KENT: Dri Archer had such an electrifying season last year for Kent State, it’s almost easy to forget Trayion Durham ran for 1,346 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Durham, a big, bruising back from Cincinnati, made sure to remind everyone he is still here. Late in Wednesday’s practice, Durham took a handoff inside and reached the second level where Luke Wollet, one of the Mid-American Conference’s best safeties, was waiting for him. Durham met Wollet head-on, kept his legs churning and simply ran him over. Both sidelines, offense and defense, erupted.
“The way he was positioned, I knew I had him,” a smiling Durham said. “He was off balance, so I lowered the shoulder and you just heard the boom.”
Archer might be harder to take down due to his quickness, but it’s a safe bet defenders would rather try to tackle him than Durham when he’s able to get a full head of steam.
Even with his daunting size, Durham is trying to take his game to the next level. He says his goal last year was 1,500 yards, and he fell just shy. This year, it’s 1,500 and more.
Durham is listed at 6 feet, 250 pounds for the spring but said on Wednesday he’s already down to 245 and wants to get to 235. And according to him, he’s in much better shape than at this time a year ago.
“We’re going to be better this year and we’re going to be in shape,” he said. “Won’t have to miss any plays because we’re tired. My conditioning, I’m going strong right now. My wind is up so I won’t need to be out of any plays.”
Durham, the thunder in KSU’s thunder-and-lightning running game, might have a little extra lightning. And there’s always the friendly competition with Archer, which is alive and well.
“We’re still competing, still going against each other,” Durham said. “Yeah, we still got it going on, me and Dri.”
Coach Paul Haynes sees loftier goals for Durham.
“He’s exactly what you expected — he’s a big, explosive back and he knows the offense,” Haynes said. “We always sit there and challenge him to be the best he can be. Not just be Trayion, not just the best in the MAC, [but] the best back in the country. He has the ability to do that.”
Junior defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix had his hand heavily wrapped and didn’t participate in any drills on Wednesday, instead wearing a T-shirt and sweats. Nix said he broke his hand Monday, already had surgery on it and will be back for the summer. His spring practice is likely done.
Haynes knows that coming together under new leadership, new terminology and new schemes takes time. He’s aware of the feeling-out process between the players and coaches, and knows KSU is still in that phase.
He’s seen improvement in the Golden Flashes’ practices in the two weeks of spring. It’s just not quite pieced together yet.
“The energy is coming,” Haynes said. “We’ve just got to make sure it’s on both sides of the ball. First the defense had it and then we go to another situation and the offense had it. We’ve got to have it all the time. That’s what championship football is about.”
Haynes, in post-practice pep talks, has routinely used the phrases “championship football” and “championship team.” The concept is being pounded into the Flashes just about every day.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.