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Paul Haynes hasn't had an easy time taking over for Darrell Hazell at Kent State. The year before Haynes took over, 2012, the Golden Flashes finished with an 11-2 record and won the MAC. Since, Haynes' teams haven't surpassed four wins in three years. To get above that mark, they'll need an offense that can put points on the board, something that didn't happen last season.
Kent State scored a putrid 13.1 points per game last year and was shut out numerous times in conference play. Sure, injuries played a small part in that, but the Flashes need to find a way to put points on the board. Quarterback is the first order of issue and that won't be determined until the fall. A bunch of guys are in the mix including last year's starters Colin Reardon and George Bollas. Freshmen Mylik Mitchell and Justin Agner will probably be in the running as well.
One thing this team isn't lacking is experience. The backfield will return 2014's leader in Nick Holley, who was injured for most of 2015. A number of other backs will likely get touches as well, whether it's Myles Washington, Will Matthews or freshman Justin Rankin. Receiver is set with all of last season's top options back in Antwan Dixon (26 receptions, 355 yards), Raekwon James (28 receptions) and Johnny Woods, among others. The offensive line is the same story with four starters back with a sophomore expected to start at center.
Of course, while all these guys played last year, no one really did anything worthwhile. The quarterbacks combined for 9 TDs and 10 INTs, completing 51% of their passes. The running game averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and no receiver had more than 28 receptions or 355 yards.
The good thing about this team is on the defensive side where they were actually stout for being a three-win squad. The Golden Flashes were in the top echelon in the conference and can repeat that with eight returning starters.
That starts on the line with all-conference selection Terence Waugh, who was an absolute monster at times last year finishing with nine sacks. Returning interior linemen Chris Fairchild and Jon Cunningham join him. Linebacker loses maybe the most talent, but still have a couple seniors to work with, most notably Elcee Refuge who moves to the middle. The secondary is probably the best part of the defense with two all-conference selections in safety Nate Holley (141 tackles) and corner Demetrius Monday (6 interceptions).
The defense should be good again, but they have a new coordinator in Ben Needham, and the offense is a toss-up.
KSU could grab a couple non-conference wins against NC A&T and Monmouth in the early going, but may have a problem finding that first MAC win. The Golden Flashes' most favorable opponents all come on the road, including Buffalo and Miami (OH). Getting a home win means topping a team like Akron or Ohio, both expected to challenge for the MAC East title.
This could be it for Haynes as Kent State head coach unless he can find a quarterback that can move the ball. If not, the offense will continue to struggle and the defense just can't do enough to save them.
2016 Kent State Golden Flashes Football Schedule
Sept. 3 at Penn State
Sept. 10 vs. North Carolina A&T
Sept. 17 vs. Monmouth
Sept. 24 at Alabama
Oct. 1 vs. Akron
Oct. 8 at Buffalo
Oct. 15 at Miami (OH)
Oct. 22 vs. Ohio
Oct. 29 at Central Michigan
Nov. 8 vs. Western Michigan
Nov. 15 at Bowling Green
Nov. 25 vs. Northern Illinois
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