By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- A few seconds after his fourth (or fifth or sixth) interview at Wednesday's media day, YSU quarterback Tom Zetts started walking toward the south end zone at Stambaugh Stadium to star in a recycling commercial.
He apparently wasn't walking fast enough for one of his teammates, junior Jeremiah Wright, who yelled, "Stop being Mr. Popular for two seconds, OK?"
In the commercial, Zetts takes a bottle from under center and throws it to senior wideout Kyle Smith, who dunks it into a recycling bin. That's not one of the new plays implemented by first-year offensive coordinator Brian Wright, which is probably a good thing.
"It was a lot of fun," fullback Demetrius Ison said, "but I'm not sure what it's going to look like."
No one's quite sure what the Penguins will look like this season, either, although there's no shortage of optimism from the YSU players.
Time to win
"It's time to win," Zetts, who started every game of last year's 4-7 season, said. "We were a young team last year and everyone got another year under their belt. We've got a good senior class and a lot of talent.
"It's time to do something."
The Penguins return 11 players on offense who started at least three games, including four (Zetts, tackle John Bartos, guard Tony Limongi and wide receiver Kyle Smith) who started every game. The top four running backs return, led by Ison, a first team all-Gateway Conference selection.
"We have basically the whole offense returning; we really only lost about three players," Ison, who was the first YSU player to earn first team all-conference honors as a sophomore. "The chemistry is there and the talent is there."
Limongi, Bartos and center Ryan Jewell will anchor the offensive line, which will lose tackle Pat Walker and guard Josh Tanner for the first part of the season because of injuries.
The Penguins lost their top wideout, Matt Rycraft, who used up his eligibility, but senior Kyle Smith returns. Smith, an honorable mention all-conference selection last year, is tied with Bartos and punter Joe Bishop for most starts on the team (23).
Smith has also caught a pass in 22 straight games, which is six off the school record set by Jeff Patterson in 1980-82.
Clearly, there's a lot of talent returning. But the Penguins' success will ultimately rest on Zetts' shoulders.
"We've come a long way," said Zetts, a Boardman High graduate. "And I really feel like I'm part of the team now."
Zetts, who threw for 1,822 yards and 16 TDs last year, needed a few games to adjust to the speed of the college game, but said things slowed down by the end of the year. He knew it would be a learning experience, but he had no idea the Penguins would go 4-7 -- their worst record since 1995.
"How could anyone expect 4-7?" Zetts asked.
"Going into the season, I always think we're going to win every game. Everyone should think that way. You've gotta believe you're going to be good."
Not everyone believes. The Penguins were picked to finish sixth in the Gateway in the preseason picks, which didn't surprise Ison.
"After a couple not-so-good seasons, there are going to be people who don't show you any respect," he said.
"We've just got to go out there and prove people wrong."