Playing Young Linebacker Pays Off Big for Penguins Defense

By Dan Hiner

The Youngstown State University football team has always been successful when the program has been able to recruit from the plethora of talented players from Ohio and Pennsylvania.

YSU head coach Bo Pelini and his staff recruited 30 new players this past offseason. One freshman from the latest recruiting class has already made his mark as a Penguin.

Freshman Armand Dellovade was named one of the starting outside linebackers before the Penguins’ win against the St. Francis University.

“At first I was real nervous, that was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been for a football game, but once I started playing, after the first hit, I was good,” Dellovade said.

Dellovade, a native of Imperial, Pennsylvania, began the season backing up incumbent starter Jaylin Kelly, but most of his playing time came on special teams. His playing time gradually increased during the first half of the season. Dellovade spent the first several weeks of the season adjusting to playing at the college level.

“I had no expectations coming in. [At] first I was just feeling it out. I just tried to get better and better and eventually, I ended up starting,” Dellovade said.

In five games this season, Dellovade has recorded 15 tackles, and his three tackles for loss is tied for third on the team.

“I definitely feel like I have a nose for the football,” Dellovade said. “I’m trying as hard as I can … just trying to have a non-stop motor and just keep working ‘til the whistle blows and I find myself in the right spot.”

YSU has one of the deepest linebacker groups in years, and Dellovade credited the veteran linebackers on the roster for his development.

“They definitely helped me,” Dellovade said. “From guys like Nathan Pittman, Jaylin Kelly, Lee [Wright], Bam [Dubem Nwadiogbu] and coach T.J. Hollowell — they’ve all helped me a lot. This defense is real tough. It took a while for me to get the hang of it I guess, but they all were patient with me and helped me and coached me through everything.”

Pelini said Dellovade has played well, but he still needs to improve as he continues learning the defensive schemes.

“Overall, he’s just getting better as a player,” Pelini said. “I think he executes well at times, but he still makes some young mistakes. I’m happy with his progress.”

Pelini said Dellovade has shown the skills needed to become an “every down” linebacker at the college level, and his versatility allows the coaching staff to use Dellovade in multiple formations and in different situations.

“He’s a young kid. He’s instinctive, he’s tough, he’s an instinctive football player and he’s a guy who’s developing into a real good football player,” Pelini said. “He’s still young and he still makes some young mistakes, but I think he’s coming along and I think he’s going to be a real good football player.”