On the football field, first-year Youngstown State University defensive coordinator Joe Tresey is loud, aggressive, mean and explicit.
For these reasons, Tresey was hired during the offseason to rework the YSU defense, which has performed poorly in past years.
“[Tresey]’s a great coach, and we love being around him,” said senior defensive tackle Aronde Stanton. “As you see in the scrimmages and in the game plan, us players have responded well to him.”
Spirits are high within the Penguin defensive unit, which has played better in the spring and summer scrimmages. Tresey said he likes what he sees.
“We feel like we’ve gotten better,” Tresey said. “We still have a lot to work on, like our tempo, urgency and fundamentals. But we’ve worked very hard in camp.”
Head football coach Eric Wolford is satisfied with the defense’s progress as well.
“We’re playing much better,” he said. “We’re a lot more accountable, playing hard and doing things right. I feel like we made significant progress over the summer.”
With the addition of Tresey, the Penguins installed an entirely new defensive system.
After a 2011 season in which YSU allowed more than 20 points in nine games, they hope the new scheme will help lower those numbers.
“There were games where the defensive line could have done more. There were games where the linebackers could have done more, and the secondary,” said Stanton, a defensive captain. “I can’t just put it on one area. As a whole defense, we have to step up and make plays together.”
Stanton will anchor the Penguin defensive line, which Tresey said is “much improved.”
“Everybody’s gotten better every day,” Tresey said of his linemen. “But we still have a ways to go.”
Fellow defensive captain Dom Rich will lead the linebackers. Travis Williams, the team leader in tackles from 2011, was recently replaced on the first team by Dubem Nwadiogbu. Tresey wants to show his players that no starting jobs are safe.
“We really don’t have a set depth chart right now,” Tresey said. “We really don’t want to go into the first game and say,
‘You’re a one, and you’re a backup.’ We just want 22 guys that can play, so whoever is in, there’s no drop-off.”
At defensive back, the Penguins have plenty of options to choose from. But, so far, Tresey mentioned Jamarious Boatwright and Donald D’Alesio as standouts.
“They’re both doing a really fine job,” he said.
The Penguins feel they carry more depth at each defensive position — a major difference from last year. Stanton said this should help the unit’s consistency.
“When the secondary is having a bad day, the defensive line can make up for that and create more pressure,” he said. “It’s just about working together as a team defense, and that’s what we need to lean on.”
Even with all of the optimism among the players, the YSU defense has its doubters. Although critics are enamored with the offense, many feel the defense is still too weak and inexperienced.
“That’s just noise around us, and we really don’t pay attention to that,” Stanton said. “If anything, we’ll use that as motivation to show people that we can be a championship defense, and we will be this year.”