Thursday, October 16, 2014

Excitement for Homecoming and preparing for the difficulties Army presents

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

Getting prepared to play an option team like Army is always difficult. You have to be extremely disciplined in a game like the one we will play on Saturday. You need to have eye control and you have to stay poised because Army is are going to continue to come after you and come after you, almost like a dog biting at your knees.

It can get frustrating as a player to get cut play after play, so in addition to the mental part, this game requires quite a bit of poise. 

It is tough to stop the option. When playing Army, you almost need them to make a mistake every once in a while. You need them to drop a ball, or have two guys go in motion at the same time, or get called for a cut block, just to get their offense off schedule. 

And then, every possession is so important in this game because you don’t know how many you are going to get.

Cut blocking in the style of offense that Army runs is different than it is in other offenses. In this one, you have everybody cutting. You are getting cut on every single play that they can possibly run. That’s where you have to stay patient and stay poised.

We are a zone blocking team, and there is some cutting in it. I think the zone scheme is helping our guys get better, but we haven’t seen the impact of it yet. The teams that have been successful against us have been movement teams and teams that are quicker than us. We have also had to get away from the run occasionally as we have fallen behind in games.

We made a conscious effort during the last two or three weeks, though, to stick with the run game just so that we can get better. Remember that other than Terrell Johnson, we are going to have every guy on our offensive line back for at least two more years. We have to get better at establishing the run because in this day and age even spread teams like Oregon run the football very well. You have to be able to run the football well to win.

Our guys on the offensive line are working hard. All of our guys up and down the roster are working hard. There is a misconception within athletics. Just because this team is 0-6, it doesn’t mean guys are refusing to work their tails off. These kids are still going to school. They are still busting their tails to try to win. It will mean a lot to them when they look up into the stands and see the students and the community backing them this weekend for Homecoming. 

We are hearing from a lot of alumni who are coming back for this game, and that’s a big deal to our guys. The players know how important this game is, and they will go out and play hard for Kent State University.

It’s going to be great to have so many former players in town. We will have our Captain’s Breakfast on Saturday morning. I believe we have 26 captains coming back from as far back as 1956. Ray Carroscia, who was a team captain in 1989, will be the speaker at the breakfast. That’s special for the kids to be around the former captains. I know the captains appreciate it. 

This is what college football is all about. Homecoming is a big part of college football at every school, but being an Kent State alumnus makes it even more special for me. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Preparing for a very good passing offense in UMass

By Brian George
Defensive Coordinator

Massachusetts has a very good passing offense. Their quarterback isn’t a very super mobile, but he has a very strong arm. He knows where to go with the football within their offense.

They have very good skill players, including their wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, who is 6-foot-4. They also have a big, tall kid who is one of those wide-receiver-slash-tight-end kids. Against tall kids like that, we have to try to get jams on them, try to slow them down and not let them get going. A lot of their routes are timing routes, so you have to disrupt that timing with the receivers. Obviously, you want to add a little bit of pressure at times as well.

Those guys are long striders rather than quick, so the more you can disrupt them, the better chance they will get. It will help to get Najee Murray back at cornerback. He gives us more depth and another physical guy in there, which is good for a game like this.

Getting back Terence Waugh and Jontey Byrd on the defensive line is also a big is also a big help. It improves our depth tremendously. They are also two of our most athletic linemen so it is definitely a good thing for us in terms of having two guys who can pass rush and a do a lot of other things for us.

We played well defensively last week at Northern Illinois. The best thing that I saw on film after that game was that we played for four quarters. That may be one of the first times this season where I felt like we played the same way, consistently, through the entire game. 

We are looking forward to continuing that consistency tomorrow when we play Massachusetts at 2 p.m. at Dix Stadium.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Playing for the name on the front of the jersey

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

Everything is a process.

You can go back to 2012 when the process started for us, but we have lost a lot of the guys who were a big part of that start. Things change, and the process begins all over again.

Understanding that it is a process isn’t always easy. We live in a society when everyone wants things now, but you are not always going to get it now. It is going to come from hard work. It is going to come through sacrifice. It is going to come from commitment. That’s what our young men are showing. Unfortunately, the are young. 

Is that an excuse?


Any real football person will tell you, though, that you never want to line up with a young offensive line like we are doing now. That’s not what you ever want. But while we are in that situation, our young offensive line is showing great promise. Next year they will be better. The year after that they will be even better. That’s building a program.

We are also building a culture.

One of the most satisfying things to happen this season was Sunday night when DVSport had to upgrade our server because we have so many guys logging on to the system to study video. That doesn’t happen with a lot of 0-5 football teams. So, we are seeing the effort and the commitment every day. We just aren’t seeing it yet in the win column. 

When you come here every day and walk up and down this hallway seeing all of these guys watching film, then you go out to practice and see guys with high energy who love to be out there working to get better, that’s why you love coming to work as a coach here. 

We are getting there. We may not be getting there as fast as everybody wants us to. But the process is happening. 

A lot of NFL scouts have been here recently. They look up and down our roster and say, boy you guys are young. But they say they’ve been watching us play and they see that we have a chance to be very good.

I appreciate that there are also fans out there who are also seeing it. With the fans I’ve talked to, the one thing they say they appreciate is how our guys are showing up, they fight and they don’t give up. 

Those things are signs of great leadership within the team. That’s taking a pride in the school. That’s the result of guys playing for each other and for the name on the front of their shirts. 

