Playing Division I football is not an easy task.
Players need to have a physical presence and certain character qualities to them to get recruited by a school. The earlier a recruit is able to get a taste of college football competition, the better.
This is exactly what the case was when head coach Eric Wolford saw 12 of the 24 Youngstown State University signees at past camps his team held. Wolford said that half of the athletes in YSU’s 2014 recruiting class are players he encountered at football camps.
“If you come to football camp here at Youngstown State, there is a pretty good chance you will sign with us on National Signing Day,” Wolford said. “Basically, half of our recruiting class we have seen here.”
Wolford put a strong emphasis on coming to his camp. He even compared test-driving a nice car to watching young players come play at the camp.
“If you want to come to Youngstown State to play, you need to come to camp,” he said.
Wolford preached during Wednesday’s press conference that players he sees at his camps would always be recruited first, because he has gotten to work with them in person. He explained that there have been plenty of success stories made from coming to YSU football camps.
“The guys we have taken from camp have all been successful,” Wolford said. “There is a definite correlation between success and working with a guy in camp.”
YSU had plenty of diversity from around the country in this class. Out of the 24 signees, eight are from Florida, seven are out of Ohio, four are from Pennsylvania, two are from North Carolina, one is from South Carolina, one is from Virginia and one is from Michigan.
“We have once again went from Detroit all the way to Florida,” Wolford said. “Being able to go out of state and have success helps us fill our class with the type of players we need to help us win the Missouri Valley Conference.”
With the departure of former quarterback Kurt Hess, the Penguins are looking for his next replacement.
Wolford signed Hunter Wells (6 feet 5 inches, 190 pounds) from Navarre, OH, who won Stark County Player of the Year and will be competing for the starting position. Shane Montgomery, quarterback coach at YSU, said he would compare Wells’ game to Ben Roethlisberger.
“His resume speaks for itself,” Wolford said.
Even with the emergence of running back Martin Ruiz, Wolford recruited three additional running backs to the roster: Sidney Sandidage from Amherst Va., Raekwon Washington from Shelby, N.C., and Ryan Moore from York, S.C.
Moore is from the same area as former college football standouts Stephon Gilmore (went 10th overall in the NFL draft) and highly recruited Jadeveon Clowney.
“He’s from the Rock Hill area. It’s basically one of the top areas for producing NFL talent in the United States,” Wolford said.
Even if the Penguins are deep in one area or another, Wolford feels there is never enough competition on the gridiron.
“I am trying to create a formation that we will play six running backs,” he said, laughing. “Our philosophy has always been that we are going to bring in someone that is better on film then the previous recruiting class.”
The MVC is a very competitive conference. Wolford stressed the fact that YSU needs to get out of the mindset of recruiting a MAC-type player and should go get a BCS-type of recruit instead.
“We have got to have a BC type of mentality,” Wolford said. “We are going to continue to elevate our talent like it is a Big 12 or a Big 10 school.”
Wolford said that his team filled plenty of the needs they had and he is excited for the season.
“Obviously, another great recruiting class for 2014; there is a lot of excitement for this class,” Wolford said.