By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State junior cornerback Dale Peterman is on his third college in four years. He had a son before he was old enough to drink. He couldn’t play football last season because of his grades, which was the same reason he had to go to junior college three years ago instead of Syracuse.
Like it or not, this is part of his story.
But so is this: At this time last year, Peterman started taking classes at YSU knowing he wouldn’t be able to play football for a year. He stuck with it, waking up Sunday mornings last fall to watch Penguin replays on TV. He came to every YSU practice in the spring. He aced his summer school classes.
And after a strong training camp, the Penguins released their first depth chart late last month. Peterman’s name was at the top.
“He’s been a work in progress,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “Obviously he had to sit last year and just go to school and he did that and he did well.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface with this guy.”
When Peterman was a senior at Ursuline, Wolford was an assistant at Illinois recruiting him. Wolford said he had some “interesting conversations” with Peterman in high school.
“And they weren’t in this tone of voice,” he said, calmly. “He knew he had to grow up and get his priorities straight. He needed to be accountable and do things right.”
Peterman didn’t always do that at his first two schools — Georgia Military College and the City College of San Francisco — but he knew YSU was his last chance.
So far, he’s acted like it.
“[Defensive] Coach [Joe] Tresey and [cornerbacks] Coach [Glenn] Davis told me if I worked hard and did what I had to do off the field, then I had the potential to be a starter,” Peterman said. “I just came into camp and worked hard each and ever day and I got the nod.”
Peterman led the team with nine tackles against Pitt, but he got picked on at times, especially when matched against Panthers wideout Mike Shanahan (6-5, 225), who had a seven-inch, 45-pound advantage.
“The first game he had some good statistics but he really he was very rusty,” Wolford said.
That said, the fact that he is tied with linebacker Travis Williams for the team lead in tackles (12) tells you Peterman is more than just a cover guy.
“I got the little man syndrome,” he said, smiling. “When I’m going against bigger receivers, I like to get more physical with them, just to make my presence felt.
“I can’t wait to get into conference play and show them what I’m about.”
Peterman said he had to adjust to the speed of the game at this level, crediting Penguins receivers Christian Bryan and Jelani Berassa for getting him ready.
“They had me after practice mad at myself; they were making plays on me,” Peterman said. “But it’s all good. They’re my teammates and we got at it and I get them better and they definitely get me better.”
YSU’s secondary was the defense’s biggest weakness in Wolford’s first two seasons but he believes that’s about to change. Peterman is a reason for that.
“I think we’ve significantly improved our level of talent in the secondary,” Wolford said. “[Sophomore cornerback] Julius Childs ... has a chance to be a dynamic player. You got [senior safety] Jeremey Edwards starting to understand the way he’s supposed to play.
“I think our level of play in the secondary is much improved and our overall effort and ability to run to the football. When you run to the football, good things happen.”