QBs the focus today at YSU scrimmage

It’s only an intersquad scrimmage to conclude the first full week of training camp. No big deal, right?

It is if you’re a quarterback on the Youngstown State football team.

The Penguins’ quarterback competition takes front stage at 10:30 a.m. today as the team holds its first scrimmage, which is closed to the public. A race that started with two – junior Dante Nania and redshirt freshman Ricky Davis – has welcomed a third contender in true freshman Hunter Wells. The 6-foot-5, strong-armed Wells quickly grasped the offensive playbook, and coach Eric Wolford seems 100-percent serious when he says Wells is in the hunt for the job.

With the start of the season just three weeks away, the competition is going to be dwindled down to two after today – whether Wolford admits it or not. Offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery said last week that YSU wants to make a decision on a quarterback after the second week of practice, and that’s unlikely to happen if three players are in the mix.

The tough thing for Wolford and Montgomery is each player has shown steady performances through the first week. Wolford’s response to who has looked the best through five practices was proof: “It depends on what time of day you ask me.”

Nania, the only one of the three with any experience, practiced with the No. 1 offense for much of the first week, and he’s been solid but not spectacular. He has great “escapability” as a scrambler, and his arm is good. The best attribute he has going for him is that, for the most part, he avoids turnovers. That’s key because Wolford and Montgomery both said – several times in fact – that they’re looking for someone to “manage the game.”

Translation: YSU possesses a deep and talented running back corps with three or four players who could start for most other FCS schools, so the quarterback just needs to keep the chains moving and avoid negative plays. The concept with a first-year QB will likely be to control the clock, play good defense (hopefully) and wear teams down. Nania fits that mold – so far.

The problem for Nania is he’s a junior, and Wolford said if the competition is even, he’ll go with the younger quarterback because he’ll be around longer and has more time to develop. That’s why Wells has a shot. He is a prototypical pocket passer, and he possesses average speed if he has to escape the pocket. Furthermore, he’s been fairly calm and collected despite this being his first week engineering a complex offensive system. The fact that the NCAA changed the rules and allowed coaches more time to work with their teams in the offseason appears to have paid dividends in this case. If Wells can continue to be smart with the football and absorb more of the offense, he could shock people and win the job.

Davis is the wild card of the group. He’s a mixture of Wells and Nania – good scrambler and a good arm. His problem, even since the spring, is consistency. He can drop a perfect ball over a receiver’s shoulder on one play, but have a mental breakdown and get sacked in the red zone minutes later. He – more than anyone – needs to perform well today in order to stay in the competition.

It’s unlikely anyone will win the job today, but someone could lose it.