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Scouting Report: Week 2

It was just one game, but Youngstown State’s 2019 season is off to a much better start than last year.

The Penguins marched through Alabama and soundly beat Samford, 45-22, in the nationally televised FCS Kickoff Classic on Aug. 24.

They return home in hopes of erasing another bad memory.

YSU welcomes Howard to Stambaugh Stadium for its home opener, which turned into one of the school’s most embarrassing losses last year when the Penguins were upset by Butler.

This year’s team looked vastly different than the 2018 version, running for 277 yards on 61 carries and forcing four turnovers in the win over Samford. Following a bye week, the Penguins should be healthy and hungry.

The Bison (0-1) are coming off an embarrassing loss of their own, losing 79-0 to Maryland in the first game under coach Ron Prince. They do boast a quarterback who was named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List, so they shouldn’t be overlooked — a lesson YSU learned last year.

QUARTERBACKS

YSU — Nathan Mays got the start against Samford and performed well. His biggest contributions came on the ground as he led YSU with 90 yards on 13 carries. He also completed 10-of-18 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. The Penguins may deploy more of a passing attack against Howard so they can further analyze Mays’ ability to be a complete QB. He’ll need to be for YSU to be a playoff contender.

HU — Cailyn Newton, the younger brother of Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton, brings a game similar to his more famous big brother. Cailyn was the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year after he threw for 2,629 yards and 22 touchdowns and ran for 504 and four TDs as a sophomore. He does have some holes in his game, evident by his 17 interceptions and 52-percent completion percentage from a year ago. He didn’t finish the first half against Maryland, but that’s probably because the Bison were losing by 56 points. Newton will be the focus of YSU’s defense.

EDGE — HU

RUNNING BACKS

YSU — The running-back-by-committee worked to perfection against the Bulldogs. While Mays led the way, Christian Turner added 89 yards and a TD; Joe Alessi churned out 56 yards on 14 carries and Braxton Chapman rushed for 50 yards and two TDs on 11 attempts. Maybe most important is the Penguins appear to have an offensive identity that centers around running the football — a plan that has worked well for YSU over the years.

HU — Another first-team all-conference performer returns at running back in sophomore Dedrick Parson (5-8, 195). As just a freshman, he ran for 706 yards and nine TDs on 125 carries. He also caught 14 passes for 226 yards and one TD. Much like Newton, he was bottled up against Maryland with just 18 yards on 12 carries, but he has the potential to be a major threat.

EDGE — YSU

RECEIVERS

YSU — Despite the run-heavy approach, the receiving corps had a solid start against Samford as well. Six different players caught a pass, led by junior Samuel St. Surin who had five grabs for 93 yards and a TD. Fellow starters Ryan Emans and Jermiah Braswell had two catches apiece. St. Surin is the Penguins’ leading returning WR, and his ability to develop into a No. 1 receiver would be huge for YSU’s offense.

HU — Finishing off an impressive skill group are two more first-team all-MEAC picks in Jequez Ezzard and Kyle Anthony. A speedster, Ezzard (5-9, 185) averaged a remarkable 26.6 yards per catch last year — best in the FCS. He amassed 1,064 yards and 12 TDs on just 40 receptions. The bigger Anthony (6-3, 210) snagged a team-best 53 grabs for 659 yards and six TDs. Add in second-team all-league tight end Malik Hyatt, and HU possesses a formidable attack on paper.

EDGE — Even

OFFENSIVE LINE

YSU — The line was one of the biggest bright spots in the win over Samford. They set the tone early by paving the way for a power run game, and they also allowed just one sack. It’s a small sample size for a new group that still has a lot to prove, but it was a huge step in the right direction.

HU — The Achilles’ heel of the offense is the inexperienced line. Two freshmen, two juniors and a senior start up front. They yielded eight sacks, and the Bison managed just 67 total yards against Maryland. They’ll be facing a tenacious YSU d-line in Week 2.

EDGE — YSU

DEFENSIVE LINE

YSU — The line looked as advertised against Samford, with four sacks. Justus Reed’s first game back was a huge success as he had a career-high three sacks. After an Achilles injury derailed his career last season, he looks like the same emerging star he was two years ago. Tackle DeMarko Craig added five stops and a tackle for loss, and end Ma’lik Richmond recorded a sack.

HU — Defensive end Marcellos Allison leads the defensive line. The 6-4, 220-pound senior made a team-high 71 tackles last year, but had just two TFLs and one-half of a sack. Fellow defensive end Zamon Robinson (6-4, 225) is the sack artist for HU, with 5.5 last year to go with nine TFLs. Tackles Antonio Turner (4.5 TFLs in 2018) and Aaron Motley (3 TFLs) are both returning starters on the inside.

EDGE — YSU

LINEBACKERS

YSU — A bit of a question mark coming in, the linebackers performed well. Senior Cash Mitchell caused a fumble early in the Samford game and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. With the pass-happy attack of the Bulldogs, YSU used a lot of packages that included just one or two linebackers, so their contributions were limited.

HU — The Bison are quite green at linebacker. Their two returning players weren’t regular starters and combined for just 40 tackles. Junior Aaron Walker, who plays a hybrid DB/LB position, had 33 of those stops. One starter was a running back last year, and another is a true freshman. They were exploited against the Terrapins, who gained over 600 yards of offense.

EDGE — YSU

SECONDARY

YSU — YSU had three interceptions against Samford. YSU had three interceptions ALL OF LAST YEAR. It was yet another encouraging sign for YSU, especially considering the secondary had its share of struggles last year. Starting strong safety Zaire Jones, a Vanderbilt transfer, made two interceptions and tied for second on the team in tackles (5) in his first start for the Penguins. Free safety Kyle Hegedus had a team-high six tackles.

HU — Safety Tye Freeland (5-11, 175) leads a youthful secondary. Freeland was second on HU with 66 tackles and tied for the team high with two interceptions while breaking up eight passes. Corner Jalen Smith (two picks) and safety Rodney Dennard (27 tackles) earned a lot of playing time last year as well. While young, there is some experience in the back end of the defense.

EDGE — YSU

SPECIALISTS

YSU — The kicking game was on point as well, with first-year kicker Colten McFadden making a 43-yard field goal, all six extra points and booting two touchbacks on kickoffs. Punter Nick DeSalvo averaged nearly 43 yards per punt and placed one inside the 20-yard line.

HU — The Bison struggled mightily in the punting game last week, with a shanked 14-yard punt and a dropped snap on a punt giving Maryland short fields. Isaiah Moore had plenty more chances and did end up with a 72-yard punt, but it rolled into the end zone for a touchback. Place kicker Nick Fariss is a true freshman.

EDGE — YSU

PREDICTION

Some people may laugh when they see Howard on the schedule. A relative unknown team with little recent success in football, the Bison don’t exactly make you jump out of your seat.

YSU isn’t laughing. Not after last year’s monumental upset to Butler, and because the Bison have legitimate talent. Led by the All-American QB Newton, Howard had four skill players named to the MEAC’s preseason first-team. To be fair, it is not a strong conference, and in reality it’s hard to know how good (or bad) Howard is because of the matchup with Maryland and the conference and schedule in which they play.

Still, the only way they should compete with YSU is if the Penguins allow them to hang around like Butler did last year. With superior size, YSU is capable of bruising its way to another win. If they struggle like last year, well, an angry Bo Pelini will be storming the sidelines yet again.

YSU, 45-17.

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