HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days" where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs from June 17 to August 6. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 13-16. Today, we present … Youngstown State.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country with HERO Sports.
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Youngstown State (4-7 IN 2018)
MVFC (YSU finished 8th in 2018)
COACH: Bo Pelini – At School: 5th Year (27-22) Overall: 13th Year (94-49)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2016 (National runner-ups)
2018 OFFENSE: 23.1 ppg (95th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 27.2 ppg (53rd in FCS)
KEY GAME: Aug. 24 vs. Samford: This is a good way to set the tone for the season in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff. If the Penguins win this one, they have a decent shot to start the year 4-0 heading into MVFC play.
SUM IT UP: Last year was an up-and-down season for the Penguins. They came into the season ranked No. 25 in the STATS Preseason Poll and then kicked off their season with a shocking 23-21 loss to Butler. But then in November, YSU gave North Dakota State one of its toughest games of the season and then beat eventual playoff participant Northern Iowa 31-10.
This is a program that made the national championship game in 2016. These last two seasons, though, YSU fell short of the playoffs. And gone from last year is a lot of talent. All six players who were voted on the All-MVFC First and Second Teams were seniors in 2018. The defense has six players that have started at least 10 games in their YSU careers. The offense has none. But the Penguins have shown over the years under Bo Pelini that it can be a dangerous team, no matter who steps into new starting roles. Consistency has just been an issue.
The offense needs to find its quarterback after several different starters in recent years. Nathan Mays is a fifth-year senior who started last season's game at NDSU and also started five games in 2017. The weapons are there, as the Penguins return all of their tight ends from 2018 and every receiver but one. Nine different WRs started at least one game last year.
The offensive line loses three full-time starters. But Dan Becker, Jacob Zinni and Devon Robinson have started games at some point in their careers. YSU also added two graduate transfers: Matt Jones, who was a two-year starter at West Virginia, and Myles Douglas, who started every game in 2017 at Tennessee Tech.
The YSU defense is always a tough unit and returns four starters from 2018: DE Shereif Bynum, DT Wesley Thompson, CB DJ Smalls and CB Bryce Gibson. Getting DE Justus Reed back after his missed last year with an injury is big for this physical defensive line.
And on special teams, the Penguins need to replace multi-year starters at kicker, long snapper and punter.
OUR TAKE: As we stated above in the key game, the Penguins have a chance to go 4-0 in the nonconference. That means they'd just have to go 4-4 in the MVFC, up from their 3-5 mark last year, to make the playoffs. But this team needs to show consistency and play to its potential. Samford is a solid team, and Duquesne reached the second round last year. The Penguins should be favored to win those games, but can't have letdown performances. In the conference, YSU gets the top three teams at home: South Dakota State, NDSU and Illinois State. Even with all of the losses to its starting lineup, the talent level is strong. With how the schedule lines up, reaching the playoffs is within grasp for the 2019 Penguins.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./DE Shereif Bynum (All-Conference HM, 11.5 TFLs and 4 sacks)
THE FOUNDATION: So./TE Miles Joiner (HERO Sports Freshman All-American, 12 rec. for 202 yards and 4 TDs); Jr./DE Justus Reed (Missed 2018 due to injury, 2017 MVFC All-Newcomer Team with 5 sacks and 5.5 TFLs); So./LB Ray Anderson (MVFC All-Newcomer Team, 22 tackles); Jr./RB Christian Turner (183 yards rushing, 24 rec. for 196 yards and 1 TD); Jr./WR Samuel St. Surin (21 rec. for 299 yards and 1 TD); Sr./WR Jermiah Braswell (20 rec. for 325 yards and 2 TDs); Jr./DB Bryce Gibson (Top returning tackler with 42)
TOP NEWCOMER: Sr./OL Matt Jones (West Virginia transfer, played at WVU from 2015-18 and started the final 25 games of career at center there)
THE QUOTE: “I don’t think I’ve ever started in July since I left the NFL. We play on [Aug. 24] so we’re back here a little bit early. But yeah, you better have a sense of urgency. We’re gonna go down there and play a good football team in the first game.” — Head Coach Bo Pelini told the Youngstown Vindicator
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's YSU Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The MVFC
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast