By Marc Weems
With the Youngstown State University football team coming off a championship run, it looked to improve their roster with a big recruiting class for 2017.
With a class of 19 recruits including the Junior College and college transfers, one of those transfers was Ursuline High School graduate Chris Durkin. He previously played quarterback at Virginia Tech and will be moving to tight end at YSU. That’s just one of many players from the area that YSU signed.
YSU signed nine players from Ohio highlighted by running back Christian Turner from Cincinnati La Salle High School and linebacker Ray Anderson from Cardinal Mooney High School. Anderson just recently de-committed from the Naval Academy.
“I’m excited about this signing class,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said. “It’s a good group and our guys worked hard on this. The players worked hard on the official visits. It was team effort.”
Over the border in Pennsylvania, YSU signed three players with running back Braxton Chapman and 3-star defensive end Antoine Cook as the biggest signees.
“We gave our guys some time off due to the length of the season,” Pelini said. “Soon it will be back to the usual grind.”
This season everything comes on quick for YSU as Spring practices begin on February 27 with three practices occurring before Spring Break and then they will have three practices for four straight weeks after that. YSU plays its annual Red and White game early this year on April 7.
“We wanted to give a good representation of local kids this year,” Pelini said. “It’s a good representation of this area and a majority of our kids are local. Way back when Coach Tressel used to talk about the ‘State of Youngstown’ and that’s what we’ve done now.”
Pelini said that some of the local guys like Anderson and Warren JFK High School’s Jacob Coates bring so much to the program in terms of abilities and attitude.
YSU also picked up two running backs to fill the voids left by senior running backs Jody Webb and Martin Ruiz.
Pelini said both Chapman and Turner are expected to fit in nicely as they fill the voids left by those few players.
“Chapman from Farrell and Turner from Cincinnati La Salle were guys we targeted from the beginning,” Pelini said. “We were able to get both so we feel really good about that position.”
On the defensive side of the ball, YSU expanded their reach grabbing kids from the states of Minnesota, South Carolina, and Georgia.
“We will see but I like the group coming back on defense,” Pelini said about the impact young guys can make next season. “We have experience coming back though and we have real playmakers. We did lose a couple guys in the secondary.”
Pelini also said that the experience some of the younger guys got late in the year will do them well this upcoming season.
“That’s the way we kind of looked at building depth on our team,” he said. “We are going to create competition and that’s what we’ve done. The guys that are on guys, we’ve been able to work with them a little bit.”
Pelini said that once you get through spring practice and you get into fall training camp, he said anything is possible with the guys, young or old.
The 2016 class was the smallest Pelini had with 11 players but he did get 30 guys for the 2015 season. This class falls right in the middle with around 20 players.
Pelini said that making a championship run made a huge impact on how they were able to recruit. He said that when they have good things going on, players notice.
“It really shortens your window to recruit,” Pelini said about making a long playoff run. “We’ve would’ve got closer to our scholarship limit had we had more time. I hope we are in this situation every year.”