|Title:||Head Football Coach|
|College:||Kansas State, 1994|
Entering his fourth campaign as Youngstown State's Head Football Coach, Eric Wolford is working harder than ever to make sure of one thing. The Penguins return to the postseason.
In each of his first three campaigns, the program has taken memorable steps to reach that goal. In 2012, YSU earned the school's first-ever win over a BCS program knocking off Pittsburgh. In 2011, the Penguins won at top-ranked North Dakota State beating a the No. 1 team in the regular season for the first time in program history.
His no-shortcuts-approach has benefited the program on the field and in the classroom.
The Penguins won seven games in 2012 for the first time since 2007 while producing it's most Division I wins since 2006. Since Wolford took over in the spring of 2010, the program has maintained its highest average GPA in school history.
The 2012 campaign started with a 31-17 win over Big East member Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. On a rainy evening that those in attendance will never forget the Penguins dominated the Panthers in all phases. YSU never trailed in the contest sparking a wild postgame celebration featuring The Marching Pride, players and fans in a near-empty, but extremely red, Heinz Field.
YSU continued its hot start winning four straight games to open a season for the first time since 2000. The fourth win came over UNI, a team YSU had not defeated since that 2000 campaign. Trailing 35-28 in the fourth quarter, the Penguins rallied scoring two touchdowns and knocking down a potential game-tying touchdown pass on the game's final play.
October's grind featured three road games, which happened to be against the MVFC's playoff representatives and 2013 National Finalist North Dakota State. While not getting many breaks in the month, YSU preservered to win its final three games of the year in November to finish the campaign 7-4.
In 2011, the Penguins, who have won four FCS National Championships, defeated a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time in school history. The Penguins knocked off No. 1 North Dakota State 27-24 on Nov. 12 in the Fargodome. The Bison won the FCS championship with its lone loss coming to the Penguins.
YSU set more than 30 team and game individual and season school records during the campaign. On offense, the Penguins were one of the FCS's top units ranking in the top 15 in 13 categories, including the top 10 in 11.
The offensive unit set school records for total yards per game (458.6), points per game (36.2) and touchdown passes (27). In the 11-game regular season, YSU was the lone FCS program to rush and pass for more than 2,500 yards. The Penguins scored 53 offensive touchdowns and racked up a total of 398 points.
Youngstown State went 6-5 with its four FCS losses coming by a combined 17 points. The Guins were in postseason contention until the final seconds of their final game despite starting just four seniors on both sides of the football. In the opener, YSU trailed Big Ten Legends Division Champion Michigan State by just eight points at halftime and by 15 late in the game.
Owning a 16-17 record through two years is deceiving. Of the 17 losses, YSU has had the lead in 13 of those, including fourth-quarter advantages in seven.
In his first year as the Penguins' head coach, everyone saw the energy and enthusiasm that Wolford has for his hometown squad.
A non-stop worker, Wolford has turned the mindset of the program into playing a hard-nosed, exciting brand of football that YSU fans can be proud of.
In 2010, the Penguins had a then record-setting campaign on offense that saw most marks get topped the next year. YSU averaged 412 yards per contest while averaging 31.3 points per game. During the year, the Guins gained at least 500 yards three times - a first in the program's history. YSU also tied the school record for points in a game and set a school mark for first downs.
During the course of the season, the Penguins had the lead at some point in every game. On Sept. 25, YSU defeated nationally-ranked Southern Illinois. It was the first win over the Salukis since 2006. At Penn State, in Wolford's debut, YSU led 7-3 midway through the second quarter. The touchdown was the first the program had scored in six previous games versus BCS members.
Against nationally-ranked ranked teams, the Guins led Western Illinois, UNI and North Dakota State in the fourth quarter. In a nail-biting season, YSU played six games decided by six points or fewer and five of the Missouri Valley Football Conference losses came by a total of 19 points.
Wolford became just the sixth head coach in the program's history when he was tabbed to the position on Dec. 15, 2009.
A graduate of Ursuline High School who played his home games on Stambaugh Stadium's turf, he built an impressive resume serving as a collegiate assistant for 16 years prior to taking over at YSU. Of those, 12 were spent on the FBS level.
He has a tremendous background working with some of the most reputable names in college football.
