#27 Youngstown State 2018 FCS Football Preview

Youngstown State Penguins
Overall Rank: #27
#6 Missouri Valley
 Youngstown State Logo
After their trip to the FCS championship game in 2016, Youngstown State took a big step back last season and finished 6-5. That was a young team though and the expectations are rising for the Penguins. Coach Bo Pelini has quickly instilled a toughness to Youngstown State and this group now has some experience to go along with their tough, physical play.
2017 Record: 6-5, 4-4
2017 Postseason: None
Coach: Bo Pelini (23-15 at Youngstown State, 90-42 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Crist
Defensive Coordinator: Richard McNutt, Donald D’Alesio
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tevin McCaster, RB, 1,066 yards
Passing: Nathan Mays, QB, 905 yards
Receiving: Christian Turner, RB, 272 yards
Tackles: Armand Dellovade, LB, 76
Sacks: Justus Reed, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Four tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Christian Turner, OL Vitas Hrynkiewicz, OL Gavin Wiggins, S Kyle Hegedus, CB Bryce Gibson
Key Losses: QB Hunter Wells, QB Ricky Davis, WR Damount Patterson, WR Alvin Bailey, TE Kevin Rader, OL Justin Spencer, S Jalyn Powell, DL Fazson Chapman, LB Lee Wright, S Billy Nicoe Hurst
The Penguins are going to run the ball as much as possible and that should continue to be effective with Tevin McCaster. The senior back rushed for 1,066 yards and 13 scores in 2017 and the offense will go through him. Coach Pelini went through three quarterbacks last year, but Nathan Mays is the only one back. He started five games and threw for 905 yards and four touchdowns. Mays is a reliable passer and as long as the ground game is effective, that is all Mays needs. There is not much experience at wide receiver though. Christian Turner is the only player on the roster who caught over ten passes last season. Somebody needs to emerge as a downfield threat to replace big play receiver Damoun Patterson. That would at least open up space for McCaster to operate behind a strong offensive line.
Youngstown State boasted the best pass defense in the FCS in 2017. With safety Kyle Hegedus and cornerback Bryce Gibson returning, the secondary is in good shape. The leader of the defense though is linebacker Armand Dellovade. The senior tallied 76 tackles, including 3.0 sacks. Justus Reed missed part of last season, but still managed to tally 5.0 sacks. If he can stay healthy and provide a consistent pass rush, this should again be one of the toughest defenses in the MVFC.
The Bottom Line:
The conference schedule is always difficult in the MVFC, so there is very little margin for error. The non-conference slate contains Butler and Valparaiso with a road trip to West Virginia in the middle. After that YSU plays Western Illinois and Southern Illinois. The Penguins may need to win all of those games, except against WVU, in order to reach the playoffs. Even with a 4-1 start, Youngstown State will need to pull off an upset or two down the stretch.
Projected Postseason: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 222.5 (15th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 188.6 (79, 8)
Total Offense: 411.1 (34, 4)
Scoring Offense: 29.7 (36, 5)
Rushing Defense: 173.2 (88, 8)
Pass Defense: 143.7 (1, 1)
Total Defense: 316.9 (20, 3)
Scoring Defense: 19.1 (20, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.36 (39, 5)
Sacks: 1.82 (71, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 3.27 (112, 10)
HERO Sports 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#207 Myles McHaney