The Penguins are ahead of schedule, but many questions remain.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State football coach Jon Heacock isn't sure about a lot of things with his football team.
But the fifth-year coach figures that he'll find out a lot more about this year's team Friday afternoon, when the Penguins hold their first and only jersey scrimmage of the spring at 3:30 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.
The YSU defense won the final jersey scrimmage of the 2004 fall practice session and is still wearing the red practice jerseys this spring.
"Exactly where we're at right now I'm not sure," said Heacock. "But we should know a lot more about this team after Friday's scrimmage.
"We know the offensive line has improved greatly over last year," he added. "They've got a year of experience under their belts and have been working hard to improve this spring.
"Our linebackers have gotten better and our quarterbacks as a group have definitely improved," Heacock said.
"Overall we are a better team now than we were a year ago in the spring," he continued. "We're bigger and stronger and our attitude and desire are much better."
Heacock also pointed out that the team as a whole is still very young.
"A kid like Ben Suran on the defensive line played a little last year, but really he's still a freshman with this program and he's come a long way," he said.
"Our three new kids are big and add some needed size to the defense, but they've only had eight days of YSU football under their belts," he said.
Wednesday also was the Bob Dove free coaches clinic for area high school coaches to visit the practice session and attend a clinic.
"We had about 25 or 30 coaches here at practice today and we'll have about a 100 tonight," Heacock said. "We'll all go in and watch the films of today's workouts and then we'll break up into groups and go over a lot of things with them."
Heacock said that three players will definitely sit out Friday's scrimmage and all three are slated for starting roles this coming season.
Junior tackle Pat Walker is hampered by a knee injury, while junior tailback Monquantae Gibson is recovering from a shoulder injury, as is sophomore guard Josh Tanner.
"The bad news is that they will miss the scrimmage, but the good news is that the guys playing behind them will get a lot more reps on Friday," said Heacock.
Odds and ends
Wednesday's session was broken up into more drills by position for the benefit of the area coaches and the Penguins also spent a little more time working on the kicking game.
Freshman placekicker Brian Palmer of Mineral Ridge has been impressive this spring. He was booming kickoffs into the end zone and kicked a 50-yard field goal.
Junior punter Joe Bishop, who had an outstanding sophomore season, is also having a strong spring and should be one of the best punters in the Gateway Conference this season.
The Penguins have today off and after Friday's scrimmage, they will hold a light workout Saturday morning without pads and then hold a special teams scrimmage Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
The Red and White Spring Game draft of players will be held next Tuesday at noon in the DeBartolo Stadium Club leading up to the game next Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.