While final exams for students at Youngstown State University are still a few weeks away, the final spring test for the football team takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
YSU will hold its 41st annual Red-White Spring Game at Stambaugh Stadium.
The glorified intra-squad scrimmage — which is free to the public – will serve as an “evaluation tool” to the coaching staff, said defensive coordinator Joe Tresey.
“The interesting thing about the spring game is that when the lights are on, some guys play better,” he said. “Some guys don’t play as well under the lights. So, I think that’s really an evaluation tool, because some kids will, all of a sudden, do things you don’t expect them to do.”
Through this evaluating, head football coach Eric Wolford hopes to answer numerous questions he has about his roster.
“I think there’s a lot of things that can take place that can affect our post-spring evaluation,” he said. “After, you can sit down with your coach and determine if this is the right place for you as far as where you are on the depth chart.”
Wolford said the main goal is to get a better grasp of the “top 60” players on the team. Other concerns are the depth and pecking order of the offensive line, wide receivers and quarterbacks.
At quarterback, the Penguins are still trying to determine who will back up Kurt Hess. The two candidates are Dante Nania and Nick Wargo.
“I’m dying to find out myself,” Wolford said. “I want somebody to step up.” Wolford added that in addition to the backup quarterbacks, he wants to see progress from the rest of the second unit on Friday.
“I always get on those guys because I want them to improve,” he said. “I don’t want them to think, ‘I’m second string and I’m behind this guy, so I have another year to marinate.’ What happens if that guy gets hurt?”
As for the first team, starting right offensive tackle Kyle Bryant likes the progress that has been made since the beginning of the spring.
“There’s always room for improvement, but the progress has been promising,” Bryant said. “We have been getting better and better with communication, camaraderie and just becoming a more cohesive unit.”
That being said, he’s anxious to test the progress in Friday’s game setting.
“It’s definitely a big event, and it’s going to be an exciting day to come out here and get some work done,” Bryant said. “We just want to get some real live work against the defense, go hard and have a good time.”
The YSU defense is now in its second year under Tresey and is hoping to improve on a mediocre 2012 season.
“I just think overall — the tempo, the urgency and just the way we operate — we’re starting to operate like a real defense,” Tresey said. “Positives have to be that we retained quite a bit from the fall, which is good, especially with our starters. And we caused more turnovers [this spring], which we struggled with during the season.”
Going into Friday, Tresey is interested in the play of his safeties and defensive line in particular. The defensive line lost four players to graduation last season.
“Safety-wise, we’re a little thin there right now. We have to get a couple kids that are back up there to develop hopefully,” he said. “I’d say defensive line, we’re pleased with our progress with the new players, but we have to continue.”
Friday’s scrimmage marks the end of spring practice for YSU. Put simply, Wolford wants his team to head into the summer on a high note.
“We have to find out if guys can play at a high enough level where we can win football games,” he said.