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YSU defenders stride forward, please coach
After playing well for most of Wednesday’s practice, Youngstown State junior running back Jordan Thompson found himself face down on the turf on the day’s final play, surrounded by the cheering defenders who put him there.
When asked how he felt about ending practice that way, Thompson said, “No matter if it’s the beginning or the end of practice, I’m never happy getting stuffed.”
After getting dominated for much of the first two weeks of spring ball, YSU’s defense took a step forward on Wednesday. It still gave up its share of touchdowns — and it still can’t cover sophomore wideout Christian Bryan — but the defense [finally] did enough to please head coach Eric Wolford.
“I told a coach earlier today that we need to come out and have a little success on defense so these guys can feel good about what they’re doing,” Wolford said. “At one point in my career [as an offensive line coach], I used to love throttling the defense every day. But now that I’m a head coach, it’s not a lot of fun.
“I don’t like the pressure of feeling like you have to score 56 points a game.”
Wolford was only slightly exaggerating. The Penguins lost five games last fall and scored at least 28 points in three of them.
Redshirt freshman Steve Zaborsky, one of several young players expected to contribute this fall, felt the defense’s success on Wednesday was partially due to low expectations.
“I think we did average today,” he said. “Coach Wolford was happy because we were better than usual but I think we need to do a lot better, myself included.”
Zaborsky, one of four defensive linemen to redshirt last fall, said the team is still learning new defensive coordinator Joe Tresey’s system — and anyone within earshot of Tresey during Wednesday’s practice can verify that — but that it’s making progress.
“Coach Tresey hooks us up with a real good playbook,” he said. “If you try to learn it, it’s easy enough.”
The offense has no such issues. The Penguins are in the third year of coordinator Shane Montgomery’s system and with every starter back, the question is, Can they be the best offense in the Football Championship Subdivision this fall?
“I think we can,” said senior lineman D.J. Main, a three-year starter. “It’s just a matter of if we do it or not.”
Added Thompson, “I believe we can. We’ve been knocking on the door the last few years. I think it’s really about time to really finish it off.”
By Joe Scalzo, The Vindicator