By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown State football team lost more than just 21 players to graduation this season.
The Penguins lost 21 leaders.
So when coach Jon Heacock and his staff talked about this year's recruiting season, they weren't just interested in talent. They also wanted character and class.
"That was our No. 1 priority," Heacock said at Wednesday's press conference for national signing day. "The game is not about Xs and Os, it's about people. We got guys with a lot of class, character and personality.
"I think that's critical."
20 recruits: YSU recruited 20 players, including 10 from Ohio and four from the Youngstown area. Warren Kennedy tailback Josh Cayson, Ursuline's Brandon Brown, Champion tight end Max King and Newton Falls safety Marty Hutchinson are among the team's 16 freshmen recruits.
Ursuline graduate Tim Frost transferred from West Virginia and will be a junior at YSU this season.
"We're very excited," Heacock said. "This program is built on Ohio recruiting and we went out and got folks who truly wanted to be here."
YSU continued its tradition of recruiting Florida athletes, signing East Lake High teammates Mike Andrews (safety/linebacker) and Tyler Morton (defensive back), running back Justin Reams from Coral Reef High in Miami and wide receiver T.J. Peterson from St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale. Peterson was one of eight Aquinas seniors to sign with a Division I school.
Track background: The Penguins tried to recruit players with a track background, Heacock said.
"I think eight of these guys ran track and a couple had scholarship offers for track," Heacock said. "So we got some folks who can run."
YSU will lose quarterback Jeff Ryan to graduation, and this year's backup, Colby Street, has struggled with academic eligibility.
Quarterback Matt Crivello, a transfer from Cabrillo Junior College in California, will bring experience to YSU's young crop of quarterbacks.
"Obviously, when you lose a guy like Jeff you're a little concerned," Heacock said. "But we've lost Jeff Ryans before. Crivello gives us some experience at the position."
The focus: The Penguins main recruiting concerns were offensive line, defensive back, wide receiver, punter and kicker.
The team addressed the kicking needs by signing Joe Bishop, a punter/kicker from St. Thomas Aquinas in Louisville.
"Like every other head coach in the country, I'm going to tell you we got the guys we wanted," Heacock said. "We lost a couple down the stretch to schools like West Virginia and Indiana. But that only tells you that you're recruiting the right guys."
Some freshmen will be expected to contribute this season, Heacock said.
"We're counting on some guys to come in and help us right away," he said. "Who they'll be, I don't know. It'll probably be a complete surprise."