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  Will Notre Dame Transfer Be On The Field At QB For The Penguins?  
  Montgomery VanGorder Comes To Youngstown:   August 24, 2018 Edition  
     After making it all the way to the FCS national championship game two seasons ago, the Youngstown State Penguins fizzled last year, dropping every game the Penguins played in October and falling out of the top-20. The skid ended with an embarrassing 35-0 home loss at the hands of Illinois State.
      The Pens bounced back with three, straight wins to finish the season and open the 2018 campaign on Sat., Sept. 1 at 2:00 p.m. at home against Butler. After a Sept. 8 date with the West Virginia Mountaineers at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Pens come back home on Sept. 15 for a 2:00 p.m. game with Valparaiso.
      Then its on to the meat of the Pens slate in the rugged Missouri Valley Conference. Should YSU fare well early-on in league play, real big contests will be Sat., Nov. 3 when the defending national champ North Dakota State Bison invade Stambaugh Stadium, followed by a Nov. 10 home date against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers.
      Four Penguins have earned pre-season STATS All-American laurels. Tailback Tevin McCaster was a second-team pick while linbacker Armand Dellovade, guard Gavin Wiggins and long snapper Steven Wethli were named to the third team.
      McCaster was a first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection last year while Dellovade and Wiggins earned second-team honors. In 2017, Wethli was an honorable-mention selection. McCaster is also on the Walter Peyton watch list for the 2018 campaign.
      ‘Monty’s Story’
      The Pens open this season with a bit of intrigue. Their starting quarterback for much of the past two season, Hunter Wells, has graduated. Nate Mays, now a junior, has started for YSU as a freshman and sophomore.
      But YSU Head Coach Bo Pelini landed a Notre Dame graduate, and former Georgia All-State prep quarterback Montgomery Van Gorder during the off-season.
      VanGorder spent all four years with the Irish as a backup QB, and as the team’s holder for field goals and extra points for his final 23 games.
      In high school, he helped win back-to-back Georgia Class 3A State Championships as a junior (2012) and senior (2013) when Buford HS went a combined 29-1 over the span, including 15-0 in 2013 and ended the season ranked No. 24 in the nation by USA Today.
      In 2016, VanGorder was tapped in a question about “Name five Notre Dame players you’d want in your traveling band when it all goes down?”
      The #5 pick was VanGorder: “Montgomery VanGorder---Monty, or ‘Gummy’ as he is known to his teammates, does all the little things to help the team. He’s the holder for field goals, helps call in plays from the sideline with the other backup QBs, and is constantly mentioned by teammates as the guy most likely to end up as a coach someday. We need that kind of attention to detail and strategic thinking in our group if we are going to survive. Plus, Montgomery VanGorder is a solid name.
      The Observer, a student-run, daily print and online newspaper serving Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s ran a story about VanGoder in Nov., 2017---
      Although he hasn’t been on the field for many offensive plays during his career, senior quarterback Montgomery VanGorder still plays an important role for Notre Dame. As the main signaler for the offense, VanGorder has been relaying plays in his red visor to the Irish over the past four years.
      When VanGorder first entered Notre Dame in 2014, he was a walk-on quarterback with aspirations of seeing the field in any capacity that he could. Aside from being a signal caller on the sideline, VanGorder has earned his way onto the field as a holder for the Irish. Although it’s been in a smaller role compared to his initial dream of being a starting quarterback for the Irish, VanGorder’s team-first mindset is the reason Brian Kelly has entrusted him with the responsibility of being the team signaler.
      “… [I wanted to] help the football team any way I could as a scout team quarterback, and I worked my way up to be a holder,“ the senior said. ”Obviously, you want to be a starting quarterback, but I mean I came in as a walk-on originally. I always work as hard as I can to get as high on the depth chart as I can. At the same time, I just what to do whatever I can to help us win.
      “[Holding] is something I had set my sights on when I first got here, and getting to do it just gives me another job, and it helps me have a bigger role in victories. I know it gets overlooked every now and then, but every time I get on the field we have the opportunity to put points on the board.”
      VanGorder’s current role as a holder for the Irish is a transition from his freshman year as a scout team quarterback for the Irish. His promotion for the Irish comes with newfound privileges that VanGorder believes has further expanded his mentality of always helping the team.
      “My freshman year when I was on the scout team I didn’t really get to sit in on the meetings like with the game plan … that was something I missed out on,“ VanGorder said. ”As a signaler, you have to be in there because you have to know everyone’s job. You have to know if that’s a motion on this play or if the quarterback needs to be under center or in the shotgun for one play … or just another set of eyes for Brandon [Wimbush], or whoever might be in, to see what the coverage is, things like that. So I get to sit in on the meetings now and see the game plan and sometimes I give input and help the guys when they get on the field.”
