By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State football coach Eric Wolford was criticized by some fans this week for adding just one local player on National Signing Day.
But the question is: How have Wolford’s local recruits fared over his first four years?
The answer? More misses than hits.
Of Wolford’s 18 Signing Day recruits through 2013, nine have played in at least one game and another four have started at least one game: safety Donald D’Alesio (Mooney), center Stephen Page (Newton Falls), cornerback Jimmy May Jr. (Warren Harding) and DE Steve Zaborsky (Fitch).
Six of those 18 are still with the team, including two players who redshirted last season: kicker Connor McFadden (Poland) and running back Ryan Mosora (Brookfield).
This list doesn’t include walk-ons or transfers — Wolford’s best local recruit was probably cornerback Dale Peterman (Ursuline), who started the last two years after playing his first two seasons at the junior college level. And it doesn’t include local players that Wolford recruited that signed elsewhere.
That last category is part of Wolford’s problem, said ScoutingOhio.com director Mark Porter. It takes Mid-American Conference-level players — or better — to compete for a national title at the FCS level, but it’s almost impossible for YSU to sign players with MAC offers, particularly in Ohio.
“So you have to start looking other places for talent,” said Porter, a Canfield High graduate who played tight end for Kent State from 1992-95. “All the MAC schools come to Youngstown. They go into every school, they watch all the film and they take the best players. So YSU has to go shake the bushes and look at the junior colleges and the places no one else is looking.
“And some kids in town, they do snub their nose at YSU and think, ‘Oh, I’m going to the MAC and I’m not going to YSU’s camp’ or ‘I’m not going to make a visit there.’ It works both ways and I don’t think the public ever truly sees both ways.”
This year’s 24-member recruiting class includes eight players from Florida, more than any other state. Since his first recruiting class in 2010, Wolford has signed players from 15 different states, including Kansas and Utah.
“The quality of players that get on the field for YSU is much different than it was 10 years ago and I don’t know if people in town truly identify that,” Porter said. “That’s why I ask people, ‘Do you think it takes a MAC-caliber team to get in the playoffs?’ And if so, you don’t want MAC players. You want better than MAC players.”
While Youngstown-area fans would prefer to see Youngstown-area players, the truth is Wolford could be recruiting players from Neptune and Penguin fans wouldn’t care, provided he makes the playoffs and competes for championships.
So far, he hasn’t. And until he does, this issue isn’t going away.