YSU’s young defense is exposed in scrimmage by experienced offensive unit
By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State defensive line coach Tom Sims played seven years in the NFL and can still move pretty well for a 300-pound man.
Particularly when he’s dancing around reporters’ questions.
When asked about the defense following Saturday’s second spring scrimmage, Sims started with an old standby.
“I’ll be honest — I have to watch the film,” he said. “I know there are times we looked decent — and, to be honest, good — but there were times we looked pretty bad.
“I’ll know more in three hours.”
When asked about having three redshirt freshmen starting on the defensive line, Sims said, “The good thing about today is a lot of young football players got the opportunity to play a lot of football in a situation where it didn’t cost us.”
And when asked which defensive lineman is going to get to the quarterback this fall, he said, “Uh ...” and then started chuckling.
“Prayer,” he said finally. “We’ll get there.”
YSU’s offense scored on its first three drives, with backup quarterback Patrick Angle directing the second two, and the Penguins went the first 30 minutes without an incomplete pass en route to a typically impressive performance. While YSU’s defense stiffened over the second half of the scrimmage, there was little question which side won.
“We wanted to take it to them,” said sophomore wideout Christian Bryan, who caught three passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns. “If we play like we did today, we’re going to be a really dangerous team on offense.”
Sims is known for his funny lines, but when a reporter started his interview by asking for some comedy, Sims shook his head and said, “How about tragedy?”
Thanks to injuries to starting defensive linemen Nick DeKraker and Aronde Stanton — and the graduation of three starters from last fall — the Penguins started redshirt freshmen Steve Zaborsky, Emmanuel Kromah and Trevor Strickland next to senior Josh Fenderson up front.
Add in sophomore linebacker Dubem Nwadiogbu (filling in for injured LB Travis Williams), sophomore CB Brandon Neal (a surprise starter after sitting out last season) and sophomore CB Julius Childs (a junior college transfer) and it was see why the first-team defense struggled.
And the second-team.
“We have youth,” Penguins coach Eric Wolford said. “We can’t let youth be an excuse.
“It’s for those guys to start growing and take that next step in becoming veteran players around here.”
In fairness, the Penguins return every starter — and every coach — from an offense that set several school records and led the conference in most statistical categories. They can make any defense look bad, particularly one trying to integrate a lot of new players in a new system.
“They can,” Sims said. “They do an excellent job of exploiting what you give them. They see what you give them and they attack.
“It’s just something we’ve got to take in stride and keep working to get better.”