There are few teams in all of College Football as interesting as the Kent State Golden Flashes. They are a perfect middle-of-the-road mid-major team coming in at No. 53 in Rant Sports College Football’s Top 100 Teams in 100 Days.
The Golden Flashes are loaded with talent and experience for first year head coach Paul Haynes, who takes over after a successful run by Darrell Hazell. But despite the ability and depth, Kent State has three issues to solve quickly if they hope to repeat as the champions of the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division and gain a Bowl Game berth in 2013.
The fate of the Golden Flashes season will rest in the legs and hands of all-everything running back Dri Archer. There is not a 2013 College Football Watch List that will not have Archer listed on it when it comes to offensive stars. The kid finished of 2012 as the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year and set a MAC Record with 23 touchdowns.
Individually, Archer carried the ball 159 times for 1429 yards and 16 touchdowns, caught 39 passes for 561 yards and four scores and had 17 kickoff returns for 591 yards and three scores. In other words, when you see a Kent State game on your TV guide, you probably want to watch to see one of the best offensive players in the country show his stuff.
Beyond Archer lies two of the three questions the Golden Flashes have to answer in 2013 to get to the 10-plus win mark.
First big question: Kent State returns just two starters on the offensive line in center Phil Huff and right guard Pat McShane. Can this unit gel enough to open up lanes for Archer to shine?
Second big question: can senior quarterback David Fisher be the leader Kent State needs to replace Spencer Keith? Fisher is only 14-23 for 230 yards and one touchdown for his career. Is that enough experience? It is going to have to be and Fisher has to stay healthy, because neither Colin Reardon or Nathan Strock are ready for major game action.
Archer will not be a one-man show on offense as he will be joined by Traylon Durham in the backfield. Durham finished 2012 with 1316 yards and 14 touchdowns on 276 carries, including six games with 100-plus yards rushing, and added 181 yards receiving on 17 catches.
If Fisher can lead the team and the offensive line can block, this will be one of the most exciting offenses to watch in 2013.
Yes, Kent State lost a lot of seniors on defense in 2012. But that does not mean Hazell left the cupboard bare in 2013. In fact, one could argue that the defense this season is better than last year’s thanks in large part to the senior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix, who has been a starter for three years.
In addition to Nix, the Golden Flashes will rely on the leadership of linebacker DeVante Strickland, tackle Nate Terhune, strong safety Luke Wollet and corners Dylan Farrington and Darius Polk. That’s a lot of athletic talent who should hold teams to around 20 points a game in 2013.
The final question to a successful 2013 campaign for Kent State is their schedule. To say their road schedule is tough is a gross understatement as it is arguably the hardest in the conference.
The Golden Flashes do get a chance to host the 2013 MAC East favorite Bowling Green Falcons in Week 2 before hitting the road the next two weeks to face the LSU Tigers and the Penn State Nittany Lions in out-of-conference games. They stay on the road one more week at the Western Michigan Broncos before returning home to battle the Northern Illinois Huskies. Kent State will end the season on the road against the Ohio Bobcats. That’s Brutal.
If they can put the pieces together early, 2013 could be a special season. If not; things could be rough for Haynes in his first season.
Kent State Golden Flashes 2013 Schedule
August 29 – Liberty Flames
September 7 – Bowling Green Falcons*
September 14 – at LSU Tigers
September 21 – at Penn State Nittany Lions
September 28 – at Western Michigan Broncos*
October 5 – Northern Illinois Huskies*
October 12 – at Ball State Cardinals*
October 19 – at South Alabama Jaguars
October 26 – Buffalo Bulls*
November 2 – at Akron Zips*
November 13 – Miami (OH) Redhawks*
November 19 – at Ohio Bobcats*
December 6 – MAC Championship Game
*MAC Conference Game
M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Follow him @woodysmalls.