WVSU football hands Hurricane grad keys to offense

Austin Hensley takes over one of the country's most-prolific offenses.

INSTITUTE, W.Va., (WCHS/WVAH) - 2017 brought about a new era for West Virginia State Football. Head coach John Pennington took a lackluster program and turned it into a Mountain East Conference Contender, but with a lot of questions surrounding the 2018 season, Pennington’s Yellow Jackets need a strong spring preseason.

Pennington led WVSU to its first winning season in almost a decade, and what follows a taste of success is consistency and expectation.

“It's good to get that winning season, but it's not anywhere we want to be,” Pennington said. “We don't want to be mediocre or average. We want to do something that's never been done before at West Virginia State. It's a good first step. It's nothing we're overly excited about, but we know it's a step in the right direction.”

The Yellow Jackets had the number one red zone offense the 15 rated offensive output in all of Division 2 Football, but since has lost its captain and all-time passing leader Matt Kinnick to graduation. Now enters a Hurricane High School graduate with some playing experience, Austin Hensley.

"He's stepped up his game,” Pennington said. “Not only on the football field but everywhere. He's a well-rounded young man. It's a whole new offense, we're trying to find out our new identity, and who we are so we're feeling our way around the spring, but excited about the way we're going."

On the side staring Hensley down in practice, the Yellow Jacket defense has plenty to improve. State had one of the worst defenses in the MEC surrendering more than 34 points a game, a point of emphasis for Pennington, but one he's seeing improve.

“Well picked up a lot in the offseason,” Pennington said. “We got Dustin Crouser, the ex-GW player. We've got a couple of other linebackers. Adam Suruy, he's a junior college transfer. We got Joe Stoneman back from a couple of years ago. We're really excited about that linebacker core they've been flying around the last couple days. Really the defense has been dominating the last couple of practices. I know the offense is excited to get out here and get some revenge, and it hasn’t' been like that in a while, but it's good to see. Coach (George) Shehl has done a great job building a great culture over there.”

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