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Penguins don pads to open hits season



Published: Tue, August 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Monday's contact drills set the tone for Thursday'sjersey scrimmage.

By JOHN KOVACH

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- For every football player, each play that he makes during a game eventually occurs in only just a small area on the field between him and his opponent or opponents.

Each play for every player is just a representative sampling -- a microcosm -- of what is taking place over the entire field at the same time, and for the whole game.

So the idea behind Youngstown State's traditional "Hoot 'N' Holler drill, which was held Monday in Stambaugh Stadium to launch full-pads contact practice sessions, was to reproduce, simulate and condense all of this vicious blocking and tackling within a small, approximate 10-by-10-yard area.

What occurs during the drill is that three offensive lineman challenge three defensive linemen within this small space, while a ball carrier takes a hand-off from the quarterback and tries to run through.

Surrounded by teammates

Meanwhile, these eight players are surrounded by teammates who urge them on, and then pounce upon them with congratulatory cheers and pad-slapping after the play.

The determination is intense, the contact is vicious and the hoots and hollers are loud -- to say the least.

And after the players got a taste of this first full-pad hitting, they launched regular scrimmage sessions, although the first jersey scrimmage won't be until Thursday at 6 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.

The Penguins' opener is Aug. 29 at home against Clarion at 7:30 p.m.

"It's the fundamentals of football -- blocking and tackling -- all within that 10 yards. It's blocking and tackling and running hard," said second-year coach Jon Heacock.

Heacock, who guided the Penguins to an 8-3 record last year after succeeding Jim Tressel, said the drill "sets the tone" for the "first day in pads, the start of [contact] practice."

Because, as he sees it, "the bottom line in football is man-to-man, either blocking or tackling."

Get ready for contact

Two of the senior leaders and three-year letter-winners -- linebacker Jon Tekac and tight end John Schumacher -- agreed with Heacock as to the general purpose of the "Hoot 'N' Holler" drills, while also injecting their personal opinions.

"The purpose of the drill is to get focused and get guys ready to hit, and [experience] the realization that it is a contact sport and that they have to get ready and play a violent game while having control over themselves," said Tekac (6-foot-1, 235 pounds) from Wilmington Area High.

"We were going hard the past few days having contact without pads," Tekac said. "Now we just picked up the intensity."

Tekac, who tied for the team lead in tackles last season with 69 (34 solos and 35 assists), said his objective this season "is to help lead the defense and lead the team to win." And he feels in a better position to do that.

"Last year was my first year [as a leader] and I didn't know it [the job of leading] as well as I do now. I am more confident and stronger," said Tekac, who had a career-high and team-best 16 tackles against Western Kentucky.

One of Tekac's main assists is his strength. He holds the school record in the power-clean weight lift for linebackers with 319 pounds.

A fun session

Schumacher (6-3, 240) from Woodsfield Monroe High said he looks forward to the "Hoot 'N' Holler" drill.

"It's a fun thing we do. It's all guts and determination and lots of fun," said Schumacher, who had 11 receptions for 102 yards last year. "This is the first day in full pads. It sets the tone to get physical."

In 2000, Schumacher had eight catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns, while in 1999 he caught 16 balls for 233 yards and four TDs.

He said the goal this year is "to get the offense to jell and for the line to come together," and to reduce turnovers which were too many last year.

Schumacher said he feels more like a leader this year.

"Being a senior, I feel the leadership role," he said. "My main focus is to lead by example."

However, he also plans to lead verbally in addition to by example -- a "mixture," he said. "I'll focus more on keeping the guys in line."

kovach@vindy.com




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