Penguins' veterans ready for action
The team will hold fitness testing today at Stambaugh Stadium.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- There is just something about having the veterans in camp that ignites the atmosphere for Youngstown State football.
The veterans reported to camp Wednesday, coming together for the first time at the annual YSU photo day at Stambaugh Stadium.
YSU second-year head coach Jon Heacock said he was pleased to see that his veteran players appeared to be in good shape.
"We'll see tomorrow how good of shape they are in," Heacock said.
The Penguins will hold their pre-camp fitness tests at 12:45 p.m. today at the stadium.
Three players failed to report. All were freshmen who were redshirted last season.
Couldn't make it
Scott Good a defensive back from Sweeny, Texas and Rob Davis, an offensive guard from Lisbon and brother of starting tackle Josh Davis, are both academically ineligible. Defensive back Matt Estes of Niles McKinley, who was listed in the team's three-deep depth chart after spring practice, called Heacock this week to say that he wouldn't be back.
All 11 of the returning starters, six on defense and five on offense, are back and so are the top prospects to fill the open positions on both sides of the football.
Nick Roberts, a Champion High graduate, and a junior starting right guard is ready to go.
Roberts (6-0, 303) was named to one preseason All-American team and is come off a great season.
"We're excited to be back and we are all ready to go," Roberts said.
"Everyone has had a great summer including the O-line," he added. "We all stayed together all summer long to work out and everybody dropped some weight and added some strength and quickness."
Senior offensive tackle Andy DeNiro, a Cardinal Mooney product, said the summer program went well.
"This was one of the best summers we've had since I've been here," he said. "Everybody has improved themselves and if we can develop some young kids to help out we should be OK."
Street ready to play
Senior quarterback prospect Colby Street, who missed most of the spring drills to concentrate on academics, is back and ready to go.
"It feels real good to be back with these guys full time," Street said. "The coaches only let me work out on weekends in the spring, but we've got everything taken care of now."
Street is one of five prospects vying for the starting quarterback position, left vacated when four-year starter Jeff Ryan graduated this spring.
"The competition back there should really be outstanding," Street said.
Defensively the prospects are even better, at least on the defensive line and at linebacker, where a host of returning veterans are back.
Players like Matt Mechling, Guy Mazard and Martin Stachowicz, all seniors, return to the defensive front.
Mechling missed several games due to injury last year and is looking forward to a big senior year.
"I went absolutely nuts last year when I wasn't able to play; I just couldn't handle it," Mechling said. "I feel 100 percent healthy this year."
Mazard, the 6-2, 295 pound tackle from Miami, Fla., feels the seniors must be the leaders on this team.
"I stayed here all summer and didn't go back home," he said. "We all worked very hard because we knew we had a lot coming back on the line and we just wanted to get better."
Stachowicz, a 6-2, 240 pound three-year letterman at defensive end, says not to worry about the defensive front.
"The D-line will be okay," he said. "With what we've got returning, we'll be pretty good as long as we continue to improve."
Senior linebacker Jon Tekac of New Wilmington is beginning his fourth year as a starter and said one of the team's most important goals this year is to win the Gateway Conference.
"This will be like back in 1991 when we first won a national championship," he said. "That's what it will feel like when we finally win a Gateway title."
Barone heads secondary
The defensive secondary has only one returning starter, senior Anthony Barone of Cardinal Mooney.
"We've got some good people returning, guys who have been here a while and know the system," Barone said. "We aren't going to be that weak back there."
Barone said that he's glad to be back in camp.
"I'm not saying that I'm excited about two-a-day workouts, but I'm excited about getting started again," he said.
After going through fitness testing on Thursday, the full team will begin two-a-day workouts on Friday at 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Stambaugh. They will begin contact drills on Aug. 12 when the annual "Hoot 'N Holler" drill will be conducted at 8:30 a.m.
The team's first jersey scrimmage will be Aug. 15 at 6 p.m.