Standing on the Stambaugh Stadium turf while wearing sunglasses and his usual Youngstown State University garment after practice on Tuesday, head football coach Eric Wolford took a good look at one of his new linebackers, sophomore Jaylin Kelly.
Kelly’s profile says he’s 230 pounds, but Wolford wasn’t convinced.
“He says he’s 230 so he doesn’t have to get on that step machine in there, but I can tell you this,” Wolford. “In July, he’ll be 230. You better believe that.”
Whatever weight Kelly currently is or isn’t, Wolford has been impressed with the criminal justice major so far. Kelly appeared in 11 games last season as a reserve on defense and member of special teams. He recorded seven total tackles, including two solo.
Kelly had his knee scoped earlier this year and is not feeling the effects. Wolford said he’s one of the bigger linebackers YSU has had in years past inside. Kelly is expected to start when the 2014 campaign begins in late August.
“At first, I was a little nervous stepping up and playing big time football, but the players are encouraging,” Kelly said. “They help me [and] coaches are helping me more, so I’m getting a little more comfortable. I’m more of a ‘stop the run’ type of linebacker. I like contact and stuff like that.”
While Kelly adjusts to the game, sophomore tight end Jacob Wood is doing the same thing. The mechanical engineer major caught one pass for 49 yards last year while participating in all 12 games.
“He’s a big guy, 4.0 student, and I think he’s got a very bright future,” Wolford said. “We’re obviously trying to keep him at a certain weight. He’s a big body, and he can be a force in there as far as blocking goes and be a big threat with the football. He’s easy for the quarterback to find.”
The question is which quarterback will that be? For Wood, it doesn’t matter which of the four competing quarterbacks it will be. He’s ready for all of them.
“They’re all really good athletes,” Wood said. “I don’t have to worry too much. The only hard thing is that they have different snap counts and different tendencies, so you sort of have to pick up on it and get used to that a little bit.”
The upcoming season could be tough for Wood as far as receptions and maybe playing time is concerned with senior Nate Adams in his way. Adams tallied 15 receptions for 225 yards and four touchdowns last year.
“Nate’s a really good player, so he’s taught me a lot,” Wood said. “I think he’s pretty much locked up. I’m fighting with him every day, trying to make him better and make myself better.”
When practice concluded on Tuesday, the players returned to their normal rituals. Kelly headed home and said he would ice his knees and rest, trying to avoid that step machine.
“I’m trying to avoid the Stairmaster,” Kelly said, laughing. “I don’t want to get on that again.”