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‘State of Youngstown’ is revived

Published: Mon, August 9, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.




When freshman cornerback Donald D’Alesio started his first official practice at YSU last week, he could look across the field and spot a fellow freshman named Zach Larson.

Larson has been playing football with D’Alesio since the fourth grade.

Or he could look in another direction and spot freshman linebacker Mark Brandenstein, who played a few feet away from him on last year’s Division III state championship team at Cardinal Mooney.

Or look in an another direction and spot guys like sophomore linebacker Mike McGlone or sophomore safety Vinnie Patella, who were his teammates two years ago with the Cardinals.

Elsewhere, he could see freshmen such as running back Allen Jones (an Ursuline High grad who was Wolford’s first recruit) and defensive linemen Dan Fernback and Kevin Johnson (both of Boardman). He played against all three last fall.

“[Last week] in meetings, we had to come out and tell everyone where we’re from,” D’Alesio said. “All us Youngstown guys, we kind of stick together a little.

“It’s kind of everyone’s dream to play on an All-Star team.”

Of the 90 players on YSU’s roster, 26 hail from the tri-county area.

And that doesn’t count Mooney High graduates Taylor Hill and Eric Franklin, talented players who will spend this fall focusing on academics. Or five others who will either start the year injured or waiting for roster spots to open up.

“We want to show everyone where we’re from and what we’re about,” said Brandenstein, a first team All-Ohioan last fall for a 15-0 Mooney team. “[YSU’s] been down a little bit and we’re going to bring them back.

“The homeboys, we know what we’ve got to do to get this Youngstown team back in the rankings. It’s great playing with the guys you played high school with, your brothers on the team.”

Since he was hired in December, YSU coach Eric Wolford has emphasized the need to recruit locally and he already has three local commitments from the Class of 2011: Fitch DL Steve Zaborsky, West Branch OL Brandon Ferguson and Girard WR Landon Smith.

He’s also made scholarship offers to five others: Hubbard LB Blake Novotny, East WR Mike Thomas, Warren Harding RB Demond Hymes, Ursuline RB Akise Teague and Poland WR Darius Patton, whose father, Shawn, was a standout running back on the Penguins’ 1994 national championship team.

Although the local recruiting approach is nothing new — former YSU coach Jim Tressel often referred to this area as the “State of Youngstown” — Wolford, an Ursuline High graduate, has pursued players earlier and more aggressively than in years past.

The approach paid dividends with Smith, who had offers from schools in the Big Ten, Big East and Mid-American Conference.

The Penguins won’t get every local player, and not every local player will make an impact. But as Wolford tries to help Youngstown State return to prominence, he knows it’s not a bad idea to start with players who remember that success.

“I love Coach Wolford; he’s making a bunch of changes in a positive direction,” D’Alesio said. “He’s working us hard, turning things around here.

“His goal is to win a national championship, just like everyone else’s.”


1piak(508 comments)posted 5 years, 6 months ago

The pursuit of local players with talent is what the former coach didn't get accomplished. It was noticable, in that he didn't land enough of the top local talent.

Consider this: If you have the talent in 1AA ball, you have a good shot at making the NFL. You may have to work harder at training camp in the "bigs", but the chance is there. 1A ball is great, but the pressure there is a lot more on atheletic victory. Here at YSU, we want to win, but there will be strong pressure on you to get your academic work done. In short, a player here has a good chance of making the NFL and will have a good chance of getting a meaningful degree. That degree is important. If injury or time cuts short a football career after college, the player "gets on with his life" (as Chuck Noll used to say).

With the new facility being built and a lot of the locals avid for national recognition for our football program, you have a great situation here. If Mount Union at Div 3 can achieve national recognition, we can do the same at Div 1AA right here.

State of Youngstown? Glad to have it back; it was gone far too long.

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2PHISHIE(105 comments)posted 5 years, 6 months ago

The talk is that YSU will return to dominance. But, such is just that....., talk. The wins remain to be seen???? Time will tell not talk.............YSU needs to move to 1a football. 1AA is too compteitive for the players available in this area...........Most players, regardless of one here and one there want to play 1a football. Time to move on........PHISHIE

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3piak(508 comments)posted 5 years, 6 months ago

Going to 1A football would be good and most of us would like to see it happen. It seems the major difference is in the number of athletic scholarships than can be awarded, but I don't know the exact number. Then there's the matter of a stadium and the crowds they want to attend. A couple of years ago, I think there was an article about the crowds here. The Missouri Valley Conference wanted average crowds somewhere around 15,000 per game, but it was admitted in the article that not too many teams in the Conference drew that many even for a big game. Anybody know what the 1A Conferences require for attendence at a game?

Didn't we almost get into the MAC a long time ago, but either Akron or Kent State messed us up out of it? Anyone got the scoop on that instance?

I'd rather we see what we can do in the next couple of years before we flex our muscles to get into 1A ball. If we show them we're a serious contender, then we could hit into the higher classification.

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4Buckeyeplat(7 comments)posted 5 years, 6 months ago

YSU needs to prove they are again a power at the 1AA level before even thinking about moving to Division 1.

It is good thing YSU did not make the move years ago as it would have been a disaster.Marshall started out with a bang and has since struggled to be average at the Division 1 level.

Why not be a national powerhouse within your division rather than an average or weak team.See no pluses in moving up unless future teams prove they can consistently beat teams in the Mid American Conference.

Excited about Wolford and what he has done so far.He seems to get it.

Hope the Guins have a great year!!

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5valleyred(1102 comments)posted 5 years, 6 months ago

Stay in the FCS and dominate it for years and years to come.

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