Know Your Enemy is a weekly Ohio football segment that is presented in a podcast and question-and-answer format. For every Ohio Bobcats football game Speakeasy Sports will be going into the den of the opponent by speaking with an opponent’s beat writer and players to receive some intel and first-hand analysis. By reaching out to a certain team’s beat reporter and players Speakeasy provides a unique look-in at how the ‘Cats will match up against their adversaries.
This week, Speakeasy talked to Kent State sports writer at the Record-Courier Allen Moff. You can follow Moff on Twitter at @AllenMoff_RC. The Bobcats will be traveling to Kent State on Saturday to face the Golden Flashes at 6 p.m. You can listen to the conversation in podcast form after the interview.
Speakeasy Sports: What does the team plan to do to honor the passing of starting Kent State center Jason Bitsko other than putting his number on the helmets?
Allen Moff: They’re going to have a moment of silence before the National Anthem I know, and they’ve also received permission to put his number on the field, actually painted on the field. I’m sure that there’ll be other various memorials spread throughout the facility, but those are the main things they intend to do on Saturday.
SS: What has been the mood around the team following the passing of Bitsko?
AM: It’s something that you don’t know how the kids are going to react. He was a very positive player. Not only was he a good player – he started at center for (Kent) – but a popular guy that was really well liked by players on both sides of the ball. One thing that head coach Paul Haynes does is emphasize the family atmosphere, so when something like this happens it’s almost as like you lost a family member. It’s been as every bit of difficult as you’d expect, probably even a little more so.
SS: Although Dri Archer has moved on from the Kent State backfield, is running back Trayion Durham going to have some help at the running back position this upcoming season and against Ohio?
AM: He’s probably not going to play actually. He’s had a foot injury and he had off-season surgery, and they kind of expected him to be back for camp. He hasn’t gone through a full-scale practice yet, so unless he can really kick it in gear quick, he then would have a chance to play. I think (coach) Paul officially listed him as questionable when I talked to him last week, but very questionable is what I would rate Durham at this point.
SS: So would you say that Anthony Meray is going to have a bulk of the carries?
AM: (Coach Haynes) is going to spread it out I believe with Meray and freshman Miles Hibbler, who they’re pretty high on; kind of a smaller guy who’s got some speed. They also moved one of the Holley brothers, Nick Holley, he’s going to play running back as well; he played wide receiver last year. I think (Haynes) is going to spread it out between those three. I don’t think you’ll see one guy getting 20-25 carries. I think they’re going to try to distribute it kind of evenly, especially without Trayion Durham.
SS: Speaking of the wide receiver unit, it looks like quarterback Colin Reardon is going to have some new weapons this upcoming season as well as returning guys like Chris Humphrey. What do you have to say about the players that are surrounding Reardon at the wide receiver and tight end positions?
AM: Chris Humphrey is a proven guy. He’s not a burner, but he’s got great hands and has played a lot of games. He’ll definitely be a primary target at the wide out spot. And then you look at a guy like Casey Pierce, a the tight end who kind of emerged last year a little bit; he had five touchdown catches. He’s a senior this year, so I know they’re looking to make him a lot more of a focal point of the offense this year as well. Other than that at wide out they’ve got a couple of newer guys. They’ve got Ernest Calhoun, a little 150-pound guy, who played a little bit last year when Dri (Archer) went down. He’ll be expected to do a lot more this year. They’ve also got another sophomore by the name of James Brooks who’s kind of a speed guy as well. Obviously your biggest fear if you’re Kent is once you lose a guy like Dri you need to find some guys who can make those big plays. And they’re hoping that Calhoun and Brooks can be two of those guys who can pick up that slack a little bit in the big-play department.
SS: Touching more on the offense, would you say right now that the offense is better off than the defense right now?
AM: I’d probably say defensively they’re probably a little further along, especially for two reasons. No. 1, you’ve got kind of an unstable situation up front. They were getting a little bit settled in with Bitsko, but now obviously he’s no longer with us and they have to move a guy to center, which is such an important part of the offensive line. And then you throw in the uncertain status with Durham at running back and you have a lot of lingering question marks going into the opener on offense.
SS: Now what has been some of the things that the Kent State defense has been keying in on for this Ohio matchup? Because it’s going to be a totally new situation for the Bobcats.
AM: It’s kind of a hard team to prepare for because they’ve got so many new guys. If you’re Kent you’re trying to prepare for as many things as you can, but you’re probably a little bit more worried about yourself and playing good fundamentally sound football. That’s the approach that (coach) Paul’s taking to this game when I talked to him last week; that’s what he alluded to.
SS: Would you say that going into this season that the hard-working defensive lineman Nate Terhune is the heart of the defense going into this season?
AM: I don’t know if I would say heart of the defense. Paul would be the first to tell you that – when Kent had Roosevelt Nix last year, a four-time All-MAC First Team player – he kind of gave a lot of credit to Nate Terhune for eating up blockers and freeing up Nix to do his thing. This year Terhune is going to be more of a Nix guy who’s asked to make a lot of those big-type plays, and I think he’s fully capable of doing that.
SS: Just this past season Ohio had one of its most successful seasons as far as sacks go, and they’re returning eight of 11 starters. So what has Kent been keying in on this offseason as far as preparing for the Ohio defense?
AM: I know they’re really tough up front obviously. Paul mentioned the front seven were really good players as well. Kent State likes to run the football first and foremost; that’s going to be very difficult against that front seven. It’s a war that will probably tip the scales for either team; whichever team can run or stop the run, that will go a long way toward helping either team win. That’s definitely a huge matchup going in, and Kent seems a little hobbled without Trayion Durham.
SS: Lastly I want to ask you your prediction on what you think the final score will be at Kent State on Saturday.
AM: I know Kent beat them pretty bad last year, but it’s a new year, a lot of different people, just highly different teams and circumstances. I can see this being a war, kind of a physical, up-close war. I’m going to say 24-20 Kent State, but I expect it to be close the whole way and maybe coming down to the last minute.
You can stream the podcast version of Know Your Enemy by clicking here, where Ohio Bobcats beat writer Zak Kolesar of Speakeasy Sports talks with Kent State sports writer Allen Moff of the Record-Courier.