As the defending Mid-American Conference East Division champions, the Kent State football team comes to Seattle on Saturday with a high-octane offense, and a pre-season slate of games that will test their talent as well as their depth.
The Flashes have averaged 471 yards and 33.6 points per game over the past three seasons, and will look to continue their productive ways on offense with promising first year starter Collin Schlee stepping in for the departed Dustin Crum.
Kent State has been scheduling three big-payday out of conference games since 2018. This year’s non-conference lineup is beyond brutal, but Kent State will receive a total of $5.2 million for opening the season at Washington, Oklahoma, and Georgia.
Earlier this week we had the chance to talk to Allen Moff from the Kent Record-Courier regarding this week’s matchup with the Huskies.
Here’s what we learned in our Q&A:
UWDP: Redshirt junior Collin Schlee takes over after a successful three year run by Dustin Crum at quarterback. At 6’3” and 220, is he the physical runner we would expect from someone that size? What do the coaches like about Schlee, and do you think KSU will remain a top scoring offence in the Mid American Conference?
Allen Moff: Schlee is indeed a physical runner, and he will look to run. He has impressed teammates and coaches during limited game action over the past two years (playing in parts of 11 games), and by repeatedly making plays in practice. Those close to the program who know Schlee well do not expect much of a drop-off in offensive production this season without Crum.
UWDP: Dante Cephas was Crum’s favorite target a year ago, reeling in 82 catches and scoring nine times. What makes him so productive? How do you see the targets being spread around this season?
Allen: The Flashes had no defined No. 1 receiver until Cephas emerged early last season. He went on to establish himself as one of the top receivers in the MAC. He can separate himself deep, and sets those shots up with repeated hitches and underneath routes. Excellent hands, just a solid all-around receiver. Another receiver to watch out for is sophomore Devontez Walker. He’s 6-3 and very athletic. Walker caught a 73-yard touchdown pass against Wyoming in last year’s bowl game.
UWDP: Marquez Cooper rushed for over 1,000 yards a year ago. Do you expect him to lead the way again this season? What other running backs might see significant action? How does the offensive line look heading into the season?
Allen: Cooper will be the featured runner once again, and is a solid all-around back, but Xavier Williams returns as a speedy compliment who will get his fair share of touches. 250-pound Bryan Bradford is a physical runner they’ll use in certain matchups. The offensive line is a question mark, with only two returning starters.
UWDP: Jeremiah Johnson is the new defensive coordinator, after Tom Kaufman was fired mid-season a year ago. How do you think the defense will respond in the first year of a new system? Which players should Husky fans be aware of on the defensive side of the ball?
Allen: Johnson has breathed life into a stagnant group. The players are excited about the freedom they’ve been given to make plays within the system, and the general positive attitude Johnson brings daily. Players to watch include defensive linemen CJ West and Zayin West, safeties Dean Clark and Antwaine Richardson, cornerback Montre Miller and linebacker Kesean Gamble.
UWDP: How much of a legend is Don James among the Kent State faithful? Does anyone even remember him and the early KSU glory days? How does the fanbase feel about current head coach Sean Lewis?
Allen: The Golden Flashes have not won a MAC championship since James led them to what remains their one and only title in 1972. He is certainly remembered and loved by anyone who considers themselves a loyal fan. The current fan base loves Lewis, who has the program winning consistently for the first time since the 1970s ,and does so by playing an exciting brand of football.
UWDP: What is your prediction for Saturday’s game?
Allen: I see the Flashes making some plays and hanging around early but getting worn down in the second half, as has been the case in past battles with Power Fives. Their inexperienced offensive line is especially worrisome heading into this matchup.
Washington 37, Kent State 21
Thanks Allen. For more on the Kent State Golden Flashes, be sure to check out the Kent Record-Courier.