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          ***** NCAA Football Preview - Kent State Golden Flashes *****
 
 By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: Kent State struggled at first last year, but delivered a
 strong performance down the stretch to arrive at a 5-7 overall record for the
 third consecutive season.
 
 Darrell Hazel was a late bloomer in his first season as a head coach. KSU was
 dismantled by Alabama (48-7) in his debut before it lost to Louisiana (20-12)
 at home. The Golden Flashes also suffered losses to Kansas State (37-0), Ohio
 University (17-10), Northern Illinois (40-10), and Miami-Ohio (9-3) before a
 much needed bye week allowed them to regain their composure. KSU bounced back
 and drew some attention with consecutive victories over Bowling Green (27-15),
 Central Michigan (24-21), Akron (35-3), and Eastern Michigan (28-22). The
 Golden Flashes had their streak snapped by Temple (34-16) in their season
 finale, but not before Hazel's team started believing in itself.
 
 KSU once again watched bowl season from home. The Golden Flashes have not
 played in a bowl game since the 1972 Tangerine Bowl.
 
 2012 ANALYSIS:
 
 OFFENSE: Kent State's offense was one of the worst in the nation in 2011. The
 Golden Flashes finished 119th in yards per game (253.5) and 114th in scoring
 (17.1).
 
 Senior QB Spencer Keith (1,682 yards, 11 TDs, eight INTs) has been the starter
 for the majority of his career, but that could change before his final season.
 Junior transfer David Fisher is challenging Keith for the starting job. Fisher
 began his career at Nevada before playing a season at Palomar Community College
 last year. True freshman Colin Reardon is also in the discussion.
 
 Tailback Trayion Durham (6-0, 247) became KSU's workhorse unexpectedly last
 season after Dri Archer (5-8, 164) was forced to sit out for academic reasons.
 The combination of Durham's punishing running style and Archer's lighting fast
 quickness gives the Golden Flashes' ground attack versatility it simply did
 not possess in 2011. The running backs should find more success on the ground
 this season with four of five starters returning to the offensive line.
 
 KSU has a talented wideout in Tyshon Goode returning to the lineup. Goode
 finished last season with disappointing totals of 316 yards and 24 catches
 after earning a second-team All-MAC selection in 2010. Goode's fellow senior
 classmates Matt Hurdle and Eric Adeyemi will be involved in the aerial attack
 as well. Tim Erjavec (6-2, 232) will be the primary tight end targeted by
 whichever quarterback ends up being named the starter.
 
 DEFENSE: The Golden Flashes' defensive unit was easily the strength of the
 team last season. KSU ranked in the top three in the MAC in nearly every
 defensive category in 2011. Tackle Roosevelt Nix makes a big time impact as a
 pass rusher. Nix recorded 10 sacks and 15 solo tackles for loss as a freshman.
 He was still an effective player last season as a sophomore despite dealing
 with double teams and injuries. Nix's impact opens up pass rushing lanes for DE
 Jake Dooley.
 
 "Very excited about our defense. It all starts with Rosie Nix. In my opinion,
 he is one of the best guys in the country," said coach Hazel. "He gets on the
 hips of offensive linemen and has a way of reading defensive schemes."
 
 Linebacker C.J. Malauulu is a big time playmaker from sideline to sideline. He
 earned Second-Team All-MAC honors after recording 3.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for
 loss, and 83 tackles. Senior Luke Batton led KSU with 102 tackles from the
 middle linebacker position. The secondary helped the Golden Flashes limit
 opponents to 196.3 passing yards per game last season, which was the 26th
 lowest average in the country. Both Luke Wollet and Calvin Tiggle are back to
 man their respective starting safety positions while fifth-year senior Sidney
 Saulter returns at corner after grabbing three interceptions last year.
 
 SPECIAL TEAMS: Despite five missed PATs in 2011, senior Freddy Cortez has
 proven to be a reliable placekicker throughout the first three years of his
 career. Punter Andrew Horning will make his debut this season as he tries to
 replace Matt Rinehart's 42.8 yards per punt average.
 
 OUTLOOK: The talented KSU defensive unit will need help from the other side of
 the ball. Hazel's team is returning 18 starters from the team that put
 together a very impressive finish to the 2011 season.
 
 The team's non-conference schedule seems more manageable than last year.
 
 KSU opens up its season at Dix Stadium with Towson before consecutive road
 games at Kentucky and Buffalo. The Golden Flashes will step out of MAC
 competition to play Army on October 13 and Rutgers on October 27. KSU does not
 have to face Northern Illinois or Toledo during the regular season. The Golden
 Flashes might run into trouble in the final stage of their schedule as they
 have to play Miami-Ohio and Bowling Green on the road before facing the
 reigning East Division Champion Ohio University Bobcats to end the year.
 
 While Kent State appears to have improved on both sides of the ball, Hazel
 will not have his squad competing for the MAC title just yet. Still, the bowl
 game drought may come to an end if a leader emerges for the offense.
 
 
 
 08/20 10:45:17 ET