Published August 2, 2014
On paper, Youngstown State looks like a team that could easily earn a playoff spot. It also looks like a team that could easily finish in the middle of the pack in the Missouri Valley. There are big question marks at quarterback, defensive line and in the secondary and, with Illinois looming in the opener, they need to be answered quickly.
Here's a breakdown of the Penguins' roster entering training camp:
Projected starter: Junior Dante Nania or redshirt freshman Ricky Davis.
Other returnees: Sophomore Tanner Garry, sophomore Nick Wargo.
Newcomer: Freshman Hunter Wells.
Scouting report: Nania and Davis will battle for the starting spot and both could see action early in the season. Both looked good in the spring but they've got big shoes to fill in departed four-year starter Kurt Hess. Wells could push Garry for the third spot.
Projected starter: Sophomore Martin Ruiz.
Other returnees: Junior Demond Hymes, sophomore Jody Webb, redshirt freshman Edmund Jacobs, freshman Ryan Moore, freshman Sidney Sandidge.
Newcomer: Freshman Raekwon Washington
Scouting report: Ruiz ran for 1,100 yards and 15 TDs last fall, rewriting YSU’s freshman record book. Webb was the star of the spring game and Hymes has played well when healthy, which wasn't often last year. This is the most loaded position on the roster.
Projected starters: Senior Nate Adams, sophomore Jacob Wood.
Other returnees: Senior Kintrell Disher, freshman Kevin Rader.
Newcomers: Freshmen Shane Kuhn and Chance Towery
Scouting report: Adams is a strong blocker and Wood should build off a strong freshman season. Disher may redshirt as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL.
Projected starters: Senior Jelani Berassa, junior Andrew Williams, junior Andre Stubbs
Other returnees: Senior Christian Bryan, junior Michael Wheary, redshirt freshman Brad Good, redshirt freshman Ian Banks-Tillman (position change from defensive back).
Newcomers: Redshirt freshman Michael Callender and freshmen Jaylon Brown, Jawaun Jones, Logan Rhea, Nick Bozzo, Darien Townsend and I'tavious Harvin.
Scouting report: Stubbs is a versatile weapon, rolling up more than 1,000 all-purpose yards last fall, while Berassa had a strong spring, earning a sixth year thanks to multiple knee injuries. It'd be nice if a clear-cut No. 1 receiver would emerge but there's talent and depth here.
Projected starters: Senior C Stephen Page, junior LT Trevor Strickland, sophomore LG Dylan Colucci, sophomore RG Brock Eisenhuth, redshirt freshman RT Justin Spencer.
Other returnees: Sophomore T Christian Wilson, sophomore G Matt Bell, sophomore G Jim Bertovich, redshirt freshman G Anthony Parente, redshirt freshman G Cole Newsome.
Newcomers: Redshirt freshman T Cameron Fraser (transfer from Louisville), freshman C Charles Zaborsky, freshman G Dwayne Williams, freshman T Jeff Rotheram.
Scouting report: Eisenhuth (who started the first eight games before getting hurt) and Strickland (five starts at two tackle spots) saw significant action last fall and will be counted on to anchor an inexperienced group. There's talent here, but it will take time to develop.
Projected starters: Sophomore DE Derek Rivers, junior DTs Emmanuel Kromah and Steve Zaborsky.
Other returnees: Senior DT Octavius Brown, senior DE Desmond Williams, junior DE Eric Myers, junior DE Terrell Williams, sophomore DT Joshmere Dawson, sophomore DT Rickey Hagood II, redshirt freshman DE DaShawn Scott.
Newcomers: Redshirt freshman DEs Kevin Rader and Cole Kochman. Redshirt freshman DT Milton Williams. Freshmen DEs Johnson Louigene and Warren Marlowe. Freshman DT Cody Squiric.
Scouting report: Losing DE Vince Coleman hurts — he left the team due to family issues — and this unit was already in the spotlight after a disappointing 2013 season. The Missouri Valley's best teams are strong on the defensive line and it's up to YSU to catch up.
Projected starters: Senior Travis Williams, junior Kevon Caffey, sophomore Jaylin Kelly.
Who’s back: Junior Dubem Nwadiogbu, sophomore B.J. Welch, junior Antoine Cox, redshirt freshman Mike Palumbo.
Newcomers: Sophomore Laron Taylor (transfer from Iowa), freshmen Nathan Pittman, Joey Tabachino, Jonathan Stewart and John Linkosky.
Scouting report: Williams has 28 career starts and Caffey started six games last fall, so there’s experience here but will there be enough production after losing three-year starter Teven Williams (who was kicked off the team before spring ball)?
Projected starters: Senior NB Julius Childs, senior S Donald D’Alesio, sophomore S Jameel Smith, sophomore CBs Eric Thompson and Kenny Bishop.
Other returnees: Junior S Tre’ Moore, sophomore CB Deion Hall, sophomore CB David Rivers.
Newcomers: Junior CB Kenneth Durden (transfer from South Florida), sophomore CB Nate Dortch (transfer from Miami, Fla.), freshmen CBs Chrispin Lee, D.J. Thomas, Jacob Studdard, freshmen safeties Shane Dixon, Kevin Wilson, Robert Byrd and Asim Pleas.
Scouting report: This unit struggled again last fall, but was that due to a poor pass rush or poor play? Regardless, it needs to play better this fall. Maybe that's why the Penguins added two FBS transfers.
Projected starters: Senior P/PK Joey Cejudo, senior LS Nathan Gibbs
Other returnee: Redshirt freshman K Connor McFadden.
Newcomers: Freshmen punters Charlie Stack and Nick Sheely and freshman long snapper Chris Ross.
Scouting report: Cejudo is a strong kicker but he'll be hard-pressed to replace the production of four-year starter Nick Liste. Gibbs has been steady every year. This unit lost coordinator Jamie Bryant (who moved to defensive coordinator) so it will be up to co-coordinators Kenny Carter and Michael Zordich to get the same results.