By Rob Todor
If Eric Wolford loses a recruit to another program it won’t be from a lack of trying.
The soon-to-be Youngstown State football coach is considered one of the nation’s top recruiters, according to Mark Porter of ScoutingOhio.com.
“He works the phones as good as anybody,” said Porter, who’s known Wolford for about five years.
“He’s obsessive about it. He feels it’s his job to know every name. In fact, I think he takes it personally if I know about a prospect, for instance, that he doesn’t.”
Wolford, who will be named the Penguins’ coach today, has a great relationship with high school coaches in Ohio, said Porter.
Wolford spent the 2009 season as offensive line coach and running game coordinator at South Carolina, but was at Illinois for two seasons and picked up a couple key recruits from Ohio.
“He’s not a white-collar coach; he’s a blue-collar coach,” said Porter. “He didn’t have any connections to help him in his [coaching] career. He had to work his way up.”
Bob Hannon, president of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley and the radio voice of YSU football, said he was impressed by Wolford’s preparedness when he was interviewed by university athletic director Ron Strollo.
“He learned, even though it was only for a year, from one of the best coaches [Steve Spurrier] in the nation,” said Hannon, who also likes Wolford’s reputation of being a top recruiter.
“We haven’t recruited locally or nationally as well as we did since [former coach Jim Tressel].”
Sam Mosca, a teammate of Wolford’s at Ursuline High School and currently an officer with the Youngstown Police Department, said Wolford is “dedicated to the game and has worked up the ranks on his own merit.
“Another big advantage to the community is that he is going to pursue the student-athletes from Youngstown and the surrounding areas,” said Mosca. “I believe he’s going to be able to keep these kids home in Youngstown.
“If you talk to some of his former players, he’d be considered a player’s coach and they buy into him,” added Mosca. “And the reason they buy into him is because he’s an honest guy, he doesn’t have any type of persona.”
Matt DeVicchio is another Ursuline teammate of Wolford’s and is an attorney in Youngstown.
He believes having a chance to return home was a big factor in Wolford’s pursuit of the YSU job.
“He wants to be here. He wants to be back in Youngstown coach for YSU because he has a vision for what he wants this program to be,” said DeVicchio.
Wolford played at Ursuline for Dick Angle, now the coach at Howland, and was recruited to Kansas State by Bob Stoops, then an assistant coach and now the head coach at Oklahoma.
“I can remember when he called to tell me he was getting into coaching,” said Angle, “and I couldn’t believe it.
“He was a pleasure to coach. He has a dynamic personality, he can communicate and get along with people and he’s a true leader.”
Angle called Wolford “a winner. He has great enthusiasm and I admire his energy.
“He loves what he does and has a passion for the game. He loves the Youngstown area because he’s a blue collar guy. He’s lived this area.
“Youngstown is getting a gem. He’s going to be endlessly working for the university.”
Angle also complimented his former pupil on his coaching ability.
“Football is a simple game; it’s block and tackle,” said Angle. “And if there is one thing Eric can coach, it’s blocking along the offensive line … he’s a great teacher of the game and he’ll bring those teachings with him.”
Wolford would drive Angle’s 7-year-old son home from practice when the latter would stay late for meetings.
“I trusted him with my own son.”
Vindicator staff writer Jon Moffett contributed to this report.
TIME LINE | New coach
Eric Wolford was born in Youngstown in 1971 and attended Ursuline High School.
Family: Wife, Melinda; two children, Stone and Marlee.
1989: Graduated from Ursuline High School.
1989-93: Attended and graduated from Kansas State. Member of the football team 1989-93.
1994: Started his coaching career at Kansas State as graduate assistant.
1995: Worked as offensive- line/strength coach for Emporia State University, Emporia, Kan.
1996-99: Offensive-line coach for University of South Florida.
2000: Tight end/tackles coach for University of Houston.
2001: Running backs/special-teams coach for University of Houston.
2002: Defensive-line coach for University of Houston.
2003: Offensive-line coach for University of North Texas.
2004-06: Offensive-line coach for University of Arizona.
2007-08: Run-game coordinator/offensive-line coach for University of Illinois.
2009: Run-game coordinator/offensive line coach for University of South Carolina.
Dec. 15, 2009: Expected to be named head football coach at YSU.
- Played in the Coca-Cola Bowl, Tokyo, Japan, 1992
- Played in the Copper Bowl, 1993
- Coached in New Orleans Bowl, 2003
- Coached in Rose Bowl, 2008