Fans of the Youngstown State football team got their first look at the team under new Head Coach, Bo Pelini at the annual Red vs. White Spring Game. The inter-squad scrimmage featured the first-team offense against the first-team defense. Offensively, the Penguins return Offensive Coordinator, Shane Montgomery, and numerous impact players from last season. Those players include starting quarterback Hunter Wells, star running back Martin Ruiz, wide out Andrew Williams and four starters on the offensive line.
That familiarity and continuity showed as the offense looked sharp and ran the ball very effectively. Martin Ruiz carried the ball 20 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. In the passing game, Hunter Wells was 6 of 15 for 77 yards and a 35-yard touchdown to this top target, Andrew Williams. The only real question mark on offense is at wide receiver. Andrew Williams will be the clear number one and Andre Stubbs will return to play in the slot. YSU will need players to step up at the other receiver spots with the attention Williams is sure to garner. Senior Kintrell Disher and sophomore I’tavious Harvin saw most of the first team snaps at the other receiver spots and showed some promise. Disher is a big, physical player at 6’4, 245 pounds who can cause major matchup problems for smaller corners. Harvin is more of a speed receiver and has big-play type ability. Sophomore Jaylon Brown should also be in the mix to see time at wide out, the Penguins will need these unproven players to make an impact this fall.
With the majority of the offense coming back in-tact, Bo Pelini has the luxury of devoting most of his time and effort to improving a defense which has been the weak spot for years. Luckily, Pelini is a defensive specialist and is known for his acumen on that side of the ball. During spring ball, he has made it clear that he is not afraid to make changes. Nate Dortch, who started at cornerback last year, was on the second team for the Red vs. White game. Kenneth Durden, David Rivers III and Eric Thompson saw most of the first team snaps at corner while Jameel Smith and Deion Hall were the first team safeties. Smith played very well, leading all players in tackles with 11.
The defensive front should be extremely formidable with contributors like Derek Rivers, Terrell Williams, Emmanuel Kromah and Steve Zaborsky returning. In addition, Avery Moss, the 6’3 defensive end transfer from Nebraska, adds another beast edge rusher opposite of Rivers who dominated the Missouri Valley Football Conference last season. Starting linebackers Dubem Nwadiogbu and Jaylin Kelly also return; Kelly was a major stand out during the spring game. He was all over the field making eight tackles, two of which were for a loss. With the front looking strong, the biggest questions on defense again lie in the secondary, where the Guins have had major issues for years. I would expect to see a lot of new faces as Pelini attempts to overhaul and improve that group as much as possible before the season begins.
All in all, it was great to see the Bo Pelini era of YSU Football begin and the excitement that has come with it. There was a very solid crowd at Stambaugh Stadium to watch the game and the fans seem extremely enthused about this new-look squad. The crowd at the Spring Game was just as big if not larger than some of the crowds for home games last season. The white squad, which featured the first team offense, came away with a 31-7 victory. There is a lot to be excited about and also much to improve upon before the season starts September 5th at Pittsburgh.