Thomas Jefferson linebacker Preston Zandier commits to Youngstown State

Saturday, May 16, 2020 | 6:32 PM

Not often does a university president get involved in football recruiting, but these are unusual times.

And of course Youngstown State’s president isn’t your usual school administrator. Thomas Jefferson junior Preston Zandier committed Saturday to YSU, two weeks after a video-conference call with new Penguins coach Doug Phillips, his assistants and school president Jim Tressel, a former football coach at YSU and Ohio State.

“We took an unofficial visit over FaceTime where all the coaches took me through campus,” Zandier said. “(Tressel) was my first call. That was pretty cool.”

A 6-foot-2, 200-pound linebacker and wide receiver, Zandier helped Thomas Jefferson win WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A titles in the fall. He ranked third on the team with 22 catches, 409 yards and four touchdowns.

He also had 44 tackles, one interception and recovered a fumble.

Talking with Tressel caught his attention, but Zandier is committed to YSU because of Phillips and his coaching staff, which was hired in February. A former assistant at Cincinnati, Phillips was a graduate assistant under Tressel in 1991 and ’92. He was hired to replace Bo Pelini, who left after five seasons to become defensive coordinator at LSU.

“The new culture they’re bringing in, all the new coaches, I loved every single one of them,” Zandier said.

YSU in mid-April became the first Division I school to offer him. He’ll play outside linebacker. After waiting a month, he was ready to commit, in part because of the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“I don’t have to worry about the decision for my senior season coming up,” said Zandier, adding that he’s optimistic teams will play in the fall. “I talked to my head coach (Bill Cherpak) about (YSU) and I talked with my parents. They really thought it was a good fit for me, as I did, too.”

His brother, Zane, is a linebacker at Virginia.

Youngstown State, which went 6-6 last season, reached the FCS national championship game in January 2017.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at


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