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Why Wolford recruited outside Ohio

By Joe Scalzo (Contact)

Published February 1, 2012

Untitled document

When Youngstown State won the 1991 national championship, 39 of the 90 players on the roster went to high school in Mahoning or Trumbull County.

I thought about that number on Wednesday when YSU coach Eric Wolford announced his 2012 recruiting class, which included just one player from the tri-county area: Mooney defensive lineman Austin Trgovcich.

(For a complete list of this year's class, with biographies, visit: http://ysusports.com/sports/fball/index)

Wolford did sign Hickory’s Matt Bell and offered scholarships to several standouts from Mahoning and Trumbull County who went elsewhere, but still. That’s a significant number, especially a year after he signed 12 from the Mahoning Valley. (To be fair, many of those local players earned partial scholarships.)

“I’ve come to realize that you’re going to have to recruit across the country,” Wolford said. “Ohio is over-recruited.”

Wolford believes there are more scholarship offers than scholarship players in Ohio. (He told me a few years ago he doesn’t even bother recruiting Cleveland Glenville because the school’s reputation leads to over-valued players. “We might think a player is a borderline D-I kid but, because he’s from Glenville, he’ll have an offer from the Big East,” Wolford said.)

Ohio is also a Mid-American Conference state. While Wolford isn’t afraid to recruit against schools such as Kent or Akron, he knows the lure of playing for a lower-level Division I program almost always trumps a chance to play for an FCS title contender. So, he’s broadened his scope, working the high school contacts he and his staff have picked up over the years.

“We’re going to recruit to our standard and our standard is winning championships,” said Wolford. “If we’re going to play [FCS champion] North Dakota State or Northern Iowa, we’d better be recruiting a high-level player.”

That doesn’t mean Wolford will ignore the Mahoning Valley or northeast Ohio (three of his recruits were from either the Akron or Cleveland area), just that he’s going to choose talent over geography.

“From year to year, it fluctuates,” Wolford said. “How many guys from [the Valley] are bona fide Division I players this year? We’re a Division I school. We’ve got to recruit Division I players.”

Twenty years ago, Youngstown had five high schools: Rayen, Wilson, Chaney, East and South. Now there are two and only one, East, has a football team.

Youngstown still produces plenty of good football players — that’s obvious on Friday nights — but it produces fewer college football players. When Wolford graduated from Ursuline in 1989, he said there were nine Division I players in that class.

“Were there nine Division I football players [in the Valley] this year?” he said. “We don’t have the same population we used to have. We’re making a comeback but we don’t have the same population to pull from.
“We’ve got to take the best player, whether he’s in Miami or he’s in Cleveland.”


Other thoughts from Signing Day:

1. Wolford signed 35 last February, a massive class designed to fill in some of the holes left by his small 2010 class and the large number of departures in his first year.

Four true freshmen from that class started at least one game and Wolford played 21 newcomers last fall, whether they were true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or transfers.

Wolford doesn't expect this year's class to have the same impact because so many (10) are lineman, who generally need a few years to develop.

This is a good sign. The best programs are able to redshirt all but the most talented freshmen. YSU is getting closer to that point.

2. Wolford said he signed 26 of the 29 players who visited campus, crediting the school's facilities, environment and staff, including president Cynthia Anderson, who has breakfast with recruits.

"I had a conversation with a kid last night and he said, 'Coach, it was really neat to be able to sit with the president for breakfast and have a conversation with her. I don't think I really appreciated that until I left campus."

Needless to say, this doesn't happen at most schools.

3. Spring practice will begin March 21 with the spring game scheduled for April 13, which is a Friday night.

If the weather stinks -- and it did for last year's Saturday afternoon game, raining throughout -- Wolford said they'll move it to noon on Saturday, April 14.


1valleyred(1103 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Robert, you are incorrect. We offered 11 local kids this year, with just 2 committing. Two years ago, a whole bunch of area recruits committed.

Tressel won with local and Florida recruits, and so will Wolford. Don't hate the guy cause you disagree with his recruiting. He was the top recruiter in America at South Carolina for a REASON!

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2valleyred(1103 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I disagree with one thing you said jeratboy. The worst 1A program, Akron, would have gotten pummeled in the Missouri Valley this past season. They finished #200 in the Sagarin's to YSU's #125. Hell NDSU, who YSU beat, finished in the top 40 in the country!

Recruits may want the title of playing for a D1 school, but playing for a D1 title at YSU is better than a Motor City Bowl!

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3Spiderlegs(161 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I agree with ValleyRed. This team starts showing the promise of winning championships like the 1990s and more Ohio recruits will come here. People like playing for a winner, and if a couple of guys end up in the pros, recruits will notice.

Jeratboy is also right about scheduling, but this takes years. Drop the Valpo game and start with playing a game against one of the Michigan MAC teams or more distant Ohio teams, who won't feel their recruiting threatened if they lose to YSU the way Kent and Akron do. It has to be slow, though, and most teams making the switch do not do well. The rise of Boise State football to its current level took a decade or more, so to use this as an example of short-term priorities is rather silly. Athletics, however, are part of YSU's long-term strategic plan, so the idea is worth talking about.

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4taxme(361 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

The Mac is such a superior league with 15 div1 teams. Every year they place a team in the top 10 or 20. Sometimes more than one. Player's get drafted and become super stars in the NFL. This is why local talent will choose the MAC over ysu. Winning will attract some of these kids but there is no comparison in div 1 and Div 1AA.

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