The Youngstown State football team seems to have a good class of freshmen on the roster, but don’t look for many of them to be crack the starting lineup.
Other than former Cardinal Mooney standout Taylor Hill at linebacker — and he’s not a true freshman — there probably won’t be many from that talented crop who don’t get redshirted this year.
Senior Brandon Summers is the quarterback and a lot is riding on this young man’s shoulders.
The 6-2, 200 pounder, who transferred here from Toledo and became the starter two-games into the 2008 season, has come a long way. He’s not only the leader of the offense, but he’s the guy who has to make the offense go.
In other words he’s got to stay healthy, which is one reason why he hasn’t done much in the team’s two jersey scrimmages.
Summers looked better Saturday and said he felt he played better. He’s still learning and he knows it, but he’s the best the Penguins have and they know it.
Summers said he learned a lot last year.
“I learned that sometimes to have to eat the ball or throw it away,” he said. “I made that mistake in the Liberty game and threw an interception which probably cost us a win. I should have thrown the ball away instead of trying to make a big play that wasn’t possible.”
Summers has some good receivers such as senior Donald Jones, junior Dominique Barnes and senior Aaron Pitts and some talented running backs.
The two true freshmen, Jermaine Cook and Torrian Pace, are going to be good ones for the Penguins, but you can bet when the season opens Sept. 5 at the University of Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, it will be the three seniors, Kevin Smith, Jabari Scott and Dana Brown who will handle the bulk of the running game. They’re pretty good also.
Fullback is a delicate spot for the offense as there are only two really healthy players and they are both freshmen in Canfield’s Kyle Banna and State College’s Rob Stupar. Both are talented, but hopefully junior Kyle Banna (Dan’s older brother) or redshirt freshman Gary Thornton of East High, will be back in action.
You can also look for a couple of running backs like Smith and Scott or Brown in the backfield at the same time this season.
The offensive line has some veteran performers and good depth and should provide good protection for both the passing and running games.
Defensively the Penguins have to be much better, just with the return of All-American Mychal Savage on the defensive line. Again the D-line has good depth because of all the people who got to see action a year ago because of injuries.
The linebackers are smaller than usual, but are quick and outstanding athletes, while the secondary is a little thin at cornerback, but has both experience and talent and should be a good one.
The kicking game is still a question mark. Punter senior Ben Nowicki should be as good as there is in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but junior kicker Stephen Blose has attempted only one field goal in the last two seasons, although he did make it. One of Blose’s problems has been consistency and it has shown up already this fall in the two scrimmages.
When the season gets underway, Penguins’ fans can once again listen to all Youngstown State football game broadcasts on 570 WKBN this season starting with opener at Pittsburgh on Sept. 5. Bob Hannon, Dick Hartzell and WKBN news anchor Dave Sess will return to describe all of the action. They will begin their coverage of each game with a half hour pre-game show.
Fans can talk to YSU head football coach Jon Heacock every Monday night on “Penguin Playbook”. It’s Coach Heacock’s one-hour weekly radio show from 7-8 p.m. on 570 WKBN. Hosted by Hannon, the two will discuss the weekly opponent, the latest MVFC and FCS updates, talk to players and take your calls live from O’Charley’s Restaurant on South Avenue in Boardman.
Also, get the inside scoop every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. with “Penguin Gameday” on 21 WFMJ. Coach Heacock will be joined by Sports Director Dana Balash for the half-hour show. There will be player appearances, both past and present, along with a “Chalk Talk” segment featuring the YSU assistant coaches. “Penguin Gameday” will be streamed live on wfmj.com and ysusports.com. You can also watch the show on SportsTime Ohio every Friday. Check your local listings for times.
For the first time in a long time, the department will no longer hold weekly press conference luncheons. Instead every Monday afternoon, Heacock and some players will meet with the media.
XPete Mollica covers YSU athletics for The Vindicator. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.