YSU free safety D’Alesio healthy now after
injury-plagued two seasons with Penguins
By Joe Scalzo
Donald D’Alesio has always impressed Youngstown State coach Eric Wolford with his mind. Now he’s starting to impress him with his body.
After battling injuries for much of the last two years, including a shoulder injury that sidelined him until early in training camp last summer, D’Alesio is finally healthy this spring.
He looks it.
“He’s got some muscles now,” Wolford said. “He looks like he’s been lifting weights.”
D’Alesio, a redshirt junior, started all 11 games at free safety last season for the Penguins (7-4), making 38 tackles with one interception, a game-saver in the final seconds against Northern Iowa.
He was one of three defensive backs to start every game last fall — cornerbacks Dale Peterman and Julius Childs were the others — but YSU’s secondary was again a weakness, finishing last in the conference in pass defense while combining for just three interceptions.
“We definitely expect better things than we did last year,” said D’Alesio, a Cardinal Mooney High graduate. “I guess you could say we under-performed.”
The Penguins are still searching for a starting strong safety — senior Josh Garner, a part-time starter two years ago, entered spring atop what is expected to be a very fluid depth chart — but D’Alesio believes the unit will be better simply because of its experience.
“Me and Julius Childs really play together on one side most of the game, so we kind of know what [each] of us is going to do and what we might not,” he said. “We know our strengths and our weaknesses and we talk to each other a lot. You’ve got to relay a lot of messages [in the secondary].”
It sometimes seems like D’Alesio has been a Penguin for five years, but he enters this fall with two years of eligibility remaining. He played in all 11 games as a freshman in 2010 and started seven after safety Andre Elliott suffered a season-ending injury. D’Alesio then started the first three games of the 2011 season before lingering shoulder problems forced him to redshirt.
D’Alesio said he’s packed 17 pounds on his 6-foot frame since arriving at YSU and has gotten faster in the offseason. When asked about his health, he said he feels “probably better than ever, right now.”
That’s good news, Wolford said.
“He’s kind of underrated, really,” Wolford said. “He’s got leadership ability, he understands the defense and he knows what everybody needs to do.
“He’s a quarterback out there for us on defense.”