By Joe Scalzo
On Monday afternoon, the Youngstown State coaches brought senior linebacker Deonta Tate into the football offices and told him he was no longer part of the team.
“I jus gt kicked off da team wow,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “Had fun YSU Sports but I guess this is where we end.”
Tate’s tweets — he did not respond to an interview request on Tuesday — indicated he was surprised by the decision, and that it wasn’t mutual.
YSU coach Eric Wolford said Tuesday the decision came after several coaches spoke to Tate several times over an extended period of time.
“Basically, we had to make a decision we felt like was best for the team,” Wolford said. “In a roundabout way, if we’re all out in the Atlantic Ocean and everybody’s got an oar in their hand, they need to be rowing. And if you’re not rowing, we’ll try to help you.
“That’s what it comes down to. You’re either with us or you’re not.”
Tate, who was recruited out of Palmetto, Fla., by Jon Heacock, started 17 of his first 26 games before falling out of favor last season. He started the first eight games of the 2010 campaign but was replaced by Dom Rich for the final three.
Tate played sparingly this season, recording two tackles in six games as a backup linebacker and special teams player.
Wolford said Tate will remain on scholarship this year.
“He can still do what he needs to do,” Wolford said.
Tate’s departure continues Wolford’s radical reshaping of the roster since taking over in December 2009.
Of the 92 players on YSU’s roster, only 21 (23 percent) were part of the program under Heacock.
Of those 21, 11 have started a game either on offense or defense this season and three others are key special teams contributors.
Most of the Heacock holdovers are on offense, including starters Kurt Hess (QB), Jamaine Cook (RB), Andrew Radakovich (LT), D.J. Main (RT), David Rogers (TE) and Carson Sharbaugh (TE).
“I’ve said from Day 1, these are all our guys,” Wolford said. “It’s our team, our community. It doesn’t matter who recruited who. We don’t care about that.
“It’s about winning and losing. I think it’s hard for guys who’ve played around here that have played by default, then all the sudden somebody comes in [and takes the spot].”
So far this season, Wolford has played 21 redshirt, transfer or true freshmen.
Four true freshmen have started, as have three transfer freshmen that were not with the program last year.
Last year, 13 freshmen played, including five starters.
“We play the best available player,” he said. “If there’s a faster car, you better drive the faster car.”