2022 MAC Football Positional Previews: Kent State Golden Flashes Offensive Line – Hustle Belt | Hot Mobile Press

Kent State finally returned to Detroit for the first time since 2012, but the Golden Flashes failed to win their first MAC title in almost 50 years against a stunningly improved Northern Illinois team of Thomas Hammock. Now it’s time for the MAC East champions to strike back and end their 48-year title drought. Things aren’t going to be easy, however, as graduation rules came into effect again this off-season after the 2020 COVID season extended all players’ eligibility. Kent State lost many key cogs from the previous year, including three starters from the offensive line. Two of those three late starters — Bill Kuduk and Nathan Monnin — held the designation as the only Golden Flashes linemen to achieve All-MAC honors.

With 60 percent of the top five gone, Sean Lewis and his staff are operating with a pretty fresh slate. One of the returning faces is Jack Bailey, a versatile interior designer who has both guard and center skills. The redshirt junior made his first starting lineup in the 2021 opener against Texas A&M and continued in the role for the remainder of the year. Additionally, Sam Allan remains on campus as one of the few enduring components of the Paul Haynes era. The 2022 campaign will be his sixth season on the roster and his second as a main starter, having made the jump last fall. Aside from Bailey and Allan, the only Golden Flash with an FBS start is Elijah Ratliff, who slipped into the lineup for the win over Ohio last October.

As program veterans, Bailey and Allan try to maintain Kent State’s success in the run-blocking industry amid high turnover. Last season, the Golden Flashes formed a metaphorical moving company when it came to paving the way for the team’s three-man backcourt, consisting of Marquez Cooper, Bryan Bradford and Xavier Williams. Kent State ranked third in the FBS (first among non-triple option teams) in rushing yards per contest and belonged to the pantheon of the elite, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Working in an RPO-heavy scheme, potent run-blocking is the necessary foundation to create a working offense.

Passport protection, however, never achieved the same level of success. Kent State moved closer to the bottom in that category and ranked 104th in the FBS by conceding over 1.6 sacks per game. One aspect that will help the offensive line break through pass blocking is the presence of a mobile quarterback. Collin Schlee replaces longtime starter Dustin Crum, and the new offensive face possesses a similar ability to extend plays with his feet.

Kent State addressed the lack of offensive experience in the trenches over Big Ten Country. The Golden Flashes landed in the transfer portal Michigan transfer Nolan Rumler and Rutgers transfer Kevin Toth. Rumler played two seasons for the Wolverines on reserve and special teams, but the former 4-star contender should broaden his horizons as a likely starter in his new homeland. Toth never saw in-game action at Rutgers, but has built a reputation as a powerful run blocker during his time at nearby Ohio’s Hudson High School. Considering the lack of recurring tackles, Toth could similarly evolve into a day one starter.

Another tackle from elsewhere that could play a valuable role in the offensive rotation is Cameron Golden. The aptly named Golden Flash came off the bench for Georgia State during the 2020 season and was instrumental in creating one of the top 20 looting prevention units in the country.

Given the lack of experience on Kent State’s offensive line, the Golden Flashes may need to look towards their freshman class — the highest rating of the Sean Lewis era, according to 247Sports. Their most valuable recruit to the offensive line was Mason Mennell, a 3-star guard whose position was ranked 77th in the country by ESPN. Pennsylvania native Nick Bryan is another 3-star guard the Flashes earned in Lewis’ most recent recruit class, and while any recruit could be subject to redshirt status, the opportunity for immediate impact is certainly there.

Half of Kent State’s games last season were separated by at least three goals, allowing some of the reserves to earn game time late in the fourth quarter. That experience, which seemed trivial at the time, could propel some players into expanded roles in 2022. The 6ft 8in Savion Washington is the tallest lineman on the team and saw numerous replays against Texas A&M, while junior Marcellus Marshall got in deep in the Flashes’ blowout win against VMI.

Overall, this is one of the least experienced position groups in the MAC. The return of esteemed running blockers Bailey and Allan provides direction for Kent State’s powerful rushing attack, but there may be growing pains while transfers and/or freshmen are added to the lineup. They’ll be tested by some fierce Front Sevens early in the season as the off-conference schedule includes trips to Oklahoma, Washington and Georgia. However, if that line comes together before conference play begins, Kent State could be on course for another high-profile offense and top-three rushing attack for the third straight season.

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