      While reflecting on his career at Notre Dame, VanGorder believes that the best part of being a part of the Irish football team is the tradition and legacy that comes with putting on the jersey, in addition to the camaraderie with his teammates.
      “The most important thing to me is my teammates,“ VanGorder said. ”I’ve created a lot of good relationships with those guys in the locker room, and those are some relationships I will carry out in my entire life — just the guys the culture and the atmosphere that we’ve created here its second to none.”
      As a senior signal caller for the Irish, VanGorder has used the lessons he’s learned from previous Notre Dame quarterbacks to take underclassmen under his wing, especially sophomore Ian Book and freshman Avery Davis.
      “When I first got here I was with Everett Golson, and I got to see a lot of quarterbacks come through in my time — him, Malik [Zaire], then DeShone [Kizer]. So I got to pick up on their tendencies, good and bad,“ he said. ”So when you have a guy like Ian come in and a guy like Avery come in, you try to take them under your wing and teach them as much as you know and as much as you can. And you get to see those guys come a long way. Both Ian and Avery have come a long way since they’ve come on campus, and I’m excited to see what they do once I’m gone.“
      “Obviously when I first got here my dad was the defensive coordinator, but I think I was able to build my own path and friendships and being involved things around campus just trying to create a work ethic with the team,” he said.
      The next path for VanGorder isn’t clear yet, but he is determined to continue to make a name for himself. VanGorder will graduate in the spring with a degree in management consulting, but doesn’t envision his future working for a management consulting firm or primarily using his degree for that matter.
      “I wanted to have my major as a fallback plan because it teaches you good leadership skills,” he said. “But I [have] always wanted to be a coach.”
      Whether his first coaching job is a graduate assistant coaching job at Notre Dame or a coaching job in his native state of Georgia, VanGorder will be happy for the opportunity.
      As his final season for the Irish comes to a close, VanGorder is simply grateful for all of his opportunities
      “I just want to say thank you to my teammates, my family, my friends — everyone who’s helped me be successful here and get to where I am today,” VanGorder said.
      “To the freshman coming in and to the freshman now, I just want to say cherish it and embrace it,” he added. “Always work hard and don’t leave anything out there or have any regrets. You never want to look back and think, ‘I could’ve done this or that.’ You just want to give it all you got, and everything will work out for you.”
      At the time, little did VanGorder know he would end up at Youngstown State with one more chance to play college football!
      Grid fans at Notre Dame used social media to proclaim VanGorder was #4 on the bench, but “number one in our hearts.”
      He just could be a big wild card in the Penguins grid fortunes this year.
      What They Say In West Virginia
      The Penguins play Div. I West Virginia in the second game of the season. Two years ago, YSU stayed in the game on a field that measured over 100-degrees, until its secondary caved in during the second half, as the Mountaineers, tied at 14-14, at halftime, pulled away for a 38-21 victory.
      Following is the way WVU sizes-up the Penguins this year (Take it for what it is worth)..
      An upset of the West Virginia Mountaineers didn’t happen but the 2016 YSU Penguins were pretty damn good considering they parlayed their season into a national title run before they lost to #5 James Madison 28-14 in the title game. For the season they beat #23 Illinois State, #21 Northern Iowa, #23 Samford, #2 Jacksonville State, #19 Wofford and #3 Eastern Illinois. But that was 2016. The 2017 Penguins finished 6-5 and didn’t make the playoffs. They did put a helluva scare into Pitt, coming back from a 21-point deficit to force overtime.
       •Ball Throwers: The Penguins are likely to be led by junior quarterback Nathan Mays. Mays played in a total of eight games last year, starting in five of the contests but relinquished the starting position in the last three games after a 35-0 shellacking to #16 Illinois State. Mays threw four touchdowns in those eight games he played in and totaled 905 yards on 66% passing. Mays finished the 2017 season as the leading passer for the Penguins for a team that threw the ball for a grand total of 2,000 yards, after Hunter Wells suffered a shoulder separation that limited him to four starts and six total games.
       •Ball Runners: Tevin McCaster is a workhorse for Bo Pelini and the Penguins. McCaster finished the year with 1,066 yards rushing on only 221 carries for a healthy 4.8 YPC while scoring 13 times. McCaster showed enough in the passing game, catching all of eight passes.
      When the Penguins were able to give McCaster the ball at least 22 times, they were 5-1 in 2017.
