YSU tight ends loaded with depth, talent

Penguins’ unit back at full capacity

By Brian Dzenis



What’s on paper finally has a chance to come to life.

Tight end is one of Youngstown State’s deepest positions, but injuries have kept the unit from running at full capacity.

This week, Penguins coach Bo Pelini said senior Chris Durkin and sophomore Kierre Hawkins are at “full go” after injuries limited them through fall camp into the season.

The Penguins could use up to five tight ends in some capacity when they face Western Illinois on Saturday and each of them have something to contribute.

“It’s a lot of talented dudes. We have ‘Big Charles [Reeves]’ coming from Pitt. A big dude that’s very athletic. You got ‘Big Durk’ who runs good routes and is a beast with his feet. With me, it’s all-around running routes, blocking and catching the ball,” said Hawkins, an Ohio State transfer.

“You have [Miles Joiner], the deep ball threat and [Josh Burgett] running at fullback. It’s really a mixture of different talents that everybody has and it’s very similar to what I had at Ohio State.”

After Hawkins and Reeves, the Penguins have three transfers from the FBS ranks with Durkin coming in from Virginia Tech in 2017. The group skews young with the Ursuline grad Durkin as the lone upperclassman.

“I like our tight end position as a group,” Pelini said. “It’s not the most experienced group, but it is a talented group.”

Through three games, YSU tight ends haven’t seen much of the ball with Joiner’s two catches as the only grabs for the position group, but they’re both for touchdowns.

“It’s been exciting. I just control what I control. Coach puts me down there in the red zone for a couple plays that gave me the opportunity to score,” Joiner said. “[Montgomery VanGorder] trusted me and he threw me the ball and did what I could.”

Even with the lack of targets, the Penguins tight ends still hold an important job from a blocking perspective.

“It’s all about the game plan and it’s week by week. Some weeks, they need us for the run fit to get [running backs Tevin McCaster and Christian Turner] on the perimeter and sometimes they need us in pass protection so they can flip the ball to our wideouts,” Durkin said. “When the time comes, we’ll be ready.”

Durkin and Burgett fill most of the blocking roles with the offense and Joiner is proving himself as a quality red-zone target. Reeves has yet to see a lot of playing time on offense, but he is part of the blocking crew on field goals and extra points.

Hawkins, a four-star recruit from Maple Heights, can wear the most hats. A knee injury had him on crutches for the team’s first fall scrimmage, but he got back on the field for the team’s 42-7 win against Valparaiso. He didn’t catch a pass, but did draw a pass interference call that set up a Penguins touchdown.

“When I first went out there, I’m not going to lie, the first thing I looked at was the crowd,” Hawkins said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really out here.’ I performed well and it was a dream come true.”

Hawkins left Ohio State in search of playing time and he stands to get it for years to come. Same goes for the whole group.

“I think the sky is the limit. These guys have been working hard and it will be good to see their full potential now that everyone is back,” tight ends coach Travis Tislaretz said.


A pair of area linebackers are semifinalists for the William V. Campbell trophy, which is awarded by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame to the best football scholar-athlete in the nation.

Youngstown State’s Armand Dellovade and Robert Morris’ Adam Wollet — both seniors — are semifinalists for the award. Dellovade leads the Penguins with 23 tackles this season and has one interception.

Wollet, a Poland graduate, leads the Colonials with 34 tackles this year. He has played in every RMU game of his collegiate career.

To be eligible for the award, a player must be a senior in the final year of eligibility and carry a 3.2 Grade Point Average. The winner gets a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship, while finalists get an $18,000 scholarship. The winner is announced in December.

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