April 22, 2010

Keith shines in spring

Spencer Keith was a late addition to Kent State's recruiting class of 2009, but he was far from an afterthought.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder from Little Rock, Ark., signed with Kent State shortly after signing day last year and arrived on campus in August ready to compete for early playing time behind redshirt sophomore Giorgio Morgan.

An injury to Morgan opened the door for Keith, who went on to start six of the 10 games he played in during the 2009 season. He completed 168 of 294 passes for 2,147 yards and 11 touchdowns.

A shoulder injury cut Keith's freshman year short, but he opened spring practice atop the Flashes' quarterback depth chart.

"It's still a battle; it's still a spring competition," Keith said. "I have to do everything I can to do my job. Every day I've got to work out and be consistent with everything and keep making my reads and making the throws that I need to make."

Keith's performance in 2009 and his early work in 2010 haven't gone unnoticed by his head coach, Doug Martin.

"He's just matured so much from all that experience he had last year," Martin said. "He did a great job of looking people off (in Saturday's scrimmage)."

During that scrimmage Keith completed just 14-of-29 passes for 142 yards, but it was his attention to detail-especially in reading and reacting to the defense--that stuck out to Martin.

"He did a great job of throwing hot on the blitzes," Martin said. "The one interception he threw was a hot. The blitz came, he had to get rid of the ball and he and the receiver weren't quite on the same page. That was the only turnover he had for the day, too, so that was another positive."

Keith, now up to 215 pounds, dons a red jersey in practices and scrimmages, signaling to the defense that he is off limits as he fully recovers from the shoulder injury he suffered in the fall. That has been Keith's only limitation this spring.

"He's so much fun to coach right now because he understands the game; he understands the offense," Martin said. "Last year's just benefited him so much. It's driving him crazy being in that red jersey. It is hard when you're not really live. It's harder on the quarterback. It's easier when they're live and they can step through and run or throw and all that stuff."

During the offseason Keith spent most of his time rehabbing his injured throwing shoulder. But, he still found time to watch film with Martin.

Keith arrived at Kent State after leading the nation in 2009 with 5,310 passing yards, also an Arkansas state record. He's developed so fast at Kent State that Martin is ready to allow his young quarterback to change plays at the line of scrimmage.

"You can do a lot of different things with him. You're out there (at Saturday's scrimmage), probably half the plays he was calling at the line when he was in there," Martin said. "That's another positive that we really haven't had the last couple years. That can keep you from being in some bad plays when the quarterback can handle that."

Looking ahead to the 2010 season, Keith likely will have even more responsibility prior to the snap.

"There are times where we'll call plays and stay with it, but I would say probably 50-percent of the time this year we'll go up there with him having the ability to run or throw, possibly with an entire package where he can maybe choose from three or four plays," Martin said. "He's ready for that. He's done a good job with it this spring."

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