Defense sets tone as YSU gets back to work
By charles grove
After a week off from practice, the Youngstown State football team was back inside WATTS on Saturday, rejuvenated and refreshed.
“I think [the break] helped,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said. “Guys got their legs back a little bit, got a chance to look over their stuff and they got a bit of a mental break as well. I always think it’s good to get a little bit of a break in spring ball. You get a good week of heavy lifting in and you get two weeks to finish up.”
The defense looked especially fresh when the offense and defense went at each other. Coordinator and linebackers coach Carl Pelini’s defense wasn’t simply going though the motions as the defense forced a three-and-out the first series and linebackers seemed to take up residence in the backfield throughout.
“When it comes to tackling and going against this offense, we look forward to it every day,” YSU junior linebacker Lee Wright said.
“It felt like we were always in the backfield and always causing havoc,” YSU sophomore linebacker Armand Dellovade said. “That’s what we’re here to do.”
Much of the credit for the new YSU defensive system goes to Carl Pelini, who was promoted from defensive line coach a year ago. Wright said the defense is flourishing because of it.
“Last year we ran more of a gap kind of defense,” Wright said. “This year it’s more about the flow of the defense. It’s more about the overall plan instead of just knowing your position.”
Dellovade said this year he’s now aware of what each position on defense is doing instead of last year’s scheme, which focused more on individual responsibility.
“Last year I just kind of knew what the [middle] linebackers were doing and this year I know what the safeties are doing, what the corners are doing, what the other linebackers are doing and what the d-line is doing,” he said.
The defense focused heavily on footwork Saturday, a problem area for the YSU defense a year ago according to Dellovade.
“Footwork helps us get a step ahead of the offense,” Dellovade said. “Last year it always felt like we were one step behind. This year we feel so more faster than last year.”
It wasn’t doom and gloom for the offense by any means. Tailbacks Tevin McCaster and Jody Webb had lengthy gains and quarterback Hunter Wells drove the offense down the field on the last possession before finding redshirt-freshman receiver Jermiah Braswell in the corner of the end zone to send the team off in high spirits.
Bo Pelini said he likes the challenge his defense presents the offense saying the pressure his team gets hit with up front will pay dividends come fall.
“We’re playing pretty well up front,” Bo Pelini said. “It’s good because it challenges our offense every single day, especially up front. Great competition makes everyone better.”
Both the coaching staff and players agreed a week off did the Penguins a lot of good after the opening two weeks of spring season. Players hit the weight room while some healed up for the next two weeks.
“I thought [the timing of the break] was perfect,” Dellovade said. “After the first two weeks everyone’s kind of beat up and sore, so lots of people got healthy last week and because of that there were a lot of guys on the practice field today unlike last week when almost half the team was injured.”
YSU’s next practice will be Monday at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium, weather permitting. If not, the Penguins will be back in the WATTS.