Led by All-Gateway pick Pat Crummey, the offensive line is expected to be the Penguins' strength.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Every year Youngstown State has contended for a national championship, the offensive line has played a key role.
This year is no different.
The 2001 Penguins are again blessed with a veteran offensive front and hopes are high for another national title run.
Veteran assistant coach John Klacik returns as line coach this season. After 11 seasons with the Penguins, Klacik, who is also offensive coordinator, left last year to coach quarterbacks at Wake Forest. He returned in the spring after Jon Heacock was named coach.
Top returnee: Heading the list of this year's returnees is senior Pat Crummey, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound tackle from Van Wert. Crummey is a two-year starter and has earned three letters.
Crummey was last year's Jim Zdelar Offensive Lineman of the Year and a first team All-Gateway Conference selection. He has already been named a preseason All-American and All-Gateway pick.
"Pat Crummey has the ability to be as good an offensive lineman as we've ever had here at YSU," Klacik said. "He can be as good as he wants to be."
Crummey, who missed the first week of preseason practice with a hamstring injury, is excited about the upcoming season, especially with the line.
"We've got a lot of people coming back who have seen a lot of action and with the addition of Lavelle Hawkes, we have some pretty good depth this season," he said.
Other returnees: YSU returns eight players who have earned letters; seven have started at least one game.
Also returning is 6-3, 330 senior guard Ryan Smith, now in his second season with the Penguins after transferring from Fullerton Junior College.
Smith was an All-Gateway Conference newcomer selection a year ago, earning honorable mention on the All-Gateway Academic team. He started 11 of 12 games.
Senior center Dave Tesniarz, a 6-2, 270-pounder from Uniontown, begins his second season as the starting center. He will double as the long snapper on punts and placekicks. He was an honorable mention All-Gateway selection last year.
Senior Dave Hong, a 6-2, 265 guard from Anaheim, Calif., is another returning starter, but the Fullerton Junior College transfer has been hampered by injuries. He missed four games last year and currently has a torn ligament and could miss the entire season if surgery is required.
Junior Andy DeNiro, a 6-3, 305 tackle from Cardinal Mooney, came into his own last season, starting 11 of 12 games. He was named offensive lineman of the game against Kent State.
Sophomore stars: Sophomore tackle Josh Davis of Lisbon (6-5, 280) and sophomore center-guard 6-0, 315 center-guard Nick Roberts of Champion (6-0, 315) played key roles last season and are expected to contribute this year.
Davis started three games a year ago, and Roberts started at center when Tesniarz was injured against Hofstra and was named offensive lineman of the game.
Sophomore Steve Durbin, a 6-5, 245-pounder from McDonald, was moved back to offense this year and will add depth to the front line.
Hawkes returns after sitting out the 2000 season because of NCAA sanctions. He just received his clearance and is expected to help immediately. He was a starter in 1999.
There are several true freshmen in camp, led by former Ursuline High standout John Bartos III, Lisbon's Rob Davis (brother of Josh) and Niles McKinley's Tony Limongi.