A position-by-position breakdown of today's Youngstown State-Duquesne matchup, which begins at 4 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.
YSU -Senior Kurt Hess has looked much better after a rough first game. His numbers aren't great (36 of 65, 476 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions), but his receivers have dropped a few potential big plays. Coach Eric Wolford talks a lot about Hess' preparation and leadership skills, and the 6-foot-3 Hess also possesses great physical attributes, but his consistency must improve.
YSU quarterback Kurt Hess fires a pass down field during last week's game against Michigan State. Hess and the Penguins face Duquesne at 4 p.m. today.
DU - Redshirt freshman Dillon Buechel played well in his first two collegiate starts against Albany and Dayton, connecting on 43 of 65 passes (66.2 percent) for 604 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He's taking over for Sean Patterson, who started 33 consecutive games for the Dukes (1-1) and won a Northeast Conference title. Buechel, more of a prototypical pocket passer, was viewed as a prospect by several major Division I colleges, but the offers didn't follow, and he ended up at Duquesne.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - True freshman Martin Ruiz continued to impress last week against Michigan State. The 5-11, 195-pound Ruiz showcases solid all-around skills - speed, power, agility and good hands out of the backfield. He's probably the Penguins' best option if YSU is again without sophomore Demond Hymes, who has yet to play in 2013 because of an ankle injury. Adaris Bellamy looked great in Week 1, but an undisclosed injury has kept him out of practice ever since.
DU - Establishing the run has been a problem for Duquesne, which lost all-time leading rusher Larry McCoy to graduation. Starting running back Ryan Ho (5-7, 190) is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry (40 rushes, 102 yards and two TDs). That could mean more carries for senior Jason Douglas, who is more of a threat out of the backfield. Ho doesn't have a reception on the year.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - Wolford said there could be some changes at this position because the starters haven't performed. He didn't single out sophomore Michael Wheary, who had two key drops against Michigan State, but Wheary has just five catches for 68 yards in three starts. With a stable of talented young players behind him, Wheary's job may be on the line. Junior Christian Bryan should be nearing 100 percent after a rib injury. His presence would be a big boost to a position that needs to start making big plays.
DU - This is easily the strength of the offense. Senior Gianni Carter has enjoyed a great start, with 13 receptions for 238 yards and three touchdowns in two games. He's a big target at 6-2, 212 pounds. The Dukes' other main targets, Dave Thomas and Sean Brady (both have eight catches), are smaller but possess good speed. Starter Noel Oduho (four receptions, 21 yards) is another matchup problem at 6-4, 200.
EDGE - DU
YSU - The line has been steady since the outset of the season, and it held up fairly well against a very talented MSU defensive front last weekend (allowing one sack). The offensive line has been a staple of the Penguins since Wolford took over. Center Chris Elkins and left tackle Kyle Bryant are two of the better linemen in the FCS.
DU - Only two starters returned up front for the Dukes - senior captain and center Nick Redden and senior guard Frank Balmaceda. They've allowed four sacks in two games, and Duquesne has just 151 rushing yards, so this could be an area the Penguins can take advantage of today.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - The jury is still out on this group. Senior defensive end Kyle Sirl was the only player with any extensive playing time coming into the season. It's hard to gauge the level of play of everyone else on the line after two games against weaker opponents and another versus a Big Ten team. One asset the front does have is versatility, as it boasts size, speed and depth.
DU - Duquesne runs an odd front, with either three or five men on the line of scrimmage. It's a bit different than what YSU has seen thus far, so that could present a minor problem in knowing who to block. Senior Reggie Eiland (6-2, 259) is third on the team with 15 tackles (1.5 for loss).
EDGE - YSU
YSU - There are still too many missed tackles in the backfield, and the linebackers were burned on crossing routes against MSU, but the athleticism and overall skills are there for this group to become the strength of the defense. Their biggest issue right now is breaking down when making plays in the backfield. They're in the right position, but their aggressiveness is causing them to over pursue and misfire on big plays.
DU - Senior Dorian Bell was an Ohio State recruit who transfered to Duquesne as a sophomore. He was named to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List (given to the best FCS linebacker in the country)?and was a 2013 Sports Network Preseason First Team All-American. He's been a bit overshadowed by Aaron Reed, a redshirt freshman who was a teammate of Buechel at Montour High School (Pa.). Reed, an inside linebacker, has a team-best 19 tackles (two for loss). Sophomore Christian Kuntz, seeing his first playing time at outside linebacker, has been another pleasant surprise for the Dukes with 17 tackles, 4.5 for loss and two sacks. Sophomore Sam Martello rounds out an impressive group with 11 tackles, 2.5 for loss and one sack.
EDGE - YSU
YSU - A knee injury to Jamarious Boatwright wasn't as severe as originally expected. The free safety, who's shared time with Jameel Smith, was thought to be lost for the year, but Wolford said he may be able to return toward the end of the season. Now if Dale Peterman can return to his cornerback position (he's recovered slowly from a knee injury), the defense may become as good as it looked in the spring.?Wolford expects Peterman back next week.
DU - After being torched for 354 yards passing by Albany, the Dukes' secondary regrouped and held Dayton to 172 yards and a 50-percent completion percentage. Junior free safety Rich Piekarski, a two-year starter and a Hudson High School native, leads Duquesne with two picks (both against Albany). Strong safety Chris Johnson transfered last year from the University of Florida, where he played in all 13 games as a sophomore. He leads DU with two pass breakups. Corner Devin Williams is a returning starter, while fellow corner, freshman Sterling Parks, is a first-year starter.
EDGE - DU
YSU - Punter Nick Liste is having a spectacular senior season. He leads the FCS in average yards per punt at 50.3. The NFL?prospect also has registered 12 touchbacks on 20 kickoffs. First-year place kicker Joey Cejudo is 2 for 2 on field goals, with a long of 37 yards. The return game has been an issue since Week 1 as Andre Stubbs and Wheary have both struggled to handle the ball on punts and kickoffs.
DU - Punter Aaron Fleck is averaging 34.8 yards per punt, but four have landed inside opponents' 20-yard line. Place kicker Austin Crimmins is 4 for 4 on field goals, with a long of 30. Douglas, a running back, leads the team with a 14.9 average on kick returns
EDGE - YSU
Duquesne won't be a pushover like Morehead State was two weeks ago. The Dukes have some talented players on both sides of the ball and could give YSU a run for its money if the Penguins are overlooking them. That said, Duquesne hasn't played a team as good as YSU, and the Dukes' offensive line could get overwhelmed by a quicker Penguins' defense. That will be a key as YSU tries to pressure a talented Dukes quarterback. Look for the Penguins to test freshman corner Sterling Parks, a first-year starter. A big play early could hurt his confidence.