After earning Missouri Valley Football Conference Freshman of the Year and MVFC Newcomer of the Year, sophomore running back Martin Ruiz looks to stay hungry and build on the year he had.
“I have a lot of stuff that I want to improve on,” Ruiz said. “I want to get to the playoffs and keep eating.”
Ruiz is trying to build on a record-breaking campaign after totaling 1,094 yards, rushing with 15 touchdowns — which are both Youngstown State University freshman records. He also did a number in the receiving game, catching 20 passes for 256 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
Ruiz must be hungry for the new season because head coach Eric Wolford wants him to stay starving.
“He is a good football player; he has got to stay hungry,” Wolford said. “I always get on him to not get into one of these sophomore slumps.”
Even though Ruiz seems like the obvious choice to start at running back next season, Wolford said he wants him to stay competitive and to not get comfortable as the starter.
“He is very gifted and very talented, but he is getting pushed by Jody Webb and Demond Hymes,” Wolford said. “If he feels like he is grandfathered in, then I will never keep an edge to him.”
With the running back group being a pretty productive position last season, running back coach Eric Gallon feels there is still more that can be done to improve.
“There are a lot of yards that we left on the field last year, and there are holes that we didn’t see,” Gallon said. “Coming into the spring, the expectations are high and there are no exceptions to the rule. They have to put in the effort and have the energy to go 100 miles per hour.”
Even with bar set high, Gallon sees plenty of improvements from Webb and Ruiz.
“I think those guys will add some value to this team,” Gallon said. “They will bring leadership. They are quiet leaders not really vocal, but I am trying to work on that with them.”
With former YSU quarterback Kurt Hess out of the picture, somebody needs to step up and replace his production while bringing some leadership.
Ruiz feels he can do just that.
“I have to show more leadership, keep everyone going,” Ruiz said. “I have to make sure to keep the line going and make sure everyone is making the right calls.”
Even with a new quarterback coming into the system, Gallon feels his running backs will have to step up regardless.
“If we had Kurt Hess again, they would have to step up,” Gallon said. “You can’t lay down and say what we did last year was good. What we want to this year is be even better.”
Gallon said he demands his running backs improve every day, eliminate mistakes and give the greatest effort on every play.
With the spring game getting closer later this April, the running back group will look to get in sync and work together as a unit.