The entire unit must step up, including some true freshmen looking for playing time.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Tim Johnson may have been the finest linebacker ever to play football at Youngstown State University.
While Johnson now tries to make a name for himself in the National Football League with the World Champion Baltimore Ravens, the Penguins are trying to fill the huge hole he left in the defense.
"You don't just replace a Tim Johnson with another player," said YSU linebacker coach Todd Murgatroyd. "This has to be a team effort here to fill that void."
Former Flash: Murgatroyd, who came to the Penguins last spring from Kent State University, remembers well what Johnson did to the Flashes a year ago.
"He was just a tremendous player, perhaps the best to ever play here at YSU, but he's gone and we have to move on."
He feels the Penguins have an outstanding group of linebackers this year.
"I've been around at Kent State, Hawaii, Tennessee, and with the exception of Tennessee, this is as fine a group of linebackers that I've seen on one team," added Murgatroyd, who was also a graduate assistant at YSU in 1986 and 1987.
Next in line: Two-year junior starter Jon Tekac of New Wilmington, Pa., will take over Johnson's inside linebacker position.
"Jon's a good one with a lot of talent and a hard hitter," Murgatroyd said. "He'll do a good job, but he'll have a lot of help also."
Joining the 6-1, 218-pound Tekac on the inside will be 6-0, 219-pound senior Mike Thomas of Canfield, along with 6-2, 230-pound junior Justin Dellarose of Labelle, Pa.; 5-11, 215-pound sophomore Chris DiMauro of Akron; and 6-1, 232-pound freshman red-shirt Yancey Marcum of Nicholasville, Ky.
On the outside, the Penguins will have 6-3, 223-pound junior Ken Baun of Canfield and 6-0, 197-pound Russell Stuvaints of McKeesport, Pa. Both lettered a year ago.
Co-captain: Heading up the Fox linebacker position will be 6-3, 243-pound senior Bob Sivik of Mentor, who was just recently named one of the team's five co-captains.
First-year coach George Small, who coaches the Fox backers and defensive ends, feels he's got a couple of good ones.
"Bob Sivik and Marcus Green are two outstanding football players," Small said. "Brandon Byers, a sophomore, is another standout."
Green is a 6-3, 238-pound senior from Natchez, Miss., and Byers, 6-2, 246 pounds, hails from Cincinnati.
The Penguins also have a couple of true freshmen who could possibly be counted on for action this season.
They include 6-0, 239-pound Joe Juby of Garfield Heights and 6-1, 206-pound Justin Scholes of Mentor.
"Both of them are going to be good ones," Murgatroyd said.