YSU picked to finish 4th in league


By Dan Hiner

dhiner@vindy.com

Following a disappointing 6-5 season in 2017, the Youngstown State football team has high hopes with the season a month away.

On Monday, YSU was projected to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason poll.

The Penguins received 258 points this year, a slight decline from the 2017 preseason polls. Last year, the Penguins were projected to finish third and received 290 points.

“I like our team that we have coming back,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said during a MVFC conference call. “Going into our fourth year, I feel like our culture is stronger than it’s ever been.

“I like the makeup of our team.”

Pelini said he likes the balance of returning upperclassmen and incoming playmakers on the 2018 roster.

YSU will have 19 active seniors to open camp following defensive end Justus Reed tearing his Achilles tendon earlier this month, ending his season.

North Dakota State, the reigning Football Championship Subdivision champion, unanimously was projected to finish first.

The Bison received all 39 first-place votes for 390 points. It marks the second time in league history that a team received all of the first-place votes. North Dakota State swept the voting in 2013.

South Dakota State is projected to finish second with 250 points and Northern Iowa received third-place honors with 270 points.

Pelini addressed the acquisition of former Pittsburgh tight end Charles Reeves Jr.

Reeves, a four-star prospect from Steubenville, was dismissed from the team by Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi on July 13 for a violation of team rules.

Pelini said he hasn’t had a chance to work with the 6-foot 280-pound sophomore since he’s finishing a class at Pitt.

“He’s a really talented young man and came on our radar ... this happened pretty quick,” Pelini said.

The Penguins coach said the team’s tight end group is deep and so he isn’t sure about Reeve’s role with the team.

YSU’s tight ends include former Ursuline quarterback Chris Durkin and Ohio State transfer Kierre Hawkins.

“We have six tight ends that are pretty talented kids that are going to compete for playing time,” Pelini said.

The MVFC will release the preseason all-conference teams over the next two days. The conference will announce the offensive teams today and the defensive teams will be released on Wednesday.

While names were not released, the MVFC said five Penguins received first-team honors — second most behind NDSU, who will have 11 first-team players.

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