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Haynes Aims To Keep Kent State Flashing

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Former Kent State player and assistant coach Paul Haynes will replace Darrell Hazell, oictured, as head coach after Purdue hired Hazell. Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images.
Former Kent State player and assistant coach Paul Haynes will replace Darrell Hazell, oictured, as head coach after Purdue hired Hazell. Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images.

New Kent State coach Paul Haynes has noticed several changes to the campus since he played for the Golden Flashes as a defensive back in 1987-91 and coached as an assistant in 1999-2000. One can see the campus better because of landscaping while several new buildings have enhanced the school’s horizon.

The biggest difference Haynes has noticed to campus life, though, is a swagger — a football swagger. It wasn’t there when he was a player despite the first team Haynes played on, which went 7-4 under future Kansas and Minnesota coach Glen Mason. It wasn’t that noticeable when he was an assistant under Dean Pees, now defensive coordinator with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

But after last season, including an Associated Press Top 25 ranking, Kent State fans are thinking football in a whole new way. Kent had not had a nationally ranked team since 1973.

“Things are happening with the football program that have never happened before,” Haynes told Football.com. “It really started two years ago under coach Darrell Hazell when the team won five games in a row. You have the athletic department and the whole university believing. It has to start with the players in the program. Believing is half the battle.”

Haynes said he hopes to put his stamp on the Kent State program after serving as an assistant at Ohio State, Arkansas, Michigan State and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. He said that keeping the Flashes on top is a personal commitment for him, since he played at Kent.

“I’ve been in my player’s shoes,” Haynes said. “When you look back at it, we’ve had some great football players come out of here, like Jack Lambert. I had a lot of pride for this place. I will have more pride in making this a great program. You always have pressure on you as a head coach, no matter where you are. I want to make this a great program no matter what.”

The return of some of the Mid-American Conference’s top players will alleviate some of the pressure on Haynes. Under Darrell Hazell, who is now at Purdue University, the Flashes went 10-3 a year ago with an invitation to the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Dri Archer was one of the top kick returners in the country and rushed for 1,429 yards out of the backfield for the Flashes in 2012. Trayion Durham rushed for another 1,346 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“We have to think of creative ways of getting them the ball,” Haynes said. “We know that every time they touch it, they’re capable of making a big play for us.”

Haynes said he will expect his defense, led by three-time All-MAC defensive lineman Roosevelt Nix, to lead the way while the Flashes break in a new quarterback.

“Our defense has a lot more experience,” Haynes said. “They will have to play the leadership role and set the tone. They will have to carry the torch until the offense comes around.”

Haynes said he is honored to be a MAC coach, a conference where so many of the nation’s top sideline generals got their start. He said he also takes pride in being one of the handful of African-American coaches at the Division I level. It was a rarity that Darrell Hazell, a black coach who was hired at Purdue, was replaced by another African-American coach in the Division I ranks.

“In this profession, it’s all about timing,” Haynes said. “Darrell and I spent a lot of time under Coach (Jim) Tressell at Ohio State and I know people here felt it was important to keep that continuity. I think it says a lot for (athletic director) Joel Nielsen and what they’re trying to build here. There are a lot of qualified African-American coaches out there but I was the right fit. I don’t take being here lightly. I am obligated to do things rights and represent.”

Haynes has a tough act to follow, but his passion about his alma mater is evident.