Richard McNutt, who has coached defensive backs on nearly every level, serves as the Penguins’ co-Defensive Coordinator and defensive backs coach. He also serves as YSU's recruiting coordinator.
The Penguins have been one of the top units in the FCS in the past four seasons under McNutt's guidance.
In 2018, YSU was forced to deal with early injuries that made for an ever-changing lineup. Seven different players started at some point and the only players to start every game were cornerbacks Bryce Gibson and D.J. Smalls. The Penguins lost both of their projected starting safeties in the fall, but senior Chrispin Lee stepped in to earn MVFC honorable-mention accolades in his first year as a starter. Smalls had a pick-six in the fourth quarter of the win over South Dakota. Gibson was among the best in the conference with 12 pass breakups.
The unit had a strong performance in conference play. YSU held four league opponents to 105-or-fewer yards passing on the year. The unit combined for 38 pass breakups on the campaign.
In 2017, YSU led the FCS allowing just 143.7 yards per game, a 46.7 completion percentage and only eight touchdowns. For the second time in three years the Penguins ranked No. 1 in the country in fewest passing yards allowed. YSU allowed a remarkable four pass plays of more than 37 yards for the entire season. Only twice did YSU allow more than 160 yards through the air and held the opposition to under 115 on five occasions. The Penguins surrendered just one touchdown pass in final five games of the year.
Senior cornerback Billy Nicoe Hurst was named second-team All-MVFC in his first year as a full-time starter. True freshman Bryce Gibson stepped in at the other corner spot and started all 11 games. He was named to the conference's all-newcomer squad.
A veteran group in the secondary in 2016 helped YSU reach the National Championship Game for the first time since 1999. The unit featured six seniors - LeRoy Alexander, Jameel Smith, Eric Thompson, David Rivers, Nate Dortch and Kenny Bishop. Following the season Rivers and Bishop signed NFL undrafted free-agent contracts. Rivers was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad during the 2017 campaign and was on the active roster for the final two games of the season.
The Penguins allowed a completion percentage of 50.5 percent as opponents threw 434 passes. Strong coverage by the group helped the team record a school-record 49 sacks.
As a unit they combined for 55 pass breakups, 12 interceptions and seven sacks. Jalyn Powell returned an interception for a touchdown against South Dakota. The biggest interception of the year may have been by Hurst. In his first career start at Eastern Washington he snatched a tipped pass in the end zone stoping a late third-quarter Eagles drive to give momentum back to YSU in the semifinals victory.
Alexander was a first-team All-MVFC pick for the second consecutive year while Smith was a second-team honoree and Bishop received honorable-mention accolades. Alexander had a team-high four interceptions while Bishop led the team with 12 pass breakups.
In his first year, YSU's pass defense was one of the best in the FCS throughout the entire 2015 season. Throughout the entire season, the Guins ranked first or second nationally in fewest passing yards allowed at 116.7 per contest. That total was the least allowed by the program in a season since 1975.
In the FCS, the Penguins finished first in fewest passing yards allowed, tied for first in fewest first downs allowed, were fifth in pass-efficiency defense, seventh in total defense and ninth in third-down conversion defense.
Also of note for the secondary in 2015: the 41.1 completion percentage by the opposition was the lowest by an opponent since 1980 (40.6); the eight passing touchdowns were the fewest allowed since 1996 (five); the 83 pass completions allowed were the fewest since 1976 (79); the 145 first downs allowed were the fewest since 1975 (129); the Guins allowed just 7.5 receptions per contest and YSU's defense allowed just 288.7 yards per contest, the fewest since 2002 (278.5).
Only one time did YSU allow more than 176 yards passing in a game and on four occasions held an opponent to 64 or less. In back-to-back games, YSU allowed just 26 yards and three completions to Robert Morris and Saint Francis. Also just twice the opposition completed more than 11 passes in a game. Only once did the Guins allow more than one TD pass in a game.
Former Penguin Kenneth Durden has spent the past two years in the NFL as a member of the practice squads for the Oakland Raiders and most recently the Tennessee Titans.
McNutt has coached defensive backs at the NFL, FBS, FCS and Division III ranks in his 14-year coaching career. He has a special tie to Youngstown State having played for and coached with University President Jim Tressel at Ohio State in the early 2000’s.
McNutt knows the state of Ohio well. The Penguins are the fourth school and fifth location in the state where he has been a coach. During his coaching career he has been with Toledo, Kent State, Ohio State and was also a member of the Cleveland Browns’ staff.
Before joining Coach Bo Pelini's staff at YSU, the Chicago, Ill., native, was the special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach at North Carolina Wesleyan in 2014.
In 2013, McNutt served on Dave Doeren’s staff at North Carolina State. The Wolfpack saw marked improvement in the secondary finishing third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing defense that season.
McNutt's success with the Wolfpack followed a successful two-year stint as cornerbacks coach on Doeren's staff at Northern Illinois. His two seasons in DeKalb was highlighted by the memorable 2012 season in which the Huskies reached the Discover Orange Bowl and posted a 12-2 overall mark.
In 2012, the NIU defense allowed fewer than 20 points per contest and five times held an opponent to seven points or less in a contest. In 2011, Northern Illinois had an impressive 11-3 campaign and closed out the year by winning its final nine games. In both years the Huskies won the Mid-American Conference title.
At Kent State he coached the defensive backs and the corners in 2009 and 2010 for Coach Doug Martin. In 2010, the Golden Flashes boasted the top-ranked defense in the MAC while ranking second in pass efficiency defense under his direction. KSU was 10th in the nation in total defense allowing just 306 yards per contest and ranked 17th in pass-efficiency defense.
He also boasts experience at the professional level, having spent 2008 on the staff of the Cleveland Browns. Assisting with the safeties and defensive backs, McNutt helped the Browns rank second in the NFL in interceptions with 23 that season.
McNutt spent two years at Washington & Jefferson (2004-05), a season at the FCS level at VMI in 2006 and had his first of three stints in the MAC in 2007 at Toledo.
In his first season as a coach, his W&J defense ranked second in the nation with 26 interceptions, while as a team, the Presidents posted a 12-1 record and advanced to the third round of the Division III Playoffs. W&J proceeded to post a 9-2 record and again advance to the playoffs in 2005.
As a player, McNutt was on the Buckeyes teams that won the 2002 National Championship with a perfect 14-0 record under Tressel. He was a three-year letterwinner for OSU and played in every game for Ohio State in both the 2000 and 2001 seasons. In the title-winning campaign, he started the first six games of 2002 at cornerback before he was sidelined by injury.
As a student assistant with Ohio State in 2003, he assisted with the cornerbacks and special teams and was a member of the staff that led OSU to an 11-2 record and a victory in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. He earned his degree in human ecology from Ohio State in 2004.
McNutt went to Ohio State after a stellar prep career at Rich East High School in Park Forest, Ill. He was named one of the top five cornerback prospects in the country that year.
Richard has two sons, Devon and Trey, and two daughters, Nya and Leyla. Devon is a member of the YSU football team.