For the first time since the 1986 season a new coach will make his debut with the Penguins when first-year Head Coach Jon Heacock takes the sidelines against Lock Haven. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. for the Thursday, August 30, season opener.
Heacock takes over for Jim Tressel who in January was named the head coach at The Ohio State University. Tressel was the head coach of the Penguins from 1986 through 2000. Heacock was an assistant for Tressel from 1990 through 1996 and again in 2000.
The Penguins will try to get the 2001 season off on the right foot against the Bald Eagles. YSU finished the 2000 season with a 9-3 record after losing to Richmond 10-3 in the first round of the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs. Lock Haven is coming off a 3-8 season in Division II and is led by second-year Head Coach Mark Luther.
YSU will enter the 2001 season with an experienced group on offense and defense. On the offensive side of the ball, senior quarterback Jeff Ryan returns for his fourth year as a starter. Ryan has played in 38 games and started 31 contests for YSU in the previous three seasons. Only three players do not return from the 2000 offensive unit. On defense, YSU returns seven starters after finishing 15th in the nation in scoring defense and fifth in turnover margin last year.
Tonight's season opener begins the 61st season of Youngstown State football and is the 64th year since the Penguin program was started in 1938. All-time in season-opening games, Youngstown State owns a 33-25-2 mark and has won five straight since losing to Kent State in 1995. YSU is 9-1-1 in its last 11 season openers.
Lock Haven Bald Eagles Scouting Report
The Bald Eagles finished last season with a 3-8 overall record and were 1-5 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. LHU picked up wins last season over Edinboro, Cheyney and Mansfield. The Bald Eagles will be breaking in two inexperienced quarterbacks in freshman Bill Witmer and senior Brian Genis. Witmer, a true freshman, is listed first on the depth chart while Genis, who is listed second, completed just four passes last year playing behind Ed Galiczynski.
Their top two offensive threats are back in running back Justin Marshall and wide receiver Marcus Burkley. Marshall rushed for 507 yards in eight games last season and had a team-best five touchdown runs. Burkley caught three touchdown passes last year to lead the team.
The Lock Haven defense allowed 404 total offensive yards per game last season, 249 of which came on the ground. Junior linebacker Dan Wissinger led the team with 76 tackles last season.
Lock Haven-Youngstown State Connections
• YSU Offensive Coordinator John Klacik attended college at Lock Haven where he graduated in 1988. Klacik was a standout wide receiver for the Bald Eagles for four seasons.
• Both head coaches in Thursday's game are graduates of West Branch High School. YSU Head Coach Jon Heacock graduated from West Branch in 1979 while Lock Haven Head Coach Mark Luther graduated from West Branch in 1988.
• The Penguins have seven players on their roster from Pennsylvania.
• The Penguins lead the all-time series with the Bald Eagles 1-0. The only meeting was on Oct. 27, 1966 when YSU won 36-6.
Stambaugh Stadium Celebrates 20th Anniversary
The 2001 campaign marks the 20th season of Stambaugh Stadium, which opened in 1982. In the previous 19 seasons in the facility, YSU owns a 96-30-2 record (a .760 winning percentage)
Since the 1989 season, YSU is an impressive 73-15-1, including undefeated seasons in 1993 and 1994. The Penguins are 28-6 in the past five years at the Ice Castle. At home in the playoffs, YSU is 12-1 having won 11 straight home games.
Penguins Ranked Eighth Nationally in Attendance
The Youngstown State football program ranked eighth in the nation in attendance last season averaging 18,152 fans for six home games.
The only teams ahead of the Penguins were Southern, South Florida, Yale, Delaware, Florida A&M, Montana and Princeton. YSU's total attendance figure for the season was 108,910 and the most for six home dates. It was an increase of more than 2,000 fans per game for YSU. In 1999, the Penguins averaged 16,006 fans per contest.
The Penguins set a Gateway Football Conference and Stadium record when 21,119 people attended the YSU-Northern Iowa game on Oct. 14, 2000.
Eight Players Remain From 1997 Title Team
Eight members of the 1997 championship team remain part of the 2001 Penguin football team. Those eight players are defensive back Andre Coleman, wide receiver Sean Guerriero, strong safety Bruce Hightower, linebacker Carlos Pearson, linebacker Bob Sivik, center Dave Tesinarz, linebacker Mike Thomas and holder/wide receiver Steve Valley. All players except for Pearson redshirted that first season. Pearson saw limited action on the 1997 squad as a true freshman but after the season he left the squad. He returned this past spring.
Five Players Named Team Captains This Season
The Penguins have tabbed seniors Jeff Ryan, Dave Tesniarz, Bob Sivik, LeVar Greene and Bruce Hightower as the team captains for the 2001 season. Last season, with 12 seniors, the Penguins had game captains, but prior to this season, Coach Jon Heacock announced that Ryan, Tesniarz, Sivik, Greene and Hightower were named the captains for the season. YSU has 21 seniors on the roster this year.
YSU and First-Year Head Coaches
Jon Heacock is only the fifth head coach in Youngstown State football history and of those five coaches, four began their collegiate head coaching career at YSU. YSU's first head coach Dike Beede is the only coach who had prior collegiate head coaching experience before coming to YSU. The other three head coaches -- Jim Tressel, Bill Narduzzi and Rey Dempsey -- had never been a college head coach before taking over at Youngstown.
Beede guided the team from 1938-72, Dempsey in 1973-74, Narduzzi from 1975-85 and Tressel from 1986-2000.
