Penguins compete in first scrimmage of fall camp
early look at some
key YSU personnel
By Brian Dzenis
Youngstown State’s first scrimmage on Saturday had the expected highs and lows and an early glimpse at the final lineup.
“It’s a little bit of a mixed bag and that’s to be expected this time of year. We were sharp at times and there were some areas of concern,” Penguins head coach Bo Pelini said. “It’ll be interesting to watch some of the film.”
Among the positives was the Penguins’ running game. On the offensive line, senior Cam Fraser and junior Conner Sharp owned the first-team reps alongside returning starters Vitas Hrynkiewicz, Justin Spencer and Gavin Wiggins. Fraser started three games last year when former guard Brock Eisenhuth was injured and Sharp — a West Branch grad — is eligible to play this year after sitting out last year following a transfer from the Air Force Academy.
Pelini stopped short of declaring the pair starters.
“I don’t think anybody is locked in, including those two guys,” Pelini said. “I think if we had to play a game today, that’s how we’d start, but we’ll see how that goes. There’s still more snaps to play.”
On defense, ends Johnson Louigene and Fazson Chapman received the most first-team reps at the spots formerly occupied by NFL players Derek Rivers and Avery Moss.
As a unit, the defense had its bright moments. The second-string unit forced a fumble from Devin McNutt and the first team stuffed the offense at the goal line. The Penguins ran Tevin McCaster up the middle three times with no success.
“We have to get our defense to the second and third level,” linebacker Lee Wright said. “Everyone has the basics and the plays down. We have to get better at the second-level things like reading the quarterback’s eyes.”
Running back remains one of the Penguins’ richest positions. McCaster and Joe Alessi remain among the first-stringers and freshman Christian Turner saw some first-team snaps, catching two passes in addition to his nine carries. McNutt led all backs in carries with 13 for 68 yards working with the second unit. Cardinal Mooney graduate Jaylin Hewlett also had some carries with the second team.
“People thought we lost two studs in [Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb], but I wouldn’t call this a down group,” quarterback Nathan Mays said. “We’ve got some guys that are really stepping up in their roles like Christian and Joe and Tevin is coming back. I wouldn’t say anyone is above the other, but we’re all really meshing right now.”
Mays was one of two Penguins to score on Saturday with a 17-yard run at the end of an 11-play, 75-yard drive. The other was Alessi, who broke off a 66-yard TD run to earn some kudos from his fellow first-teamers for getting them a break sooner that expected.
Hunter Wells went 10 of 14 for 121 yards with neither a touchdown nor an interception. The secondary showed some improvement from Friday after giving up two long passes to Isiah Scott — the longest completion on Saturday went for 29 yards. The second string offense seemed tailored to Mays’ strengths as he ran more than he threw with eight carries to seven attempts by air. He compiled 62 all-purpose yards.