June 24, 2008

Young receivers ready to contribute

Last season the Kent State football team was, for lack of a better option, one-dimensional on offense. Eugene Jarvis rushed for 1,669 yards, while the passing game went through four quarterbacks, thanks to a pair of knee injuries, and one bum ankle.

But the blame can't be placed solely on the quarterbacks. The wide receivers unit struggled with consistency all season. The Flashes' leading receiver in 2007 was sophomore Phil Garner, who had just 27 catches and one touchdown reception. The young group of receivers who had just one senior, Cameron Bobb, struggled with dropped passes, and had few game changing catches in 2007.

And after an off-season that saw Rashad Tukes' dismissal, and more of the same consistency issues during spring camp, Kent State coach Doug Martin said he is counting on several new recruits to step in and improve the growing receiving corps.

And the new players are well aware of it.

Chris Gilbert out of North Carolina is working this summer with hopes of making an immediate impact on the offense. The 6-foot, 185-pound Gilbert recently set a school record for the 100 meters, running a 10.39. Gilbert said the timing put a smile on coach Jerry McManus' face, as McManus knows, as well anyone, that the passing game will only improve the running backs he coaches during the season. Gilbert, working out at his old high school, is ready to help the passing game.

"If (the receivers) need a boost, hopefully I can give them that," Gilbert said.

Joining Gilbert at receiver is another Chris, Chris Gordon of Miami.

"(The coaches) told me to stay in football shape, and be ready to play right away," Gordon said.

The 5-foot-11 receiver may look like a typical Kent State wide receiver, but at 203 pounds, Gordon is bigger than almost all of the returning starters from 2007. The size issue could make him a hard person to stop after factoring his 4.49 40-time he has posted. A late signee, Gordon is working on route running over the summer, while he stays up beat about the fall.

"I'll bring a lot (to the team)," Gordon said. "Work hard and stay focused, and everything will fall in place."

Sidney Saulter is another recruit that could potentially see playing time at receiver. Like Gilbert, Saulter would bring height to the unit at 6-foot, but at just 155 pounds, he may need to add some bulk to his frame.

New offensive coordinator A.J. Pratt has made it a mission to pass more this season. After recording just 1,997 passing yards in 2007, the Flashes are relying on tight end Jameson Konz, a converted linebacker, to draw safeties to the middle of the field, which would hypothetically create passing lanes downfield. In order for this to happen, Pratt is banking on the now veteran receiving unit to rise to the occasion, along with the new young talent arriving this summer.

"I'm really excited," Gilbert said. "One thing I want to do is have an impact on the offense."

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