Penguins hire three assistant football coaches

YOUNGSTOWN – The main reason Eric Wolford was brought in as Youngstown State’s football coach was because of his ability to recruit players from all over the East Coast.

It appears he’s pretty good at winning over coaches, too.

The Penguins added three coaches to their staff on Wednesday, two of which possess NFL experience and another who worked at the BCS level for the last 15 seasons.

Kenny Carter (wide receivers, passing-game coordinator), Dan Gerberry (tight ends) and Mike Zordich (safeties and co-special teams coordinator) officially joined YSU, which also moved Jamie Bryant from special teams coach to defensive coordinator after firing Joe Tresey two weeks ago.

The trio of coaches believe they can help the Penguins reach the playoffs after a seven-year hiatus.

“This is going to be an exciting time for us,” said Carter, who coached at LSU, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Vanderbilt, Florida and most recently Louisville during the past 15 seasons. “Eric has done a fantastic job and his vision is very clear … we can take this thing to another level and not be close in getting into the playoffs but get into the playoffs and move ourselves forward with an opportunity to finish and get another banner to hang on the wall.”

Carter spent the last four seasons on Charlie Strong’s staff at Louisville. Strong left for Texas in January.

Zordich, a Chaney High School graduate, played at Penn State and then spent 12 seasons in the NFL (1986-98), most notably with the Philadelphia Eagles. He had a short stint as a coach with the Penguins in 2009, starting as the safeties coach in the spring before leaving in the summer to lead the defensive backs for the Eagles. He returns to YSU with hopes of a longer stay, and he said the plan for the Penguins is centered around beating a few teams in particular.

“There’s really three teams you’ve got to compete against,” he said. “I’m not knocking the other teams, but it’s North Dakota State and the other Dakotas (South Dakota and South Dakota State). If you look at it, that’s who you’ve got to beat. They’ve had problems in the past doing that, and the coach has talked about it, and that’s how we’re going to attack it.”

Zordich also said YSU will simplify the defense, and those changes will go through Bryant, who was the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt for two seasons (2009-10) and at Houston for one year (2012). In his first season with the Penguins, he helped YSU’s special teams, an area of weakness in years past, make huge strides.

“He shored up our special teams and basically took them to the top of the league in almost every category,” Wolford said. “We expect the same results on defense.”

The Penguins ranked last in total defense in 2013.

Gerberry, an Austintown Fitch graduate, is taking on his first coaching job (he was an offensive quality control volunteer at YSU last year). He played offensive line at Ball State from 2004 to 2008 and then spent three seasons with the Detroit Lions. He returned to Youngstown after he was cut by Jacksonville in 2013. He said he understands the challenge of coaching a position he didn’t play, but added that he learned much from past coaches, including former YSU tight ends coach Mark Mangino, who left to become offensive coordinator at Iowa State in January.

“I know people are going to wonder, ‘You never coached before,’ ” Gerberry said. “That doesn’t mean I can’t coach. I’ve been blessed to be around the best coaches in the world with Brady Hoke in college, Jim Schwartz in Detroit … and they wouldn’t just tell you things. They would make you teach everyone.

“I learned a lot from coach Mangino last fall. I embraced what he knew and took what I could from it. That was big for me.”

Offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo will also take on the additional role of run-game coordinator in another coaching change. YSU starts spring practices March 22.