YOUNGSTOWN -- Injuries have played havoc with the Youngstown State football program this fall and coach Jon Heacock is hoping that some of his injured crew gets back into action quickly since the season opener is right around the corner.
The Penguins have at least a dozen regulars injured or banged up enough to be held out of drills.
The key injuries appear to be on the offensive and defensive lines, two places where the Penguins can least afford to have regulars missing.
Tackle Pat Walker and guard Josh Tanner, two starters from a year ago, will probably miss the early part of the season.
Tanner, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound junior, had shoulder surgery this past spring and is actually coming around more quickly than expected.
Walker, a 6-5, 310 sophomore, has not been as successful rehabbing his injured knee.
Last week, the Penguins lost sophomore tackle Tyler Booth with an arm injury. It was first thought it might be broken, but after X-rays proved negative he hopes to be back in action soon.
Injuries mean moreplaying time for subs
The defensive line has more of the nagging type injuries with sophomore Greg Jacobs (shoulder), senior Brandon Brown and senior Joe Juby all expected to be ready to go before the opener Sept. 1 against Slippery Rock.
In the meantime, a lot of younger Penguins are getting to see more action and Heacock feels that will only benefit the team in the long run.
The offense had a couple of other slight injuries last week with sophomore backup quarterback Vince Gliatta and senior wide receiver Jameson Evans sustaining ankle sprains.
Senior tight end Shawn Carlson, who hasn't practiced this fall, is expected back this week. He's been bothered by high blood pressure, which he says the doctors seem to have under control.
Another tight end prospect, redshirt freshman Chris Kenney has also been held out of practice as he continues his battle with diabetes.
Junior wide receiver Tyler Morton is also having a slow time recovering from a ruptured ACL, which doctors say is more serious than a torn one.
"We've got a lot of guys out there banged up, a lot of guys that we are counting heavily upon," Heacock said.
One practice canceledto aid in healing
The fifth-year coach even slacked off some in practice and eliminated the final two-a-day session on Wednesday.
"I don't think that we've ever gotten in all 29 practices since I've been here, but even with that change we'll still have 28 practices in before the opener," Heacock said.
Even with all the injuries only a couple of position switches have been made.
Senior quarterback Aaron Marshall has been shifted to tight end and at 6-3, 240, will provide a very big target for quarterback Tom Zetts.
Senior Jamal Lee was moved from the defensive line to the offensive line to help out the shortage there, while junior Regis Edgerson was moved from tailback to fullback to back up junior Demetrius Ison.
After watching the films of last Thursday's jersey scrimmage, Heacock said that there were a lot of good things he saw.
"The best thing was that there were no turnovers," he said. "Although that means the defense has to work harder to produce some, but in the long run I'd rather have no turnovers."
The Penguins will wind up fall camp Friday.
Marketing departmentto host Kids Fun Day
The YSU athletic department will host a Kids Tailgate Fun Day, presented by Forum Health and McDonald's at Stambaugh Stadium prior to the YSU-Northeastern game Sept. 10.
The event will take place from 1-4 p.m. in the M-7 tailgate lot on Fifth Ave., adjacent to the stadium. The event is free and open to children of all ages and will include bounce-a-round games, football, basketball and soccer skills games, clowns, face painting, live music and YSU mascots Pete and Penny.
Area youth groups can contact the YSU athletic marketing office at (330) 941-7227 about complimentary game tickets.
XPete Mollica covers YSU athletics for The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.