We may not be getting the wins yet, but these guys are battling for Kent State. If you want to be proud, we can all be proud about that.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Players can take a snapshot to process "Information You Can Use" on the field

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

It’s good to get back into Mid-American Conference play this weekend at Northern Illinois. 

We’ll be going on the road against a tough opponent that is arguably the best team in the conference year in and year out. We know it is going to be tough, but it is always tough and our guys are looking forward to it.

While we don’t want to put an overemphasis on this game, we’ve talked about all our goals in the MAC still being right there in front of us. What we are doing is focusing on what we can do better. Like I said it after the Virginia game on Saturday, we can’t beat two teams. Our achilles this season has been turnovers and penalties. We can’t afford to make those mistakes in any game, but especially on the road against tough opponents. To put ourselves in position to win, we have to clean up those things.

There are other things we can clean up. On the defensive side of the ball we talk about offensive formations as books. There is so much information an offense gives you in a picture, and players have to take a snapshot of that picture and communicate what you see to everyone else. Just like a book, people can take what they read in different ways. And that’s why the communication that needs to happen is so important for our guys to make sure they are all on the same page.

If you take Virginia as an example, their quarterback gave away run and pass all of the time just with his stance. It’s something that is simple, but as the game goes on you start to lose that recognition because your mind goes somewhere else. His stance was always staggered on pass and he was always square when the play was a run. On third down that may not matter as much, but on first-and-10 and second down, recognizing that and communicating it is huge. We may see it on the sideline or in the booth, but at that point it’s too late to get it to the field. The recognition has to come from the field. 

We call it "Information You Can Use." Our guys need to get better at recognizing that information. Teams give you that picture. Our guys have to process it and communicate it, and then go.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Veterans return helps depth and competition, plus scouting Northern Illinois

By Brian George
Defensive Coordinator

We are very looking forward to be Getting DeVante’ Strickland at linebacker and Calvin Tiggle at safety both back from injury this weekend at Northern Illinois. Being able to have some of these guys get back after being out with injuries adds a new dimension, most importantly to our depth. 

At this level you can get thin pretty quickly when you get two or three veterans banged up, and we’ve been dealing with that through the first four weeks of the season. The return of DeVante’ and Calvin will help our depth, help us get players in the best positions possible for them, and also helps us get our players back to feeling like they are challenged each week in practice for their spots.

DeVante’ gives us a guy who has played for us and has an understanding of what we are doing. Having a guy who has played a lot of football over the course of the last four years adds some leadership and some knowledge to that position. Any time he is working in with that group, he is able to give something in terms of understanding what he sees to the young guys who are working with him.

It’s the same thing with Calvin. He has played a lot of football. He is another experienced guy who you are not having to teach every single step from the beginning. He is also a guy who creates competition at the position and allows us to move some guys around a little bit and let them compete again for playing time.

We will start to work both guys into playing again and that will give us a little more flexibility starting this week at Northern Illinois.

Northern is very similar to what we have seen the last few years. They are an explosive, run-the-football team. They have the ability to put the ball in the air, but the throwing really comes off of their running game. Their passing game is a lot of three-steps with easy throws for the quarterback – screens, bubble screens, smoke screens. They will also run some play-action and try to get it deep off of the runs.

Everything starts with them in the running game, and they involve a lot of different guys in that running game, from their running backs, to the quarterback to the wide receivers. Defensively, that means we have to do a good job of being sound, adjusting to the formations and the motions, leveraging the football, and then doing a great job of getting off of blocks and tackling.

That kind of running game that incorporates the running backs, the quarterback and the wide receiver, is kind of becoming the norm now. While it may not be full scale the way Northern Illinois does it, we have seen aspects of that kind of running game every week this season. From Ohio University to South Alabama, and from Ohio State to last week at Virginia, all of those teams have all or part of that type of offense. Because of that, we have spent a majority of our time working on that offense this season, and this week should be a continued step in our improvement. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Video Blog: Brian Rock on Saturday's game at Virginia

Offensive coordinator Brian Rock signs on for the first of Kent State Football's video blogs.

This week, Rock talks about the challenges facing the Golden Flashes on Saturday when they visit the University of Virginia

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fundamentals and recruiting are priorities during the bye week

By Paul Haynes 
Head Coach

We practiced on Tuesday and we will practice today. Then we will come back and practice on Sunday. The players lifted on Monday and will lift again on Thursday and Friday. During this bye week we are focusing on fundamentals. We are going back to running base plays and doing a lot of individual periods spent on the fundamentals of the game.

On Thursday and Friday, our assistant coaches will be on the road recruiting. We have a plan to go out of state to Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Louisiana. Our next bye week we be focused on recruiting our Ohio areas. We have one coach in Ohio this week, and I’ll go around in-state on Friday.

That’s our plan during the bye week. We’ll get back on Sunday and really start working on Virginia, hitting the normal week. 

We are a young team, but that doesn’t change what we are doing in recruiting. We still have to fill our needs. A lot of recruits will look at the roster to see who is playing and what year they are, but I always tell them it doesn’t matter. We have an obligation to put the best team on the field, so you will have an opportunity to come in and compete. 

When you look at our numbers, defensive end is a big need in this upcoming class. We lose two with Richard Gray and Nate Vance.

We are also looking for offensive linemen. We need to get our numbers up there. Right now there are 14 on the roster and we need to get back up to 16.

Offensive line and defensive end are our top priorities, and then after that cornerback is a need because we will lose some guys there.