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YSU FOOTBALL Small in size, but big in heart



Published: Thu, April 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Jerald Burley leads an inexperienced, and undersized, group of receivers.

By PETE MOLLICA

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- At first glance the wide receivers on the Youngstown State football team aren't very imposing, at least in size.

There are only four receivers on the spring roster to begin with, and only one stretches to 6 feet and two are 150 pounds or less.

But if all of them possess the talent and catching ability of senior Jerald Burley, then things should be looking up for the Penguins' passing game next fall.

Burley, a 5-10, 170-pound speedster, is in his third season with the Penguins after transferring from Lakeland (Fla.) Junior College.

Burley is the lone veteran this spring. Sophomore Phillip Larmon, who also saw considerable action last season, is being held out of spring drills after undergoing off-season surgery on his shoulder.

Burley is also the team's punt and kickoff returner.

Last season Burley led the team with 21 catches for 314 yards, an average of 15 yards per catch, and scored three touchdowns. His longest reception was for 48 yards.

As a punt returner he fielded 17 kicks for 280 yards, an average of 17 yards per return and one, a 77-yarder, went for a touchdown. He also returned 12 kickoffs for 306 yards, an average of 25.5 yards per return, his longest being 49 yards.

Burley was also the team's No. 2 producer in all-purpose yardage, finishing with 939 yards, second only to tailback P.J. Mays who had 1,610.

Team effort: "We're a little thin back there this year with only four of us on the field," said Burley, "but Phil [Larmon] will be back in the fall and even though he isn't practicing he in all the meetings and he's out there on the field helping out with the younger guys."

Burley said that the position's size numbers are not really a factor.

"We might be a little small this year; we probably average out to around 5-10, but we've all got big hearts and that's what counts in this game," he said. "You can't measure the size of a player's heart by his height or weight and we've all got big hearts."

Being the top returning receiver probably will mean a lot of double coverage on him this season.

"I really never thought a lot about that," he said. "If they put more than one defender on me, that only means that somebody else will be open."

The Penguins will have a new starting quarterback, but Burley doesn't see any problems there, either.

"Right now in the spring everybody is just trying to develop their skills," he said. "The quarterbacks are working on their skills and we are working on ours.

No big deal: "We've got four really good quarterbacks and once a No. 1 is established we'll work with him. Right now I wouldn't have a problem with any one of the four throwing me the football," Burley added.

The Penguins must replace several seniors, but Burley said he and the other upperclassmen will assume those roles.

"We lost a lot of good seniors," he said. "We don't have a Jeff Ryan or a LeVar Greene out there this year to make the big plays for us. We will be the ones expected to step up and make those plays this year."

Wednesday the Penguins practiced in near freezing weather, but still managed to get in some work.

They are scheduled to practice today at 3:15 p.m. and then hold their second jersey scrimmage of the season Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.

mollica@vindy.com




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