Published January 11, 2014
1. Friday's announcement that Eric Wolford would get a contract extension got a lot of different reactions from fans, from support to skepticism to disbelief.
But, really, athletic director Ron Strollo didn't have a lot of options. YSU wasn't going to buy out the last year of Wolford's contract and you're not doing your program any favors if you force Wolford to coach the final year of his contract. That makes it very difficult to recruit players or assistant coaches.
So, the best option was to give Wolford an extension, but also frame the contract so that YSU can make a change if the program struggles over the next year or two. That's what I expect to see when the contract gets finalized in the next month or so.
Oh, and one more thing: Wolford is Strollo's guy. Unlike Jon Heacock, who was a hand-picked successor to Jim Tressel, Wolford was picked after Strollo interviewed several candidates. (His first candidate, Mark Stoops, was all set to take the job until Florida State offerered him the defensive coordinator position. Stoops has since moved on to become Kentucky's head coach.) Strollo has a lot invested in Wolford and with the program (slowly) moving forward, he didn't want to start from zero again. Let's hope Wolford can reward that patience and trust.
2. Someone on Twitter asked me what I thought of the decision and I said I thought Wolford was a good defensive coordinator away from the playoffs.
When Wolford decided to clean house in his first year, the majority of players that left were on defense, which immediately put the Penguins in a tough spot. Wolford also misfired on his first defensive coordinator, Rick Kravitz, who was a really nice guy with really solid credentials who really struggled. And unlike Jon Heacock, who could compensate for a struggling defensive coach, Wolford's an offensive coach. He couldn't just take the reins.
So far, it looks like Wolford misfired on his second defensive coordinator, too. Joe Tresey was supposed to be the anti-Kravitz, the hometown guy who wasn't afraid to get into his players' faces and hold them accountable. But whether it was due to talent or scheme or Tresey's personality (most likely all three), something hasn't clicked.
YSU gave up 425.4 yards per conference game, which ranked last in the Missouri Valley by 56 yards. (!) By contrast, North Dakota State gave up 227.5 yards per game.
Whatever your opinion of Wolford, he's shown he's not afraid to get rid of underachieving coaches. It'll be interesting to see what happens on that side of the ball because the defense has been an annual problem. He needs to get it fixed.
3. One other point: This is smashmouth Big Ten country. I think YSU fans will take wins any way they can get them at this point, but if they had to choose, I think most Penguin fans would rather see a great defense than a great offense.
4. A lot of fans were hoping Mark Mangino would replace Wolford but most people at YSU felt Mangino was just a rental.
After one year as the tight ends coach/associate head coach/recruiting coordinator, Mangino left to become the offensive coordinator at Iowa State. He'll probably quintuple his YSU salary, which I'm told was around $50,000-$60,000.
(UPDATE: WFMJ's Dana Balash tweeted that Mangino will reportedly make $350,000 in 2014 after making $65,000 at YSU last season. That's $100,000 more than Wolford is making per year at YSU.)
Despite his messy departure from Kansas, Mangino still has a strong reputation nationally. After a three-year layoff, he needed to see if he still had the fire to coach. He did. As Strollo said, "Someone just needed to hire him first." I doubt Iowa State will be the last.
5. The biggest question mark entering this season is over who will replace Kurt Hess at quarterback.
Hess graduates with just about every passing record in school history and his departure creates a big hole, both in production and leadership.
Look for redshirt freshman Ricky Davis to get a long look this spring. He's a little bit of an unknown outside the program because he rarely got reps in the summer and spent the fall running the scout team offense. The other candidates, Dante Nania, Tanner Garry and Nick Wargo, haven't lit the world on fire but maybe Hess' departure will prompt someone to step up.
6. North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl announced he was leaving for Wyoming weeks ago, but his imminent departure didn't seem like much of a distraction for the Bison, who bludgeoned opponents on their way to their third straight FCS title.
But graduation will take a much bigger toll this season than it did last year, and Bohl's departure could open the door for another MVFC team to emerge.