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Penguins eager for 1st test

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State coach Doug Phillips looks onward after breaking a team huddle prior to individual sessions on August 14th, 2020, during Fall Camp.

YOUNGSTOWN — How far has the Youngstown State football team come since the odd spring season? We’ll get our answer Thursday night.

The Penguins kick off their 40th season at Stambaugh Stadium with a game against the Southland Conference’s Incarnate Word. The Cardinals are a high-octane team that will present plenty of challenges for YSU.

Youngstown State head coach Doug Phillips says he is excited to see the progress his team has made during the offseason and fall camp.

“I get excited to see the work we put in and see what we can do,” he said. “I think you see what you see in practice, but our guys are tired of going against each other. They’re excited to go against an opponent. I’m more excited to see the work they put in and how does it look? Then we’ll make our tweaks and adjustments after that.”

Running back Jaleel McLaughlin echoed the excitement.

“It feels really good, and seems like it went by quickly. But it’s really good and I’m excited,” he said of being back into game week.

The Penguins will feature some new faces at some different positions, beginning with the quarterback spot.

Last year’s starter, Mark Waid, is now third on the depth chart and is repping at the H-back position.

“Mark is too good of a football player not to play somewhere on the football field,” Phillips said. “We have an opportunity to do a lot with him, and we’re moving in that direction. He’s too good, and we believe as a football player he can help us win a lot of games in the future.”

As for the QB1 spot, it’s down to Joe Craycraft and Demeatric Crenshaw, who both were listed as the potential starter on this week’s depth chart.

Though Phillips won’t say who is going under center when the game kicks off Thursday, he did note that the team isn’t keen on splitting reps between the group moving forward.

“We kind of did that in the spring, and it’s hard getting one guy ready to play football, nonetheless two. We went through this camp, and everyone had the opportunity to compete,” Phillips said. “When you get to it, you have to give reps to one person more than the others. We’re starting the season, and that’s our mindset.”

The receiving position also got a bit of a makeover, as transfer receivers Bryce Oliver (Kentucky) and Jorge Porterreal (Lehigh) will start alongside C.J. Charleston. Sam St. Surin also is back in the mix this year.

All of that is done in hopes of jumpstarting the YSU offense, which ranked 86th out of 97 teams in terms of total offense (269.6 yards per game) and 88th in scoring offense (15.7 points per game).

“We have to score points. … Incarnate Word averages 42 points a game. For us to be successful with the style of football we play in our league, you want to score 28-30 points a game,” Phillips said. “Touchdowns win games; field goals won’t cut it. You have to be able to score touchdowns. Offensively, we had to look at that, evaluate it and find a better way of doing things than we did in the spring.”

A full preview of YSU’s matchup with Incarnate Word will be in Thursday’s edition.

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