Zinni earned RG role on short notice
By Brian Dzenis
Jacob Zinni had just two weeks to make an impression on Youngstown State’s football staff. The sophomore offensive guard from West Branch sat out most of fall camp with a foot injury, which left that short time window.
“There’s always a saying, ‘You can’t make the club in a tub,’” Zinni said. “I was itching to get back out here and when I did, I knew I had to hit the ground running to adjust like everyone else did on day one.”
Zinni managed to unseat former Warriors teammate Connor Sharp to emerge from camp as the Penguins’ starting right guard. Sharp, a senior transfer from the Air Force Academy, was the starting right guard for most of the snaps in camp. When the two played at West Branch, Sharp was the center and Zinni was a right tackle.
“It was open competition. Me and him are from the same high school and we’re great friends. We battled it out everyday,” Zinni said.
His first collegiate start against Pittsburgh will always be memorable for him because of the venue.
“I’m a huge Steelers fan and to have your first start be at Heinz Field was pretty awesome. I was a great atmosphere and I was nervously excited,” Zinni said. “It was a big stadium with a lot of people and I feel like I played well enough for my first start, but there was definitely a lot of room for improvement across the board.”
Zinni is one of the two new starters on the o-line along with Cameron Fraser, who started three games last year. They’ve won over the incumbent starters.
“I never looked at Cam as a backup [last year]. He’s always been our sixth man and a phenomenal player,” Penguins center Vitas Hrynkiewicz said. Jake was also like our seventh or eighth man. He played really well these last two weeks of camp.
“I hang out with Jake a lot outside of football. We’re close and he’s been playing really well for us and I’m proud of him,” Hrynkiewicz added.
YSU’s o-line has pushed its way to averaging 281 rushing yards a game and has given up just three sacks through three games. Now the challenge is continuing to gel as a unit. If the starting five remain intact, they’ll get better with time, Zinni said.
“It’s just details, improve the little things,” Zinni said. “Picking up the broad strokes is what gets you in position to play, but when you get the chance play and get out there, it’s about the details of knowing where to go and how to communicate.
“Any time there’s a shakeup on the offensive line, things change,” he added. “Some of the best o-lines in the NFL are the way they are because they’ve played together for so long.”