The 2019 YSU football season may have been disappointing after the team started off 4-0, and then finished 6-6 (2-6 in MVFC). But there were still some big names who made plays. There were many Youngstown State players to choose from, but these five caught the eyes of improvement to the fans and writers.
Improved Youngstown State Players in 2019
Five of them made the list, so let’s begin and see which five had an outstanding season stats wise, and leadership wise for the Penguins.
5. Joe Alessi
In his first few years with the program, the South Range graduate Joe Alessi was usually known for getting around 11-12 carries on the season.
This year was different as Alessi beat out original starting running back Christian Turner. Alessi proved to be the right choice at running back, playing in 12 games and rushing for a career high 803 yards on the season.
Alessi would also score five touchdowns on the season and had over 100 yards receiving with one touchdown in 2019. His two biggest games running the ball where against the Robert Morris Colonials and the Western Illinois Leathernecks.
In the game against Robert Morris, Alessi accounted for 146 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown in the 45-10 win. Against Western Illinois, he rushed for 156 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns in the 59-14 victory.
After three straight games against the North Dakota State, South Dakota, and Indiana State in which he was held to a total of 43 yards, Alessi would find his rhythm somewhat again in the final game of the season against the Illinois State Redbirds.
In the season finale, he had 18 carries for 103 yards. He did not score a touchdown however. He finishes his career at YSU with 1,355 yards and 12 touchdowns.
4. Kyle Hegedus
Kyle Hegedus was looking for a bounce back season as he missed 2018 with a knee injury. The defensive back out of St. Edwards high school finished his senior season with 64 total tackles (41 being solo), two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Hegedus was not only a good player on the roster this season, but in the classroom too, being named CoSIDA Academic All-American Division one first team. He is the eighth to do this since Steve Zaborsky in 2015.
As a Penguin, he finished with 143 total tackles (91 being solo), three interceptions, and three forced fumbles. He was also the place holder for Zak Kennedy, Grant Gonya, Nate Needham and Colten McFadden.
3. Ma’lik Richmond
When allowed on the football team in 2017, there was controversy following Ma’lik Richmond ever since the famous 2012 Steubenville incident. Petitions were circulated for him to be kicked off and people were going to alleged to be preparing to protest at one point.
However, he stayed. Head coach Bo Pelini let him on the team and so did President Jim Tressel. Richmond played a few games in 2017, getting his first ever tackle against Central Connecticut State.
He would play in 11 games during the 2018 season where he recorded 22 total tackles (four tackles went for a loss) and a forced fumble. Richmond also recorded two and a half sacks.
In 2019, it was finally time to have a breakout season and that’s what happened. Richmond had a fumble that bounced off his hand which was recovered by teammate Cash Mitchell for a touchdown against Samford.
Ma’lik finished this season with 47 total tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in his senior season and was captain for the team.
2. Nathan Mays
Nathan Mays was one of the last players to be apart of that 2016 YSU team that made it to the National Championship in Frisco Texas.
Mays in 2018 was injured a lot of times and ended up being a backup to Montgomery Vangorder. This was Mays first season where he had over 1,000 yards passing and scored four touchdowns through the air.
On the ground, Mays finished with 311 yards on 88 carries and six touchdowns. However, Nathan’s career was over early after a leg injury against the North Dakota State Bison. He was playing through this injury since they played at the UNI-Dome against Northern Iowa.
Mays was not done and put on the uniform one last time against Illinois State. With the help of his teammates, Mays took the last kneel down in the 21-3 victory.
He finished with 990 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground. Through the air, he finished with 2,619 yards and 20 touchdowns. Mays was named MVFC player of the week and was named Academic All-MVFC Honor.
1. Justus Reed
The Florida transfer missed 2018 with an injury and some were wondering how he would bounce back in 2019. In 2017, he played in seven games and was named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer Team, and now, it was comeback time.
Turns out, that Reed had a great season at defensive end. Reed was a leader on and off the field, giving his teammates the confidence they need. In the offseason, he was granted with two more years of eligibility. He finished 2019 with 42 total tackles (30 solo, 12 assists), and 12.5 sacks.
He also had 19 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and two pass break ups. We will have to see if Reed decides to stay at Youngstown State in 2020, it seems likely, but him being a good NFL prospect, may change and he can possibly declare.
There were good players on the Youngstown State Football team this season. These were the few however, that to some, had big impacts whether it would be on the field, in the classroom, or the leadership just around campus in general. Good luck to these players in the future.