The senior tackle is confident the offensive line will develop.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- The key to Youngstown State's football success throughout the years always has come down to the offensive line.
Nobody knows this more than senior offensive tackle Andy DeNiro, the former Cardinal Mooney High standout.
DeNiro and junior Nick Roberts are the only returning starters along the offensive line, and they are being counted on to lead the YSU blockers.
This season, the offense will be directed by somebody other than four-year starter Jeff Ryan at quarterback, but this doesn't bother DeNiro.
His view: "Jeff was a great quarterback and the offense ran well with him, but having somebody different back there this year shouldn't make all that much difference to the offensive line," DeNiro said.
"We have our job to do on each and every play, and when we do it, there is usually success for that play, regardless who the quarterback is," he added.
"We have a lot of good young guys back there this year, and basically when we do our job you can put any one of them back there because they all have a lot of talent," DeNiro said.
Confident: DeNiro said that although the offensive line will have a lot of new faces this year, he feels confident that they will be ready for the season.
"We have some young guys who are working hard and taking steps in the right direction, and we have guys like Norris Kennedy, who moved over from defense, and Wil Sanders, a junior college transfer who will help out this year," he continued.
"We've got a solid seven or eight guys who should contribute this year. The starting five and two or three others should see a lot of playing time," he said.
DeNiro feels that his role has not changed this season.
Leader: "Ever since I've been here, the role of the seniors has been as leaders, and it is no different this year," he said. "There are different ways of leadership. I'm not a real rah-rah guy. I try to lead by example, but I'm also there to help out any of the younger players if they need it."
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound DeNiro said that last season was a disappointment when the Penguins didn't get into the playoffs despite an 8-3 record.
"Everybody was saying that we didn't get into the playoffs because of our schedule, but we know that if we had beaten Northern Iowa and Western Kentucky then we would have gotten the automatic bid into the playoffs," he said. "That's why the Gateway Conference championship is our first goal every year, and our most important goal."
Right direction: DeNiro said that it's still early to tell about this team, but feels things are going in the right direction.
"We haven't had that much contact yet this spring, but everyone seems to be concentrating on the right things and we should be OK."
DeNiro, who started all 11 games a year ago, came to the Penguins from Mooney where he was a standout for three seasons, earning All-Steel Valley Conference and All-Northeastern Ohio honors.
He was also received the Mack Truck Award his senior season, which goes to the area's top lineman.
DeNiro's position coach, John Klacik, who is also YSU's offensive coordinator, praised DeNiro's work ethic.
"Andy worked very hard this winter to get ready for spring football," Klacik said. "He's been having a great spring."
The Penguins were scheduled to practice today at 3 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.