Junior quarterback Todd Goebbel barked out the signals,

By Allen Moff Record-Courier sports writer Published:

Junior quarterback Todd Goebbel barked out the signals, players from both sides shouted out assignments and exchanged glares ... then sophomore tight end Jason Gavazda brought practice to a sudden, maddening halt.

He flinched.

Coach's whistles blared to signify the dreaded motion penalty, which tends to annoy coaches as much as anything _ even on opening day of practice. But before any of the Flashes' mentors could get to Gavazda, senior tackle Steve Zahursky had already ... well, let's just say he forcefully stated in no uncertain terms that such mistakes wouldn't be tolerated.

And Zahursky's tirade didn't seem to bother Kent State coach Jim Corrigall in the least.

"Well, that's not a bad thing the way I see it," said Corrigall. "We coaches can only do so much and be in so many places ... the players have to police themselves. It's all about leadership, and our senior leadership this year has been tremendous. They lead by example, and that's the best way.

"The seniors stayed on campus all summer and worked very hard and, as a coach, you can't buy that. It's a gift."

A gift that keeps on giving.

Nearly 45 upperclassmen stayed on campus to work out during the summer, both in the weight room and on the field. And as a result, a close-knit group of determined leaders has formed to guide the Flashes into the '97 campaign.

"There's a lot of camaraderie on this team," said Goebbel. "We didn't just stay here all summer, we were working out every day and doing drills three days a week. The offensive linemen all shaved their heads ... that's another camaraderie thing. We're pushing each other, and it's making everyone better.

"We're farther along right now than we were all of last year in camp, and it's only the first day of practice."

Corrigall also liked what he saw for the most part on Thursday, as the Flashes kicked off spring drills with a spirited two-hour workout in helmets, shorts and shoulder pads.

"I was excited about our intensity and enthusiasm," said Corrigall. "The men came back in great shape _ I was moved by the way they reported, both strength-wise and in their cardiovascular conditioning."

The hard work during the summer seems to have paid off for Goebbel, who looked sharp during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 passing drills. He fired several strikes to his favorite target of a year ago, junior wide receiver Eugene Baker.

"They picked up right where they left off (last year)," said Corrigall.

Meanwhile, Gavazda more than made up for his mistake by making several tough catches over the middle. He also showed excellent speed for a 6-foot-3, 235-pound tight end by running away from defenders on sideline routes.

"Gavazda is blessed with great athletic talent," said Corrigall. "He has all the physical tools. He just needs to fine-tune his skills and sell out on every play."

Defensively, the Flashes have added a ton of new faces at every position in hopes of climbing out of the depths of the Mid-American Conference basement. So far, so good, according to Corrigall.

"The defense played very enthusiastically and ran to the ball well," said Corrigall. "We have guys like (junior college transfers) Wayne Shaw and Mark Harris that are going to help us immediately, and I'm excited about that.

"And the other thing I love is our depth. We have 17 defensive linemen and 16 offensive linemen. We have depth at quarterback, a slew of running backs and a lot of receivers, although still not enough. Depth causes competition and competition is the best coach of all in my belief system. So we're in position to have a good camp."

Two-a-day practices will begin today and continue through Aug. 22, generally from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. The first full-contact practice will take place on Sunday.

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