Stephanie Storm

KENT: Ever the motivator, Kent State football coach Darrell Hazell has incorporated a new way to end spring practices this season.

Before gathering for a quick talk and then heading inside after the final whistle blows, a final team-building exercise designed to incorporate the Flashes’ new motto this season: “One Team, One Destiny” has been added.

With players paired up and lined up at one end of the field, offensive and defensive players take turns giving each other piggyback rides all the way across the field where the logos of the first three MAC opponents have been painted in the end zone. Then they switch and piggyback again to the original end of the field before gathering together by the MAC logo on the field.

“We incorporated another period, which we call our MAC championship period,” Hazell said. “I wanted to do a team thing to finish off the practice with those guys understanding it’s going to take every single guy on the team to win the championship.”

Hazell came up with the theme while on vacation last week during spring break with his family. While visiting Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., Hazell learned that embroidered inside the lining of the wool overcoat that President Abraham Lincoln wore the day he was assassinated were these words: “One Country, One Destiny.”

“That’s what drove [Lincoln] to greatness,” Hazell said. “That’s all he was thinking about — making it one country after the Civil War.”

A step ahead

Despite trying to cram as much learning as possible into 15 practices, Hazell is already finding the Golden Flashes’ spring camp to be easier the second time around.

“I think we’re way ahead of where we were [last year at this time],” he said. “We’ve done some things to simplify some things, so it was just nice to be able to come out and run some plays without having to always constantly coach certain situations. Now, [the players] know the expectations. So, it makes us a few strides ahead of where we were last year.

“Last year at this time, a lot of players weren’t sure what they were doing, so there were a lot of bodies flying all around because guys couldn’t control their bodies,” Hazell said. “That’s the way you get hurt. This year, guys are staying on their feet.”

New additions

With the Flashes a little thin in the kicking and punting game, a couple extra kickers/punters have been invited to work out with KSU during spring camp, including a woman.

Although Hazell said he’d never had a female kicker work out or play with any of the teams he’s been affiliated with during his 26-year coaching career, he welcomed Pittsburgh native April Goss to try out.

“She did a good job today,” Hazell said of Goss, a former kicker at Pennsylvania’s Hopewell High School. “That’s a lot of pressure on her. But she stepped up and banged one through on her first attempt.”

Already on the roster is sophomore and former Stow standout punter Andrew Horning. Junior kicker Freddy Cortez is also trying to convince the coaching staff he can handle both the kicking and punting duties this season.

“We need all the kickers throughout camp and for our kick scrimmage, so we’re keeping them all around,” Hazell said.

Stephanie Storm can be reached at sstorm@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Flashes blog at https://ohio.com/blogs/kent-state. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.