
The name C.J. Malauulu might seem a little daunting at first glance. But for those unsure how to pronounce the KSU linebacker’s last name, he’s got a trick to help fans remember it better.
“It’s just like Honolulu,” he said. “That always helps everyone.”
Hazell anticipates the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Malauulu helping the Flashes a lot this season.
“I told [linebackers coach] Marcus Freeman the other day that he looks like a running back running through the hole,” Hazell said. “He’s got great quickness, speed and sees things fast. He’s also very violent when he hits you. He’s going to help us big time and on special teams. He’s just so athletic and agile for a big guy.”
KSU fans have their first opportunity to check out the team today during Football Fan Experience Night. The event is free and open to the public with activities beginning at 5 p.m. in the Field House. The team will host an open practice and scrimmage at 6 p.m. at Dix Stadium, then sign autographs afterward on the field.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com.