In July, we released a Youngstown State preview article that focused on defense and special teams. But, here we more in-depth information on this year’s special teams unit. Last season was a very up and down year on the special team’s side for the Penguins. Zak Kennedy, who has now graduated, was one of the Penguins greatest kickers in the 2000s. More specifically, from 2015-2017. However, it seemed like something was amiss in 2018. Kennedy was still perfect on extra points but had his lowest percentage on field goals with it being at 53 percent. Grant Conya replaced him on extra points and field goals when they played the South Dakota Coyotes. Now, let’s get started as we look at the Youngstown State special teams in 2019.
Other players that are gone are Collin Burdette who is not with the program anymore, Mark Schuler, and long snapper Steven Wethli who was named the second-team All-American by Stats FCS. With all those players now gone from of the program, let’s go over the players who are now on the team going from kickers to returners.
The Kicking position is the first biggest change on the Youngstown State football team. Kennedy as said has graduated, and performed great his first three seasons breaking records. Kennedy will now be replaced by another local kicker in Colten McFadden who transferred from Kent and looking to keep the McFadden legacy at Youngstown State going. As a Poland Bulldog, he was named to the WKBN high school football Big 22. He made 11-14 field goal attempts and was a perfect 32-32 on extra points. Also, he was named first-team all Ohio Division III and placed fifth in career-long field goals in Ohio high school football history, nailing a 55 yarder against Youngstown East.
There are some new faces, but there’s also a lot of familiarity in the air. That’s especially true considering he played against some of the local players that were from this area. He’s also been kicking with the next kicker Grant Gonya since they were kids.
Last season, Gonya got a good head start to his career at Youngstown State. Gonya started off slow against South Dakota where he missed a couple of field goals while making one. But, he made a 33-yard field goal against the Indiana State Sycamores. At Hudson, Gonya was first-team Division II All-Ohio selection. Additionally, he owns a State mark with 17 straight field goals, made 38 of 40 extra-point attempts, and had 44 career made field goals, breaking the old record of 40 by Danny Milligan out of Cincinnati St. Xavier.
Both kickers have been looking good during fall practice, so it’s going to be interesting to see if coach Pelini decides to only start one of them, or maybe both with one being an extra point kicker, and one doing kickoffs.
2. PUNTERS/LONG SNAPPER
Mark Schuler was Youngstown State’s punter for the last three seasons in which he averaged a total of 40.9% punts with 6,539 yards. However, Schuler is now gone and someone will have to surpass his punting yardage of 2,116 from last season. The Penguins will have a new starting punter going into 2019.
The first being Nick DeSalvo who redshirted as a freshman and as of now looks to be the first string punter. DeSalvo punted three seasons as a Fitch Falcon and was Division 1 Honorable Mention All-Northeast Inland District Selection. He also averaged 43.7 yards per punt, and his coach was the late Phil Annarella.
The other punter is Ryan Teminsky who has not played a down since the Trumbull vs Mahoning/Columbiana All-Star game in 2017. Teminsky played for Canfield from 2013-2016. Teminsky would be out, however, for the 2016 season after suffering a leg injury during an onside kick. He sat out for two years in college before walking on this season.
The Long Snapper as of now is Dean Palumbo who went to the same high school as kicker Gonya.
As of now, it looks like DeSalvo is going to win the starting spot, but anything can happen so we will see what Bo Pelini says during week one against Samford.
Jake Coates will be returning both kickoffs and punts just like he has been doing for the last two seasons. In 2018, Coates played in all 11 games, had 25 punt returns for 74 yards, and seven kickoffs for 106 yards. He also had a high of four returns against Western Illinois, Valparaiso, and South Dakota State. Coates earned his second letter of the season. However, look for Coates to try and get more yardage. Returning is not easy, but Coates has been missing a touchdown and wants one to add to his reśume.
Other players who may return some kicks and punts are Ohio Mr.Football finalist C.J. Charleston, Joe Alessi if they have to then possibly Christian Turner, as well as Samuel St. Surin if needed.
The Penguins first game is in six days as they travel to Montgomery Alabama for the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff game against the Samford Bulldogs. Kickoff is 3 pm on ESPN.