Kent State football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Golden Flashes, best players and season prediction.
Seriously, Kent State. Can you bring just a wee bit of offense? Any offense? Even a hint of offense? Do that, find a few playmakers, figure out how to score, and this could be one of the out-of-the-blue stunners of the MAC season.
Head coach Paul Haynes has a defensive background, and it’s showing with a D that was a work in progress for his first two seasons and then crushed and killed it last year and should be even stronger this season.
But with the nation’s worst offense, a potentially great season turned into a frustrating 3-9 campaign losing the last five games getting shutout three times.
Can Haynes come up with an 11-3 shocker like Darrell Hazell did in 2012? It’s his fourth year getting to put the pieces in place, now is when the turnaround has to come in. Now is when the results have to come. It’s Kent State, so the expectations aren’t through the roof, but 9-26 in three years is going to put the pressure on.
Fortunately, the Golden Flashes can rely once again on a killer D that’s deep, talented, and with the experience to be the best in the MAC. The offense went young late last season in an attempt to find something that could possibly work, and at the very least, the results can’t be any worse this time around.
Is this a potential MAC champion because of the defense? Even if everything breaks the right way that’s a huge leap, but being in the East instead of the West is a big help. Even if it seems crazy, if you want to get on the bandwagon early, watch out for this team.
If the offense shows up.
What You Need To Know About The Kent State Offense
You and ten friends could’ve put up as many points as Kent State did for most of last season, averaging a nation-low 13.1 points per game with the second-worst offense in college football averaging 271 yards per outing. But there’s hope after throwing six underclassmen to the wolves over the second half of last season and getting back ten starters to potentially turn things around in a hurry. With the defense taking care of business, the Golden Flash O doesn’t need to rock, it just can’t be miserable. Four starters are back on a line that has to start generating some sort of a push for Raekown Jones and the running game, while QB George Bollas has to start moving the chains more or else veteran Colin Reardon will take over the gig again. The young receiving corps has to show more pop and explosion, but that’ll come if the quarterbacks have more time to work.
Biggest Key To The Kent State Offense
The youth movement has to start paying off. The Golden Flashes started four freshmen at the skill spots late last year including George Bollas at quarterback, Raekwon James at running back, and receivers Antwan Dixon and Johnny Woods. The line is full of veterans, and there are just enough veterans returning overall to provide a few more options to try getting the woeful attack moving. The Golden Flashes scored seven points or fewer in six games last year – that won’t happen again.
What You Need To Know About The Kent State Defense
Considering the offense provided no help whatsoever, the Kent State defense was even better than the stats, finishing 27th in the nation allowing just 350 yards per game doing a terrific job against the run. A few key parts are gone in DE Nate Terhune and LB Matt Dellinger, but Nate Holley might be the best defensive back in the MAC leading a secondary that should be a rock. Elcee Refuge has the game to go along with the name in a strong linebacking corps, but it all starts up front with a fantastic pass rush that should be a killer again after coming up with 31 sacks.
Biggest Key To The Kent State Defense
The run defense should be special again. Losing Terhune is a problem, but this is an attacking group that comes in waves and does a great job of swarming around the ball. The Golden Flashes were run over by Ohio for 333 yards, and Toledo ran for 288, but for the most part they did a great job thanks to a fearsome pass rush and a front seven that hung out in opposing backfields. Expect more of the same.
Kent State Will Be Far Better If …
The offense can convert a third down play. The nation’s worst attack just couldn’t move the ball a lick, put the pressure on the defense, and it all resulted in loss after loss. The special teams need to be better and the return game has to be stronger, but the season will be far different if Kent State isn’t the worst in the nation in third down conversions after connecting on just 25% of the time. The O converted more than 25% just three times, and it has to start going on more decent drives.
Best Kent State Offensive Player
QB George Bollas, Soph. – At least that’s the hope that he’s the best offensive player and can rise up and be stronger and better than veteran Colin Reardon, who has the experience, but wasn’t able to do much of anything. Several young players will vie for the honor of being the best player on the sputtering O, but the 6-3, 208-pound Bollas has the size and the all-around skills to finally generate some semblance of production.
Best Kent State Defensive Player
S Nate Holley, Sr. – An all-star both in the classroom and on the field, the First Team All-MAC star is the tone-setting hitter for the tremendous defense and the strong secondary. He’s a good-sized strong hitter who plays like another linebacker against the run and is always around the ball in the open field. He doesn’t have to do it all on this D, but he can.
Key Player To A Successful Season
RB Raekwon James, Soph. – The quarterback is the one true key player, but the season needs to turn around with a big boost from a running game that loses one of the few positives in Trayion Durham. The 5-9, 187-pound quick back turned into a nice kick returner and was decent as a receiver. The offense needs playmakers and stars to build around, and James could be it.
The Kent State Season Will Be A Success If …
The Golden Flashes win six games. The defense alone will be good enough to carry the team to wins over North Carolina A&T and Monmouth, so if the defense can be just good enough go get by, there should be chances to beat Akron, Buffalo and Miami University to get close to six wins. A three game improvement would be terrific – and it’s more than achievable.
Oct. 22 vs. Ohio. The Bobcats should be one of the East’s best teams, but Kent State might need this home game with a killer finishing kick coming just after. The Golden Flashes have to go to Central Michigan and Bowling Green and host Western Michigan and Northern Illinois over the last four games. Ohio might be the last realistic shot at a win.
2015 Kent State Fun Stats
– Offensive Touchdowns: Opponents 37 – Kent State 15
– Sacks: Kent State 32 for 217 yards – Opponents 13 for 87 yards
– Fourth Down Conversions: Opponents 15-of-21 (71%) – Kent State 9-of-26 (35%)