By Joe Scalzo
Mike Zordich believes there’s a simple solution to fixing Youngstown State’s defensive woes.
“We’re cutting off a lot of fat,” said Zordich, YSU’s new safeties coach and co-special teams coordinator. “We’re getting rid of a lot of things that don’t need to be there. We’re making life simple for the kids so that they can go out and react.”
Zordich, a Chaney High graduate who played nine years at safety in the NFL, was one of three new assistants introduced Wednesday. He joins receivers coach/co-special teams coordinator Kenny Carter and tight ends coach Dan Gerberry, a Fitch High graduate.
YSU also officially announced that Jamie Bryant, last year’s special teams coordinator, will replace Joe Tresey as defensive coordinator.
Tresey, who also coached the safeties, was not retained after leading the Missouri Valley’s worst defense in 2013. The Penguins gave up 425.4 yards in conference games, 55 yards more than any other team in the nine-team league.
“There’s some things they have done in the past that don’t need to be done in the future,” Zordich said. “The coaches [are going] to help these guys make the game simpler, so the players aren’t thinking so much.”
YSU went 8-4 last season, missing the playoffs by one game for the third straight season. Zordich believes the key to breaking that streak is focusing on the league’s three best programs: North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Northern Iowa.
“I’m not knocking the other teams,” he said. “That’s who you got to beat. That’s how you’re going to get in the playoffs and that’s how eventually you’re going to win a national championship.”
Bryant, a former defensive coordinator with Southeastern Conference-member Vanderbilt, took over YSU’s struggling special teams last year and turned them into one of the league’s best units.
“We expect the same results on defense,” Penguins coach Eric Wolford said.
Carter, who spent the last four years as special teams coordinator and running backs coach at Louisville, replaces Kurt Beathard, who was hired as Illinois State’s offensive coordinator. In addition to receivers, he’ll coach the punt and punt return teams, the hands team (on onside kicks) and the hands return team. Zordich will coach the other special teams units.
“Everybody understands what we’re trying to get done,” Carter said. “We can take this thing to another level and not be close to getting into the playoffs, but moving ourselves forward and finish and getting another [national championship] banner hung on the wall.”
Gerberry spent three seasons as an offensive lineman with the Detroit Lions from 2009-12 and spent last summer with the Jacksonville Jaguars before getting cut a few days before the regular-season opener. He spent last fall with the Penguins as an offensive quality control coach and replaces Mark Mangino, who was hired as Iowa State’s offensive coordinator.
This is the first full-time coaching job for Gerberry, who has never played or coached tight ends. But he believes his experience with being around coaches like former Ball State coach Brady Hoke and former Lions coach Jim Schwartz has prepared him, as has his playing experience, which involved teaching schemes during meetings.
“There are a lot of things I can offer,” Gerberry said. “I know people are going to wonder [about me] because I’ve never coached before. That doesn’t mean I can’t coach.”
Zordich didn’t coach last fall, but has plenty of experience. He coached safeties with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 and 2012 after spending two years as a quality control coach for the Eagles’ defense. He coached safeties at YSU in 2009 before leaving for Philadelphia.
He’s also been an assistant coach at Chaney and Cardinal Mooney, where his sons Michael and Alex played.
“It’s certainly a pleasure to be back here,” he said. “I love this town and I love this university. I think Coach Wolford has put together a great coaching staff. The chemistry is already built and we’re looking forward to getting spring ball started.
“I’m just happy to know I can wake up in my own bed and go to work and coach. No more sleeping in my office.”
Spring practice starts on March 22 with the spring game on April 25 at 7 p.m.