By Brandon Terlecky
The Youngstown State University football team had a program record eight athletes receive the Missouri Valley Football Conference President’s Council Academic Excellence Award, the conference announced in February.
YSU worked out two weeks before taking a week off for spring break in March. The Penguins will conclude workouts with two weeks of practices following the break in March.
The team completed spring training on March 30.
Some new faces will have the opportunity to emerge this spring on offense. YSU has lost key starters: tailback Tevin McCaster, quarterback Montgomery VanGorder, guard Gavin Wiggins, center Vitas Hrynkiewicz and offensive guard Connor Sharp from last year’s roster.
Their losses will give players an opportunity during spring drills. The Penguins return all of their tight ends from a year ago and all but one wide receiver.
Nathan Mays returns as a fifth-year senior and has the bulk of the experience for the position. Mays started against North Dakota State University as a junior and played in four games. He completed 26 of 44 passes for 304 yards and three scores while rushing for 223 yards on 47 carries.
He was a key contributor as a sophomore in 2017 when he played in eight games and started five contests. He completed 75 of 113 passes for 905 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 317 yards on 77 carries.
YSU’s defense also lost some talented players in 2018 seniors linebacker Armand Dellovade, defensive tackle Savon Smith, defensive end Johnson Louigene and free safety Chrispin Lee. However, YSU returns full-season starters defensive end Sherief Bynum, defensive tackle Wesley Thompson, cornerback D.J. Smalls and cornerback Bryce Gibson.
The offense scored five touchdowns during the workout, while the defense registered six sacks and had three pass breakups. The first offensive score was by senior tailback Joe Alessi. Alessi scored on a 17-yard for the number one offense against the number one defense.
Sophomore quarterback Joe Craycraft led the top unit on two other scoring drives. Craycraft found sophomore wide receiver Natavious Payne for a 33-yard score before adding a quarterback keeper for a 15-yard touchdown run later in the scrimmage.
YSU is looking to open up its season opener against Samford University on Aug. 24. The team will be looking to get back to where they were in the 2016 season, where they made an incredible playoff run and competed in the national championship game against James Madison University.