YSU’s Phillips looks forward to fall
BEAVER TOWNSHIP — With Youngstown State’s spring season now completed, football coach Doug Phillips will not be resting any time soon as preparations are already underway for the upcoming fall campaign.
Addressing the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center, Phillips could not help but pause to look at where everyone was a year ago at this time.
“I looked back, and it was a year ago today that we were sitting in quarantine. We didn’t know our players, everything was uncertain and where we are today feels like forever ago,” Phillips said. “The challenge was getting the chance to be around your players just to see what they could do.
“When we got them here in September, we had 15 practices to evaluate, so it was a time crunch. We had to do a great job of evaluating our personnel because I am a firm believer that it isn’t about Xs and Os but what your players can do, then fitting them into the right slot.”
Despite their 1-6 mark in the tough Missouri Valley Football Conference this spring, a conference that placed five teams in the 16-team FCS playoff field, Phillips’ squad showed marked improvement over the course of the season.
“Losing is never a bright spot, so first and foremost, I take ownership for the shortfalls,” Phillips added. “I think what you do is sit down, reflect and find ways to be better at what we did this season.
“Yes, I was happy that from game No. 1 to game No. 3, we saw tremendous improvement in our offensive line. Pleased, but I didn’t like the results, so how can we get better in the next three months so we’re ready to go and change those results from losses to wins.
Phillips also was pleased with the improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
“Defensively, did I love the effort that I saw week in and week out of our players? Yes, I did, but how can we get better,” he said. How can we get better with the structure of our defense to play against the teams in our league so that we can be successful week in and week out while going against those in our league?”
Recruiting is the key for Phillips and the Penguins.
“Reflecting back, where do we have to recruit, starting today, to make sure that we can win championships, be competitive and win games in our league. We have a better understanding of what type of player we need to get here at Youngstown State. It’s no miracle because I learned that we’ve got the players here that can win football games and win in this league. There isn’t a huge disparity from the top teams to the teams at the bottom of our league.
“What I do believe is consistency and culture, and with those things, there might be a little disparity, so how do you get there? You’ve got to be consistent, and we’ve got to build that in the next few years.”
Going from spring right into a fall schedule will have its challenges, according to Phillips.
“It has never been done before,” he said. “I probably started getting more cognizant as the season grew, as we were making our way into April knowing that in three months we had to go back into fall camp, because it has never been done before. You start looking at your roster knowing that it isn’t full right now.
“We played a spring season where we had room to add players, lost some players, lost players that maybe walked away from football or even entered the transfer portal. We do not get our freshmen until June, so those concerns started to creep in at the end of the season, but I feel confident right now. I look at our kids that were in the weight room this week and tested on the field and we can fully recover, whether it’s mentally or physically, and be ready to start in August.”
Phillips believes the MVFC is the premier FCS conference and it’s a weekly challenge to prepare for any league team they face.
“It tells you that you’re playing the best of the best,” he said. “Our goal is to win a conference championship, but it shows you that even by not winning a conference title, you win games in our league, and it’s going to give you the opportunity to get into the playoffs with the chance to win a national title.
“How you do that is every day we have got to get better, we’ve got to show that improvement, continue to show that improvement in the offseason and as we go into fall camp.
“We definitely have the players. The one thing I wanted to make sure is we had players here this spring to win football games and we do. We understand what got us in those games, kept us in those games and it’s kids that love football. They love playing for one another, they are tough, hard-working and we’re going to continue to build that brand the Youngstown way.”
Next Monday, Ray “Showdawg” Prisby, area Cleveland Browns Super Fan who was recently inducted into the Ford Hall of Fans, will serve as guest speaker.