YSU Football gets better on National Signing Day

By Marc Weems

After a tough season that saw the Youngstown State University football team go 6-5, the off-season Christmas Day came and went. National Signing Day saw the Penguins add some very talented players from across the country.

“There are some guys that will be joining us but with schools closed, we can’t announce those just yet,” YSU head coach Bo Pelini said. “This class is a mix of in-state guys and the majority of this class are those local guys from Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The area is going to be well-represented.”

With the new NCAA early-signing period that happened back in December, YSU had 11 players commit early to the program.

The Penguins added nine guys from the state of Ohio in the early signing period with defensive tackle Dontae Cilenti from St. Edward’s High School, defensive tackle DeMarko Craig Jr. from Central Catholic in Toledo, quarterback Jayden Cunningham from University School in Chagrin Falls, offensive tackle Aaron Ervin from Springboro, OH, kicker Grant Gonya from Hudson, tight end Kierre Hawkins from Maple Heights, defensive end Derek Hite from Piqua HS, Griffin Hoak from Dublin, OH and Kendric Mallory from Ventura College and originally from Dayton.

The other two were Zach Farrar, a wide receiver that originally went to Oklahoma University and linebacker Myles McHaney from Macomb, MI.

“There’s a lot of people that put a lot of hours into this from coaches to administration and faculty. This is a full team effort and I appreciate all of them for that,” Pelini said. “We’re starting spring ball early, we start on Sunday. It’ll be time to move on and refocus to the kids that are campus already. I know our kids are working hard, both in the classroom and to get ready for next year.”

On the Feb. 7 signing day, YSU nabbed 10 more quality recruits. Pelini’s focus over the last few years has been getting quality, local recruits to join the program.

“Number one is toughness, number two is potential. I believe that’s always the case,” Pelini said about what makes him take on local recruits instead of national guys. “A lot of kids you are looking at not just what they are but what they can be down the road. There’s a lot of things that go into it.”

This time around, Pelini and his staff went a little more national with three out of 10 guys being from Ohio.

Seven guys were from outside the state: tight end Jake Benio from Walton HS in Marietta, GA, defensive back Devanere Crenshaw from Riverside, CA and Riverside City College, offensive lineman Brandon Finamore from Chabot Community College and Redwood City, CA, defensive tackle Jaicorious Johnson from Opelia HS and Eastern Arizona College, strong safety Jaelin Madison from Norcross, GA, wide receiver Natavious Payne from Doral Academy in Doral, FL, and offensive lineman Henry Yoboue from Frederick, MD.

Three guys were from within the state: defensive end Will Henry from Lakewood St. Edward, wide receiver Markel Toney from Brush HS in Lyndurst, OH and Dra Rushton from Liberty HS.

“I think that all these local kids and kids that we are signing fit what out blueprint is,” Pelini said. “Different kids are in different spots. Some of these kids are going to change positions and maybe if grow into a new position. There is a lot of experience from us in recruiting.”

Pelini heavily believes in what a player can do in the future not exactly what they are now.

Pelini also made an announcement on who will be his new offensive and defensive coordinators. Brian Crist will be the new offensive coordinator replacing Shane Montgomery who went to the University of Charlotte with the same role. Richard McNutt and Dom D’Alesio will act as co-defensive coordinators. All three are hires within his system.

YSU begins spring practice on Sunday.