Penguins want to improve offensive line performance

By Greg Gulas


With four quarterbacks battling for the starting job, Youngstown State offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo has two important goals for the Penguins’ spring workouts.

“First, I want us to increase our physicality in the run game, something that’s lacking as far as being a physical unit from tackle to tackle as we establish the run,” Bricillo said Sunday after YSU’s first outdoor practice of the spring. “We’re changing some stuff and technique things in the pass game. We gave up way too many sacks last year for what the standard is at YSU. We need to improve that.

“Some of the mistakes right now are mental more than technique or ability. I think the ability is there, so over the next 10 practices we need to establish the run game and some double team power or combos. In the pass game, some technique and assignment stuff.”

Last season the Penguins went 6-5 as their defense registered 20 sacks for 133 yards in losses.

The offensive line allowed 36 sacks for 192 lost yards.

Seniors Vitas Hrynkiewicz (center) and Connor Sharp (guard) are two of Bricillo’s mainstays returning to the fold looking to make a difference in 2018..

“We’re working hard and it was nice to get outside today to practice,” Hrynkiewicz said. “We lost some guys, but have some great players stepping up as we try to develop that core. Right now, we’re just a hand wanting to become a fist, a really strong fist.

“We have five practices in and our next 10 are critical. My job and the job of our other senior leaders is to make sure that we’re getting everyone up to speed. We’ve been in the system, we’ve learned under coach Carm and need to make sure that everyone grows from a knowledge standpoint. The most important thing is to be physical.”

Sharp said the goal is not just making the playoffs, but a return to the national championship game.

“We’re still learning, it’s a little different offense but we have solid leadership and just need to keep up the tempo,” the West Branch alum said.

Head coach Bo Pelini was also pleased with the spring’s first outdoor practice.

“We had a good practice today and the guys continue to learn,” Pelini said. “We’re throwing a lot at them. There’s a lot of defense, a lot of offense and some new things here and there.

“The competition has been good and they’re working hard, which is all you can ask of them.”

Continuing to make progress and eliminating errors is paramount in Pelini’s eyes.

“We need to make sure guys are getting more comfortable, their understanding is getting better and they obviously keep making improvement. It’s a process,” Pelini added. “We don’t play a game for a long time so it’s a day-by-day thing, just trying to get them better each and every day.

“You go into the spring and like anything else, you have guys at different levels, different understanding and with different amounts of experience. Each player has different issues as far as what you are trying to accomplish and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process in getting them there,”

Pelini also liked what he saw from his offensive line Sunday.

“You have some guys with experience, others that don’t have that experience while everyone is trying to show what they can do in order to earn playing time,” Pelini stated. “Gavin [Wiggins] is out, Vitas is our mainstay at center, Connor a senior leader and we have a new guy in Devon Robinson, so at the end of the day we’re just trying to find each guy, find good combinations and see who’s going to play winning football for us.”

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