#23 Youngstown State FCS Football 2016 Preview

Youngstown State Penguins
Overall Rank: #23
#6 Missouri Valley
Coach Bo Pelini found his first year at Youngstown State pretty difficult, but the program is still moving in the right direction. The Penguins had a tough stretch in the middle of October when they lost to Illinois State, South Dakota State and Southern Illinois. After a couple wins, Youngstown State lost to North Dakota State and Indiana State. Those were both close, tough losses, but it was not the way Youngstown State wanted to finish the campaign.
2015 Record: 5-6, 3-5
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Bo Pelini (5-6 at Youngstown State, 72-33 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Shane Montgomery
Defensive Coordinator: Carl Pelini
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jody Webb, RB, 857 yards
Passing: Hunter Wells, QB, 1,975 yards
Receiving: I’tavious Harvin, WR, 279 yards
Tackles: Lee Wright, LB, 78
Sacks: Derek Rivers, DE, 9.0
Interceptions: LeRoy Alexander, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Martin Ruiz, S Jameel Smith, LB Armand Dellovade, LB Jaylin Kelly, DE Avery Moss, CB Eric Thompson, K Zac Kennedy
Key Losses: WR Andrew Williams, WR Andre Stubbs, DE Terrell Williams
The YSU defense ranked seventh in the FCS in total defense, allowing just 288.7 yards per game. It starts on the line with Derek Rivers, who tallied 9.0 sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss. He is an absolute beast of a pass rusher and there are not many linemen who can contain Rivers on their own. Avery Moss should emerge as a solid secondary pass rusher on the other end. At linebacker, Lee Wright returns after leading the team with 78 tackles and adding 6.0 sacks. Armand Dellovade had a superb freshman campaign and tallied 54 tackles and 4.0 sacks. Senior Jaylin Kelly was a starter back in 2014 and could step back into a full-time starting role for this season. The secondary is where the Penguins really start to shine. LeRoy Alexander and Jameel Smith are a couple very talented safeties. Alexander picked off a team high four passes and Smith totaled 64 tackles. Eric Thompson and David Rivers have the cornerback spots locked down and will make it very difficult for anybody in the MVFC to throw on Youngstown State.
The one thing the defense did not do well was create turnovers. The team forced only 12 turnovers. The offense did not give up too many turnovers, but that is a battle that Youngstown State needs to win. Quarterback Hunter Wells threw for 1,975 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is not a particularly efficient passer, but Wells can make plays with his arm. The bigger concern for the passing game is at wide receiver where most of the playmakers are gone. Andre Stubbs and Andrew Williams were easily the most productive receivers. I’tavious Harvin, who caught 22 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns, is the top returning receiver. The ground game is much more proven with Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb. Ruiz rushed for 739 yards and four touchdowns and Webb added 857 yards and nine touchdowns. If the passing game continues to struggle, at least Coach Pelini has a very good running back duo that can keep the offense moving.
The Bottom Line:
The Missouri Valley is always going to be tough, but the Penguins have a brutal stretch of games starting on October 8th at Illinois State. After that they play Northern Iowa and South Dakota State. After a so-called easier game at home against Indiana State, Youngstown State has to travel to North Dakota. With that tough stretch, it will be tough for Youngstown State to make the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 199.8 (24th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 192.5 (68, 5)
Total Offense: 392.3 (51, 6)
Scoring Offense: 29.4 (41, 5)
Rushing Defense: 172.0 (65, 5)
Pass Defense: 116.7 (1, 1)
Total Defense: 288.7 (7, 2)
Scoring Defense: 23.1 (45, 5)
Turnover Margin: -0.18 (75, 8)
Sacks: 2.36 (32, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.27 (27, 3)


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