Published August 16, 2011
Following Monday's second practice, YSU coach Eric Wolford spent a few minutes talking about starting spots. (He posted a depth chart for the players but didn't release it to the media. I'm guessing he's waiting until after Saturday's scrimmage since some spots are still uncertain.)
One of the things Wolford has stressed is that players aren't guaranteed starting spots just because they had one the year before. That wasn't a big issue last year, for two reasons:
1. The returning starters were clearly better than most of the underclassmen.
2. There wasn't enough talent at most positions (outside of maybe running back) to create the kind of competition Wolford was looking for.
That's not the case this year.
Based on what I've seen in practices and in Saturday's scrimmage, there are quite a few starters in danger of losing their jobs to newcomers. And the two positions facing the biggest shakeup are wide receiver and linebacker.
Last year's starting wide receivers were, basically, Dominique Barnes (who graduated), Julian Harrell and Ely Ducatel (who switched off between starting most weeks but still played quite a bit) and Kevin Watts (who played as a slot receiver but didn't make much of an impact outside of the Southern Illinois game).
Based on Saturday's scrimmage, only Watts is on the first team right now but this is a position very much in flux. Right now, the guy with the strongest hold on a starting spot might be true freshman slot receiver Christian Bryan, who the coaching staff really likes. Jelani Berassa (who missed last year with a torn ACL) also seems likely to start. The coaching staff also really likes true freshman Kintrell Disher but he missed Monday's practice with his arm in a sling and is expected to miss a week or two. Pat White, Andre Barboza (who appeared to injure his ankle at the end of Monday's session) and true freshman Andre Stubbs (who should see a lot of time returning kids/punts) are also in the mix but I'm not sure who's going to end up playing. It's something I'll be watching for on Saturday.
Linebacker is even more interesting. Senior John Sasson is in no danger of losing his spot but the other two spots will probably go to newcomers. One of last year's starters, David Rach, was moved to defensive end and may be academically ineligible anyway, while senior returnee Deonta Tate seems destined for the second team. Sophomore Ali Cheaib started on Saturday but missed Monday's practice with injury. There's a bunch of raw talent at the position (like Miami transfer Travis Williams and Michigan transfer Davion Rogers) and this could be a position with a lot of different starters in the fall.
Wolford wouldn't tell me how many of last year's starters are still starting this year but he did say this: "We turned up the heat on some guys and said, 'Hey, you're letting these [new] guys close the gap on you and if it continues through Wednesday's scrimmage and goes into Saturday, you might be on the outside looking in.
"If you're just trying to hang on to your job right now, you're probably not going to keep it. You've got to find a way to make it decisive, make it clear."
Translation: If you're on the bubble, you're in trouble.
OK, on to "The Beard," the nickname for senior QB Marc Kanetsky.
If you've seen Kanetsky this summer -- or if I uploaded his picture correctly -- you know he's grown out a beard resembling San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson. (He even does a pretty good impression of Wilson's post-save celebration, which features a crossed-arm gesture.)
"After school ended last year, I had been growing one [a beard] a little bit and I didn't really feel like shaving, so I kind of grew it some more," Kanetsky said. "I trimmed it up once for a wedding in middle of then summer. Then I was watching Brian Wilson this summer and my brother said, 'You should dye it black.' So I let it grow a little bit and just decided to do it to see what it looks like."
Kanetsky said he was going to add a faux hawk but he ended up buzzing his hair on top. When asked how long he's keeping the beard, he said he'd probably wait until he goes to a dental school interview.
"I feel like if you were my dentist, and I was looking at that, it would worry me," I said.
"Yeah, I would be worried, too," he said.
As for his girlfriend, he said she's indifferent about it, although she did help him dye it.
"I think she'd rather it be a black beard than have a big red one," he said.