July 17, 2010

Keith clear choice at QB

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Heading into the 2010 season Kent State is set at the quarterback position, at
least when it comes to the top spot.

After relieving injured starter Giorgio Morgan in
a week 2 game at Boston College true freshman Spencer Keith played
well enough to keep head coach Doug Martin from making
a change…at least until Keith's
season ended with a separated shoulder in week 11.

Fall camp won't be just about Keith further developing his skills. The
Golden Flashes must settle on a backup quarterback. Morgan, the former starter,
and newcomer Cedric McCloud were neck-and-neck for most of spring
drills. Martin must settle on a No. 2 so that player can get as many repetitions
as possible prior to the season-opener against Murray State on Sept. 2.


In 2009 the stage was set for Morgan to breakout as Kent State's
starting quarterback. Two years earlier Morgan started two games as a freshman,
completing 23-of-36 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns to no interceptions.

Keith already is among Kent State's top quarterbacks in school history.
He redshirted the 2008 season and was poised for a big year last fall. But,
just a few plays into an 18-0 season-opening victory over Coastal Carolina
Morgan suffered a severely sprained ankle. He played through the pain and even
started the next week at Boston College. The injury proved too much for Morgan
to overcome opening the door for Keith, a true freshman,
to get his shot leading the Golden Flashes' offense.

All Keith did in his career at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark., was to
throw for over 10,000 yards and he set a new national passing record with 5,310
yards passing as a senior in 2008.

Martin hoped to redshirt Keith, giving
him time to acclimate himself to the college game. That plan didn't work
out, and it's probably for the better as Keith established himself as
Kent State's quarterback of the present and the future.

In 10 appearances-including seven starts-Keith completed 168-of-294
passes (57.1-percent) for 2,147 yards and 14 touchdowns. His passing yards
and touchdowns set new school records for a freshman and his passing yardage
was good for fifth place overall.

In his 10 appearances Keith threw for over 300 yards twice and over 200 yards
four times. His best game came in a 26-14 win over Western Michigan when he
completed 24-of-34 passes for 373 yards and two scores. He threw for 377 yards
the following week in a loss to Akron. That was the first time a Kent State
quarterback threw for over 300 yards in back-to-back games since 2004.

Keith's freshman season ended prematurely when he separated his shoulder
at Temple in game 11. He managed to return to health in time to participate
in spring practice, where he quickly picked up where he left off with favorite
target Tyshon Goode.

Goode, also a freshman in 2009, caught 46 passes from Keith for over 600 yards
and five scores.

Keith's performance in 2009 solidified his spot as Kent State's
starting quarterback in 2010 and beyond.


Morgan, a redshirt junior, enters the 2010 season with the most experience
of any Kent State reserve quarterback. In fact, he's the only backup
quarterback with game experience. Morgan started two games as a freshman
in 2007 and two more in 2009 before an injury forced him to the sidelines.
In his career he has completed 59-of-108 passes (54.6-percent) for 553 yards
and three touchdowns to five interceptions.

Redshirt sophomore Sal Battles started his career at Kent State as
a wide receiver/H-Back. In 2008 he saw action in eight games, catching one
pass for 11 yards and he returned a pair of kickoffs. He redshirted in 2009
after being moved to quarterback, the position he played in high school.

McCloud, a freshman, arrived in Kent in time for spring drills. There he battled
Morgan for the No. 2 job and probably finished the spring slightly ahead of
the veteran. He'll need to build on that momentum in the fall to establish
himself as the clear-cut backup.


Aside from McCloud, Kent State will welcome a pair of talented walk-ons when
they open camp in August.

Both Shane Ewing and Jerrod Ronyak were among Ohio's
top high school quarterbacks in 2009.

Ewing, a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder from Berlin Center Western Reserve, led the
Blue Devils to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2008 and 2009, the first
time in school history that feat was accomplished. As a senior he threw for
2,156 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 795 yards and 12 more scores.

Ronyak, a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder from Burton, Ohio, led Mentor Lake Catholic
to a 12-2 record and an appearance in the Division II state semifinals. He
completed 138-of-233 passes for 2,431 yards and 20 touchdowns to just seven
interceptions. He also rushed for 661 yards and a dozen scores. His sister,
Jessica, plays volleyball for the Golden Flashes.

Both Ewing and Ronyak have operated within a spread offense, making them perfect
fits for Kent State. While neither is expected to compete for early playing
time, at least early in their careers, they certainly provide an upgrade to
the Golden Flashes' scout team offense.


Obviously the emergence of Keith provides a certain level of comfort for Martin,
who said having Keith on the field is like having a coach in the huddle.
Keith's understanding of Kent State's offense allowed Martin
to open up the playbook more and more each week of last season, and that's
a trend that should continue throughout Keith's career.


Depth at the quarterback position is a concern. If Morgan returns to the confident
quarterback he appeared to be in 2007 when he played two games in place of
injured starter Julian Edelman the Flashes will be in good shape. If not,
there likely will be some growing pains if Keith misses a snap.


With Keith under center the Flashes have one of the conference's top
signal callers. He's smart, he certainly can throw the football and he
has the ability to run if necessary. Throughout most of his 10 appearances
last fall he also showed durability; that is until he took an awkward shot
at Temple and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Kent State's stable of quality running backs, the emergence of at least
three capable wide receivers and four of five returning starters on the offensive
line means Keith has plenty of weapons and protection at his disposal. That's
a good thing because his health is key to Kent State competing for a Mid-American
Conference championship.

Identifying and developing a backup quarterback is one of Kent State's
most important tasks heading into fall camp. Morgan and McCloud both have the
physical tools to fill the role. The key for each is to learn the playbook
and play with confidence.

Overall, the Flashes are in good shape at quarterback. But, that can change
in just one play.

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