Nothing set in stone at Youngstown State

YOUNGSTOWN — Competition will abound when Youngstown State opens its football camp Aug. 4, and that includes at the quarterback position.

Speaking with reporters during the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s media day on Tuesday, Youngstown State head coach Doug Phillips indicated the quarterback position will be a “full competition” going into the fall slate.

“Our guys have to know every year, we’re going to recruit and put the best on the field. It’s your job to go earn it,” Phillips said. “For us to say somebody has this job or this job, we’re not being competitive in our practices. Our challenge to the quarterbacks is to get the ball downfield.”

It’s an area that needs improvement from YSU’s spring campaign, during which the Penguins went 1-6.

Of the 10 MVFC teams that took part in the spring season, Youngstown State ranked last in offensively scoring (15.4 points per game), total yardage (267.1 yards per game) and passing (100.4 yards per game).

YSU featured seven quarterbacks on the roster in the spring, though only Girard graduate Mark Waid and Joe Craycraft saw action.

Waid completed 62 of 97 passes for 527 yards and three touchdowns, and was picked off three times.

Craycraft, meanwhile, played in three games and threw for 176 yards. He completed 21 of 44 passes, threw for one touchdown and wasn’t intercepted.

Former Salem High School All-Ohioan Mitch Davidson was the third-string quarterback and held on place kicks.

“Somebody in camp is going to demonstrate that mantra that you have to go take it,” Phillips said. “Nothing in this world is ever given to you. Nothing has ever been given to us as coaches and me personally, and it’s the same thing I want to resonate with our team. If you want something so bad, go take it. In 25 days, we’ll know who took the job.”

The coach said the Penguins are strong at the other skill positions.

“We can run the ball; we have the runners, we have Jaleel (McLaughlin). We feel like we have some great receivers,” he said.

McLaughlin was named to the MVFC’s preseason second team after rushing for 98.7 yards per game in the spring — the conference’s second-best mark.

Phillips also said the Penguins need to finish games better during the fall slate. YSU dropped three games by a single possession, and lost a fourth to Northern Iowa 21-0 after trailing just 6-0 in the fourth quarter.

“Areas we need to improve upon, we need to finish,” Phillips said. “There’s no doubt about it. In the third and fourth quarter, when things get tough, we have to be able to finish games.”

He added that defensively, the Penguins were “confident we could defend,” but offensively “we have to be able to score more touchdowns.”

And that starts with Phillips himself.

“As a head coach, I have to do a better job,” he said.“You have to pin your ears back sometimes and not be so conservative, and trust our coaches and players to be able to go for it in certain situations.”

As for the players, Phillips said he felt the Penguins needed to get stronger, and that they did during the offseason.

It was an offseason focused more on strength and conditioning than on football itself, Phillips added. That was also part of an effort to keep players mentally fresh, given the short turnaround from the spring season to fall camp. Players were given time off in May to rest and recuperate, and then returned to campus June 1 for offseason workouts.

“I do believe we’re stronger; I do believe we’re more conditioned,” Phillips said.

Now, it’s about picking up wins.

“There’s not one guy I’m not confident in to take the field and go to battle with; I’m proud to lead this team,” he said. “Now we have to go get results. The bottom line is people don’t care what you do. I could be the greatest coach in what we do 355 days a year, but all that matters is what we do those 10 Saturdays, or the Thursday we’re playing. How do we do it? We focus every day on getting better.”

YSU opens its season Thursday, Sept. 2, at home against Incarnate Word.


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