1. In his first year as the starter, what are the expectations for junior QB Collin Schlee?
While Schlee is a first-year starter, he acquired valuable experience last season. Due to the lopsided nature of many of Kent State’s games — wins and losses alike — the fourth quarter was often time for Schlee to demonstrate his capabilities. He has proven to be a very crafty runner like his predecessor Dustin Crum, and that was on full display Saturday night in Seattle as he led the Golden Flashes in rushing yardage. We haven’t seen much of Schlee as a passer against first-team defenses, but he showed flashes of potential with a perfectly thrown deep ball to Devontez Walker on a fly pattern against Washington. There have already and will be more learning moments this season, but Kent State didn’t hold a QB competition this offseason, thus demonstrating the team’s confidence in Schlee to accomplish great things in this offense.
2. Coming off a huge sophomore season, WR Dante Cephas stood out against Washington. What makes him such a difficult matchup for opposing defenses?
Dante Cephas might be the MAC receiver most likely to play on Sundays. He has an impressive combination of strength, speed, and agility on route running. This allows Cephas to have a versatile route tree where he can work in open space as the recipient of a screen and also defeat a corner on a deep ball. One of his best attributes is his affinity for shedding tacklers after receptions, which was on display against Washington in Week 1. Don’t be surprised if another 1,200-yard season is on the way.
3. Offensively, who else should OU fans keep an eye on this Saturday?
In 2020, Kent State fielded the second best rushing attack in the country. Last season, the Golden Flashes ranked third in this department, only trailing two triple option-based service academies. Although the production wasn’t where it needed to be in Washington, there’s still plenty of potential in a running back room which returns virtually all of its talent from 2020 and 2021. Marquez Cooper was a 1,200-yard back who showed the ability to take over games as a workhorse last year while Bryan Bradford provides great secondary support as a bruiser-style power back. Kent State runs plenty of RPOs in its high-tempo scheme, so expect Schlee to involve these players with handoffs and fake handoffs in a majority of snaps.
4. Defensively, Kent State allowed nearly 400 yards passing against Washington. Can this be chalked up to the level of competition, or was this expected to be an area of concern for the Golden Flashes.
This is a recurring area of concern for Kent State. The Golden Flashes haven’t exactly exhibited great defenses in the past few years, despite the program being in the midst of one of its most successful eras ever. They were the only team with a bottom 10 scoring defense that finished better than 3-9 last year, and they wound up in the MAC Championship Game — a true testament to the potency of the offense. They struggled equally with containing the air and ground in 2021, ranking 116th in both categories. There is one strength Kent State’s defense has shown in recent history, and that’s the ability to force interceptions and turnovers. Cornerback Montre Miller is the most notable ball-hawk on defense, accumulating four interceptions for the Golden Flashes in 2021.
5. If there’s one thing Oklahoma fans should know about Kent State or the football program, what would it be?
For starters, Kent State has a rather-unique scheduling model, which seems very undesirable for many programs. The Golden Flashes typically schedule three road games at powerhouses and one home FCS matchup, often paving the way to a 1-3 start. Last year, they visited Texas A&M, Iowa, and Maryland. In 2019, they visited Arizona State, Auburn, and Wisconsin. But this year might be the most intimidating gauntlet yet of Washington, Oklahoma, and Georgia. These tests have served the program well, as Kent State wound up bowl eligible in both of those aforementioned seasons despite a handful of brutal non-conference losses.
The other thing to know about Kent State is Sean Lewis’ signature “Flash Fast” offense operates with incredibly high tempo. I mentioned earlier their heavy usage of RPO, but the Golden Flashes also have components of Jeff Lebby’s offense such as wide spacing between the receivers and the reliance on the quarterback to frequently make decisions on the fly. So the scheme should be somewhat similar to what Oklahoma’s defense practiced against in fall camp.