YSU’s O-line is still missing pieces
3 veterans return to anchor up front
By DAN HINER
With the start of the season two weeks away, the Youngstown State football team is still trying to build chemistry on the offensive line.
YSU has a couple positions to fill on the right side of the line before the season begins.
The Penguins have three starters returning on the offensive line. Left guard Gavin Wiggins and center Vitas Hrynkiewicz claimed their starting spots during camp last season and both started all 16 games in 2016.
Left tackle Justin Spencer is returning for his third season as a starter. STATS Inc. named Spencer a Third-Team Preseason All-American in July.
Spencer has become the veteran leader on the offensive line. He said the underclassmen work with him to improve their game and he gives advice when necessary to help the young linemen progress.
The Penguins lost right guard Brock Eisenhuth and right tackle Dylan Colucci to graduation. Eisenhuth started 38 games and played the final 13 games of the 2016 season after returning from injury. Colucci started in 36 games for the Penguins, including all 16 games last season.
Offensive lineman Cameron Frasier has been taking snaps with the first team offense at the right tackle position. Frasier has played both tackle and guard during his first three seasons with the Penguins. While Eisenhuth was injured, Frasier filled in at right guard during 2016.
Redshirt junior Conner Sharp has taken reps with the first-team offense at right guard. Sharp was redshirted last season after transferring from the Air Force Academy following the 2015 season.
Sharp, a West Branch graduate, said he needs to continue to improve throughout the season. Sharp said he needs to listen to the YSU offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo and the veteran players more often to correct his fundamentals.
“I haven’t played in any games. I’m learning more and more to trust Spence, Cam, Vitas and Gavin,” Sharp said. They’ve played in games and I haven’t. When they say something, I should probably listen and try to do it the best I can.”
Bricillo said the immediate challenge is developing chemistry and communication between the members of the offensive line. Bricillo said he’s starting to refer to the offensive linemen as “the good, the bad and the ugly” because of their inconsistency during camp.
“A lot of it comes down to communication, not just talent,” Bricillo said. “Having a relationship with one another and being able to anticipate what’s going on, and that’s a part of O-line play. You see some of that rearing its head today on the right side.”
Bricillo said the goal of any offensive line coach is to find the top eight linemen during preseason camp. The Penguins have 10 backup offensive linemen – seven are freshmen or sophomores.
“I think it’s the mark of a good football player that when training camp’s over you’re not done getting better. You turn on the tape [and look to see] if he’s getting better from fall ball all the way through,” Bricillo said.
Bricillo said there is naturally going to be a slight drop in production from the offensive line compared to last season. He said the line played well in the playoffs, but they were “a finished product” while the players this season need to continue to improve.
YSU head coach Bo Pelini said he’s looking for consistency amongst the players. He said the offensive line practiced well on Wednesday but struggled on Thursday.
“I thought they had a really good day [Wednesday],” Pelini said. “I thought I saw some good progress yesterday … today not so much,” Pelini said. It’s gone back and forth a little bit. What I’m looking for is consistency across the board.
“It doesn’t matter what position it is. That means D-line, that means O-line … that means right across the board. We got to be more consistent.”