A few minutes after the first day of YSU’s spring practice, after Eric Wolford had made fun of one of his player’s tans, bragged about his good looks and needled a YSU employee about his connection to the weather gods, WFMJ sports director Dana Balash looked at me, grinned and said, “Now that was different.”
There are a lot of good things you can say about former YSU coach Jon Heacock — he had integrity, he knew defense, he cared about his players — but, well, he sometimes came across a guy with as much personality as a pair of sweat socks.
That’s definitely not Wolford’s problem.
He’s a straight shooter, he doesn’t dodge questions and he doesn’t really have a huge filter between his brain and his mouth.
I like people like that.
Wolford has only been a head coach for about four months but you’d never know it from the way he’s handled himself. He know what he wants, he know where he wants to go and he’s done a pretty good job articulating his vision to his players, the media and the community.
Will that translate into wins? Who knows?
But I like what I’ve seen so far.
Here are the highlights of Wolford’s first spring practice at YSU. (And mine):
Wolford and his staff haven’t been effusive in their praise this spring — they rule by tough love and fear — but a couple names stick out.
Offensively, running backs Jamaine Cook, a junior, and Torrian Pace, a redshirt freshman, have ranged from solid to terrific. Redshirt freshman running back Dan Banna has taken advantage of his opportunities. And while senior wide receiver Dominique Barnes has had a rough transition with the coaching staff, he’s been arguably the team’s best player in its two scrimmages and Saturday’s spring game.
Wolford hasn’t said anything good about his offensive line but that’s no surprise. He’s going to be harder on that position than any other on the team.
Defensively, senior defensive tackle Torrence Nicholson (who sprained his foot and missed the spring game), linebackers Taylor Hill (a sophomore) and Deonta Tate (a junior), senior safety Andre Elliott and senior cornerback Brandian Ross have been mentioned the most by the coaches. Also, junior linebacker David Rach opened some eyes on Saturday.
Coaching-wise, there’s no better interview than Wolford. But defensive coordinator Rick Kravitz is a lot of fun and special teams coordinator Louie Matsakis is a really good guy.
Offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery, a former head coach at Miami (Ohio), reminds me a little of Jim Tressel in that you’ll interview him for 10 minutes and think, “Wow, what a good guy.” Then you look down at your notebook and realize there’s nothing good in it.
Player-wise, I’d go with Ross, Pace, senior lineman Eric Rodemoyer, sophomore tackle Andrew Radakovich and junior quarterback Marc Kanetsky, who I wish was three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier.
Five quotes I loved the most
Wolford, on Kanetsky’s hairy legs: “He might be part werewolf. If we ever get fleas, we’re in trouble.”
Kanetsky, on his quarterback competition with Hess: “It’s not cutthroat. It’s not like you’re paying guys to take out his knee or anything.”
Wolford, on whether it’s a difficult adjustment for Pace to run with his pads lower: “No, you just have to get a bat out.”
Kravitz, on coaching at Western Michigan the past two years, then coming to YSU after spending his whole career in south Florida: “The first time I’m at Western Michigan and they were talking about that snow effect or lake effect and I didn’t know what the heck that was. The lady should have just said blizzard because that son of a gun was cold. And then I got here, I found that black ice. I’ve went down a couple times since I’ve been here so it’s been an adjustment.”
Wolford, on motivating players, “You’ve got drive young people. You can’t Google football. That’s a big problem we have right now. Everything’s given to these guys. Can’t Google football. Can’t cut and paste it.”
Joe Scalzo covers YSU football for The Vindicator. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.