Youngstown State gets early start on 2017 season

(STATS) - Youngstown State's spring practice is concluding this week, but as far as the Penguins are concerned, they're just getting started.

Having ended a 10-year FCS playoff drought with a national runner-up finish last season, YSU appears primed to become a consistent winner under third-year coach Bo Pelini, whose squad finished 12-4 and with a seven-win improvement from his first season in 2015.

The Penguins had a quick turnaround this year with winter conditioning in late January and spring practice beginning Feb. 27. Friday night's scheduled spring game has been canceled, however, due to an inclement weather forecast.

YSU's defense is undergoing significant change because it returns only four starters - two tackles and two linebackers - with the most noticeable losses being standout ends Derek Rivers and Avery Moss, both NFL prospects. Linebacker Armand Dellovade, a second-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection and the team's leading tackler, is one of the mainstays on the unit.

It's a different story on offense, which will have excellent balance and depth.

Senior quarterback Hunter Wells, running back Tevin McCaster and offensive tackle Justin Spencer are among eight returning starters.

YSU's veteran special teams also are expected to be strong, led by place-kicker Zak Kennedy and punter Mark Schuler.

The Penguins will kick off the season Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh.

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