What to Watch for in YSU’s Season Opener
By Dan Hiner
- Who will be the starting quarterback?
So far, head coach Bo Pelini hasn’t named a starter. Last season’s starter Hunter Wells has played the last two seasons. Ricky Davis was the backup most of 2015, but he earned more playing time as the season progressed. Trent Hosick transferred from Arizona Western College and looks more like Pelini’s starters while he coached at the University of Nebraska.
- The wide receivers have improved
YSU lost their top two receivers from last season. Andre Stubbs and Andrew Williams were impact players on the offensive side of the ball over the last three years. Isiah Scott and Alvin Bailey are deep threats that can take the top off a defense. Darien Townsend can make plays but had health issues during the offseason.
- The D-line is young but talented
Obviously defensive ends Derek Rivers and Avery Moss have the focus of opposing offenses, but Cody Squiric and Savon Smith will be important parts of the defense. They didn’t play a significant role in the past but both players complement the defensive ends well.
- Watch the secondary
The Penguins had, arguably, the best secondary in the Football Championship Subdivision last season. They allowed 116.7 passing yards per game, but can they carry that performance into this season? Both safeties are returning — including LeRoy Alexander, who led the Penguins in interceptions last year.
- Offensive line Protection
The YSU offensive line struggled last season due to injury and poor performance. The Penguins are, for the most part, healthy entering the season opener. They are going against two talented pass rushers from Duquesne.
- Duquesne’s Dynamic Duo
The Dukes have Christian Kuntz and Nathan Stone lining up at linebacker. Both were voted Preseason All-Northeast Conference at their positions and are considered two of the top linebackers in the FCS.
- Martin Ruiz
Ruiz has been a key to the Penguins’ offense since his freshman season. He has 29 career rushing touchdowns and is currently tied for eight on YSU’s career rushing touchdown list. With one more, he will pass Paris Wicks (1979-82) and Darnell Clark (1900-93).
- Dillon Buechel
Buechel is one of the top quarterbacks in the NEC. He’s ranked second on a number of Duquesne’s all-time career passing records. The matchup will pin one of the FCS’ top secondaries against one of the best quarterbacks.
- A new offensive schemes
There hasn’t been a complete overhaul to the Penguins’ offense, but there has been some new plays and formations added to best utilize the talent on the offensive side of the ball. One of the reasons the quarterback competition hasn’t been addressed has been due to all three quarterbacks learning some new schemes.
- The punters. Yes, the punters
YSU’s punting wasn’t very good last season, and Pelini made it a priority to improve the Penguins’ special teams. Nate Needham is a freshman that has experience as a place kicker and punter, and Mark Schuler played tight end last season but has taken snaps at punter. He’s probably got the strongest leg on the team.