Youngstown State University is buzzing about the new staff that Head Coach Eric Wolford (above with AD Ron Strollo) has assembled. This is no ordinary group of guys just along for the ride, but rather, a group of proven leaders who are united to parlay their experiences into molding a football program which needed stronger direction. Coach Wolford has built a great staff, top to bottom, which will surely prove worthy by season’s end.
The neat thing about the new regime is that they have done more community involved projects such as camps which welcome local high school players and coaches. The local camps open the door for everyone involved. A player learns what he must do to improve for a shot at the next level. The visiting coaches learn new methods of teaching things. The best part about the camps is that YSU is not getting rich conducting them. Coach Wolford and staff see these sessions as a bond with the community, as well as, a deeper look at the potential recruiting classes of the future.
Everyone knows about Ron Stoops and Rollen Smith. The Mooney and Ursuline programs have prospered for years under these two great minds. To get both of them on the same staff is a big score, I don’t care what level it is. Stoops and Smith are both respected locally and will assist Wolford with the additional local tags.
Ron Stoops has more than 30 years of coaching experience at the high school level, including the last nine at Cardinal Mooney. Stoops will coach the defensive secondary and will serve as the first-ever YSU Director of High School Relations. “Coach Wolford is a great guy with a lot of energy and I am very anxious to work with him,” Stoops said. “I’ve been very involved in Boardman and at Mooney, but to do it at the college level, and especially at YSU, is really exciting and I am looking forward to it.”
Rollen Smith was at Ursuline for the last 20 years. In those twenty years, he coached and ran the strength and conditioning program for a school that made the playoffs 13 times in those 20 years. Smith will serve as an assistant defensive line coach under Wolford at YSU. Perhaps the most community-oriented coach ever, Smith is involved with the local juvenile center and is on numerous task forces and programs to assist the area. He is respected because of his demeanor with the youth of Youngstown and I have never heard anyone say anything negative about this guy. He is a quality addition as the last piece Wolford added to the puzzle.
Shane Montgomery will serve as offensive coordinator and will also coach the quarterbacks. Montgomery is a former Miami (OH) head football coach. Coaching in the D-I MAC level for four years is impressive, but to be the head coach for four years is superb. Montgomery parted ways with Miami in 2008 and spent last season as the offensive coordinator at Akron University. Coach Montgomery may have the difficult task of learning which quarterback can lead the team without making mental mistakes or turning the ball over, both problems in YSU’s recent past.
Carmen Bricillo has been hired to be the offensive line coach. Bricillo has a good reputation as an up-and-coming coach who communicates well with student-athletes. Bricillo spent last season at The University of Illinois as an offensive assistant coach. In 2007 & 2008, Briciillo coached offensive tackles and tight ends at Akron. He was a standout offensive lineman at Duquesne University where he graduated in 1996 and earned first team all-conference honors his last two seasons.
Rick Kravitz will serve as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Kravitz looks like the guy you thought you played bocce with for the last five years at the MVR Club. Truth is, he wasn’t here yet despite looking like a veteran Youngstown resident. Kravitz has coached at Western Michigan and NC State. Perhaps his best work took place at South Florida where he helped build a program for bigger things. While at South Florida, Kravitz served as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. He was also there for the jump from FCS Independent in 2000, to FBS newcomer as the Bulls made the jump in 2001. To me, he is the biggest snag as an experienced D-I coach for this program.
Arguably, Tom Sims could count as the big piece in the puzzle. Sims coached at Kansas last season and has spent the last nine years coaching defensive linemen at BCS schools. Besides Kansas, Sims has gained experience while coaching at Minnesota and Illinois. “His relationships and rapport with his players is something that I want all of our coaches to have,” claimed Wolford. Sims played seven NFL seasons in Kansas City, Minnesota and Indianapolis. His duties at YSU will consist of coaching the defensive line and being an assistant head coach.
Louie Matsakis will serve as special teams coordinator and work with running backs. Matsakis also comes from Kansas where he coached running backs and coordinated special teams. Matsakis first met Wolford while he played at Emporia, while Wolford was coaching there. The biggest contribution, besides big-time experience, that Matsakis brings to the table is his wisdom of special teams. Anyone who saw YSU’s special teams disasters last season may call Matsakis the big addition to the staff.
Phil Longo will coach wide receivers and serve as YSU’s recruiting coordinator. Longo spent the last two seasons in the tent of the enemy, Southern Illinois, where he served as offensive coordinator. He has the reputation of being a tireless recruiter and a very hard worker. Longo commented, “I am excited about joining one of the most storied FCS programs in college football.”
Andre Coleman will coach tight ends. “Andre has played at the highest level in the NFL playing and returning a kickoff for a touchdown in the Super Bowl,” Wolford said. “He is someone I have known for a long time and is a person I can rely on to get the job done at all times. He can relate well with our student-athletes and has a lot to teach them.” Coleman, who graduated from not-so-far-away Hickory High School was a standout in the NFL where he was drafted in the third round of the 1994 NFL Draft as the 70th overall pick by the San Diego Chargers. He also played for Seattle and Pittsburgh.
Pinch yourself Penguins fans. This is quite a coaching staff that Eric Wolford has brought to Youngstown, perhaps the best in YSU history as far as being well-rounded, community involved, recruiting know-how, experience, and player development. With the new WATTS Indoor Facility coming very soon, Mr. Strollo has proven with the hirings of Wolford and this staff, a long-term commitment to excellence.