Saturday’s practice marked the end of camp for the Youngstown State football team. The Penguins open the campaign hosting the Dayton Flyers on Thursday. They will now transition into a weekly routine… sort of.
“Today was like a Tuesday practice because we are only that many days from Thursday already”, said Penguins Head Coach, Eric Wolford.
“I gave the guys a day off yesterday and we were out here banging pretty good today, but this will be the end of the banging until Thursday.”
Wolford and staff have solidified their depth chart to start the season. Kurt Hess remains the number one quarterback and will have Torrian Pace (below) and Adaris Bellamy lining up behind him as backfield starters.
The wide receivers to start will be Andre Stubbs, Christian Bryan, and Michael Wheary. Jelani Berassa, coming back from major surgery, will get some reps on a limited basis in the opener. Kevin Watts, Marcel Caver, and Andrew Williams are listed as the second group of receivers.
“Whether or not I start or play, we are unselfish and unified as a team. In order for us to be successful, we must remain selfless”, said Pace.
Up front, preseason All-Conference pick, Chris Elkins, anchors a raw offensive line at center. Wolford has repeatedly said that this is the most athletic offensive line he has had to work with since he got here. The rest of the offensive line named as starters are Andrew Sinko and Kyle Bryant at tackle, Brock Eisenhuth and Fred Herdman at guard and Nate Adams and Carson Sharbaugh to pretty much interweave at TE.
Joey Cejudo offers a very strong leg as the Penguins placekicker. Even though seven is greater than three, Wolford seems like he is comfortable with Cejudo and will use him more than he has used a kicker in the past few seasons. Nick Liste resumes his duties as the punter and kickoff specialist.
Stubbs and Bryan will return punts and kicks to round out the special teams for the Penguins.
Defensively, Joe Tresey (below) has the defensive units working in the right direction. Tresey is one of the most animated and vocal coaches I have had the pleasure of watching and to his credit, never quits coaching. After practice on Saturday, Tresey was out there running suicides with his defense after practice. He is a stand-up guy who is accountable and accepts when all is less than perfect as his responsibility.
Teven Williams, Travis Williams, and Dom Rich comprise the most experienced and battle-tested part of the defense at the linebacker spots. Ali Cheaib should see some time as well.
Up front, Terrell Williams and Eric Myers will start at the defensive end spots. Emmanuel Kromah will be the tackle, and Octavius Brown will start at nose. D. J. Moss is a little banged up but should see action at nose for the ‘Guins on Thursday. Kyle Sirl, the Penguins wildcard on defense can line up just about anywhere and contribute.
The question marks that raise the biggest concern are the secondary spots. Donald D’Alesio was banged up for most of camp but is working hard to get into game shape and is listed on the depth chart as the #1 strong safety.
“I’m not a hundred percent yet, but getting real close to it”, said D’Alesio. “We have had a great camp and we are really looking forward to hitting someone else besides our own guys.”
Jamarious Boatwright is still a little wobbly but closing in on a return. While he mends, Jameel Smith will handle the work at free safety. Julius Childs and DeVon McKoy (below) will start at the cornerback positions.
McKoy, a transfer from Bowling Green, has had to learn the Penguins defense at a rapid clip. The capable native of Columbus has met the challenge head-on and is excited with the opportunity.
“Right away, when I got here, I was thrown into the mix”, said McKoy. “When I talked on the phone with the coaches, they told me there would be opportunities to step right in and here it is. They threw me right into the fire, and I still have some little technique things to brush up on, but I am very excited with this chance.”
Wolford said that the coaching staff did something different in the locker room setup that he hopes will help keep the team unified.
“A lot of people don’t know that we arranged the locker room differently this season. We tried to put people from different positions next to each other, guys that would not normally talk much are now next to each other in the locker room. I like the move in the sense that it has strengthened the unity of the guys and really helped them grow as teammates.”