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YSU goes deep outside Mahoning Valley for football recruits

Published: Thu, February 6, 2014 @ 12:09 a.m.

By Joe Scalzo



Youngstown State’s latest recruiting class is heavy with players from the Buckeye State and the Sunshine State, but it’s never been lighter on recruits from what Jim Tressel used to call the “State of Youngstown.”

For the second time in three years, Penguins coach Eric Wolford recruited just one player from the tri-county area — Fitch punter Nick Sheely this year, Mooney lineman Austin Trgovcich in 2012 — as his staff focused its attention southward, securing eight commitments from Florida in the 24-player class.

YSU also signed seven Ohioans and four from Western Pennsylvania, including Neshannock lineman Steven Jeffries.

“Once again, we did very well from Cleveland to Pittsburgh,” Wolford said. “We signed nine guys in that area and that’s basically kind of become our backyard.”

Wolford, a former offensive lineman at Kansas State, said the Valley’s dwindling population has diluted its talent base, forcing YSU to expand to other parts of the state and the country. He cited his Ursuline High School class of 1989, which produced six Division I players and a I-AA recruit. The Mahoning Valley produced 27 Division I recruits overall that year, with 10 heading to YSU.

This year, the Valley had four Division I recruits.

“Being able to get out of state and have success — North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia and Detroit — helps us fill our class with the type of players that we think we need to win the Missouri Valley Conference,” Wolford said. “Cleveland to Pittsburgh is basically good for 7-10 players on average for us in recruiting and those have been good players.

“Where do we get the other 10? We get into Cincinnati a little bit sometimes but Ohio has so many MAC [Mid-American Conference] schools fighting one another for the same type of player, that I’ve got to continue to expand my recruiting network.”

Wolford said this year was a down year for the Valley — “Next year obviously looks better,” he said — but admitted Youngstown is no longer one of Ohio’s most popular recruiting destinations.

“It’s changed,” he said. “People have moved, the jobs have been ... whatever. Whatever the reason may be, it’s just not the same.”

Wolford beat out three-time defending national champion North Dakota State for one recruit, safety Shane Dixon (Bradenton, Fla.), and signed another that had been committed to Western Michigan: CB Chrispin Lee (Pembroke Pines, Fla.).

But Wolford also lost two recruits in the last month to Boise State and Ball State. He admitted it’s difficult for an FCS school to beat FBS schools for recruits.

“That’s why I have to have a long list,” he said.

YSU recruited 13 offensive players, 10 defensive players and one on special teams (Sheely) and Wolford said the only surefire redshirts are those on the offensive line.

Two running back recruits have already enrolled for the spring semester — Ryan Moore (York, S.C.) and Sidney Sandidge (Amherst, Va.) — even though that is an area of strength for the Penguins, whose top two rushers last season (Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb) were both freshmen.

“I’m trying to create a formation where we can play with six running backs,” Wolford joked. “I also believe in competition. We’re going to continue to press the envelope as far as bringing in talent.

“Our philosophy has always been: We are going to bring in someone this year we believe is better on film than someone from the previous recruiting class. If not, we’re not going to sign them.”


1YtownSports(278 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

Gotta go where the talent is. Coach Wolford has lived up to his reputation as a good recruiter. The question of whether or not he can "coach them up" to be a playoff team and championship contender is still unanswered.

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2walter_sobchak(2246 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

Well, looks like Stambaugh Stadium will continue to get even emptier! And, after four years of November slides, I think it is pretty clear whether Wolford can "coach them up", even during the regular season. What is Wolford's playoff record anyway?

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3Notorious_Pig(117 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

It wouldn't matter if Coach Wolford had the recruiting class of Alabama....he isn't a collegiate head coach at all. Many teams win with lesser talent than YSU and it will continue until this bum is shown the door.

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4walter_sobchak(2246 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

So, next year when he blames the punter for a loss (as he did previously), he can bemoan that it was a "Youngstown kid" that cost the team a victory. There's the door coach; don't let it hit you in the "Wolford" on the way out!

There is plenty of second tier players from the area that would do well for him. I know for a fact that he doesn't recruit local players vigorously nor do players want to play for him!

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5papa1(711 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

to say that this area isn't a high school football town is ridiculous. and to imply that there isn't much talent in the valley for football is crazy. the years will differ in numbers but go back twenty years and you'll see our valley has put many players to the next level. to me, for the head coach to make a statement like that is incredulous! it certainly will not endear him to the fans.

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6papa1(711 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

maybe since wolford comes, he thinks, from such a "big time" conference that he was a part of for all of one year, he thinks that anything but elite teams are not worth mentioning. many kids have furthered their education, which is the point of college, by getting scholarships to "lesser?" schools and gone on to success. maybe our valley kids just aren't good enough for mister big time. he can leave if he wants.

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7DSquared(1515 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

Wake-up Y-Town! This Valley is a mere shadow of what it was even ten years ago, let alone 20+. The numbers aren't there. Sure we have great players, but only a fraction of the numbers we used to have. Then once they graduate, they leave for elsewhere to raise THEIR sons, who are good athletes like their fathers, and that fabulous Y-Town heritage and gene pool is transferred across the country. Look at all the great athletes from the area. Very few of them reside in this Valley. What is the attraction for an blue-chip athlete to come to YSU? Sorry gang, but the truth hurts.

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8nojimbo(250 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

Easiest prediction in sports - YSU will beat all the Eastern South Stroudsburg States or whatever early in the season then fold up like a cheap suit during the last few weeks of league play. Other easy prediction - Head Coach will blame players, ball boys, press box announcer, press, everybody but himself for each of the losses. Never seen anyone in charge throw so many people he's "leading" under the bus as this guy.

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