By Jordan Boitnott
Youngstown State University football announced their schedule for the 2021 season. They will play eight games: four at home and four on the road. The team will open their season on the road against North Dakota State on Feb. 21.
Doug Phillips, YSU football head coach, said the Penguins are in uncharted waters right now.
“We have to go to our first game on the road, in a dome with fans, so we will have to get ready for that,” he said. “We are playing two seasons in 10 months. We are also limited to 20 hours a week for camp which really cuts into what we’d normally do.”
Josh Burgett, junior tight end, said the team is excited to get back on the field.
“I wouldn’t say nervousness, I would say we’re more anxious and ambitious to just finally get a game going. Get that feeling back,” he said. “You know, a lot of guys haven’t played since last fall, so we are missing that feeling. A lot of young guys haven’t seen the field at all so we are just ready to get after it.”
Phillips said despite the long offseason and it being his first game at the helm, he and the team are working on what they can control.
“We are just taking things a day at a time. Our goal is to get better every day. Even if that means just one percent better we are just trying to get better every day,” he said.
Phillips said he wants the program to achieve similar success to what the Penguins experienced in the past.
“Right now, we are trying to build a culture. We are GritU. GritU is something we want to instill in our guys. Go back and show them some videos on what we are built on,” he said.
Antoine Cook, junior defensive lineman, said he loves how competitive the group has become.
“It’s a competitive team now, everything is graded now. I enjoy competing out there. Coach Phillips is a real competitive guy. Coach Shaffer is [competitive], the defensive coordinator, Coach Troy [is competitive] the O.C. [Offensive Coordinator],” he said. “Everyone is just competitive around the room now. It has just became such a competitive team. We work hard on and off the field.”
Burgett said he feels ever since Phillips took over as head coach, the team has really come together as a family.
“I feel a lot tighter as a family. He’s a player’s coach, for sure. He brings us together. He’s more of a teacher, you can go have conversations with him,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be about football, you know whatever’s going on in your life you need someone to talk to you can always go talk to him.”
Cook said the team is ready to start winning now and turning things around.
“It’s just us wanting to win more now. You know, I’m tired of being such a down program. I’m trying to bring it up and change the culture here.”
The Penguins will have their home opener at the Ice Castle against University of Northern Iowa Feb. 27.