Penguins picked to finish fourth in preseason poll

Though the Youngstown State University football team has some holes to fill on both sides of the ball, the Penguins are still getting some attention toward the top of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The Penguins were selected to finish fourth in the preseason poll. Three schools garnered first-place votes while seven had at least 180 points in the standings.

Three-time defending FCS Champion North Dakota State was the preseason favorite for the third consecutive season. The Bison had 370 total points and 24 first-place votes. South Dakota State was picked second with 330 points and eight first-place tallies while UNI was a close third with 324 points and seven first-place votes.

The Penguins, who finished the 2013 campaign 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the MVFC, picked up 240 points and were just ahead of Southern Illinois, which had 237. Illinois State was sixth with 197 and Missouri State was seventh at 180. South Dakota, Western Illinois and Indiana State rounded out the top 10.

Last year, YSU was tabbed to finish fifth, but ended up in a tie for second with multiple teams. The Penguins do not play UNI this season for the first time since 1995.

All 10 teams had a first-team all-conference preseason selection.

Along with team rankings, the preseason all-conference team was released with one Penguin making it to the first team.

YSU junior kick returner/wide receiver Andre Stubbs was named preseason All-Missouri Valley Football Conference team.

Stubbs was a first-team all-league pick last year as a return specialist after having one of the best seasons in school history. He returned 25 kickoffs for 672 yards, an average of 26.9 yards a return. His average was third best in school history in that category. He became the first YSU player to lead the MVFC in kickoff-return average and just the second player to be named to the league’s first team as a return specialist.

A talented all-around player he had 1,198 all-purpose yards, averaging 99.8 per contest.

In addition to Stubbs, sophomore tailback Martin Ruiz and senior long snapper Nathan Gibbs were a preseason honorable-mention selections.

Ruiz is coming off a record-setting freshman campaign that earned him the MVFC’s Freshman and Newcomer of the Year honors. A second-team all-league pick, he set school freshman records for attempts (192), yards (1,094) and rushing touchdowns (15). Gibbs has been a key three-year starter with the program.