Phillips recaps YSU’s spring football growth

BEAVER TOWNSHIP – Youngstown State’s spring football practices are officially a fading memory with the White squad defeating the Red 21-7 this past Saturday.

Head coach Doug Phillips and staff will now use the next three months to prepare for the upcoming football season, which officially gets underway Aug. 29 when they travel to Villanova to take on the Wildcats, the team that eliminated them from the FCS playoffs this past season.

Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center, Phillips told the group that both staff and players got a lot done over the past month.

“We wanted to see guys that have played some for us but needed to get them to that next level, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Not so much on offense,” Phillips said. “Defensively, we needed to see the line, guys like the Dawan Martin, Deamontae Diggs and Jaelen Crider, who played the last two seasons but need to play a more significant role so for those guys, they got the amount of reps that we needed to see this spring and that’s what we came away with.

“Also, we needed to get them ready to play a 12-game season and accomplished that. All three guys up front are great football players and it is their time to shine. I feel as if they made the most out of improving their fundamentals and technique.

“We have experienced players like Jaylen Castleberry in the secondary, who showed us he needed to take his play to the next level and really started to just focus his attention to detail. We definitely saw that and his leadership. He has been here two seasons so watching him become a leader on the defensive side of the ball was great to see.”

Offensively, Phillips’ quarterback room is full of talent, a group capable of leading them to a league title and deep playoff run.

“The one thing I walked away with this spring is that we don’t have to worry about our quarterback position,” Phillips added. “We have athletes in there, there is competition and those kids come in everyday ready to compete, whether it’s on the field, the meeting room, on film or on the practice field. You need that to be successful in our league.

“To bring in a guy like Brady Shannon and add to that competition, it really raises the level of play of Beau Brungard, Max Blanc and Bryce Schondelmyer but that is just one of the position groups. I don’t have many worries about them because those guys work so hard off the field to make sure they can produce on the field. Brady has been removed from football for two years and is picking everything up really quick. We know what Beau can do with his legs and arm and in this league you must go in ready to play. We must make sure that whoever takes the field at quarterback on Saturday can help this team win. I feel that we have a room that on any given day can go out and help us win a football game.”

Special teams has been an emphasis this spring, more so than any of Phillips’ previous four seasons.

“We put more time in our special teams this spring than we ever have and made it an emphasis,” Phillips stated. “The one thing we have is depth and a lot of those kids play on special teams. What nobody talks about from our spring game is that you saw both teams with a punt and punt block team so that speaks volumes to the depth we have and the trust you have that kids can go out and run the schemes that you want on those special teams.

“No one is going to talk about this, but the one improvement is that we are ahead of where we have ever been with our special teams. I give credit to Pat Shepard, our new special teams coordinator who has come in and we’ve given him more time in practice to really improve and make a difference. That is a third of the football game and if we can make a difference there, it will make a difference in our season and program.”

Playing 12 games in the regular season is a first for the Penguins’ football program.

“I believe this is the toughest schedule we have played, starting out against the team [Villanova] that we lost to last December,” Phillips noted. “Right now, our coaches are going to sit down and go through the spring, evaluate it and then sit down and really do an individualized program for each player to help us win some ball games in the fall.

“What we need to do for the next three months is figure out what those players need to do, whether it is nutrition, strength and conditioning, on the field or simply watching more film to improve their football IQ. Those are the things over the next three months that will make a difference in how well we fare this season. This is the first time we will be playing 12 regular season games as a program and we are excited about that opportunity.”

Next week, YSU head lacrosse coach Rob Harris will serve as guest speaker.

Have an interesting story? Contact the Sports Department by email at sports@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribChronSports.


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