The Youngstown State football team will get an early jump on Spring Drills when the Penguins practice for the first time in 2018 on Sunday. Below is a position-by-position breakdown of the team entering spring camp.
Nathan Mays started five games and played in eight contests last season for the Penguins. He completed 75-of-113 passes for 905 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception. Mays also rushed for 317 yards on 77 carries and had four touchdowns.
YSU's deepest position on the roster is tailback. First-Team All-MVFC selection Tevin McCaster returns to lead the group. In his first season as the primary back, McCaster rushed for 1,099 yards on 221 carries and scored 13 touchdowns. In his three years, McCaster has 1,735 yards and scored 24 touchdowns.
Sophomore Christian Turner will be going through his first spring camp with the program. Turner had a strong freshman campaign with 440 yards on 83 carries. He also caught 21 passes for 272 yards.
Junior Joe Alessi has been a key contributor as a backup and special teams in his two years with the program. Alessi rushed for 226 yards on 21 carries and scored four touchdowns. Lond Pearson had nine carries for 53 yards and Devon McNutt had 16 yards on seven attempts in 2017. Jaylen Hewlett and Braxton Chapman both redshirted last season.
The Penguins will be looking to replace an experienced group at the position. Senior Chris Durkin is the lone tight end who saw action a year ago that returns. YSU redshirted Josh Burgett and Miles Joiner while Kierre Hawkins transferred to the the program after spending two years at Ohio State.
YSU will be experienced up the middle, but will be looking for a pair of tackles to step up this spring. Two-year starters Gavin Wiggins (left guard) and Vitas Hrynkiewicz (center) have been impact players throughout their careers. In 2017, both players were named second-team All-MVFC. At right guard, Connor Sharp started the final four games while Jacob Zinni started the first five contests of the campaign in 2017.
Logan Creek and Jamie Herr saw limited action a year ago while Norman Fox has been with the program for two seasons. Offensive tackle Devon Robinson transferred into the program in January. In 2017, YSU redshirted Zachary Hauschild, Mike McAllister and Dan Becker.
The Penguins will see plenty of new faces at wide receiver this year. The top returning pass catching wide receiver from 2017 is Samuel St. Surin who had four receptions. The lone receiver to be in the starting lineup at any point during their YSU career is Jermiah Braswell and that came in 2016.
Braswell and St. Surin will be the leaders of an inexperienced, but talented, group this spring. Darius Shackleford, Donovan McWilson, Ryan Emans and Zack Torbert have been with the program for three years and will get a chance. In 2017, YSU redshirted Colby Cooper, Jake Cummings and Thomas Joffray. Jake Coates saw playing time as a punt returner.
The defensive front will feature four seniors in Justus Reed, Savon Smith, Lamont Ragland and Johnson Louigene. Louigene started all 11 games last year while Smith started nine and Ragland twice. Reed tied for the team lead with five sacks despite just playing in seven games.
Others who were in reserve roles last season that return are Shereif Bynum, Ma'lik Richmond and Wesley Thompson. Tommy McCraw, Justin Metzel and Jason Sims each made game appearances while Steven Pappadakes was part of the program. The Guins redshirted James Johnson, Antoine Cook, Donovan Turney and Fred Hicks last season.
The linebackers will once again be led by senior Armand Dellovade. Dellovade, a second-team All-MVFC pick in 2017, has played in 38 games during his three-year career. Joining Dellovade are experienced junior Penguins Christiaan Randall-Posey, Curtis Parks and Cash Mitchell. All four players saw action in all 11 games last year whether it be on defense or special teams.
Tyler Sims played early in last year's campaign while Malachi Newell and Terray Bryant had their 2017 seasons cut short because of knee injuries on special teams. The Guins redshirted Ray Anderson and Taymar Graham while Jonathan Pollock, Drake Marinelli and Brandon Williams were all part of the program. True freshman Griffin Hoak joined the program in January.
YSU returns starting cornerback Bryce Gibson and starting free safety Kyle Hegedus. Gibson came in as a true freshman in the fall and took over at cornerback. Hegedus earned the starting nod in the final 10 games of the season. Hegedus ended the season ranked third on the team with 74 tackles while Gibson led the corners with 35.
At cornerback, DJ Smalls, Crispin Lee, Darius Hall, Will Latham and redshirt Melvin Jackson will get a look this spring. Smalls played in all 11 games last year and started the final two contests at the nickel position. Avery Larkin returns after playing in eight contests and starting six at the nickel spot in 2017.
The Penguins return all three kickers who were part of the team a year ago. Punter Mark Schuler, placekicker Zak Kennedy and Colin Burdette all return. Kennedy has made 46 field goals in his career and 116-of-119 extra-point tries. Schuler has averaged 42.1 yard per punt on 105 kicks in two seasons.
Practice Schedule (Subject to Change)
Sunday, Feb. 11 (5 p.m.)
Monday, Feb. 12 (4 p.m.)
Wednesday, Feb. 14 (4 p.m.)
Friday, Feb. 16 (4 p.m.)
Sunday, Feb. 18 (5 p.m.)
Monday, Feb. 19 (4 p.m.)
Wednesday, Feb. 21 (4 p.m.)
Sunday, Feb. 25 (5 p.m.)
Monday, Feb. 26 (4 p.m.)
Wednesday, Feb. 28 (4 p.m.)
Friday, March 2 (4 p.m.)
Sunday, March 11 (5 p.m.) or March 18 (5 p.m.)
Monday, March 12 (4 p.m.)
Friday, March 16 (5 p.m.)