Team preview: Kent State

Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006 college football season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: July 31, 2006, 1:34 PM ET
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(All information as of July 1, 2006)

COACH AND PROGRAM

Doug Martin admits that the words sound a bit odd coming out of the mouth of a head coach whose team went 1-10 and lost its final nine games last season, but he believes them.

"I am really confident in the kids and they are a confident group," said Martin, entering his third season as head coach at Kent State. "The kids stayed strong and they understood what our deal was -- how young our team was and how many close games we played [in 2005]."

Martin isn't kidding when he talks about youth. The Golden Flashes played 14 freshmen -- tied with Duke and Kentucky for the second-most in Division I-A, just behind Arkansas' 18 last season -- and lost five games by 10 points or less.

With 18 starters returning on offense and defense and a more-balanced Mid-American Conference East Division this season, the Golden Flashes -- who entered 2005 on a four-game winning streak -- are hoping to step forward like Akron did last season.

"This is probably good timing for us if we can pull together and play with great confidence," Martin said. "I think the main thing is we're more solid. We need to find a way to get the job done, because I do believe that there is more parity in the league this year."

In order to make significant strides, the Golden Flashes must improve their running game, which was ravaged with injuries and averaged just 45.9 yards per game in 2005, last among the 117 teams in Division I-A.

An improved offensive line and the infusion of new talent -- including Michigan State transfer Tony Howard and redshirt freshman Eugene Jarvis -- should provide a boost to an offense desperately in need of more balance.