YSU’s secondary battle


YSU coaches are pleased as competition heats up

By Greg Gulas

sports@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

With two game tested seniors returning in the defensive secondary, Youngstown State University head coach Bo Pelini and secondary coach Richard McNutt like the depth and competition they’ve seen thus far in summer camp.

The Penguins’ first scrimmage on Saturday unveiled strengths at multiple positions. While Pelini likes what he sees in the secondary, he cautions that the unit is still a work in progress.

“We saw some good things during Saturday’s scrimmage, but there were too many mistakes in some areas so we still have a ways to go,” Pelini said Monday. “The battle is ongoing in the secondary. We’ve got some talent back there, but still have work to do.”

The two senior returnees are Jalyn Powell, former Warren Harding standout, and D.J. Thomas of Lakewood St. Edward High School.

“Our nickelbacks are playing well right now and D.J. is one of them,” Pelini said. “Jalyn is a kid who came a ways last year and is playing with confidence right now.”

Powell played in all 16 games last season. He started four games, registered 49 tackles (38 solos), two interceptions, nine break-ups and one quarterback hurry.

He also had a quarterback sack for a defense that allowed just 19.9 points per game, posted 108 tackles for loss and 49 quarterback sacks.

Powell likes the competition that has unfolded thus far in camp.

“It’s been really competitive throughout summer camp,” Powell said. “There are so many new guys that have come in and no positions are guaranteed, so everyone is just working hard and trying to earn a spot.

“We’ve come a long way and today was one of our better practices,” Powell said. “I know that I can get better because I have some big goals this season.

“We were one of the best defenses in the nation last year and I want to keep that same standard this year.”

At nickelback last year, Thomas had 17 tackles (13 solos), an interception, two tackles for loss, a break-up and quarterback hurry.

He, too, is enjoying the competition.

“That’s good,” Thomas said. “Everyone is battling, getting better and I think the young guys are coming along.

“Being a senior and having been here for four years, I’ve seen a lot of competition and great players but this is the most competition by far that we’ve had in the secondary,” Thomas said. “When no spots are guaranteed, everyone fights for playing time.”

Thomas felt however, that Saturday’s scrimmage was the beginning of the weeding out process.

“We found out who can tackle, play defense and who fits into our scheme,” he said.

McNutt said that talent was lost in the secondary after last season, but the new players that have been added continue to push for playing time.

“The system has been in place for the last two years, so going into year number three the guys know what to expect, what the standard is and how we expect them to compete,” McNutt said. “D.J. and Jalyn are definitely two of my leaders in the secondary. We try to create leadership throughout the group and it doesn’t matter if you are a senior or a freshman.

“Those two guys have definitely stepped up, are more vocal this year and continue to lead by example when on the field.”

The first scrimmage yielded many positives, according to McNutt.

“I was pleased with what I saw,” he said. “All I’ve asked them to do is come out and compete, and they’ve done that. They’ve all worked hard and while there’s always stuff we’ll have to clean up, the fun part was watching the entire team make plays.”

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