February 3, 2011

5-step process complete

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Now that the dust has settled on Darrell Hazell's first recruiting class
as Kent State's head football coach, Hazell thinks he and his staff may
have something special in the 18 signed recruits.

"This is an exceptional class for us, and a really good start to something
special here," Hazell said. "We covered some needs, brought in
some extremely athletic guys, some tough guys, guys who can rush the passer
and guys who can lock them down on the outside--we looked for everything."

Hazell and his new staff, despite a delayed start to recruiting while Hazell
helped coach Ohio State to a victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, had a
plan in mind to not give in to the pressures of quickly filling a recruiting
class, but rather do the extra homework and bring the right players to Kent
State's campus.

"We came in with a 5-step process," Hazell said. "First,
we needed to evaluate our current players and where our position needs were.
Second, we wanted to look at all available players from Ohio. We evaluated
guys on film for several days consecutively, and then gave up a few days on
the road to watch film so we weren't chasing the wrong guys."

This echoes Hazell's opening press conference statements that quantity
in recruiting isn't important, it's quality and getting things
right the first time that carries the most weight.

"Third, we took the staff into cities and high schools all over Ohio
like Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Toledo. Then we wanted to make sure the kids
who had already committed feel welcome. Finally, once we identified the guys
in the film room, we loved those guys up as much as we could to make this feel
like a special place."

Before heading out on the road, Hazell and his staff identified two positions--linebacker
and running back--as the biggest needs.

At linebacker, the 2011 class includes Devante' Strickland from Columbus, Joe Kenn from Gilbert, Ariz. and C.J. Malauulu from Palomar Community College in California.

Trayion Durham, a fullback from Colerain High School in Cincinnati
who was ranked by Rivals.com as the second-best fullback in the country, highlights
the class of 2011 and headlines Hazell's pursuit of a running back.

Needless to say the 6-foot-2, 242-pound Durham, who had a scholarship offer
from Wisconsin and who had garnered attention from Louisville, Kentucky, Michigan,
among others, signifies the biggest running back to appear in the Golden Flashes' stable
in quite a while.

"He's an exceptional player, so we're fortunate to have
him," Hazell said. "He's a 6-foot-2, 240-pound tailback who
sees the field extremely well. He's very physical and has quickness in
the hole. It came down to the wire with teams coming in on him. We knew it'd
be a battle, and you hope you can win some of those."

Kent State still has three available scholarship offers for the 2011 class.

"What we'll probably do is wait to see what happens and try to
reward some guys in the program who have done a good job," Hazell said. "That
was our plan the whole time. We have always said we won't take a guy
just to take a guy, we have to make sure he fits for us."

Thirteen of the 18 recruits are from the state of Ohio. OhioVarsity.com ranks Kent State's as the ninth best recruiting class for Ohio talent behind
several Big Ten teams, Cincinnati and Notre Dame.

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