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KENT, Ohio (AP) — Kent State is hoping the nation's youngest coach can return them to old glory.
Former Syracuse assistant Sean Lewis was introduced as Kent State's new football coach on Thursday and charged with turning around a program that has won just 14 games in the past five seasons and slipped way back in the Mid-Ameircan Conference.
The 31-year-old Lewis was Syracuse's co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. He's also worked on staffs at Bowling Green and Eastern Illiniois.
In taking over at Kent State, Lewis becomes the youngest Football Bowl Subdivision coach. That distinction previously belonged to Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley, who is 34.
"We are thrilled to bring Sean to Kent State," Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen said. "Sean brings an innovative style of football to Kent State with an offensive system that is proven in the MAC. We are confident Sean can build broad support and engagement in our program along with competitive success."
The Golden Flashes went just 2-10 last season and were 14-45 in five years under Paul Haynes, whose contract was not renewed following the season finale loss to rival Akron.
These have been lean years at Kent State, which has been competitive and produced Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert and noteworthy NFL players like James Harrison, Julian Edelman and Josh Cribbs. Alabama coach Nick Saban also played at Kent State.
While Lewis was at Syracuse, the Orange showed improvement on offense and this season averaged 456 yards per game. Syracuse only went 4-8 but one of those wins was over No. 1 Clemson. During Lewis' first season at the school, Syracuse set an offensive record with 3,855 yards passing and finished with 5,290 yards of total offense, second most in program history.
Lewis was at Bowling Green in 2015 and the Falcons ranked fourth in the nation in total offense (546.8) and sixth in scoring offense (42.2 ypg) while winning the MAC title.
Lewis coached tight ends and receivers at Eastern Illinois when San Francisco 49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo was the quarterback.
Kent State is hoping his Midwest roots and connections will help in recruiting. The Illinois native played tight end and quarterback at Wisconsin, earning Academic All-Big Ten honors under coach Barry Alvarez.
"I am excited for — and proud of — Sean," Alvarez said. "He has earned this opportunity through hard work and dedication to both the coaching profession and to the student-athletes he has mentored. Sean cares a great deal about young people and their development. He is truly a rising star and a great fit for Kent State. He is going to do a great job."
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