By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN - Youngstown State football coach Jon Heacock likes to refer to them as Sam and his six sons when he talks about the Penguins running backs.
Sam, of course, is assistant head coach and running backs coach, Sam Eddy. His six sons are Josh Cayson, Demetrius Ison, Monquantae Gibson, Marcus Mason and Brandon Nicholson.
Those six along with Jabari Scott and Ben Lane comprise what the coaches feel is one of the finest group of running backs that Penguins have had in some time.
"We've got about five that can step in right now and play the game," said Eddy who is beginning his 12th season with the Penguins.
Cayson, the only senior in the group, is a Warren JFK product, and has added some pounds during the off-season and is listed at 180, the heaviest he's ever been with the Penguins.
"It had a lot to do with him being injured this summer and he spent more time in the weight room," Eddy said. "He's starting to melt some of it off in camp."
Gibson, if he stays healthy, will probably be the team's No. 1 tailback. He led the team in rushing with 680 yards while playing in only seven games because of injuries.
Ranks among best
The 6-foot, 200-pounder could be one of the best in the league, according to Eddy.
"If 'Q' stays healthy he's as good as anybody in this league," Eddy said. "In fact we have three tailbacks that we can put on the field and be as competitive as anybody in the league."
Besides Cayson and Gibson, the Penguins brought in junior transfer Marcus Mason from Illinois. The 5-9, 197-pounder has been impressive in drills.
Can't play this year
Nicholson, a 5-7, 181 sophomore, had the best spring practice of any of the tailbacks, but won't be eligible this season as he must sit out his transfer year, coming from Div. II Charleston (W. Va.)
The fifth tailback is Scott (5-10, 172), from San Antonio, Texas.
The fullback position is in good hands with Ison, a 6-0, 235 pound junior from Jackson Center, Pa.
He was a first-team All-Gateway Conference selection last year as a sophomore and was named to this year's pre-season All-Gateway first team.
"Demetrius is just an outstanding football player, who loves the game," Eddy said. "He can run the ball, catch the ball and block as well as play special teams."
With the abundance of tailbacks the Penguins have moved former tailback Regis Edgerson (6-1, 235) over to fullback. The transfer from South Carolina has made the switch smoothly according to Eddy.
Freshman Lane, a Hubbard High product, is also a fullback candidate.
"Ben is going to be a good one, but right now he's very young and has so much to learn," Eddy said.
"They all offer something just a little bit different when they are in there," Eddy continued.
"Cayson is the type of back that likes to make the cuts," he added. "He won't make you miss on a dime, but he'll wind it back on you when he can.
"Gibson is the type of runner who will make you miss in close quarters," Eddy said. "You watch him and he'll make a cut three feet from the defender and you wonder just how he did it.
"The thing about Marcus Mason is that he's very fast, but when you come up and try and tackle him, he's just going to lower the boom and come right at you," Eddy added.
"You can never have enough running backs and the things we have to do is to keep them healthy and keep their heads in the game even when they are not on the field," Eddy said.