Penguins close out spring practice with scrimmage

Joe Craycraft and Mark Waid shared snaps at QB as YSU closed out spring practice with a scrimmage

By Dan Hiner


Joe Craycraft kept the ball on an option play on his first drive during the Youngstown State football team’s scrimmage. He ran off the left side and got hit by cornerback Jaelin Madison.

Craycraft took most of the snaps at quarterback in the Penguins’ scrimmage Saturday afternoon at the Watson and Tressel Training Site. The scrimmage marked the end of YSU’s spring camp.

“It was probably the first time I got hit in about a year and a half,” Craycraft said.

Nathan Mays, the most experienced quarterback on the Penguins’ roster, participated in individual drills, but didn’t take a snap in the scrimmage.

YSU head coach Bo Pelini said Mays, who is recovering from a knee injury, was kept out as a precaution. The decision provided more opportunities for Craycraft and freshman Mark Waid.

Waid and Craycraft spilt first- and second-team snaps for most of the scrimmage.

Craycraft completed a 33-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Natavious Payne while Waid connected with Warren JFK graduate Jake Coates down the right sideline for a 65-yard score.

“We have a good problem,” Pelini said. “We have a lot of talent at [quarterback].”

Joe Alessi, a South Range graduate, and Christian Turner split reps with the first-team offense.

Alessi broke a long run on the second drive and capped it with a 17-yard touchdown run up the middle.

Former Poland receiver Mike Diaz made a pair of impressive catches.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jayden Cunningham found Diaz on a deep route. He threw the ball just behind the defensive back’s head and Diaz came down with it after the two battled for the ball.

Diaz closed the scrimmage with a 12-yard touchdown catch from former Salem quarterback Mitch Davidson.

Sophomre Ray Anderson made some tackles for loss at linebacker and broke up a pass over the middle intended for tight end Miles Joiner.

Sophomore defensive end Antoine Cook also made some tackles for loss.

Cook believes the defense will be better in 2019. He said the energy by the players and the change in culture will help provide a spark.

The defense had its ups and downs, giving up some long runs and receptions. But Pelini isn’t ready to hit the panic button in March.

“No one’s reached their potential,” Pelini said. “Everybody’s learning. The learning guys worked hard during the spring. There’s a lot of corrections that need to be made, there’s a lot of improvement that needs to be made — individually and as a team.”

Pelini said the point of spring practice was to help develop the team’s culture. He said the goal was to work on individual development and the players need to put time in during the offseason to improve.

“I have high expectations for the football team this year,” Pelini said. “I think we can be a damn good football team.”

NCAA Rules on Reed

Senior defensive end Justus Reed was granted two years of eligibility by the NCAA after missing all of last season with a torn Achilles’ tendon.

YSU announced the decision following the scrimmage.

Reed applied for a medical redshirt after suffering the injury during a summer workout in July.

The NCAA ruled that Reed’s injury was not due to his or the university’s fault and he would have been denied the opportunity for four years of participation.

Reed recorded 16 tackles, including six for loss, in seven games in 2017. His five sacks were tied for most on the team.

Reed has attended spring camp but participated only in individual workouts. Pelini said at the start of camp that Reed won’t see the field until July as a precaution.