Kent State's front four returns plenty of experience as four players
in the two-deep started at least five games last season and all eight played
in at least eight contests in 2009.
The front four contributed to the Golden Flashes posting 33 sacks on the season,
just one shy of the school record set in 2004. The top eight returning defensive
linemen contributed 21 of those 33 quarterback sacks.
The two-deep up front consists of two sophomores, two juniors and two seniors
that have combined to earn 14 varsity letters.
A second-team all-conference selection, senior Monte Simmons has
etched his name in the Kent State record books. With 16 career sacks, the 6-foot-3,
226-pound defensive end from Swissvale, Pa., ranks fourth in Kent State history.
Simmons needs just three sacks to move into third place all-time at
He needs just three sacks to pass Andy Harmon (18) for third place and seven
sacks to move into second place behind the recently graduated Kevin Hogan (22).
Last fall Simmons led the team with eight sacks, good for 33rd nationally,
and 16 tackles for loss (tied for 21st nationally). He was sixth on the team
with 56 tackles.
In his three years at KSU, Simmons has posted 109 tackles.
As a freshman in 2007 Simmons was named the team's Defensive Rookie
of the Year and earned the Jack Lambert Cup as the most improved defensive
player at the conclusion of spring practice.
As a senior at Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh Simmons was named
first-team all-conference and was nominated to play in the annual Big 33 game.
Simmons is the projected starter at Buck End, a hybrid defensive end/outside
linebacker that specializes in rushing the passer. He started in seven of the
12 games in which he appeared last season and has 11 starts in his career.
Junior defensive end Lee Stalker, junior defensive tackle Ishmaa'ily Kitchen and senior nose tackle Quinton Rainey round out the projected
starters in the front of Kent State's defense.
After working primarily with the scout teams in 2007 and 2008 Stalker, a 6-foot-2,
254-pound redshirt junior from Butler, Pa., saw action in all 12 games in 2009.
He recorded 12 tackles, one sack and made four tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
At Butler High School Stalker was an all-state selection as a senior after
posting 62 tackles with four sacks. He also blocked three punts and recovered
Kitchen, a 6-foot-3, 304-pounder from Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown,
has played in all 24 games the past two seasons after redshirting in 2007.
He has 30 career tackles.
A two-time all-conference and all-district performer at Cardinal Mooney, Kitchen
was part of two state championship squads. Mooney was 48-4 during his career.
A fifth-year senior, Rainey is among Kent State's most experienced players.
The 5-foot-11, 235-pounder from Virginia Beach, Va., has played in all 36 games
over the past three seasons, making 10 starts, all in 2009.
For his career Rainey has posted 42 tackles and 3 ½ sacks. In 2009
he finished second on the team with 11 tackles for loss and he scored his first
career touchdown on a blocked field goal return of 82 yards against Bowling
A fullback and nose tackle at Landstown High School, Rainey posted over 358
tackles and 17 sacks in his career and also rushed for over 1,000 yards and
Simmons' backup at Buck End is projected as Jake Dooley, a
6-foot-2, 236-pound sophomore from Mason, Ohio. Dooley, who played in eight
games on special teams, was one of nine true freshmen to letter.
He recorded just three tackles last season but was an all-league performer
at Mason High School. During his senior season he posted 102 tackles and was
named Mason's most outstanding defensive player.
Zach Williams is projected as Stalker's backup at defensive
end. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder from Erie, Pa., transferred to Kent State from
Citrus College, where he recorded 30 tackles and three sacks in 2007. He attended
Buffalo University prior to transferring to Citrus College.
In his two seasons at Kent State Williams has played in 23 games, making five
starts. He has recorded 24 tackles and 3 ½ sacks.
Rainey isn't the biggest interior defensive lineman, but he is productive.
At Cathedral Prep in Erie, Simmons earned second team all-state honors after
posting 75 tackles, 20 for a loss, and 10 sacks.
The depth inside comes from sophomore Dana Brown and senior Joe Tymosczuk.
Brown, a 6-foot-1, 274-pounder from McKeesport, Pa., played in all 12 games
during his freshman year in 2009. He posted 12 tackles and was in on a half-sack
against Western Michigan.
A second-team all-state pick as a senior at McKeesport High, Brown racked
up 219 tackles and 23 sacks in his career.
