One of Kent State's biggest challenges, or keys to success, heading
into the 2010 season is to establish depth along the offensive line.
Sure, the projected starting five has experience-they've combined
to start 60 of the 81 games in which they played over the past two seasons-but
only one player on the second unit has played in a game.
The Golden Flashes' offensive success hinges on this group staying healthy,
rare for any group of offensive linemen let alone at Kent State where key injuries
have been commonplace over the past several years.
There's no question junior Chris Anzevino is the leader of
the pack up front. The 6-foot-2, 305-pound center redshirted in 2007 then
started every game in each of the past two seasons.
Anzevino has started 24 straight games at center.
Anzevino's success on the field-he reportedly did not give up
a sack in 2009-and his durability earned him a spot on the Rimington
Award watch list. That award is given to the best center in the country.
During the offseason Anzevino spent time training with former Ohio State and
NFL All-Pro center LeCharles Bentley-a former Rimington Award winner--at
Bentley's O-Line Training Center in Avon, Ohio. Anzevino trained alongside
several top college offensive linemen including Ohio State's Mike Brewster, another Rimington Award watch list member.
As a redshirt freshman Anzevino helped Kent State finish 11th in the nation
in rushing offense. Both quarterback Julian Edelman and running back Eugene
Jarvis finished the year with over 800 rushing yards (Edelman led the
team with 1,370 and a hobbled Jarvis had 801).
Filling out the starting lineup are junior Mike Fay, sophomore Brian Winters and redshirt sophomores Josh Kline and Kent Cleveland.
This group, along with Anzevino, played well together during spring practice.
The starting five were never the issue for head coach Doug Martin.
Winters started all 12 games as a true freshman in 2009.
Fay enters the 2010 season as the second-most experienced player on the offensive
line. He has played in 21 games over the past two seasons, starting 20 of them,
including all 12 during his freshman year in 2008 and eight of nine last year.
The 6-foot-4, 294-pound left guard suffered an injury last fall that forced
him to miss three games.
A three-time lettermen at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pa., Fay was
a second-team all-state and first-team all-conference selection as a senior.
A two-time Academic All-Mid-American Conference selection, Fay provides stability
at left guard.
Kline is projected as the starter at right guard. The 6-foot-3, 304-pounder
played in all 12 games in 2009-at center-before moving over to
guard this spring. It was then he beat out freshman Tom Pizzurro to
earn the top spot at the position. Kline was a two-time all-conference selection
at Mason High School in the Cincinnati area.
The tackle spots will be filled by Winters and Cleveland.
Winters, a 6-foot-5, 305-pounder, started at right tackle in last season's
opener and he never looked back. He was just one of nine true freshman to earn
a letter and the only one to start all 12 games. In 2010 he'll slide
over to left tackle creating a formidable blocking wall on that side of the
line with Anzevino at center and Fay at guard. Combined that trio has started
56 games over the past two years.
Winters was a member of the 2009 USA team that won a gold medal at the IFAF
Junior World Championship in Canton, Ohio. He was a all-Ohio and all-conference
selection as a senior at Hudson High School.
Cleveland, who opened the 2009 season as the starter at left tackle, moves
over to right tackle for the 2010 season. He played in all 12 games last fall
after redshirting in 2008. As a senior at St. Pius X High School in Atlanta,
Ga., the 6-foot-4, 294-pounder earned all-state, all-county and all-city honors.
Kent State's starting offensive line doesn't include a single
senior but the unit has plenty of game experience. The same can't be
said for the second group.
Of the four projected backups, the fifth hasn't been announced, just
one has seen any game action, and that was two seasons ago.
The second unit consists of one true freshman, two redshirt freshman and a
Only junior center Charlie Laster has seen live action, and that
was in the middle of the 2008 season. He redshirted in 2007 and didn't
play in 2009. The 6-foot-7, 330-pounder was a four-year starter at South Cobb
High School in Mableton, Ga. He started his career at Kent State at guard but
moved to center this spring when Kline moved from backup center to starting
guard. Heading into his fourth season with the program, Laster, along with
Anzevino, is the elder statesman of the entire offensive line. He enters fall
camp second on the depth chart behind Anzevino.
The backup guards are slated to be redshirt freshmen Max Plunkett and true freshman Tom
Plunkett, a 6-foot-8, 318-pounder, redshirted in 2009 and will play behind
Fay at left guard. As a senior at Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering,
Ohio Plunkett was an honorable mention all-state performer.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Pizzurro enrolled at Kent State in January and entered
spring drills penciled in as the starter at right guard. He found the goings
at a Division I program to be challenging and gave way to Kline. He will compete
for a starting role this fall. In 2008 he was a member of the St. Thomas Aquinas
squad that won the Florida state championship and finished ranked No. 1 in
the country. He then enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy for the 2009 season,
where he was named the offensive line MVP.
One of the two backup tackle positions has yet to be posted but redshirt freshman
Tyler Arend is slotted to back up Winters at left tackle. The 6-foot-5,
295-pounder redshirted last year after earning all-conference and all-district
honors at Paulding High School in Ohio as a senior in 2008. During that season
he recorded 93 pancake blocks.
In the 2010 recruiting class Kent State signed four offensive linemen: Pizzurro,
Phil Huff, Elias Sayre and Scotty Wheeler, but aside
from Pizzurro none are expected to compete right away for playing time.
Pizzurro enrolled in January and already made his way onto the depth chart.
Sayre, a 6-foot-5, 255-pounder from Lebanon, Ohio, was ranked by Rivals.com
as a two-star defensive end. He chose the Flashes over an offer from Air Force.
Huff also played both ways at Hilliard Davidson High School in Ohio. The 6-foot-3,
245-pounder helped the Wildcats win the 2009 Ohio Division I state title. Wheeler,
a 6-foot-3, 290-pounder, was a late addition to the Flashes' recruiting
With the exception of Pizzurro, Kent State's offensive line recruiting
haul likely will need some time to acclimate to the college game, meaning none
are expected to contribute immediately. Depth issues could lead to early playing
The starting unit has plenty of experience, despite its relative youth.
Anzevino and Fay have been rock solid the past two seasons and Winters emerged
as one of the MAC's top offensive linemen of the future. Cleveland and
Kline both played in all 12 games last season. A strong stable of running backs
and a quick-thinking quarterback in sophomore Spencer Keith only help
Kline's flexibility almost gives the Flashes a sixth starter. Should an injury
force Kline to move to slide into another position Pizzurro could fill the
right guard slot to solidify the starting unit.
This one's easy
depth. An injury or any other issue that sidelines
one of the starters means adding a green player to the starting five. Just
one of Kent State's backup offensive linemen has any game experience,
and that was two seasons ago. The good news here is three of the four projected
listed backups aren't strangers to the program and the fourth spent a
year at prep school, so this bunch has some seasoning, but remains short on
Division I game experience.
At first glance Kent State's offensive line should be considered a
strength of the team. And that's true, until depth comes into play. The
starting five is loaded with players with a blend of talent and experience-and
that's a rarity at Kent State.
But, Martin and his coaching staff will be on pins and needles all year as
they try to build some depth behind the starting five. There's no shortage
of talent behind the starters, but without game experience the Flashes just
don't know what they have in their backup unit and they certainly can't
afford any shortcoming that will sidetrack their goal of winning the first
conference title since 1972.
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