By Pete Mollica
Brad Samsa and Jarvis Richards are ready to lead the Penguins against the Buckeyes.
YOUNGSTOWN — The 2008 season finally has arrived, and nobody is more excited about it than the seniors on the Youngstown State football team.
In three days, the Penguins will trek to Columbus where they will take on the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in a noon kickoff at Ohio Stadium.
YSU senior co-captain Brad Samsa and senior cornerback Jarvis Richards addressed the media Tuesday at the Penguins’ weekly press conference at the DeBartolo Stadium Club in Stambaugh Stadium.
“We’ve been looking forward to this time ever since camp began and we’ve been working very hard and excited to go out and play on Saturday,” said Richards.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Richards, a native of Daytona Beach, Fla., moved into the starting secondary a year ago, but he’s played in almost every game since he walked onto the YSU campus as a freshman in 2005.
“We know that we have our work cut out for us on Saturday, but we also know that if everybody goes out and does their job that we have a chance against them,” he said.
“Our whole theory going into this season is to just take things one game at a time and that’s exactly what we are doing,” Richards added.
Last season, Richards moved into the starting lineup and was the starter in eight of the team’s 11 games. He was credited with 53 total tackles, including 39 solo stops. He had two sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception and also was credited with five pass breakups.
“We know what it’s going to be like down there. We went through it last year and some of us have been through it before that at Penn State and at Pitt. Those things surrounding the game should not be as much of a distraction as they once were. We know what to expect,” Richards said.
Samsa, who along with senior defensive tackle Mychal Savage was a unanimous choice of his teammates to be a team captain, echoed Richards comments.
The 6-3, 290 center, who played at Howland High, will anchor a veteran offensive line this season, and he’s excited about the opportunity.
“It’s been a great honor to be selected as captain by my teammates,” Samsa said.
“I’ve never been what you would call a vocal leader. I’ve always led by example and I see no reason to change things now,” he added. “I know how hard I work and I’ll continue to work as hard as I can to help this football team in any way I can.”
Samsa, who was redshirted as a freshman in 2004, has seen action in every year since. He started out as a center in 2005 and made one start.
As a sophomore in 2006, he started all 14 games at right guard and was named to the All-Gateway Conference second team.
Last season, when he earned second team All-American honors and first-team All-Gateway, he again started every game, the first three games at guard and then was shifted to left tackle after the Penguins went through a rash of injuries. Still he graded out with five performances over 80 percent, including a season best 89 against Indiana State.
“I’ve been here five years and I’ve seen it all, so Saturday is not going to come as any big surprise to me,” he said.
“I look forward to competing against the Buckeyes and the key is to just play hard the entire time no matter which way the game goes,” he said.
Samsa is excited about this year’s YSU offensive line.
“We’ve both experience and depth,” he added. “It is mostly the same guys, but just that a lot of them are in different positions.”