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With the work being done on the Kent State campus, Paul Haynes is thankful his program isn't part of the construction.
Haynes returned to his alma mater as the head coach on Dec. 18 after Darrell Hazell left for the same position at Purdue two weeks earlier.
Hazell was 16-10 in two seasons at Kent State -- going 8-0 in conference play and nearly making a BCS bowl game in 2012.
Haynes said that he was left in a position to succeed on the field and recruit off of it.
"We are a program and a school on the rise," Haynes said. "Come on campus, there is dirt being moved everywhere."
Kent State was one overtime away from the Orange Bowl as the higher-ranked team in the MAC Championship game against Northern Illinois. After rallying from a 27-13 deficit to go into overtime, Kent State was unable to seal the victory. Northern Illinois moved into the top 16 of the BCS rankings and earned the conference's first high-profile bowl.
The week was made worse when just five days after the loss the team was informed that Hazell was leaving for the Big Ten.
According to Haynes, who was the Arkansas defensive coordinator, his hiring was a product of mutual interest.
"As an alumnus, I wanted this job," he said. "The pride I have in this school and the product on the field was something I wanted to be a part of.
"I think from their side it was easy because me and Coach Hazell came from the same coaching tree. Kent State had been down for a while and then they hit on something that worked, so it became a situation where one coach changed things for the better. So it is probably smarter to keep that going than try to change it again."
His philosophy will be similar to that of Hazell: spread the field, run the ball and be aggressive.
Fortunately for Haynes, some key pieces -- namely his running backs -- will be returning.
Dri Archer led the team with 1,429 yards on 159 carries and 16 touchdowns. He also led the team with 39 catches and 561 yards.
Trayion Durham was second on the team with 1,316 yards rushing on 276 carries with 14 touchdowns. He was fifth on the team with 17 catches and 181 yards.
Speculation of Archer leaving was put to rest in early January. At the time, Archer said he had unfinished business.
"A choice had to be made and I know (returning) is a great choice," he said in a press release. "I am going to work and train harder than I ever have before to make this last go-around the best time of my life. I've got some things to accomplish before I leave."
Those goals include a bowl victory and Heisman consideration.
Haynes said that the team will continue to feature the running game.
"We want to be a physical team and you can't define yourself as a physical team if you can't run the ball," he said. "Spread teams are only effective if they can run it and maintain some level of balance."
While the team will have to replace quarterback Spencer Keith as well as two of its top four receivers in Matthew Hurdle and Eric Adeyemi, it returns some talent outside of the two running backs.
Junior college quarterback David Fisher completed 60 percent of his passes in very limited duty this season. Josh Boyle was second in receiving yards despite missing action and Chris Humphrey was fourth in receptions despite missing two games.
Filling in around those players will be important and maintaining the program's recruiting momentum will be paramount.
Haynes said that the latter certainly has his attention.
"We will recruit Ohio like crazy," he said. "I have ties from coaching at Ohio State and I know a lot of coaches in this area -- including (from) Pennsylvania and Michigan.
"With the coaches we have on staff, I am certain will have guys recruiting in Georgia and Miami as well."
The close to the Class of 2013 had a major Haynes flavor. He took over with just 10 commitments and ended up signing 21.
Of the 11 that were Haynes commitments, six were from Ohio, three from Florida and two from Louisiana.
The class finished No. 7 of the 13 programs in the MAC.
Haynes said that his approach with the class was more based on roster need than player-specific and that will change moving forward.
"We had to make sure those first 10 were still solid with us," he said. "Then we had to get guys to fill the holes. We got kids we were very happy with but we will need to narrow our focus. We filled the roster this year and we will be more position specific in the next group.
"We are looking for wins on the field and off. As I said, this is a program and a school on the rise."
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