The former Harding player hopes to be a stalwart for the Penguins backfield.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Quick Maurice Clarett story. When Ryan Jewell was at Warren Harding High, he and a few teammates were mulching then-assistant coach Dan Reardon's yard for a summer project. When they went behind the house, Clarett saw two big dogs behind a fence.
That was enough.
"He took off running, jumped straight into the truck and locked the doors," Jewell said, laughing. "They were friendly dogs, but he's from Youngstown. Every dog he sees is looking to kill."
A few years later, Jewell is trying to open holes for another former Warren Harding running back, Josh Cayson, who transferred to Warren JFK for his senior year.
The junior offensive lineman also will try to open holes for YSU's other backs, help protect his quarterback, Tom Zetts, and provide leadership for an offensive line that lost two starters, Josh Tanner and Pat Walker, to injuries.
"I think the past couple years have been building years for us," said Jewell, who started 10 games last season. "The younger guys have continued to grow and mature and get stronger and now it's the time to produce."
Jewell, who missed last year's Western Kentucky game with an injury, was named the team's Offensive Player of the Game against McNeese State last year and was the Offensive Lineman of the Game against Florida International, Northern Iowa and Indiana State.
After redshirting in 2002, Jewell started eight games in 2003 and earned his first letter. But it wasn't until last year that he really showed what he could do.
"Now I play without hesitation," he said. "I know exactly what I'm doing on each play."
He's not the only one. Senior guard Tony Limongi (Niles) and senior tackle John Bartos (Ursuline) each started every game last season and sophomore tackle Tyler Booth had four starts.
Losing Tanner and Walker will hurt, but reserves Brad Sisma, John Foster, Joe DeBee, Matt Kishman, Leon Edwards and Erik Claxon will have a chance to compete for playing time this season.
"We didn't finish a lot of games last year," Jewell said. "That's going to be the biggest difference. A lot of the guys on this team have played for two years now and we know what to look for and what to expect.
"We're a lot more composed and I think that will help."