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Published: Thursday, 9/8/2011

UT's Stafford knows Buckeyes well

Nephew of former OSU great Carter is makign a name for himself in Toledo

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Wide receiver Kenny Stafford also plays on all four special teams units for the Rockets. Wide receiver Kenny Stafford also plays on all four special teams units for the Rockets.
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If there's anybody at the University of Toledo that could serve as an ad hoc encyclopedia on the Rockets' opponent this week, it's Kenny Stafford.

The senior wideout grew up in Columbus and is the nephew of Ohio State hall of famer and NFL all-time great wide receiver Cris Carter.

Stafford is no stranger to Ohio Stadium, where the Rockets will take on the Buckeyes at noon Saturday, and the tradition of the Ohio State program.

"I've been surrounded by Ohio State people my entire life," Stafford said. "People always knew who I was and who my family was and knew of the football tradition and talent we had with my uncle playing at Ohio State."

Stafford said he didn't go to many Buckeye games growing up but still followed in his uncle's footsteps when he started playing football himself.

An all-district wide receiver as a junior and senior at Columbus DeSales, Stafford hauled in 52 receptions for 1,089 yards in his final two seasons and was rated as the 24th-best recruit in Ohio by Rivals.com.

Stafford has continued to be a solid contributor at Toledo, both at wideout and on special teams.

Stafford was Toledo's fourth-leading receiver last season with 337 yards on 18 catches and four touchdowns, and this year he has taken on an additional role by playing on all four of the Rockets' special teams units.

"Since the senior class took over in January, he has really bought in to being a leader, hook, line, and sinker," UT coach Tim Beckman said of Stafford. "He's doing all the special teams, he's playing wide receiver, and he has done an unbelievable job. He's a special teams 'captain' type of guy."

Upon signing with the Rockets in 2008, the 6-foot-4 Stafford was singled out by then-coach Tom Amstutz as "a big receiver [with] tremendous hands and quickness" who was expected to play "an important role on our team."

Although those grandiose expectations never really came to fruition for Stafford, he is at peace with how his career has played out at UT.

"I've had my ups and downs, but I think I've found where I can contribute on this team for us to be successful," Stafford said of his role on special teams. "It's just about filling the role that the coaches have given to me, whether it's at second receiver, starting receiver or on special teams."

Stafford also said carrying the label of "Cris Carter's nephew" hasn't been a burden in life or on the playing field and is something he actually views as a positive.

"I don't think there's any added pressure," said Stafford, a communications major. "I take it as a gift. I can pick from his mind because he was such a great receiver, and I feel like he can teach me so much more than a coach could ever do. He was a player and a coach, and he did it, and he was good at it.

"He tells me just to go out and play my game. He doesn't put any pressure on me, because it's not about living up to his standards."

DANTIN TO START: Beckman said Wednesday that junior quarterback Austin Dantin will take the first snap against Ohio State and added that sophomore Terrance Owens will also see playing time.

Last week in the Rockets' season-opening 58-22 victory over New Hampshire at the Glass Bowl, Dantin played the first three series, Owens followed in the next three series and the rotation continued from there. Beckman said that won't necessarily be the arrangement against OSU.

"T.O. might come in after the first or second series," Beckman said. "It doesn't have to be the same thing."

Redshirt freshman Dwight Macon saw mop-up duty last week against New Hampshire, and he is expected to play as well at Ohio State.

Contact Zach Silka at: zsilka@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.



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