Expect a lot. This is the time that everyone has been waiting for in the Youngstown State Football community. Coach Eric Wolford, in his third season with the Penguins, expects to win. Kurt Hess and Jamaine Cook, leaders of an explosive offense that returns everybody, expect to win. Enter a slew of defensive transfers to mix in with what worked last season and you should pretty much expect to win in 2012.
What will you win besides the Valparaiso game? How about every game. People automatically rule Pitt out as a potential win. Blame the defense or perhaps the “big school” theory as early reasons this team cannot succeed. These games are not money beatings anymore, they are winnable contests, ask Michigan State.
“I have had pressure on myself since Day One”, said Coach Wolford. “I am at a school that has won four National Championships and the pressure does not effect me. We are flying around, we’re faster, we’re stronger, and the defense is more accountable. It has been a process to get to that point, but recruiting can solve a lot of problems.”
YSU had problems on defense last year, but not many on offense. Wolford and staff have done a tremendous job scouring the United States looking for defensive help, and they came up big. Chris Charles, Julius Childs, Dale Peterman, and Ricardo Dixon add instant impact to a secondary that limped to the finish line last season.
“I think our defensive back play has been better”, said Wolford. “It is early, but they are really making our receivers work. The defensive line is definitely more mobile and stronger than where we have been in the past. At linebacker, we can flat out run. We have to stay healthy. We definitely solidified our defense and developed some depth.”
So the polls and writers that picked Youngstown State to finish third, the experts, citing YSU’s defense as a sore spot probably should have waited to see the talent in camp that wasn’t even here yet before predicting.
I will say that YSU will finish the season at 10-1 and gain at least a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Pitt game and the North Dakota State contest will be tough challenges for the ‘Guins, but if this team can stay healthy they have the potential to make a run deep into the playoffs, this season.
I could be wrong, they could go 11-0. They could go 9-2, but I don’t think that this team will finish any worse than that. The playoffs are within reach and Hess knows that undefeated is a goal only achieved by winning one game at a time.
“We want to go out and win games”, said Hess. “I really think we are going to continue to build team chemistry. As far as not being picked to win it all, there are a lot of defensive players who just got here that will have a say in those predictions. We have so much invested it would be devastating if we don’t reach the playoffs. We expect to get there by going 1-0 every week.”
As the challenge of going to Pitt on September 1 nears closer, a group of young men and coaches in Youngstown are readying themselves for what can be more of a war than anyone might predict. Just four years ago, YSU traveled to Pitt and pretty much got spanked. The goals of scoring a touchdown and staying close at halftime (Penn State), and being in a game against a D-1 team in the second half (Michigan State) have all been met. All that is left is to win. Expect to win.