Hazell focusing on competition for Kent State

Hazell focusing on competition for Kent State

Published Apr. 4, 2012 3:08 p.m. ET

Coach Darrell Hazell wasn't kidding when he said all jobs were open on this season's team.

Golden Flashes players made that discovery when spring practice began
on March 27. Hazell's words on signing day in February rang true on the
first day of drills.

"Competition is good for everybody,"
offensive coordinator Brian Rock said in the Kent-Ravenna Record
Courier. "We needed to create some of that."

Kent State finished
5-7 in Hazell's first year as head coach -- the third straight season
they've finished with that record. Hazell and his staff are trying to
develop a new culture in a program that hasn't finished above .500 since 2001 and has had two winning years since 1987.


is no entitlement around here," Rock said in the Record Courier.
"Nobody is bigger than the program. We are trying to win football games
and trying to put ourselves in position to compete for championships. So
there is no room for a sense of entitlement out of anybody, whether it
be a position player or a coach."

Hazell believes the team made
progress in 2011. After beginning the season 1-6 and 0-3 in Mid-American
Conference play, the Golden Flashes won four straight games and had a
chance to become bowl eligible before losing to Temple in the season's
final game. Kent State defeated Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Akron
and Eastern Michigan in its winning streak. The Golden Flashes finished
4-4 in the league, two games behind East Division champion Ohio.

most-watched competition will take place at quarterback where junior
Spencer Keith, the starter the last two seasons, will be pressed by
junior college transfer David Fisher.

"There's nothing like it to have those two battle it out," Hazell said in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Keith had his ups and downs last season, there was no one on the roster
to push him. That won't be the case this time, which Keith says is just
fine with him.

"I'm just embracing the competition," he said in
the Beacon Journal. "You gotta have fun with it, because it's just a
game on the field. It's football and we love to play this game. So we're
just going to play and try to take advantage of our opportunities."

the competition likely won't be decided until the end of fall camp,
Fisher has some catching up to do. He's learning a new offensive system
and is taking snaps under center instead of being in the shotgun that
his Palomar Community College team used last season.

"I definitely
had a little bit of the jitters," Fisher said in the Beacon Journal
after the first practice. "I didn't know what to expect. It was kind of a
mystery to me. There was a little bit of a feeling-out process, but I
loved being back out on the field throwing the ball around."

more production out of the offense will be a top priority between now
and the time the season begins on Aug. 30 against Towson. The defense,
sparked by end Roosevelt Nix, will once again be Kent State's strength.

Kent State's spring game will take place April 21 after 15 practice sessions over a period of four weeks.

McMichael will work with special teams

McMichael, last season's tight ends coach, has added special teams
coordinator to his duties. Several assistant coaches will continue to
take on certain coaching roles with the special teams unit, while
McMichael is expected to oversee the process.

"The special teams
unit coaches working alongside of him can bounce ideas off of him and
he'll have the final say," coach Darrell Hazell said.

McMichael, a 37-year veteran in the college coaching ranks, has been special teams coordinator at Connecticut and West Virginia.

his team to play smarter, more disciplined football is a top priority
for coach Darrell Hazell. Kent State was called for 76 penalties
totaling 764 yards last season, an average of 63.7 yards a game. The
penalties, which included personal fouls, late hits, chop blocks and
unsportsmanlike conduct calls, stalled drives on offense and continued
opponents' drives on defense. The Golden Flashes simply aren't good
enough to be giving so much yardage.


Spencer Keith/David Fisher -- It's not often a two-year starter at the
team's most important position has to fight for his job, but that's what
will happen. Keith, the incumbent, will be challenged by Fisher, a
junior college transfer. Keith lost his job for one game in early
October, but coach Darrell Hazell had no other options.

completed 51.1 percent of his passes for the season, averaging 140.2
yards a game, with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He threw seven
touchdown passes and wasn't intercepted during Kent State's four-game
winning streak late in the season, but that wasn't enough to make him
the clear No. 1 going into spring camp. Fisher began his career at
Nevada and played at Palomar Community College last season, where he
completed 184 of 333 passes for 2,539 yards, 27 touchdowns and only
seven interceptions. He also ran for 403 yards and seven touchdowns.