The best first-year coaching record was by Narduzzi in 1975 when he posted a 5-4 mark. Narduzzi is also the only YSU coach to win his Penguins debut. In their first years, Beede was 4-5, Dempsey was 4-6 and Tressel was 2-9.
Penguins Garner Preseason Accolades
Before the season has even started, the Penguins have earned numerous preseason honors. Junior defensive tackle Matt Mechling and senior offensive tackle Pat Crummey were named preseason Division I-AA All-Americans by the SportsNetwork. In the service's preseason ratings, Mechling was tabbed the nation's fourth-best defensive tackle while Crummey was picked as the second-best tackle in the nation behind Southern Utah's Randy Clark. YSU quarterback Jeff Ryan was selected as the nation's 12th-best quarterback.
Four players earned preseason All-America accolades from the Football Gazette with Mechling being tabbed a second-team All-American, Crummey was a third-team All-America pick and Ryan and defensive back LeVar Greene were honorable-mention All-Americans.
In the Gateway Football Conference's preseason picks, Ryan, Crummey, Mechling and defensive back Bruce Hightower earned first-team accolades with Greene being named to the honorable-mention team.
New Faces, Responsibilities Face Coaching Staff
First-year YSU Head Coach Jon Heacock added four members to his coaching staff in the offseason. Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach John Klacik is back with the Penguins after coaching the quarterbacks at Wake Forest last season. Klacik was a member of the YSU coaching staff from 1988 through 1999. Brian Wright, former offensive coordinator at Walsh and graduate assistant at YSU in 1997, will coach the quarterbacks, and George Small who was the head coach at Division II Kentucky State for six seasons will coach the inside linebackers. Todd Murgatroyd, who has spent the past six years at Kent State, will be a part-time assistant in charge of the outside linebackers.
Members of the current YSU coaching staff had their duties enhanced in the offseason as well. Sam Eddy was promoted to Assistant Head Coach and will continue to coach the running backs and will be the recruiting coordinator. Pete Rekstis will be the defensive coordinator and remain in charge of the defensive backs. Trent Boykin is in charge of the special teams units and continue to work with the wide receivers.
Joining the staff as graduate assistants are Nick Siciliano and Don Houser. Siciliano, a 1999 graduate of Youngstown State, will work with the tight ends and the offense. Houser, a 2000 graduate of the University of Houston, will work with the defense.
Also, the Penguins have a new Athletic Director in Ron Strollo. Strollo, a tight end on the 1991 National Championship football team, took over for Jim Tressel in July.
YSU Plays Seven Home Games in 2001
This fall the Penguins will play seven home games at Stambaugh Stadium. YSU plays Lock Haven at home on Thursday, Aug. 30, plays host to Clarion on Sept. 8, plays host to Western Illinois on Sept. 22, SW Missouri State on Oct. 13, Illinois State (Homecoming) on Oct. 20, Western Kentucky on Oct. 27 and closes out the regular season against Wofford on Nov. 17.
The four Gateway Conference foes combined to finish 32-15 while WIU won the Gateway title and WKU won the Ohio Valley crown. Western Illinois (12), Western Kentucky (5), Illinois State (23) and Wofford (24) all finished in the final SportsNetwork Top 25 Poll. It marks the seventh time in school history YSU has had seven regular-season home games in a year.
Coleman Becomes Youngstown State's "Slash"
Throughout his Youngstown State career, senior Andre Coleman has been called upon to fill various roles for the Penguins. This season will be no different as Coleman has been moved to defensive back. For the first three years of his career, Coleman was a wide receiver and returned kickoffs for the Penguins. During the past spring, he was moved to tailback before moving back to wideout for fall camp. But in the fall, he was moved to defensive back to help out with the lack of depth at the position.
Looking to Create Turnovers
Last season, Youngstown State had a turnover margin of plus-13 making it the 12th straight season the Penguins have come out on the positive side of the turnover margin. In 15 of the last 16 years (all but 1989), Youngstown State has had a plus in the turnover margin department. The Penguins finished tied for fifth in the nation forcing 1.45 turnovers per game (31 in 11 contests).
Dove Inducted Into College Football Hall of Fame
Former YSU assistant football coach Bob Dove was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in August. Dove was honored for his collegiate career at Notre Dame where he was an All-American in 1941 and 1942. He is the first former player to be chosen to the Hall of Fame by the Honors Review Committee, which reviews players who played more than 50 years ago. He was an assistant at YSU from 1969 through 1986.
Jeff Ryan Leads YSU Offense For Fourth Year
Senior quarterback Jeff Ryan is back to begin his fourth year for the Penguins. Ryan, the all-time leader in career touchdown passes and rushing yards by a quarterback, ranks in the top six in 10 offensive categories. He has started 31 games in his career and owns a 21-10 record as a starter. He is 18-6 as a starter the past two years. In his career, he has rallied Youngstown State from behind to victory 13 times
Penguins Advance to Playoffs Again in 2000
Youngstown State finished the 2000 football season with a 9-3 overall mark and advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs for the 10th time in the past 14 years. In the playoffs, the Penguins were seeded ninth and lost at No. 8 Richmond 10-3 on a cold, rainy Nov. 25 day.
The Penguins began the year 6-0 and climbed as high as No. 2 in the national rankings, but went 3-3 in their final six games of the season to finish 9-3 and were ranked 11th in the final Sports Network Top 25 Poll. In Gateway Football Conference play, the Penguins finished tied for second with a 4-2 mark.