The Penguins had one of the top offensive attacks last season, ranking second in scoring offense, top three in passing offense, top two in total offense, top two in passing efficiency and second in rushing offense.
Long story short, the Penguins had a really good offensive attack last season, and it started with the offensive line.
“It all starts up front with the o-line,” senior Stephen Page said. “We have to protect the quarterback and make sure the running back has good lanes.”
The Penguins will lose some depth this season at the position, though. YSU already lost former starters Kyle Bryant, Chris Elkins and Andrew Sinko.
“You don’t replace their experience or leadership that is tough,” offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo said. “I think we have a talented group of young guys, but they are young.”
YSU has some returning lineman from last season who had some playing time in sophomore Brock Esienhuth, junior offensive tackle Trevor Strickland and Page.
“It is going to be tough replacing Elkins and all of them,” Esienhuth said. “We have to be productive and keep getting better everyday.”
Esienhuth started in the first eight games before being sidelined with an injury. He would return to start in the season finale against South Dakota State University. Strickland played in all 12 games, but started in only five of them. Page, who was the backup to Elkins, played in six games and started once.
With some inexperience on the offensive line this season, YSU will need to be able to protect whoever is taking snaps under center.
“We have to make sure he [the new quarterback] is protected and making sure he can make the right reads,” Page said. “It is all about him feeling comfortable.”
The running back position was also a very productive group last season. Sophomore Martin Ruiz ran for more than 1,000 yards and went on the to earn MVFC Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors.
Bricillo said that the first thing to a good running game is the running backs.
“The first thing is you have to have good running backs, which we do,” Bricillo said. “But we are going to continue to do what we have done.”
Esienhuth feels like the line needs to open holes up for the running game to thrive and progress.
“We just have to open holes up for them and let them run,” Esienhuth said. “We have to get down field make a block and let the running back do his thing.”
Even with all of the offensive production that has come from YSU, Bricillo explained that the team could get better every day.
“To stay the same is not good enough and doing just what is expected is not enough,” he said.