Thursday, September 30, 2010
Influx of talent gives Youngstown State a lift.
By Lyndal Scranton
September 30, 2010
When Eric Wolford was hired as Youngstown State's football coach in December, he found a program that had slipped.
Asked on Wednesday his first evaluation of the Penguins, Wolford said he saw a lack of discipline and, more important, talent.
"We needed to do a better job recruiting," Wolford said. "Our level of talent had dropped significantly, especially after watching film of everyone in the league."
With 13 freshmen in his two-deep depth chart, Wolford's team is one of the Missouri Valley Conference's early surprises.
The Penguins, 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the league, are ranked 20th entering Saturday's game at Missouri State.
"It looks like they have the old Penguin swagger back," MSU coach Terry Allen said.
That appeared especially true last week. After falling behind reigning league champion Southern Illinois 14-0, YSU reeled off 31 unanswered points to win.
The Penguins have done it with a strong running game (sophomore Jamaine Cook averages 103.5 yards), good quarterback play (freshman Kurt Hess is completing 70 percent of his passes) and takeaways (a plus-5 in turnover margin).
"That's what wins football games," Wolford said of turnover margin. "The (ball) is gold and you have to take care of it."
Wolford, a former assistant under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, said the players have bought into the toughness that he has demanded.
"We've created a culture and environment that's competitive," he said. "If you don't do things right (on the field), you're gonna be standing next to me.
"We like to work hard and do things right. It's early, but I feel we're headed in the right direction."