Tymoszczuk, a 6-foot-1, 233-pound fifth-year senior from Solon, Ohio, transferred
to Kent State from Ohio University, where he was a member of the wrestling
Tymoszczuk did not play during the 2009 season but saw action in three games,
mostly on special teams, during the 2008 campaign. Last winter Tymoszczuk was
part of the Kent State wrestling team, finishing the season with a 6-2 record.
Redshirt freshman DeVonte Helms also could contribute. The 6-foot-1,
266-pounder from Waldorf, Md., redshirted in 2009 after posting 51 tackles
and nine sacks as a senior at Potomac High School.
Kent State signed seven defensive linemen in its recruiting class of 2010,
and several should immediately compete for early playing time.
Brandon Hazzard arrived on campus in January and participated in
spring drills. The 6-foot-1, 261-pounder came to Kent State from Hargrave Military
Academy. Prior to Hargrave, Hazzard was a all-state honoree at Pulaski County
High where he posted 98 tackles during his senior season. Hazzard is listed
third on the depth chart at nose tackle.
Carlows Brown, a 6-foot-1, 255-pounder, likely will get his first
shot at Buck End, since he played linebacker at McKeesport High in Pa. As a
senior he posted 100 tackles and four sacks. He was named to the Dynamic 33
squad and was a first-team all-conference selection. He also played for the
Pennsylvania team in the Big 33 Classic.
One of Kent State's most heralded recruits, Jerome Davis, was
ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 68 defensive tackle nationally and the No.
69 prospect in the talent-rich state of Georgia. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder
from Buford, Ga., posted 90 tackles and seven sacks as a senior to finish his
career with 205 stops and 22 quarterback sacks. He was part of a team that
won three consecutive state titles.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Mark Fackler should get an early crack at
playing time at defensive end. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder from Kenton, Ohio
played for Ohio in the Big 33 Classic and for the North squad in the Ohio North-South
All-Star game after an impressive senior season at Kenton High. As a senior
he recorded 231 tackles.
Those college coaches that overlooked Woodland Hills, Pa., defensive end
Richard Gray in the recruiting process certainly must have heard of
his big-time performance in the 2010 Big 33 Classic. In that game Gray, a
6-foot-2, 248-pounder, racked up four sacks and six tackles for loss. In his
Woodland Hills, Gray totaled 199 tackles and 23 sacks. He was named all-state
after his sophomore and senior seasons.
An all-state selection at Archbishop Spalding High School in Maryland, Terrell Johnson racked up 206 tackles and 20 sacks in his career. The 6-foot-4,
290-pounder had 95 tackles and five sacks as a senior.
Yet another Kent State signee that played in the 2010 Big 33 Classic, Roosevelt Nix earned all-state honors and was the Ohio Capital Conference's
player of the year. The 6-foot, 240-pounder also played in the Ohio North-South
The strength of Kent State's defensive front four is in the quality
of its returning players. Simmons is among the school's all-time sack
specialists and the projected starters combined to post 110 tackles and 11 ½ sacks
There's also some quality providing depth. Williams and Brown saw plenty
of action in 2009 and Dooley should be ready to contribute after getting his
feet wet on special teams.
If Kent State's recruiting class can add to the depth chart the Golden
Flashes should have a very deep and talented front four. Of the seven defensive
linemen Kent State signed in 2010, four of them played in the 2010 Big 33 game.
Counting Simmons, who played for Pennsylvania in 2007, the Flashes have five
Big 33 alumni in its front four.
Despite nearly setting a school record for quarterback sacks the Golden Flashes
often struggled to apply pressure in the passing game, especially against the
more mobile quarterbacks. Miami's Zac Dysert threw for 337 yards and
Bowling Green's Tyler Sheehan threw for 505.
The Flashes' defense will be a much improved unit if the front four
can cut down on the amount of time quarterback's have to find an open
With Simmons leading the way the Kent State defensive front four is a talented
and experienced bunch. The Flashes also have a wealth of talent coming up through
the ranks, especially in their freshman class.
If Simmons, Rainey, Stalker, Kitchen and Williams play as well as they did
last season and the younger players step up to provide depth, the Golden Flashes
should be very tough to run on. They have proven they can get to the quarterback,
but the front four is going to have to get there faster and more consistently
to keep opposing quarterbacks from having big games.
All in all, the defensive front four should be a productive unit in 2010.
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