Transfer to tackle YSU’s shortage of sacks


By Joe Scalzo

scalzo@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

We might as well get this out of the way early.

Yes, Youngstown State has a player named Nick DeKraker and, yes, his last name sounds an awful lot like, “Da cracker.”

And yes, DeKraker is white.

And yes, we are not the first ones to point this out.

“I kind of tease myself because I like making people laugh and if I make them laugh first, if I can laugh at myself before they laugh at me, it goes smoothly,” DeKraker said.

DeKraker, a junior defensive tackle for Youngstown State, is trying to make a name for himself with the Penguins after spending two years at Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College. He was a first-team all-conference selection last fall after compiling 70 tackles, including 13 for loss, and four sacks.

To put this in perspective, consider this: YSU had just 12 sacks — total — last fall and no one had more than two. The Penguins had just 37 tackles for loss and no one had more than six. Last year’s TFL leaders — Torrance Nicholson and David Rach — are both gone.

For all the criticism levied on YSU’s secondary last season — and some of it was deserved — YSU coach Eric Wolford much of the problem had to do with the team’s anemic pass rush.

Consequently, Wolford brought in 11 defensive line recruits, with DeKraker and junior Josh Fenderson (Rochester Community Tech) both enrolling early.

“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Wolford said of DeKraker. “I knew he’d be a good player. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s strong. He’s one of our strongest players on the team.

“He’s got a tremendous work ethic and he’s fit right in.”

DeKraker (6-3, 255) shrugged off questions about making an easy transition — “Heck, it’s like any other school; you’ve got to adapt no matter what,” he said — but said one of the big reasons he came to Youngstown was because of his immediate chemistry with the players.

“When I first came here on my visit, I got along with the guys right away,” said DeKraker, who hails from Marne, Mich. “I’m just getting used to the environment, getting used to the Division I style.

“It’s just a huge step up.”

Wolford has tried to develop that kind of camaraderie, eschewing high risk/high reward recruits in favor of players who are willing to check their egos at the door.

He said the five junior college recruits who enrolled early have fit in well.

“They have all made an easy transition and that’s a testament to our kids,” Wolford said. “We have a great football team right now as far as the chemistry, the passion. There’s no egos, no selfishness.

“It’s a good environment to be around.”

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