KENT: First-year Kent State coach Darrell Hazell knew he was inheriting a special player in returning Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year Roosevelt Nix.
But he never knew how good the sophomore defensive tackle actually was until he saw him in game action Saturday at Alabama.
“I mean, I watched him in practice and all those things, but to throw that film on from [Saturday] and watch what he did to those guys who allegedly, and probably are, some of the best players in the country. He was unbelievable,” Hazell said Monday at the M.A.C. Center in his weekly press conference.
Alabama tried to double team Nix to no avail, Hazell said. He was too fast off the ball and gets into the backfield with ease “always playing on that side of the line of scrimmage,” Hazell said.
“Watching film yesterday, he is a phenomenal player. I’m glad we don’t have to play against him,” Hazell said. “He is as disruptive of a guy that I’ve seen since Dwight Freeney when we were playing Syracuse when I was at West Virginia.”
Dwight Freeney was a 2002 first-round draft pick (eleventh overall) of the Indianapolis Colts. Freeney, a six-time Pro Bowler, set an NFL rookie record with nine forced fumbles in 2002 and is the Colts’ career sack leader with 94.
Nix, a consensus Freshman All-American, finished last season with 10 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. Against Alabama, he had one sack and two tackles for a loss.
“He can take over a game up front and he’ll create some open shots for [linebacker Luke Batton] to run through because they are so concerned about blocking him,” Hazell said.
“He is ridiculous as a player.”
QB depth a concern
Kent State’s depth chart at quarterback got a lot more muddied before the Golden Flashes even took the field Saturday afternoon when the NCAA deemed backup Cedric McCloud academically ineligible for the 2011 season.
If starter Spencer Keith would have gotten injured Saturday, Kent State would have turned to redshirt freshman walk-on Jarrod Ronyak (Mentor Lake Catholic) or freshman Evan Shimensky (Kent Roosevelt). It’s obviously a concern for Hazell.
This week, Hazell has wasted little time moving redshirt junior Sal Battles back to the quarterback position after transitioning to tailback in the spring and fall.
“It’s the logical thing to do,” Hazell said Monday at the team’s press conference at the M.A.C. Center.
“He asked to go [running back], but we thought we were going to be in good shape with Ced as the backup [quarterback] and [Battles] felt he had a chance to compete at the tailback spot,” Hazell said. “I think we are pretty good at the tailback spot, we are pretty deep there. Right now my concern is at the quarterback spot.”
Ronyak is listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart and will remain there until Battles is up to speed.
Ronyak and Shimensky lack experience, Hazell said.
“We’ll have to give them some reps in practice and see how well they develop,” Hazell said.
“If they develop quickly then we’ll have some luxury. If they don’t then we’ll have to make sure that we are doing the things that Sal can do as a backup.”
Fifth-year senior linebacker Kyle Reese and redshirt sophomore defensive back Darius Polk both came out of Saturday’s game with concussions and will be closely monitored heading into the game against Louisiana on Saturday at Dix Stadium.
Nix, who suffered a foot injury, is just sore, Hazell said.