Roosevelt Nix -- Nix sustained a turf toe injury in the opener against
Alabama, an injury that bothered him all season. He also played through a
back injury late in the season, but he was still the team's best
defensive player even though his numbers were down from his freshman
season. Nix had 17 tackles for a loss resulting in 71 yards. He also had
4 1/2 sacks and forced three fumbles. In two seasons, Nix has 14 1/2
sacks and 37 tackles for a loss.

RB Trayion Durham -- Durham made a
big contribution as a freshman, gaining 630 yards on 186 carries. He
became more effective as the season went on. Durham gained 371 yards,
averaging 3.9 yards per carry, and ran for four touchdowns in the final
five games. He's the No. 1 running back at the moment.

"He's got great leadership qualities. Even though he doesn't know what
he's doing yet, he acts like he knows what he's doing. He fakes it
pretty well." -- Kent State coach Darrell Hazell, on David Fisher, who
will battle Spencer Keith for the quarterback job in spring practice.

Strategy And Personnel

OUTLOOK: Kent State won four of its last five games in 2011, but a lot
of work needs to be done. Second-year coach Darrell Hazell is trying to
instill a winning mentality in the program, which is something that
could take three or four seasons to accomplish.

The fact the
Golden Flashes finished up strong and actually would have been bowl
eligible if they had won the season's final game is a good sign, but
they must be more consistent. To get his point across, Hazell has thrown
every job open to competition in spring and fall practices. While
players like Roosevelt Nix probably don't have much to worry about,
Hazell wants to develop a toughness on the practice field that will
carry over into games.

controversy, anyone? Junior Spencer Keith and junior college transfer
David Fisher will duke it out in spring and fall practice. While Keith
has been the starter the last two seasons, it's clear coach Darrell
Hazell isn't convinced he's the man to lead Kent State into the upper
regions of the Mid-American Conference. Fisher put up big numbers as a
JUCO player and will be given every opportunity to win the job. The
offensive line, which allowed 30 sacks, loses center Chris Anzevino
while running back Jacquise Terry, tight end Justin Thompson and
receivers Sam Kirkland and Chris Gilbert must be replaced. Running back
Trayion Durham emerged as a top threat last season. Kent State scored
only 205 points last season, including 43 in the first quarter.

THE DEFENSE: The defense has been the team's strength the last several
seasons, a pattern that will continue in 2012. Kent State allowed 291
points and gave up 22 or less six times last season. Defensive end
Roosevelt Nix leads the list of returnees, but the coaching staff would
like to find another play-maker to take some pressure off their star.
Linebackers Luke Batton and C.J. Malauulu, last season's leading
tacklers, are also back as are Luke Wollett and Calvin Tiggle in the
secondary. Tackles Les Stalker and Ishmaaily Kitchen and linebacker Kyle
Reese must be replaced. Kitchen, who plugged up the line of scrimmage
with his 330-pound frame, will be especially missed.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kent State was hit with significant losses in the kicking
game. Matt Rinehart, the leading punter in school history, has moved
on. Placekicker Freddy Cortez was in line to handle the punting chores,
but he had knee surgery in early March. Sophomore Andrew Horning and
freshman Anthony Melchiori will also battle for the job. Alex Thompson,
the long snapper on field goals and extra points, must be replaced.


Chris Fairchild -- The Golden Flashes need help at nose tackle, and
Fairchild, who already weighs 300 pounds, could provide it right away.
Playing at Oak Hill School (Ohio), he recorded 72 tackles, including 20
in one game, and had three sacks last season. Fairchild was a second
team All-Ohio selection.

OL Jake Witucki -- A Pennsylvania high
school star, Witucki could move into a starting role immediately. The
line had problems last season, especially with pass protection, and a
talent upgrade is needed.

CB Adam Maxie -- Maxie was a first team
All-Texas selection as both a junior and senior at Covenant Christian
Academy. He has the speed to cover receivers and made 137 tackles in


--K Freddy Cortez had surgery to repair
a torn meniscus in early March. He will be limited in spring practice,
but should be ready to compete for both the placekicking and punting
jobs this summer.

--RT Terrell Johnson returned for spring practice after missing the final two games last season with a concussion.

Tyshon Goode was expected to be one of Kent State's leading receivers a
year ago, but he spent most of the season on the bench because of what
coach Darrell Hazell perceived as a lack of effort. Goode worked his way
back up the depth chart as the season progressed. He made five catches,
including a 70-yard scoring pass, and 129 yards in a late-season win
over Eastern Michigan. Goode finished with 26 catches for a 13.2-yard