Finally, after a one game show case in the fall against Central Arkansas, we are getting back to actually playing a schedule with meaning. The National Championship destiny in Frisco is just as real as any of the others in the Bison trophy collection. That desired trip starts again this week versus Youngstown State. Even though the Penguins are an old rival, most of what we face will be totally new. They will have a new coaching staff with a ton of roster turn over. However, Ohio is still a high school football hot bed and 54 of the Penguins on the roster hail from the Buckeye state, so even though they have a high amount of turnover, they are a talented MVFC school. Plus they added 12 mid-year transfers, many of which will see the field on Sunday.
Since good football starts on defense, how do the Penguins stack up on that side of the ball? We won’t find out how until they line up Sunday. Other than past coaching positions, we don’t know if they will be going with a three or four man front. Adjustments will have to be made on the fly by Roehl and Hedberg.
We do know YSU, personnel wise, loses its top two sack guys (22 of 36 for the year), their top tackler (really four out of top six tacklers) and the defensive mind of Bo Pelini. Bo was always wired to play the Herd. Until last year’s blow out win (56-17), Bo’s defensive units held the Herd to 14 points under what they averaged against all other opponents (23.75 PPG versus +37 PPG) from 2015-18.
Though depleted the cupboard isn’t empty. DeMarko Craig is a 6’0” 280 lb stud at DT, plus they added Ty Eddington, a 6’3” 325 lbs FBS transfer. At DE, Antoine Cook was solid in the rotation last year (39 tackles, 6.5 TFL’s & 4 sacks). Beyond that several players will have to step up.
At LB, Terray Bryant, is their best returning starter and there are several seasoned players in the secondary. Overall they will need the five FBS defensive transfers not only to step into the lineup, but to play at a high level to reach anything near last year’s defensive ability. The penguins were 23rd in Total D at 339.1 YPG and 35th in scoring D (taking out SU’s 56 point blowout).
An honest evaluation of YSU’s talent is that there are more question marks than exclamation points on this defensive unit. I don’t think they will be up to the task of guarding all of the weapons the Bison have in their offensive quiver, especially on the road. If the Bison don’t put up plus 30 points, it will be a subpar performance.
Next, let’s examine YSU’s offense.
Starting in the trenches they lose four of five starters on the offensive line. The lone returning starter is a good one, Dan Becker (an MVFC honorable mention as a sophomore) at LT. They lose their top three rushers, the top two receivers (and more than half their total receiving yardage) and a three year starting QB. The other returning starter is Miles Joiner, a possible NFL caliber TE.
I think this is a big load to fill. Both QB candidates are legitimate stars in the making, but I am not sure how four new OL are going to hold up under pressure from a deep and seasoned DL from Code Green.
Their top RB slot is going to be filled by a Div. II transfer, Jaleel McLaughlin. At 5’9” 175 lbs, he’s not a power back. His two years at Notre Dame (Ohio) were impressive. In 2018 he gained 2,421 yards on 378 carries in 14 games (led NCAA in those stats). In 2019 he gained 2,316 yards on 345 carries in 14 games. In the rotation will be Christian Turner, a senior, who started six games and rushed for 274 yards on 58 carries. But when evaluating the Penguins run game, I can’t get away from the operative question of “is their OL going to dominate our front seven”?
In the passing game are they going to be able to keep their QB’s clean? I don’t like their odds and neither does Vegas. They have the Herd as 25.5 point favorites with the over under at 54 points. I could see a bison 40-14 win very easily, since YSU plans on starting six red shirt freshmen and 11 additional under classman. Lights, action!! It’s Bison football finally!!