The Youngstown State football team returned to practice Monday afternoon after a week off for Spring Break and head coach Bo Pelini was not too pleased with what he saw.
“I thought it was sloppy,” he said. “I didn’t think it was to our standards. Sometimes you’re going to deal with that coming off of spring break, but we have a long way to go and we have to keep making strides.”
But Pelini said he was satisfied with one group in particular.
“Wide receivers actually played really well,” he said. “I think we’re throwing and catching the ball pretty well. It shows we have some experience and guys have some good talent there. I think there’s good competition at that position.”
But YSU receivers coach Brian Crist thought spring break took its toll on his guys.
“It looked like they had a really good time in Mexico. It wasn’t great. It’s wasn’t good,” Crist said. “We put in a bunch of new stuff. They handled it pretty well, but we had too many drops, which is not what we’ve been doing. We shouldn’t drop any with the experience that we have.”
YSU’s returning experience could make cracking the rotation difficult.
“Every guy is getting evaluated personally and guys that are playing sloppy and aren’t able to execute are just showing me they aren’t able to play,” Pelini said.
That includes the receiver positions, where the Penguins are working out 16 players, including 10 with experience.
“Competition is always good, whether it’s against somebody else or against your own teammate,” Crist said. “That part of it is good for us and our group. The experience is great as long as you use it to your advantage,.”
Hubbard High School graduate Isiah Scott is one receiver trying to do more than just earn his spot.
“There’s definitely a lot of competition, but at the same time, we’re trying to lead each other and make each other better,” said the junior.
Scott says the only way to do that is to be on the same page and play as a team and not for themselves.
Senior Alvin Bailey feels the same way.
“We have to be right on all cylinders. We can’t be sloppy in any area, especially if we want to get back to Frisco [Texas, for the FCS national championship],” he said.
While experience will most likely help the Penguins this year, it’s also already helping out the coaches.
“I can focus on coaching the little things because we already know what to do,” Crist said. “We can start to make them better players and more effective players by doing the little thing.”
The Penguins also return experience with Ricky Davis, but now he’s on the receiving end of the ball.
“It was his idea. So, we told him we’d give him a shot out there,” Crist said. “Maybe he can help us, give us a few things here and there.”
The coaching staff doesn’t know if Davis will stay at wide receiver, but Pelini is already liking what he’s seeing from the former quarterback.
“I think he’s done well,” Pelini said. “He’s picked it up pretty quick. He’s probably further along as a wideout than I would have envisioned him going into the spring. I think he has a chance to be a good player for us.”
Despite a good amount of players returning, Pelini knows last season’s FCS championship appearance has come and gone.
“We need to go back to square one,” he said. “What we did last year doesn’t mean anything. These guys have to understand that.
“It’s trying to develop a new team, a new chemistry. Different guys have to step up and it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”