YSU FOOTBALL Penguins look for improved special teams
They might just have the two best kickers in all of Division I-AA football.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- YSU football coach Jon Heacock expects to have a much improved special teams play this season.
But he'll be the first to admit that nobody really knows just how good they will be until they come under fire for the first time next Thursday night, when the Penguins open the season against Slippery Rock.
"I feel very good about the pool of people we have on special teams," said Heacock. "I told the kids that we have the opportunity to be very good on special teams.
"Special teams is a little bit different because the pool of players is drawn from all of the different positions, and then, as [former assistant] Coach [Ken] Conatser used to say, you never know how you're going to be on special teams until you put them under fire in the game."
The kicking game is one area that Heacock doesn't have much to worry about, since the Penguins have two of the best kickers in all of Division I-AA.
Senior placekicker Nick Terracina and sophomore punter Joe Bishop are expected to have very good seasons, and both have done well in fall camp.
"We're really confident about those guys, plus we've got long snapper Tanner Dunlap and his backup Bryant Wilson which gives us good depth there also," Heacock said.
Wednesday the Penguins spent almost half of their practice working on special teams and both Terracina and Bishop were at their best.
Terracina didn't miss during the field goal drills until he got to 56 yards away. On his second attempt from that distance he hit the left upright about half way up.
"They are both kicking much better now than they did early in camp, but that's the way you want it as you get closer to the season," Heacock said.
Bishop's hang time in Wednesday's drills was impressive, as the defenders had to wait for the returners to catch the ball.
Good crop of returners
The return game is another area that Heacock feels will be in good hands.
"We've got a lot of guys back who have a lot of experience back there," he said. "Guys like Kyle [Smith], Tyler [Morton], J.P. [Perry] and Josh [Cayson].
"They've all had plenty of experience back there and that definitely gives us another plus on special teams," he said.
"Special teams is a one-play series and it requires extra effort and attitude," said Heacock. "It takes special effort and there are guys that like that effort and some that don't and you just got to find the ones that do.
"It takes a lot of work to become a great special teams players and I think that we have a group of guys that really care about special teams and as long as you have that you have a chance to be very good at it."
The Penguins worked out in full pads on Wednesday, and junior transfer Ricky Valenzuela, an offensive tackle, was on the field for the first time.
Valenzuela, who transferred from Glendale (Calif.) Junior College, still hasn't received his final transfer papers, but he passed his summer correspondence class and was permitted to begin practice.
YSU was scheduled to work out today at 3 p.m. and will take Friday off. The Penguins begin game week preparations Saturday for the opener.