Penguins have lots of options on ground
By Greg Gulas
With their first day of full contact and pads now a fading memory, the Youngstown State football team will continue preparation for their first scrimmage, which is slated for 10 a.m. Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium.
“I thought it was good competition today. Coming in I told our guys that we need to practice full speed from start to finish,” head coach Bo Pelini said. “I thought today was the best day as far as I was concerned. I didn’t see any lulls and thought that we competed hard.”
The Penguins have already had four days under their belts without pads, which Pelini has termed key learning days.
“The first four days were really important as it set the foundation to get to this point. You can’t come out here today if you haven’t learned and started making some progress those four days,” he said. “There’s a lot of learning going on and some mistakes are obviously being made, but we’re making progress and we’ll go now from there.”
The competition at tailback is one on which many will be keeping an eye with Tevin McCaster, Joe Alessi, London Pearson and newcomer Christian Turner battling for playing time.
“We are deep at running back and I really like our depth. We have a stable of backs,” Pelini said. “You talk about Tevin, London and Joe, I also think incoming freshman Christian Turner is also doing a nice job. Some guys are at different levels in their learning and experience, but this is a good group and I think that we are going to be alright at that spot.”
McCaster was the third-leading rusher on the team last year with 652 yards, behind Jody Webb (1,342) and Martin Ruiz (1,153). His 11 touchdowns ranked second, one behind Ruiz.
McCaster was pleased with his first performance in pads, adding that the goal remains the same each and every time the team hits the turf.
“Between now and our first scrimmage on Saturday, and the remainder of the season there’s only one goal and that is to keep getting better, take it day by day and rep by rep,” McCaster said. “The overall goal is to get back to where we were last year, to get back and compete for the championship but win it this time. My experience last from last year is going to help me tremendously this season.”
McCaster called the first day of hitting a good kick-off to summer drills.
“Today was very competitive and definitely high energy,” he said. “The offense won some, the defense won some and that’s what you want. You want both sides to win.”
Alessi was fifth last year with 223 yards and two scores, but averaged a team-best 20.3 yards per rush.
He added that players on both sides of the ball were prepared, but feels he needs to step up his performance in order to become someone who can be counted upon when pressed into action.
“There weren’t as many mental errors and people knew their assignments. We were moving around well and everyone was excited to be out here today,” said Alessi, a South Range product.
“As a team I felt like we had a lot of intensity, but we need to continue at that level and go full speed every rep. I just want to contribute to the team as much as I can while my goal is to be a playmaker, someone they can rely on. Today wasn’t my best day, so I’ll need to improve.”
Overall, Pelini felt the first day yielded quite a few positives.
“I liked what I saw today was there were some good things, but a lot of things that need to get fixed, which is always the case at this time in camp,” he said. “I just kind of told the team we’re not competing to play YSU against YSU. We’re not game-planning against each other or anything else.
“What we’re looking to do is see guys execute with what we’re coaching them to do. Playing with technique, fundamentals and then doing it exactly the way we have it detailed.”