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.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A look ahead at week three and where Kent State's defense needs to continue to improve

By Brian George
Defensive Coordinator

Preparing to play Ohio State is like preparing for any game. You want to put your players in a position where they can win the game. 

Obviously, when we get that opportunity, we have to make the plays on the field that we need to make. We have to get off of blocks, make tackles, and cover their guys. But in terms of preparation, it is no different than how we prepare any week. If we did treat this game differently, players will figure it out very quickly.

In watching film on Ohio State’s offense this week, you can see they are very talented. They are also more youthful than they were last season, and so up to this point they have been a lot simpler in terms of what they do. I think they have some very talented guys, though, which is what you would expect. They are a top-10 recruiting class every year. They have some young players on their offensive line, and that’s one reason they are doing things simpler. But with Braxton Miller being out I think they are doing some things to make things easier on their young quarterback.

They had a tough loss last week, so they will probably make some adjustments. It will be interesting to see where they go and what direction they take with what they are doing.

It’s going to be good to see our guys go against very good competition. I think our guys have continued to improve from week one to week two. We have to keep improving in two ways. No. 1, we need to keep getting better fundamentally.

The second one is understanding situational football. Where are we on the field? How does offense and defense change the closer you get to the end zone. Recognition of the whole formation and not just what is directly in front of me.

Coming up as high school players, you aren’t asked to see the big picture. But at this level it can really help you if you learn to see the big picture. You have to study really hard, though, to know what is going on around you. We are getting to that point even though we are still a relatively young crew. The guys are very attentive and they are taking in what we are teaching. I’m hopeful we will continue to take steps forward in that area. 

Different philosophies going into a game like Saturday's at Ohio State

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach 

Do you do something totally different to catch them off guard, or do you try to get better at what you are doing?

Those are the two philosophies that you have to go with going into a game like Saturday at Ohio State.

I think you can be on the fence with that, though, and do a little bit of both. 

If you are not a fast-paced team, you can go fast paced. If you are an I-Pro team, you can line up empty the whole game. It’s becoming totally different than what you are. But, does that hurt you down the road because you are never going to do those things again? Now you have wasted a whole week of practice on things you are never going to do again.

I think there is a fine line with it.

If you are not a pressure team and now you are pressuring like crazy, or if you use a full back and all of a sudden you don’t have one, that changes the game a little bit for an opponent. 

When I was at Ohio State as an assistant, we didn’t see a lot of teams go totally different against us. There was nothing dramatically different from what you saw teams already doing.  A lot of people knew who we were, though, so they knew what would hurt us. They would put four receivers in the boundary and other things that gave us issues. But you never saw a team that never played wishbone all of a sudden come out in wishbone. 

Virginia Tech did some things last week that gave Ohio State trouble, but Ohio State has had a week to work on those issues. They know teams will continue to do some of those things Virginia Tech did until they have solved them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The running game and "The Discipline of Football"

By Paul Haynes
Head Coach

You always get a gauge of how your team is handling things after a loss.

I like to have guys try to grade themselves, and what you are looking for in that is to see if guys think they played better than how you think they did. 

When we look at our offensive line, their expectations are high. They’ll be the first to tell you, though, that they could have played better against Ohio University.

We are seeing them challenge themselves, which is a good thing. It is a very good thing.

The hard part for those guys is that you open up with a league game. There is so much on the line with needing to get a win, but there is still a lot of football to play this season. People who are unsure of themselves may want to change the whole gamut, but that’s not who we are. We know where we need to get better and it is a process.

There is also a misconception about what it takes to run the football. It’s a lot like the misconception that exists with stopping the run. When we visited the Pittsburgh Steelers, their defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau talked about how you have to include the secondary to stop the run. It’s the same thing if you want to run the football. You have to include everyone else. It isn’t just the five guys on the offensive line. It’s blocking on the perimeter and a whole lot more. As a whole, those are things you have to realize. 

You look at personnel, and then you look at schematic. We have our best personnel. Now we just have to do everything a little bit better. I was just reading an article by Dick Vermeil, and he talked about this. There is some good in what we are doing. So it’s not that we can’t do it. It’s just that the consistency wasn’t there. 

                                                                         Photo by David Dermer
There were a couple of runs in there that we had for 8-or-9-yards. When it is blocked right, you get the 4-yard average you want. It’s the same defensively. When we execute, things work.

It’s called “The Discipline of Football” 

The Discipline of Football is to be able to do your fundamentals and technique under pressure. The game doesn’t change. Your mind changes. 

Can I do it for 70 plays in a row … in a row … in a row? 

The only thing that changes is what you are thinking.

Whenever there is a tight game or you feel like you have to do something extra, usually thinking about that something extra is what screws you up.

You have to slow the game down. That’s what practice and film study is about. It’s putting yourself in the situation, like flight simulation. You put yourself in the situation so many times that the game slows down. That’s easier said than done when the bullets are flying, but that’s what you train yourself to do.