Ten thoughts on YSU's first fall practice


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by Joe Scalzo - "A blog about YSU Penguin athletics, not the insides of penguins."   | 155 entries

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1. I asked a couple people on Tuesday about why ex-Auburn defensive lineman Elijah Daniel didn't end up at Youngstown State and it sounds like the Penguins were as surprised as anyone. He ended up at Murray State, which competes in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Daniel, who was kicked off Auburn's team in May following his arrest on multiple charges of burglary, apparently signed with YSU at some point this summer, but he waited too long to sign. There's a seven-day window where the letter is binding. (At least, that's how it was explained to me.)

"Basically it was like you signing your blank notebook," one source told me.

"We thought he was coming here but I guess he got a better offer somewhere else," said one of the assistant coaches.

Does that mean more scholarship money? More playing time? I have no idea. But to me, this was the best possible outcome for YSU. I realize that someone, somewhere was going to give him a scholarship, but it didn't need to be YSU.

Any player that gets kicked out of the SEC for bad behavior carries a massive red flag. And by him going elsewhere, it saved me from having to rip into the program just before training camp. Because I would have.

2. Yes, YSU defensive end Avery Moss carries some baggage, having been kicked out of Nebraska after a public indecency charge. But he also had to sit out a year, a punishment that seems more than sufficient for the crime. (As a side note, Moss is about as friendly and personable as they come. You get the sense in talking to him that he's a good kid who did a dumb thing.)

I wasn't thrilled when Bo Pelini hired his brother, Carl, to coach defensive line, but Carl also missed a year of coaching (and took a massive hit to his reputation) after leaving his job at Florida Atlantic. I was also pretty impressed with Carl when I talked to him in the spring. He came across like a guy who had been humbled by that experience and was just happy to be back coaching.

Maybe Elijah Daniel is genuinely remorseful about what happened, but stealing from your teammates strikes me as more than just a college student making a mistake. YSU has enough talent at defensive line that they don't need to take a chance on a potential problem.

3. Say what you want about Eric Wolford, but he wouldn't have touched Daniel with a 100-foot pole.

4. YSU ended up bringing in four FBS transfers since Pelini was hired: Moss, FS Jalyn Powell (Michigan State/Warren Harding), SS LeRoy Alexander (Nebraska/Toledo Witmer) and CB Soloman Warfield (Iowa/Lakewood St. Edward). They also brought in two junior college transfers: SS Jamar Pinnock (Scottsdale Country Club) and DL Donald Mesier (Mesa Community College).

When I asked about so many of the new players being defensive backs, Pelini said, "Part of it is position-wise, but part of it is finding guys that were the right fit for our team. The right kind of guys. People we were familiar with in some cases, so you kind of know what you're getting. The interesting part is that coming out of spring, I felt pretty good about the defensive back position, but I thought we made ourselves deeper and better."

5. Former YSU WR Christian Bryan is helping out as a coach while he finishes his degree — he's hoping to get a GA position after he graduates — and he's just the latest person to tell me that Pelini's personality is totally different than the national perception.

"He's really laid-back," Bryan said. "He's a lot different than Wolford, who kind of always kept us clamped down. I think he was afraid of us getting in trouble. Bo treats us like men."

Bryan speaks positively about Wolford and his four years here, but he thinks Wolford's intensity wore guys down, both physically and mentally, during the season.

"By the end of the season, all our linemen had shoulder injuries and guys were banged up," he said. "But it's not Wolford's fault we didn't make the playoffs. That's on us players."

6. I've said it before, but if you didn't know Pelini's reputation, you'd think he's one of the most normal coaches around. He's not as funny in interviews as Wolford (although he'll crack the occasional joke) but he's been professional and he'll answer pretty much any question you ask.

He seems happy to be out of Nebraska, where the last few years wore on him.

"I don't know if I'm fresher [entering training camp] but it is a little bit different here," Pelini said. "I enjoyed the fact that my media day obligation for the league was a 15-minute phone call. That was a breath of fresh air for me, personally. I'm enjoying this. It was the right move for me and my family. I feel fresh and I'm excited to be starting."

7. Speaking of media obligations, I was the only reporter to interview Pelini after YSU's first practice and we talked for about 3 1/2 minutes. He's told me he usually had about 30 reporters after every Nebraska practice.

8. YSU had 29 freshmen practice for the first time on Tuesday. There were also three recruits from February's signing day that didn't show up for camp: Jalen Austin (a safety out of Columbus), DeAngelo Malone (a safety from Erie) and Jason Sims (a 6-5, 310-pound offensive lineman from Ilinois). That's not surprising. In a recruiting class that big, you're usually going to have a couple guys who have a change of heart.

Another player, freshman WR Tre'Von Williams (Cleveland VASJ) was supposed to sign in February but never did. But he's on the roster now.

9. I counted eight players who were on the fall/spring roster, then left the program since April: LB Antoine Cox, WR Logan Rhea, FS Grant Mercer, LB Jonathan Stewart, LS Chris Ross, OG Jim Bertovich, WR Brad Good and TE Chance Towery. Towery was the only one who played last fall and he didn't record any statistics.

10. Finally, as Nathan Gibbs pointed out, my preseason roster breakdown failed to note that Gibbs' graduation leaves a huge hole at long snapper this fall. Shane Kuhn and Steven Wethli will try to replace him, if that's possible.

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