It's been a long and tumultuous Summer for the Illini, but all of the offseason headlines will shift into the rearview mirror on Friday night. Illinois Football is back. Let's give a warm welcome to Kent State beat writer Allen Moff of the Record-Courier as he joins us to preview the season opener against the Golden Flashes.
1. Kent State is coming off a presumably disappointing 2-9 season. What are the expectations for the Golden Flashes this year? Do you expect improvement?
The Flashes have 19 starters returning, including a third-year starter at quarterback in Colin Reardon, and their top 11 tacklers. They are definitely expecting improvement in head coach Paul Haynes' third season.
2. What kind of offense are the Golden Flashes expected to run this season (i.e. up-tempo, balanced, air-it-out, etc)?
Kent State has a new offensive coordinator in Don Treadwell, a veteran coach who ran offenses for Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati and Michigan State. He is implementing an up-tempo attack this season, which is much different then the conventional style of the past two years. I still believe they will feature the run, and will use Reardon's ability to both run and pass along with the quick tempo to keep defenses off balance.
3. Staying with the offense, does Kent State have any returning playmakers? Or will a relative newcomer need to step up in order for the unit to be successful?
A little bit of both. The Flashes lacked breakaway threats last season, so they brought in several freshmen with above-average speed - running backs Myles Washington and P.J. Harrison, along with Antwan Dixon, who is probably the team's fastest player. All three players are southern recruits. They also have 250-pound running back Trayion Durham back in the mix. Durham has rushed for nearly 2,800 yards during his career, but missed all of last season with a foot injury.
4. Illinois' offensive line will be...an adventure this season. How is Kent State's front nine shaping up? Will Wes Lunt be running for his life?
Kent State's defensive line features much more depth than in the past couple of years. Senior Nate Terhune and 295-pound nose tackle Jon Cunningham in particular are players to watch. However, the Flashes produced a mere nine sacks all of last season. They will certainly attempt to apply more quarterback pressure this season, but whether or not they'll be successful at it remains to be seen.
5. Ok — what's your prediction for this season-opening matchup?
Catching an Illinois team that's obviously dealing with some issues both on and off the football field in its opener would seem like good timing, but I still see the Flashes being out-athleted overall and believe that will be too much to overcome. I think Kent State will keep it interesting for awhile, but the Illini will make some big plays in the second half and pull away — 38-17 final.
Thank you to Allen for taking the time to answer our questions! For more on Kent State, make sure to give him a follow on Twitter (@AllenMoff_RC). You can also check out fellow SB Nation affiliate Hustle Belt for news and updates on the MAC.