Coach Doug Phillips Ignites Triumph: Youngstown State Football’s Remarkable Advancement

Coach Phillips fosters discipline and excellence, building on Tressel's foundation for a strong and dedicated Youngstown State football program.

Youngstown State's Head Coach Doug Phillips leading the team from the locker rooms onto the field
Source: Youngstown State Athletics - Dave Dermer

Youngstown, OH. — Under Doug Phillips, the football program at YSU has advanced significantly with high standards and a brand of football that Jim Tressel emphasized during his reign at YSU. In his first season as the head coach, Doug Phillips was thrown into a disarrayed organization that lacked the toughness and physicality that Youngstown State had always been known for. The locker room also appeared to be divided and multiple players were not invested in the program that had once made the city of Youngstown proud. Doug Phillips understood that there was an abundance of work that needed to be done and he laid out a plan to progress the program over time.

Throughout the course of his first season, the Penguins struggled to find the win column and were missing multiple key pieces due to a poor coaching job before the arrival of coach Phillips. Many YSU fans recognized this and knew that it would take some time for Doug Phillips to reverse the trend of the program. What stood out to many YSU fans during the spring season was the fight the Penguins were showcasing each and every week. Multiple ranked teams found it challenging to push past the Penguins and couldn’t seem to pull away until late in games. This was especially evident when YSU almost managed to upset SDSU, a team that would finish as a national title finalist that same season. While the record of 1-6 wasn’t pretty, it set the foundation for Doug Phillips and provided some momentum heading into the fall campaign.

Before YSU fans knew it, the next football season had arrived and would open with a resilient opponent in UIW. In the eyes of a multitude of YSU fans, UIW could potentially be the signature win Doug Phillips and the program required to build closer to national relevance. Looking back on this game, the assumptions made by many supporters of the Penguins would prove to be accurate. YSU defeated UIW 44-41 in what was an absolute thriller of a game.

After defeating UIW, the 2021 fall season would prove to be a bumpy road for YSU as the Penguins finished the season 3-7 and couldn’t find a way to stack wins. However, YSU did find a way to beat three very talented teams that would all punch their ticket to the FCS playoffs. Even though the win total wasn’t impressive, the improvement shown from the spring to the fall was significant and something that was noted by alumni and others who supported the program.

After two short seasons, Doug Phillips finally had a full offseason to implement the players he wanted in his program and add assistants that possessed great experience at their previous schools. Doug Phillips trucked through the offseason and convinced numerous talented high school recruits to join his program. Coach Phillips also conversed with president Jim Tressel and learned essential coaching qualities that would help him improve the way he managed games. The weight program became the number one priority in the offseason and Doug Phillips watched his players continue to get stronger each and every day.

When the 2022 football season arrived, Doug Phillips was prepared to make a statement. YSU finished the season with an impressive 7-4 record and many victories that swayed YSU supporters to pay closer attention to the football program. Although YSU wasn’t able to sneak into the playoff field, media members around the country realized that Doug Phillips was building something special in Youngstown.

Fast forward to 2023 and YSU has earned a playoff bid for the first time since the 2016 season. Doug Phillips has done a phenomenal job at YSU and appears to have built a consistent winner, a key element that has been missing since the departure of legendary Jim Tressel. Without a doubt, there is still a ton of work that needs to be done and the program has yet to get back to national title standards. Nonetheless, the work Doug Phillips has put into the program and the high standards that have been set are very impressive. Hopefully, YSU will continue to consistently win games under coach Phillips and build towards the ultimate goal of securing a national title. The story of Doug Phillips and the YSU football program will be intriguing to watch the next couple of years!