Four Penguin QBs Battle for Starting Spot

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Troy Rothenbuhler ponders who is going to take advantage of the quarterback situation on the Youngstown State University football team.

The team’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach has four quarterbacks vying for the starting position this fall: senior Joe Craycraft, junior Mitch Davidson, sophomore Mark Waid and redshirt freshman Demeatric Crenshaw.

Waid was 62-of-97 for 527 yards and three touchdowns during the spring season while Craycraft was 21-of-44 for 176 yards and one touchdown.

Davidson hasn’t played quarterback for YSU. At Salem High School, he threw for a school record 2,371 yards and 32 touchdowns his senior year.

Crenshaw led Pickerington Central High School to the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I title games in 2017 and 2019. He passed for 1,693 yards and 14 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,267 yards and 17 scores in 2019.

Joe Craycraft is the only senior in the  Penguins’ quarterback battle. He started three games in the spring.

After the first day of practice on Aug. 4, Rothenbuhler says he wants to see a leader emerge who will consistently put the ball in the end zone, push the ball down the field, make the right reads and know when to hand the ball off to his teammates.

“Give my guys a chance down the field and put the ball up consistently where they can get it and make a play on it so it’s not a [50% chance a receiver will catch the football],” Rothenbuhler says. “It becomes an [80% or 90% chance the receiver will make a reception]. We’ve got some good skill guys that they need to give them a chance.”

Craycraft says the competition is going to make the group of quarterbacks better, growth he’s seen in the two months of the summer offseason. He’s the senior member of the group with leadership, maturity and confidence.

“At the end of the day, this is Youngstown State,” he says. “This isn’t Joe Craycraft. We’re trying to win for Youngstown State. So the best quarterback is going to go out there and try to win some games for the city.”

Waid says he’s worked on timing – getting the ball out quicker, making decisions faster and putting his 
feet in better position. He also integrates the lessons he learned from Girard High School offensive coordinator and former YSU player Nick Cochran.

“The information that he instilled in me is what I still carry over to YSU and I still take that same mindset,” Waid says.

Redshirt freshman Matt Carlisle and freshmen Brandon Alexander, Michael Jackson and Judah Holtzclaw are also on the roster.

“Anybody else who wants to step up, take it and prove it on the field,” Rothenbuhler says. “If the other guys want to take the job, come get it.”

Running backs: Senior tailback Jaleel McLaughlin, a second-team preseason all-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection, led the Penguins with 133 carries for 691 yards and five touchdowns this spring.

The only other rushers over 100 yards were Waid and senior Christian Turner with 30 carries for 104 yards and two scores.

Add to the mix senior London Pearson, son of former Ohio State University standout Pepe Pearson, and Dra Rushton.

This crew is about working hard and being the best version of themselves, McLaughlin says.

“[Head coach Doug Phillips] always talks about being intentional and finishing plays, whether we have the ball or not,” McLaughlin says.

Receivers: Juniors Jake Benio and Natavious Payne, senior Andrew Ogletree and Turner all had at least 
11 receptions last year and accounted for 409 of the team’s 703 receiving yards.

Sophomore CJ Charleston had seven catches for 112 yards for a 22.4 yards per catch average to lead the Penguins.

Ogletree, who is 6 feet, 7 inches and weighs 250 pounds, is moving to tight end with Benio and senior Josh Burgett, who is mostly a blocker.

Graduate transfer Jorge Portorreal comes to YSU from Lehigh where he caught 168 passes for 2,130 yards and seven touchdowns in 35 games.

Linemen: Phillips says senior Nick Rosen is recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament tear but hopes to get him back this season. 

Sophomore Jaison Williams, junior Ryan Johnson (a transfer from Duquesne) and second-team, all-MVFC selection senior Dan Becker anchor the offensive line.

“They’re a lot stronger than they were in the winter and we look to keep continuing those guys to grow,” Phillips says.

On the defensive side are seniors James Jackson and JT Ngangum, junior Vinny Gentile, sophomores Dylan Wudke and Chris Fitzgerald and redshirt freshman Dawan Martin. Junior Dontae Cilenti is back after missing the spring with an injury.

Linebackers: First-team, all-MVFC senior linebacker Grant Dixon returns after leading the team with 55 tackles with 40 solo stops. He’s joined by junior Griffin Hoak, who had 46 tackles and 31 solo stops. The pair combined for five sacks.

Sophomore Logan Pasco and sophomore D’Marco Augustin are in the heart of the Penguins defense as well.

Secondary: All-MVFC, second-team player and senior safety Zaire Jones had 29 tackles, including 22 solo stops. Sophomore Troy Jakubec led the team with four broken up passes. 

Florida transfer and senior Quincy Lenton suffered an injury during the spring season but Phillips is hopeful to have him back this fall.

Sophomore Keyon Martin and senior Isaac James-Gray, who played at Indiana and Ball State, are in the defensive secondary.

Specialists: Senior Colt McFadden returns as the placekicker and handles kickoffs. He was 10 of 11 on extra points and six of nine on field goals.

Sophomore punter Paddy Lynch and junior Nick DeSalvo shared the punting duties last year, combining for an average of 39.7 yards.

Look for Pearson, McLaughlin and James-Gray to handle the kick and punt return duties.

Sophomore Sam Merryman will handle the long snapping duties, while redshirt freshman linebacker Brayden Taylor will serve as his backup.

Pictured at top: Youngstown State University sophomore quarterback Mark Waid, who played for Girard High School, is one of the four vying to be named the starter.