By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University football team has lost three assistant coaches since the beginning of the offseason. The most recent departure was linebackers coach T.J. Hollowell.
On Feb. 22, Hollowell left for “another job opportunity.” That job wasn’t at another Football Championship Subdivision school, or a Football Bowl Subdivision school for that matter. He became the defensive coordinator at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.
Hollowell said the move to the high school level focused on the availability he would have with his family in the future, and it gives him an opportunity to return to the high school ranks. Hollowell was an assistant coach at Huntsville High School in Texas for one season following his stint as a graduate assistant under YSU head coach Bo Pelini at the University of Nebraska.
He also said his connection with new Santa Margarita head coach Rich Fisher goes back a few years. Fisher and Hollowell were assistant coaches for the Cornhuskers under Bo Pelini.
“When I was a graduate assistant at Nebraska, he was the receivers coach. I’ve known him for years now,” Fish [Fisher] has always, since I’ve known him, been a good dude. He’s a guy that I always thought was a good coach,” Hollowell said.
Hollowell joins the list of assistant coaches who left their positions at YSU for another job. The two other members include former YSU tight ends coach Tyler Brey, who left for the same position at Ohio State University, and running backs coach Pepe Pearson, who took the same position at Marshall University.
YSU hasn’t officially filled any of the coaching vacancies, but Hollowell said the linebackers coach could once again fall in the hands of co-defensive coordinator Ron Stoops.
Stoops helped coach the linebackers from 2011-2014, he was named the co-defensive coordinator by head coach Bo Pelini last season and split responsibilities with Carl Pelini, the other co-defensive coordinator and the defensive line coach, last season.
Hollowell said the linebackers are going to be in good hands under Bo Pelini, Carl Pelini and Stoops. He said that all three were available to help coach the linebackers during his time with the Penguins.
“I know coach Ron Stoops was helping me out a little bit — he could be a guy,” Hollowell said. “I know Bo had his hands in helping me out every once and a while and Carl. I don’t know how they’re gonna shuffle things around but either one of those three guys could easily step up and do the job.”
YSU’s linebackers took a step forward following the hiring of the current coaching staff. Newcomers Lee Wright and Armand Dellovade were named All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors, and Hollowell said the linebackers will continue to progress under Bo Pelini and his staff.
“I don’t think there will be a drop off because coach Pelini, both Carl and Bo, are going to make sure they get those guys and keep them on the right track and keep them progressing,” Hollowell said. “Honestly, I never had a problem with other coaches leaving and other coaches stepping in. I know they’re going to be all right because all those guys are great coaches.
“Those guys are going to keep getting better — Lee Wright will keep getting better, Armand Dellovade will keep getting better. They will be big time players next season or maybe the year after that, but I’m not worried. I left the state of the linebackers in good shape now. Whoever takes them over is going to take them to the next level because the quality of coaching that they’re gonna get from not only the linebackers coach, but from Bo, from Carl and Ron Stoops.”
The Penguins will open spring practice on Mar. 14 in preparation for the Red and White spring game on April 15.