Tressel's coaching tree finds roots in Kent

By Tom Hardesty | Assistant sports editor Published:

I would like to wish Darrell Hazell good luck in his new job as head football coach at Purdue University -- not that he's going to need it.

After guiding Kent State to an 11-2 overall record in 2012, a Mid-American Conference East Division championship and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6 vs. Arkansas State in Mobile, Ala. in just his second season as Golden Flashes coach, Hazell has firmly established himself as one of the country's up-and-coming coaching stars.

Considering KSU football is a program that had not won a title of any kind or gone to a bowl game since 1972, what Hazell did in his brief stay in Kent was nothing short of remarkable.

So it should come as no surprise, then, that Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen again dipped into the Jim Tressel coaching well when he selected former KSU defensive back Paul Haynes to replace Hazell as the Flashes' head coach this week.

Hazell and Haynes were assistant coaches together on Tressel's staff at Ohio State, Hazell serving under Tressel from 2004-2010 and Haynes coaching at OSU from 2005-2011.

The common denominator here obviously is Tressel, who is now employed by the University of Akron. While most of the national media spent Tressel's entire 10-year tenure as Ohio State head coach mocking his conservative brand of football they snarkily branded "Tresselball," Hazell was busy learning a little something from the man who won a national championship, five BCS bowls, seven Big Ten titles and nine games against hated rival Michigan in his 10 years at Ohio State.

Hazell brought Tressel's football philosophy -- a powerful running game, smart passing game, stout defense and outstanding special teams -- to Kent and promptly turned the Flashes into a Top 25 team in two seasons.

Haynes, too, appears to be cut from the Tressel mold. KSU's new coach says he favors a strong rushing attack and playmaking defense similar to the philosophy of his mentor, which means the Flashes of 2013 could look a lot like the Flashes of 2012.

Bottom line: The Tressel coaching tree has taken full root in Kent -- and it's already bearing fruit that nobody could have imagined just two years ago.

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Haynes is going to inherit a mostly full cupboard from Hazell when he takes over the Flashes' reins following the GoDaddy.com Bowl. I say mostly full, because junior speedster Dri Archer is draft eligible and says he is mulling an early jump to the NFL.

Archer's decision may well decide Kent State's ultimate fate in 2013. If he stays for his senior season, he gives the Flashes one of the most electrifying and feared offensive threats in the nation, capable of scoring from anywhere on the field anytime he touches the ball. If he leaves early, it could have a devastating impact on the Kent State offense and special teams unit, leaving the Flashes without a bona fide home-run threat -- which could easily be the difference between KSU taking the next step and winning the MAC championship next season or extending their four-decade conference-title drought.

Legendary University of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler had a banner hung in the Wolverines' locker room that famously read: Those Who Stay Will Be Champions. That banner could easily apply to Archer and the Golden Flashes in 2013.

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Count me as one of those who is not on board with the Ohio High School Athletic Association's expansion to seven divisions in football beginning with the 2013 season. No matter how many divisions you have, someone is always going to be the biggest school in the division enrollment-wise and someone is going to be the smallest. You have to make a cutoff somewhere and live with it.

It's reaching the point now where the OHSAA is diminishing the accomplishment of winning a state title: The more divisions there are, the more watered-down the system.

And now the time-honored proposal of breaking up tournaments between public and parochial schools is back for more consideration. Should it ever happen, that move might well spell the end of the OHSAA because the parochials no doubt would form their own association, and the resulting money lost could be insurmountable for the OHSAA.

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I said in this space last week that the Browns would have to win their final three games for Pat Shurmur to have any chance of returning as head coach next season. That chance was likely remote at best to begin with, and following Sunday's mind-numbing loss at home to the Washington Redskins -- with rookie backup Kirk Cousins playing quarterback for the 'Skins -- Shurmur is finished.

But I don't entirely blame Shurmur for this. Former team president Mike Holmgren must shoulder much of the responsibility since he selected Shurmur to be the Browns' head coach in January of 2011, despite the fact Shurmur was an unknown quantity as a head coach. Shurmur's qualifications to work for Holmgren at that time appeared to be twofold: Shurmur's uncle, the late Fritz Shurmur, served as Holmgren's defensive coordinator in Green Bay in the Packers' 1990s heyday; and Pat Shurmur and Holmgren share the same agent, Bob LaMonte.

Shurmur clearly was not ready to be an NFL head coach, and it was Holmgren's job to recognize this. He didn't, and now Holmgren is gone -- and Shurmur isn't far behind.

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Email: thardesty@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9446

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