McCaster moving up in YSU’s backfield
The Youngstown State tailbacks are taking a large step up this season.
After a sophomore year that saw him rush for 11 touchdowns (seven of which came in the fourth quarter or overtime), Tevin McCaster is solidly stepping up to take the starting role that Jody Webb and Martin Ruiz split last year.
But that also means someone has to be last year’s McCaster.
That contest is being fought between South Range alumnus Joe Alessi, Cardinal Mooney alumnus Devon McNutt and London Pearson.
“I think Tevin has had a good spring so far,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said. “I think he showed us last year what he’s capable of doing. But I think our three young backs are doing well, too.
“It starts with Tevin. He’ll be a little bit of our workhorse, but these young guys are exciting, too.”
McCaster was a dependable ball carrier a season ago but now he wants to make sure he’s focusing on all aspects of his development.
“I want to improve on my overall game,” McCaster said. “Blocking, running, helping offensive linemen get their IDs and everyone being on the same page with each other.”
McCaster is not only focusing on himself and his fellow offensive starters, but he knows how important the role he played last year was, and he wants quality tailbacks sharing the burden of the running game.
“[The development of the younger guys] is very important,” McCaster said. “I can’t do it by myself and they can’t either. We’re all one group.”
While the players are getting about six hours a week on the field during spring practices, the mental preparation inside and outside the film room takes a bit more time.
“Off the field it’s a lot of studying the playbook and doing mental reps of what we do here,” Pearson said. “When you’re on the field you have to think fast so you have to challenge yourself off the field. We go over things in film multiple times until it gets stuck in your head.” Pelini said the preparation in the film room and performance on the field have to go hand in hand as coaches may have a difficult job determining playing time this fall between the three young tailbacks.
“I think it’s both,” Pelini said. “You have to be able to carry over the things that are taught in the film room to the field. But I think it’s translating pretty well. Our young guys are starting to understand it and are doing a good job.
“London was on the scout team last year, but he’s got a lot of talent. Alessi missed a little bit of time with an ankle but he’s gotten better and Devon has also gotten a lot better.”
McNutt said a lot of his improvement has come from getting better at pre-snap reads.
“Tev is a big help when Coach isn’t around,” McNutt said. “He can point out and tell you different things and he just talks to you man to man because he was in our spot last year.
“I’m definitely picking up way more than last season. Coach has been emphasizing our reads so I’m always looking at the linemen. If we’re running an outside zone I have to look at the defensive end. Depending on if he hits out or squeezes in depends on where we run the ball.”
Alessi, McNutt and Pearson all said they expect to get in the backfield rotation this season and all of them said they’re much more advanced than they were a year ago. McNutt said McCaster has played a large role in helping the younger guys learn.