With the football season less than 11 weeks away, it is never too soon to begin to look at the opponents that will try to derail the Clemson Tigers’ quest for a second-consecutive national championship and their third appearance in the College Football Playoff in as many years.
Today we begin with the Tigers’ opening season game against Kent State Golden Flashes, who finished last season 3-9 (2-6 MAC).
Paul Haynes (12-35, fifth year) took over head coaching duties in 2013 after former head coach Darrell Hazzel had the Kent State Golden Flashes on the cusp of receiving a BCS bid after losing to Northern Illinois in the 2012 MAC Championship.
However, since that magical season the Golden Flashes have struggled to relive the glory experienced under Hazzel—averaging only three wins a season since Haynes took over in 2013.
Now entering the final year of his contract, Haynes will try to find some of the magic from the 2012 season in hopes of saving his job.
Kent State Offense:
To say that the Kent State offense struggled last season may be the understatement of the year. The Golden Flashes ranked dead last in the nation in passing offense last season (128), 125th in the nation in total yardage and only 20.6 points per game.
In their defense, injuries played a large role in their offensive struggles last season. True freshman Justin Agner won the starting job, but was injured in the opening game against Penn State. Redshirt Freshman Mylik Mitchell was next up for the Golden Flashes, but he, like Agner, was injured—suffering a broken wrist against Alabama.
If Kent State can find someone to throw the ball, the question then becomes, can they find someone to catch the ball?
The Golden Flashes will look to replace leading receiver Ernest Calhoun and tight end Brice Fackler. However, young guns, Raekwon James, Mike Carrigan, Johnny Woods, Kavious Price and Trey Harrell will all try to pick up the slack.
Kent State Defense:
If there is one place where the Golden Flashes should have some hope for an improved 2017 campaign it would be on the defensive side of the ball.
The Kent State defensive unit returns three of their top four tacklers off last year’s team, including their top two linebackers—James Alexander and Jim Jones. However, if there is one area of concern for the Golden Flashes defensively it would be their ability to stop the pass.
Even with one of the most experienced group of cornerbacks—led by Jamal Parker, Jerrell Foster, Darryl Marshall and Demetrius Monday– in the MAC conference, the Golden Flashes will still have to adjust to the fact that three of their top four safeties are gone, as well as standout pass rusher Terence Waugh.
The early line on the opening game of the 2017 season has the Tigers favored by 40 points over the Golden Flashes of Kent State, but Appalachian State can go into the Big House at Michigan and pull of the greatest upset of all time—maybe Kent State can.
Then again—probably not.