KENT: When Kent State wrapped up the final practice of spring football camp on a sunny and crisp Friday morning at Dix Stadium, three things were noticeable right away.
First, senior quarterback David Fisher, the favorite to replace graduated starter Spencer Keith, was not on the field.
KSU coach Paul Haynes said Fisher will need “a procedure” on his injured knee and could be out anywhere from a few weeks to four months.
Second, the Flashes wore only helmets and no heavy pads, so it was going to be a refreshingly light day of work.
“Today was just about technique and fundamentals,” Haynes said. “[We didn’t want] a lot of banging before [tonight’s spring game].”
In addition to looking forward to the Golden Flashes’ annual spring game, Haynes also has an eye on the future as he quietly tested the leadership skills of his players by having them run the first 40 minutes or so of practice.
“That was for them to see what they need to do over the summer when coaches aren’t there because coaches aren’t allowed to be out there,” Haynes explained. “So what they do and how they run it is going to dictate how well we’re going to do in fall camp.”
With the official start of summer still two months away, fall camp seems awfully far down the road. But for Haynes, who must address many areas of need in his first year as head coach before the Flashes host Liberty in the season opener Aug. 29, the time will fly by quickly.
So what did Haynes learn about his team the past three weeks?
“The intensity got better as we went along,” he said. “And I think our ability to run the ball a little bit got better, too. Our guys understand that’s what we want to do.”
Those two positives aside, Haynes has his eyes open to the challenges ahead as the Flashes look to duplicate last season’s program-best 11 wins and first bowl game in 40 years.
“We still have a long way to go,” he said. “This summer is still going to be important for our guys. Then fall camp is going to be important for our guys before we put the final pieces together before we’ve got to play.”
So what does Haynes hope to see during tonight’s 6 p.m. spring game that will pit the Flashes’ Blue Team of first-teamers against the Gold Team made up of reserves?
“I’m looking to see guys compete,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re on the Blue Team or the Gold Team, spots are still open to be taken. So we want to make sure we go out and compete and put on a good show.”
Of the first-team roster spots up for grabs, the most attention will be focused on the competitions at quarterback, offensive line and kicker.
After the second week of spring camp, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Rock considered KSU’s quarterback competition between Fisher and sophomore Colin Reardon to be “really tight.”
With Fisher out, Reardon will receive a majority of the playing time today.
“Colin is very talented and can make some plays,” Rock said. “Like David, he’s got some pretty good arm strength.”
Once fall camp gets under way, freshman Nathan Strock will join the quarterback mix. Strock, a Tri-Valley High School senior, was originally recruited by former KSU coach Darrell Hazell (now at Purdue), but Rock was instrumental in keeping him with the Flashes through the coaching change.
No matter who is the starting quarterback once the season begins, KSU’s adjustments to the offensive line will play a crucial role in his performance. Three starters have graduated, including left tackle Brian Winters and guard Josh Kline, players expected to be playing professionally once this weekend’s NFL Draft wraps up.
Despite the losses, Haynes said this week he’s pleased with how well the competition has gone to fill the huge shoes of those departed.
“There haven’t been decisions made on who will start just yet, but I like the group of guys we have there on the line,” Haynes said. “It’s coming along nicely, guys [are] stepping up and showing they are capable of moving into starting positions.”
Haynes was happy to change his mind about the competition to replace Freddy Cortez. When spring began, Haynes said sophomore punter Anthony Melchiori (Aurora) would likely handle the kicking as well.
But by the end camp, redshirt freshman kicker Brad Miller had earned Haynes’ trust. That will allow Melchiori (who was fourth in the Mid-American Conference last season) to focus on punting.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Kent State blog at https://ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.