By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Kent State's football team begins spring practices this morning with no strings attached.
As in, no first strings, second strings, third strings.
In an effort to hammer home the point that no player on the roster is assured of a starting spot, second-year head coach Paul Haynes insists that every position is completely up for grabs as the 2012 Mid-American Conference East Division champion Golden Flashes seek a return to the league elite following last year's disappointing 4-8 campaign.
"Colin Reardon is not our starting quarterback. He was a starter last year," said Haynes, using his freshman signal-caller as an example. "This team right now did not have a record last year, so it's whatever we make it. That's the motto we've taken. If someone behind (a starter from last year) works harder and competes harder, they're gonna beat 'em out, bottom line."
Many coaches use this ploy to motivate their team, but Haynes insists that he truly means what he's saying.
"I don't want these guys to feel entitled," said Haynes. "We're at the point right now that everything has to be earned. There's no guys that are just penned in at certain spots, it's whoever is gonna work and compete the hardest and do the things that the coaches are asking them to do."
"I've spent a lot of time talking and listening to a lot of different people, and there's a common theme -- play the guys that are the most competitive, maybe not the most talented, and you'll win games," Haynes said. "How many? I don't know. But at least you know what type of people they are, that they're gonna go out there and compete."
As a former walk-on, who wound up lettering four years and earning All-MAC honors twice as a defensive back for the Flashes, Haynes can relate to players who are able to overcome athletic limitations by giving maximum effort at all times.
"Everyone says the team takes on the personality of the head coach, and I wasn't the most talented player. But I think if you talk to people that know me or played with me, they'd say I was a hard worker and I competed," said Haynes. "Those are the things that you can't measure. I look at the programs that are winning and you listen to those coaches talk, to me there are two common things. One, (the players) care about each other. And two, they have kids who compete like crazy."
Haynes is hoping this theme will create intense competition at all positions this spring as he seeks to develop a more physically and mentally tough football team.
"The mental part of this game is hard when you talk about snap after snap, and we're gonna focus on that a bunch," said Haynes. "The physical part of it is the effort. When you're out there taking reps, you're doing everything 110 percent with great fundamentals and technique. We spent a lot of time this off-season lifting and not conditioning, so we know that they're gonna be out of shape, which means we're gonna do a lot of teaching. I want to make sure we're learning what we're doing so there are no excuses for mistakes."
Haynes has three other particular goals he plans to tackle during the spring practice season.
1. Building team chemistry: "I told them April is get to know your teammate month. I challenged them to get to know someone you normally don't hang out with, and I'm gonna ask them to tell me about somebody. That's important to me coming out of this spring."
2. Create a team identity: "What is Kent State football? What's our brand? What's our offense known for, our defense, our special teams? Who are we, and what are we gonna be about? We need to find answers to these questions."
3. Identifying playmakers: "It's not about the defense you call or the play you call, if you're not getting it in the right guy's hands (plays will not be successful). We've gotta identify who those right guys are."
Spring practices begin this morning at 8 a.m., and will continue throughout the month. The annual spring game is set for Saturday, April 26.
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