      Behind McCaster is another all-purpose threat in Christian Turner (sophomore). Turner combined 997 total yards which means he and McCaster combined for over 2,000 all purpose yards last year. Turner, a freshman in 2017, put up 189 all purpose yards against the Pitt Panthers.
      Running the ball is where Bo Pelini wants to make his money. The Penguins totaled 2700 yards rushing last year behind McCaster, Turner and quarterback Mays. Mays himself proved to be adept at running the ball with 443 yards and five touchdowns. Combined, the Penguins have three guys who scored 18 times on the ground.
       •Pass Catchers: As is almost always the case, a mobile quarterback is not the best passer. Since no quarterback broke 1,000 yards last year, expecting to have a receiver break 1,000 is a pipe dream. Add in that the Penguins have been and are a run-first team under Pelini, seeing the receivers stats isn’t that surprising, however seeing no one break 600 yards is a bit underwhelming. Now comes the scary news for YSU, they lose four of their top five receivers from last year. Receivers Damoun Patterson (now with Pittsbrgh Steelers) and Alvin Bailey, along with tight end Kevin Rader (now with Green Bay Packers) all graduated. Junior Stefan Derrick tried his hand at the NFL. That leaves running back Christian Turner’s 272 yards as the leading returning receiver. Redshirt sophomore Samuel St. Surin and Ryan Emans will be asked to provide production at a young age. We will know rather quickly if they are up to the challenge or if they will waddle their way out.
       •Hog Mollies: Unfortunately, Youngstown State is a FCS program and as such, does not receive the same coverage as the FBS teams. Therefore I have absolutely no data to really delve deep into and let you know about the offensive line. I can’t tell if they were good, bad or indifferent last year. I can’t tell you who returns and who graduated. So assume I said something funny sarcastic comments and move to the next section.
       •Trench Monsters: Senior Johnson Louigene returns at end for the Penguins after collecting 39 tackles and a pair of sacks last year, but his partner-in-crime Faszon Chapman, who led the team with five sacks along with Donald Mesier, who added three sacks, graduated leaving Sherif Bynum, who only played in five games last year to step up and improve on his four tackles.
      On the interior senior Savon Smith’s 27 tackles but no sacks will help man the run defense along with senior Lamont Ragland’s 18 tackles but sophomore Justin Metzel (Boardman HS) who only appeared in two games last year will have to help produce or the Penguins could be in trouble along the interior. Depth along the defensive line is thin with experience; like the Mountaineers the front line starters are solid but behind them could be trouble.
       •Tackle Makers: Senior Armand Dellovade returns to help man the middle of the field for the Penguins. Dellovade is the leading returning tackler after making 76 stops and collecting three sacks along the way. The Penguins will be without Lee Wright who brought down ball carriers 74 times last year. Junior Cash Mitchell appeared in all 11 games last year starting 3. In those 11 games he had 19 tackles and should be in line for a starting spot. Defensively, the Penguins allowed 173 yards per game on the ground on a 4.5 YPC average.
      The problem for the Penguins was once teams got inside the redzone they almost always scored, converting 28 of 32 chances (88%) into scores. Pelini’s group however only scored 33 times in 41 chances (80%) when they got inside the redzone.
       •Pass Defenders: Partly because teams were able to run the ball effectively, partly because of personnel, and partly because they played the Pitt Panthers, the Penguins pass defense last year was very good. YSU allowed only 143 yards per game and held opponents to under 50% completion as a group. The leader for the Penguins was free safety Jalyn Powell who graduated last year. Powell led the team in stops both total and solo. Powell also had the lone interception return last year, taking his pick for 33 yards. The other four interceptions were stopped where they were picked.
      Junior free safety Kyle Hegedus will be tasked with leading the secondary and should be up to the task as he was third on the team with 74 tackles last year along with an interception, forced fumble, blocked kick and fumble recovery. The Penguins best cover corner Billy Nicoe-Hurst leaves the team after defending nine passes but cornerback Bryce Gibson defending seven passes in his freshman season last year returns to help lock down receivers in the back end of the field.
       •Specialty Teams: Senior placekicker Zak Kennedy (Cardinal Mooney) returns after making 8 of his 13 attempts last year and missing every kick over 40 yards.
      Junior punter Mark Schuler also returns after punting 41 times last year. Teams averaged almost 12 yards per punt return against the Penguins last year but never broke one for a touchdown. On the return side, sophomore Jake Coates is set to return punts after returning 19 last year for almost five yards per punt. He and teammate Christian Turner will return kicks and hopefully will be able to do better than the 20 yards per kick return they averaged last year.
      Source: 2018 West Virginia Football Preview, by WVUnite
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