August 4, 2008
Key Camp Battles: Punter
When Kent State opens camp Monday afternoon at Dix Stadium, head coach Doug Martin will patrol the sidelines as he has the past four seasons he's led the team. But this time around, he might have a hard time prying his eyes off his punters.
In 2007, the Golden Flashes finished a dismal 3-9, but in four of those games the difference was seven points or less. It's not hard to imagine how different the season could have turned out had the Flashes been more successful on fourth down.
Then sophomore Jake Kilroy punted 57 times for 2,084 yards, good for a 36.6-yard per punt average, and as a team, the Flashes netted just 30.54-yards per boot, 118th in the nation (out of 119 teams). Four times Kilroy failed to meet his average and the Flashes finished 1-3 in those contests.
As Martin said at last week's Mid-American Conference Media Day at Ford Field in Detroit, an improved punting game can change the outcome of a game. Opposing offenses will have to travel longer distances to reach the end zone and his own defense wouldn't be forced into precarious situations. Offensively, the Flashes could see better field position, allowing them to utilize more of the playbook.
That's why when camp opens Monday afternoon Martin will focus much of his attention on Kilroy and incoming freshman Matt Rinehart.
Rinehart, a 5-foot-9, 160-pounder out of Dover, Ohio, was a first-team all-Ohioan and player of the year in his region, district and league. After averaging 49.5 yards per punt in 2007, Rinehart was named league kicker of the year for the second consecutive season.
Last year the depth chart at punter included Kilroy, sophomore place kicker Nate Reed, who punted once for 11 yards, and walk-on Kevin Mulvany. That lack of competition may have hurt the Flashes. That won't be the case this season with two scholarship punters on the roster.
"(The coaches) told me they want me to come in and compete right away; it's crazy," Rinehart told KentSportsReport.com in December after verbally committing to the Flashes. "I don't even know what to think right now."
Kent State opens camp Monday with one practice, closed to the public, in just helmets. They'll return to Dix Stadium Tuesday for another helmets-only practice and on Wednesday they'll practice in shells (helmets and shoulder pads).
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