Penguins’ defense takes an off-season blow

YOUNGSTOWN – A defense that was much maligned last year suffered another blow during the summer.

Senior Vince Coleman left the team to deal with a family matter, according to coach Eric Wolford. Coleman, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end, tied for the team lead with four sacks and had a team-high four quarterback hurries. He was one of the bright spots during spring practices and left a defense that finished last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2013.

“It’s a sad story, and I don’t want to divulge anybody’s personal situation,” Wolford said.

Also no longer with the team is talented receiver Marcel Caver, a 6-3, 185-pound junior who made 21 catches for 393 yards and three touchdowns last season. He had trouble “balancing school and football,” Wolford said.

Other notable defections are Brookfield’s Ryan Mosora, who moved from running back to H-back in the spring, free safety Parnell Taylor and Terry Johnson, who moved from linebacker to tight end.

WELCOME TO THE CLUB: The Penguins did welcome four Division I transfers, three of whom play defense. Laron Taylor was at Iowa the past two years, and the 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore linebacker could play right away after YSU lost two of its starting LBs. Junior Kenneth Durden, from South Florida, is another defensive player who has a chance to see the field sooner rather than later. The 6-foot, 175-pound corner started 11 games in 2013. Sophomore Nate Dortch is a Miami (Fla.) transfer. The 6-foot, 175-pound Dortch is another corner. He played in six games last year, mostly on special teams.

The final transfer was Cameron Fraser (Louisville), a 6-4, 265-pound offensive tackle. He redshirted last year with the Cardinals.

HAPPY TO SEE TRESSEL: Wolford spoke for the first time since former Youngstown State football coach Jim Tressel took over as the university’s president. Tressel led the Penguins to four national titles in the 1990s and went on to win a national championship at Ohio State before a scandal involving former Buckeye Terrelle Prior led to his departure.

Wolford said he’s happy Tressel is again part of the university.

“It’s been awesome,” he said. “He’s obviously been very active in our community. I see him doing a lot of recruiting-type moves, much like you would do in football, as far as just recruiting anybody you come in contact with to Youngstown State. Whether it’s a potential student, a potential donor, just a potential person who doesn’t know much about Youngstown State. He’s doing an outstanding job with that, and I think it’s a great thing for our community.”

THE ‘P’ WORD: It’s no secret the Penguins have made the playoffs just once since Tressel left for Ohio State in 2000. Former YSU coach Jon Heacock guided the Penguins to the national semifinal in 2006, but YSU hasn’t gotten back since – narrowly missing the playoffs numerous times, including by one game in 2013.

The feeling of being left out is a source of motivation, not only for the players but the coaches as well.

“We do have enough guys that have been around that remember that feeling the day after the last game. They remember the disappointment. We don’t want to have that feeling again. We kind of haven’t handled our business. We’ve done well enough to make the playoffs, but we’ve been waiting on other things to happen – to see if we’ve been chosen. We just need to take the initiative ourselves.”

CONTRACT SITUATION: Wolford is in the final year of a five-year contract to coach YSU. He was said to have a two-year contract extension in the works in January, but the deal still hasn’t been finished.

Wolford, who is 24-21 in four years, has improved the team’s record each season, but the elusive trip to the postseason hasn’t happened yet. He said he’s not worried about the situation.

“I did that deal in January,” he said. “(Athletics director) Ron (Strollo) and I had a verbal agreement, and I feel good about where that’s at. I don’t have any concerns about where my contract is. We’re just excited to be here at Youngstown State.”