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Oklahoma Schedule Preview: Get to Know Kent State

The Oklahoma defensive line will be tested with a pair of talented running backs in week two.

As September creeps closer, AllSooners previews every game on the 2022 schedule.

Oklahoma’s 12-game regular season schedule features six home games, five away games and the annual neutral-site Red River Showdown.

After the home-opener against the UTEP Miners, the Sooners will have another tune-up game against Kent State in Norman.


Kent State Golden Flashes

MAC

  • September 10, 6 P.M.
  • Head Coach: Sean Lewis
  • 2021 record: 7-7,  (6-2 MAC)

Key players

WR Dante Cephas

Dante Cephas was one of the biggest reasons that Kent State experienced unusual success in 2022. The Golden Flashes made it a priority to get the junior playmaker the ball, and will look to do the same this fall.

The 6-foot-1, 178-pound athletic force reeled in 82 catches for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns last season. His impressive play earned him First Team All-Mac honors. The problem for Cephas, though, is his star quarterback graduated. He and Dustin Crum had quite the connection on the outside.

Cephas developing a relationship with junior QB Collin Schlee is the biggest key for Kent State. Making sure your playmakers are on the same page early will work wonders for a team later in the season.

RB Marquez Cooper

Cooper is fast as lightning, and with Crum out of the backfield, his work load could increase even more. Last season, the tailback found 1,487 yards on the ground.

At 5-foot-7, Cooper uses his size to his advantage, showcasing his quickness in open space. He also had 109 receiving yards and should be a bigger part of the passing game this season. The Golden Flashes will likely try to incorporate more short routes and check downs to help out a new face at quarterback, and Cooper should be a big part of that.

QB Collin Schlee

Collin Schlee has big shoes to fill as the Golden Flashes’ next signal caller in line. All the intangibles are there for the quarterback. Schlee stands 6-3 and 220 pounds, and has a strong arm.

The rising junior doesn’t have much on-field experience, but the coaching staff is confident he can experience the same success. In limited action last season, Schlee threw for 238 yards and one touchdown, completing 71 percent  of his 24 passing attempts. In addition, he also ran for 127 yards and found the end zone three times on the ground. He’s a versatile athlete and will have a chance to fully show what he can do this fall.

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S Dean Clark

Kent State’s defense was pretty uninspiring last season. With a good amount of experience returning, the unit will have to improve if the Golden Flashes are looking to replicate last year’s success. The player that could help lead the turnaround is veteran safety Dean Clark, who will be looking to build on a huge 2021 season.

Clark has 150 tackles, five pass break-ups and an interception in his three seasons with Kent State. Now he’ll be asked to step into a leadership role as one of the team’s most talented and experienced defenders.

Top unit: Running backs

Marquez Cooper and Xavier Williams will be the focal point of the offense. There’s plenty of talent at receiver in the fold, but Kent State will try to establish the running game all year.

One of the biggest things for a new quarterback is a reliable ground attack, which is why the Golden Flashes will make it a priority early.

In addition to the two lightning-fast backs, Kent State also has a bruiser in Bryan Bradford. The 243-pound tailback will be used for short yardage situations and gives the Golden Flashes a unique change of pace if wanted.


The Rundown 

Last season was all about the offense at Kent State. The Golden Flashes averaged nearly 500 yards per game, good for fourth in the country in total offense.

Yes, having an experienced quarterback in Crum was a big piece to the puzzle, but Kent State’s identity was found on the ground. The Golden Flashes boasted the No. 3 rushing attack in college football last season and return the 1-2 punch of Cooper and Williams. The speedy duo should rack up plenty of yards once again, powering the offense. While it will be difficult to replace last season’s success in its entirety, Kent State is establishing an offensive season that will be efficient year in and year out.

The Kent state defense, however, was one of the worst groups in the MAC a season ago. The Golden Flashes ended 2022 as a feel-good, underdog story because of the team’s ability to outscore opponents. But the defense struggled to slow down offenses and get off the field. Experience on the defensive line and the secondary will have to go a long way for a relatively young unit.

The Golden Flashes will be thrown into the fire early, as they have arguably the hardest non-conference schedule in college football. Kent State faces Washington, Oklahoma and Georgia off the bat, three high-profile Power 5 schools. The Golden Flashes will receive $5.2 million guaranteed to start off the season with the three-game gauntlet.

“Externally it’s holy cow coach, there are only five teams in the country that have won 65 games over the past five years, and you’ve got to play two of them this September," head coach Sean Lewis told Kent State reporters. "I stay very neutral in my thinking about it all. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s OK. As we go through it, we’re either going to win or we’re going to learn.

“Let’s lean into the work and let’s go do it. We’ll get some real high-level stress really early on in the season, and we’ll know who we are, and that’s great.”

The Sooners will have a good chance to see how dominant the new-look defense can be against a fresh quarterback and an experienced offensive line. Look for Brent Venables and Ted Roof to dial up blitzes early and force the Golden Flashes to throw the ball. Kent State has potential to be a fun team this season, but traveling to Norman week two is simply a tough draw.