March 27, 2008

Scrap those red jerseys

During spring practice in previous seasons, Kent State quarterbacks wore red jerseys, making them off limits to defenders, to protect them from injury. When spring practice opened Wednesday at Dix Stadium, the quarterbacks sported a new look. They were wearing the same blue jerseys worn by all offensive players.

The change in the quarterback's attire wasn't a move to color-coordinate the offense. Instead, head coach Doug Martin hopes to send a message to his quarterbacks-and the rest of the team-that he expects his players to toughen up.

"The issue is this, durability is more important than ability," Martin said. "That's what our whole football team has got to learn. There's a difference between being injured and being hurt. If you're hurt you can play; if you're injured, they've got to learn to play with pain."

For his quarterbacks, Martin's change in philosophy is even more important.

"I really want to teach, especially (Julian Edelman), how to play and keep themselves healthy," he said. "Central Michigan's quarterback is their leading rusher; he never gets hit because he runs out of bounds, he gets down, he slides. He only takes those hits when he really has to."

Edelman, the team's second leading rusher despite missing four games after suffering a broken arm that ended his season, played most of the year with an injured knee. When he went down, freshman Giorgio Morgan was called into action. His season ended after six quarters when he suffered a knee injury. In all, Ken State used four quarterbacks in 12 games last year.

Martin knows his quarterbacks, particularly Edelman, need to play smarter.

"Julian needs to learn how to play (smarter) instead of that macho man, 'I'm going to run over everybody' mentality," he said. "I love that about him, but it's not a wise way to play. I want to make him live all spring, and all the quarterbacks, to teach them that way of playing."

Then there's the issue of getting his quarterbacks on the same page with the wide receivers. That's a part of the game that can't be simulated when the quarterbacks are off limits.

"The other thing was the timing of our passing game last year, whether it was the quarterback's injured or whatever, it was just awful," Martin said. "The only way to really practice that is for the quarterbacks to be live. If you put them out there in the red jersey it's not the same. They don't have that same sense of urgency; they know they're not going to get hit."

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