He is one of three regulars returning for the Penguins.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Scott Thiessen stood on the sidelines bouncing up and down trying to stay warm in the 39-degree temperature at Stambaugh Stadium.
Thiessen, a senior defensive back, is a native of Modesto, Calif., and still not acclimated to the unpredictable spring weather of Ohio.
"I'm still not used to this weather," Thiessen said. "It's really cold."
The 6-foot-2, 196-pound free safety was on the sidelines only because he suffered a mild ankle injury earlier in spring practice. He's expected to be the Penguins' starting free safety when the 2003 season opens Aug. 28 against Edinboro.
Lost one DB
Thiessen is one of three regulars returning to the YSU secondary. Only one starter from a year ago, Anthony Barone, graduated.
Thiessen came to Youngstown State in January 2001 from Modesto Junior College, where he was a standout defensive back for two seasons.
Last year he played behind Barone, a three-year starter, but saw plenty of action and started several games.
Secondary coach Pete Rekstis, who is also the team's defensive coordinator, has high expectations for Thiessen.
"Scott's such a great kid and he comes from a great family," Rekstis said. "I have a lot of confidence in his ability.
"He's a tall, long-legged defensive back who has great mobility back there and gets to the ball very quickly," he added.
"He is probably the smartest defensive back that I've ever coached here."
Even though Thiessen is recuperating from his ankle injury, he isn't standing around doing nothing.
"When I can't be in there I'm here trying to help some of the young kids," he said. "I want whoever is in there to be as good as they can possibly can, even if it's somebody in my spot.
"We've got some good talent coming back this year and a lot of good looking young players," he added. "I think this will be a strong unit by the end of spring practice."
Rekstis said that he expects Thiessen to be the leader in the secondary.
"I have complete confidence that Scott will get the defense into the right calls when he's in there," he said.
Thiessen said that YSU found him in junior college.
"Once I visited here I was hooked," he said.
At Modesto Junior College, Thiessen was a first-team all-conference selection as a sophomore when he recorded 80 tackles. He was also a first-team academic all-American and was honorable mention on the Junior College all-American team and the team's most valuable defensive player.
Modesto posted a 16-6 record during his two seasons and was 9-2 his sophomore year, which was the best mark in the school's history.
The Penguins return to drills Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. and will hold their first jersey scrimmage Friday, also at 3:30 p.m.