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  • Writer's pictureGino Leone

Youngstown State Football: 2023 Season Preview

Youngstown, OH. – 25-22 is the score drilled into the minds of every single player and staff member who was part of YSU’s 2022 7-4 campaign. “Don’t leave it up to committees, don’t leave it up to officials,” said Doug Phillips at YSU’s spring game. Beating Missouri St. would’ve given YSU the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat, but that obviously didn’t happen. Heading into 2023, YSU wants to control their own destiny and make sure they don’t have that gut wrenching feeling of missing the playoffs again. One way YSU is controlling their own destiny is by focusing on the little details that hurt them in close losses. Special Teams breakdowns and 2:00 minute drills are some of the tiny details Coach Phillips and his staff are focusing on. If YSU fixes those tiny details in 2023, that could be the difference between a 7-4 team and a 8-3 team.

Offensive Outlook – The offense struggled early on last season and it took a QB change midway through the NDSU game for YSU’s offense to really get going. Mitch Davidson, the man who took control, looked very good in an important stretch for YSU. Davidson went 119/201 throwing for 1,613 yards, 12 touchdowns, and only 1 interception while leading the ‘Guins to a 5-2 record. If YSU is to be successful in 2023, Davidson will have to step up in a conference that is loaded with QB talent.

Youngstown State quarterback Mitch Davidson gets set to throw a pass against South Dakota last season | PC: @ysufootball

Behind Davidson is talented freshman QB, Beau Brungard, who appears to have cemented himself as QB2 and looks like he could be used as a running threat during the season. Davidson’s top target, Bryce Oliver returns after having a very productive 2022 season. Oliver had 59 receptions for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. Max Tomczak, son of former NFL QB, Mike Tomczak comes back after a good freshman year. Brandon Alexander, Latrell Fordham, and Luke Hensley all finish off what should be one of the better WR rooms in the FCS. Jake Benio and Brandan Serrano both return at TE and are looking for a bigger role in the offense. In the backfield, there are big shoes to fill as legendary RB Jaleel McLaughlin is off to the NFL. The leading candidate to attempt and fill those shoes is Dra Rushton, who has waited patiently for his time to shine at YSU. Last year, Rushton carried the ball 71 times for 321 yards and 2 touchdowns in his RB2 role. With McLaughlin gone, Rushton will look to push for the 1,000 yard mark. Fighting for reps at the RB2 position are freshman RBs, Da’Shaun Whatley and Cephus Harris lll who have reportedly been impressive throughout camp. Transfer Tyshon King should be another name to watch for the RB2 position. Upfront, YSU returns talented O-Linemen Jaison Williams, Ryan Johnson, Aidan Parker, and David Metzler.

YSU OL Jaison Williams | PC: Lamar Sykes

There is plenty of young talent at the position as well and those young players should develop nicely. Trust me, the weight program at YSU makes a huge difference for young incoming players. Also, in case you forgot this O-Line blocked for the All-Time NCAA rushing leader, Jaleel McLaughlin, who credits his teammates for his success. Without the O-Line being strong, who knows how McLaughlin’s career would’ve shaked out. The O-Line is ready to own D-Lines in the Valley.

Defensive Outlook – When YSU has an elite defense, boy are they a scary team to face. Returning on the D-Line are plenty of talented players who are ready to eat. Stud DEs Dylan Wudke, Andres Lehrmann, and Dawan Martin return. Coming off of an injury, Dawan Martin is looking to make his presence known once again after a strong start to last season, Lehrmann wants to breakout this season, and Wudke is looking to become an even bigger game wrecker after totaling 42 tackles with 5 sacks in 2022. On the interior Chris Fitzgerald returns after shredding O-Lines last year as shown by his 36 total tackles. Devin Lee, Deamontae Diggs, Hunter Allen, Jaelen Crider, and Anthony Johnson return as well after all being contributors last season. The LB room should be one of the better ones YSU has had in a while. Highlighted by Alex Howard, 34 total tackles, and Greg Benton Jr, 35 total tackles, both have earned the starting LB roles.

YSU LB Greg Benton Jr | PC: @ysufootball

Senior Keon Freeman and Junior Devin Johnson should also be given reps. In the Secondary, talent is everywhere. Jordan Trowers, D’Marco Augustin, Quincy Lenton, Marcus Hooker, and Troy Jakubec are just some of the players in the secondary who look extremely talented.

YSU DB D’Marco Augustin | PC: @ysufootball

Trowers led the team in tackles with 52, Lenton was second with 51, and Augustin 4th with 41. Jakubec and Hooker blanketed the field well and didn’t allow much down the field. Other players to look out for in the secondary: Tyjon Jones, Ezekiel Blake, Amarian Robinson, and Alijah Curtis.

Special Teams Outlook – There are many questions on Special Teams with the departure of Kicker Colt McFadden and Punter Paddy Lynch. Sam Merryman is locked in as the long snapper, Fordham appears to be the favorite for kickoff return duties and the punt return duties look wide open with Randy Smith gone. Andrew Lastovka looks to be in the lead for kicker and the punting competition is open. Brendon Kilpatrick and Brian Cox both look promising. The bottomline is, no matter who ends up winning these position battles, good Special Teams make a huge difference come late in the season.


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