YSU FOOTBALL Penguins start practice with high hopes
Coach Jon Heacock wants his team to improve on last year's 5-7 record.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- The 2004 Youngstown State football season officially got under way this morning as more than 80 players reported to camp.
The team's first official workout will be held Saturday at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.
YSU fourth-year head coach Jon Heacock is excited about this year's group and is anxious to get things rolling.
"It's exciting that we have a lot of kids back on both sides of the football, which is good, but only if we continue to get better," Heacock said. "If we don't get better, then it's not so good.
"We took some pretty good shots last season, and I think that these kids have worked hard this spring and summer with those things in mind," he continued.
"But overall I think it is the team's attitude that really excites me the most."
The Penguins slipped to 5-7 a year ago, their first losing season since 1995, but more disappointing was their 2-5 record and sixth-place finish in the Gateway Conference, their lowest finish since joining the league in 1997.
Plenty of players return
Only three players from the group that competed in the spring will not be back this fall. They include wide receiver Cody Clark, offensive guard Devon Wilkens and wide receiver Jim Smith.
"We still have seven kids in summer school and those grades won't be out until next week, while we also still are waiting on some transcripts from some of our transfer players," Heacock said.
The Penguins return all of their top producers from a season ago, including junior quarterback Aaron Marshall, junior tailback Josh Cayson, junior wide receiver Kyle Smith and senior linebacker Yancey Marcum.
Marshall lost the No. 1 quarterback position to redshirt freshman Tom Zetts of Boardman in the spring. Zetts sat out all but the first two quarters of the season opener last year with a broken collarbone.
Excluding last season's recruiting class, the Penguins will have five new transfers in camp.
Leading that group is sophomore tailback Regis Edgerson, a 6-1, 225 pounder from Garfield Heights, who came to the Penguins from the University of South Carolina.
Joining him is junior Jameson Evans, a 6-3, 217-pound wide receiver from Shaker Heights by way of Purdue University. Jason Eisele, a 6-5, 290-pound lineman from Avon Lake, also has transferred from the Boilermakers.
The Penguins have a couple new junior college transfers in 5-10, 175-pound redshirt freshman Greg Jackson from Lakeland, Fla., and Fort Scott Junior College and junior Aaron Scales, a 6-0, 200-pound cornerback from Cleveland and Minnesota West Junior College.
They also will have Steve Reynolds, a 6-0, 200-pound free safety, back for another year. Reynolds, who was listed as a senior last year, discovered he was able to graduate with his class in the spring and thus earned his fifth season of eligibility. He skipped spring ball because he wasn't certain that he would graduate.
The Penguins will hold single practices on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Their first two-a-day session will be Thursday. The team will put on full pads Wednesday for the first time and the jersey scrimmage will be held Aug. 17 at 3 p.m.
YSU opens the season on Sept. 2 at home against Slippery Rock University at 7:30 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.
"This will be the first time that I ever remember that we will have been in school two weeks before we played a game," Heacock said. School begins Aug. 23 at YSU.
"It's different and it requires some scheduling changes in our practice, but we'll be going with our regular one-a-day school sessions for two weeks before the opener," he added. "We'll only be in camp for a week and a half."