As an assistant, he has coached for Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook, Mike Stoops, Darrell Dickey, Dana Dimel, Jim Leavitt and Bill Snyder.
He spent the 2009 season as the running-game coordinator and offensive line coach at South Carolina. The Gamecocks posted a 7-5 mark that year and made an appearance in the PapaJohns.com Bowl against UConn.
USC had four running backs rush for more than 100 yards in a game in 2009 after having just one eclipse the mark in the previous campaign. Of his offensive line, four players made their first career start. Overall, 10 different players started at least one contest up front, while three started at multiple positions.
After joining the staff in January 2009, Wolford helped the Gamecocks land the 13th-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
The 41-year-old Wolford spent two seasons at Illinois (2007-08) with Zook before heading to South Carolina. In his two seasons with the Illini, his lines led the Big Ten Conference in rushing (2007) and passing (2008) yards per game. During his two years, Illinois ranked in the top 20 nationally in recruiting.
Averaging 269.3 yards in the air, the Illini ranked first in the Big Ten in the category and 19th nationally in 2008. The team finished the season second in the conference in total offense with 438.8 yards per contest, which also ranked 19th in the NCAA. Illinois' total yards topped 5,000 for just the fourth time in school history and for the second consecutive year. Three members of the line earned postseason recognition, including Big Ten second-teamer Xavier Fulton, for their performances.
In 2007, Illinois finished with a 9-4 overall mark and represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl following a 6-2 league mark.
His veteran unit led the offense to 3,338 rushing yards, the most in school history, and paved the way for running back Rashard Mendenhall's record-setting season. The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Mendenhall broke school records for rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and total scores in a season.
The offensive line allowed just 16 sacks, a school record and the second-fewest in the Big Ten. Left guard Martin O'Donnell headlined his group, earning Associated Press first-team All-America honors.
Wolford spent three seasons as the offensive line coach at Arizona (2004-06) before heading to Illinois. The Wildcats led the Pac-10 in fewest sacks allowed in his first two seasons. He tutored two All-Pacific-10 performers on the offensive line, including Eben Britton, who also was named a Sporting News All-American in 2006. In addition to his strong coaching skills, Wolford was an integral part of Arizona's back-to-back top-20 recruiting classes in 2005 and 2006.
He spent a very successful year at North Texas in 2003. The Mean Green won nine games as his offensive line paved the way for Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year Patrick Cobbs. Cobbs, who rushed for nearly 1,700 yards, led the NCAA FBS with 152 yards per contest. UNT had two offensive linemen named first-team all-conference.
Wolford enjoyed three-year stints at both Houston and South Florida. While at Houston with Dimel, Wolford coached a number of positions spanning offense, defense and special teams. In 2002, Houston enjoyed a dramatic turnaround, going from a winless season to five victories. During his time in Houston, Wolford coached five all-conference players.
Wolford had the unique experience of coaching in the first three seasons of the South Florida football program, helping to lead the Bulls to two winning seasons as an FCS independent alongside Leavitt.
He began his coaching career at Kansas State where he served as a graduate assistant and worked with the offensive line for Snyder. From there, he spent a year as the offensive line and strength coach at Emporia State.
Wolford was a four-year starter as an offensive guard for the Wildcats, and his teams laid the groundwork for the program's emergence on the national stage. A member of Snyder's first KSU recruiting class, he went on to start a total of 34 games in his career, including 21 at right guard and 13 at left guard.
His senior year, the Wildcats won the school's first bowl game, beating Wyoming in the 1993 Copper Bowl.
He earned a bachelor's degree in 1994 in social sciences with a focus on monetary policy and banking. After college, Wolford signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals before returning to Manhattan to embark on his coaching career.
A 1989 graduate of Ursuline High School, Wolford earned All-Northeast Ohio honors in 1988, in addition to being named the defensive player of the year in the Steel Valley Conference for Coach Dick Angle. He played both offensive and defensive line, helping the Irish to the SVC championship as a senior. In the summer of 2009, he was enshrined into the Ursuline High School Athletics Hall of Fame.
Wolford and his wife, Melinda, have a son, Stone, and a daughter, Marlee. He and his wife created the No Stone Unturned Foundation, to help fight CFC Syndrome (Cardiofaciocutaneous Syndrome), a rare genetic condition affecting around 300 children worldwide, including their son, Stone.