Quarterback coach Brian Wright feels the five candidates are close going into camp.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University quarterback coach Brian Wright either has a very difficult job or a very easy job, depending on how you look at it.
Wright has the job of finding a replacement for the Penguins' four-year starter Jeff Ryan, who graduated this spring.
Wright has five candidates going into Monday's first contract drills at Stambaugh Stadium.
"They all bring something different to the table," Wright said. "They all are very talented. We have to find the one that fits best and ride him to the occasion."
The five candidates coming into practice are senior Colby Street, the only one of the five who has played in a game for the Penguins, freshman red-shirt Aaron Marshall, junior transfer Luis Gonzalez, sophomore Matt Rycraft and senior transfer Justin Green.
Street, the 6-2, 233 pounder from Beallsville High School, started one game for the Penguins in the 2000 season against Illinois State.
In his three years, Street has completed 23 of 45 passes for 398 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
Street had academic problems in the spring and spent most of his time studying to regain athletic eligibility. He only practiced on weekends in the spring.
"It was a situation that I put myself in and I was the only one who could get me out," Street said. "I missed some valuable time on the practice field, but I've also worked very hard over the summer and can't wait to get back in there full-time with my teammates."
Marshall, the 6-3, 204 pounder from Detroit, took advantage of Street's absence in the spring and took most of the snaps with the No. 1 offensive.
"Spring was all right, but it could have been a lot better," said Marshall. "I got a lot of reps in the spring which is a big factor in my favor, but I was real nervous also this spring. Right now, I know a lot more about the offense than I did in the spring and I'm really looking forward to the challenge."
Gonzalez is a 6-2, 192 pounder from Miami. He was at the University of Cincinnati for three seasons, red-shirting one year, but didn't get a whole lot of playing time. He probably has the strongest arm of any of the five candidates.
He only played in three games for the Bearcats the last two seasons and didn't throw a pass in a game.
Gonzalez says that the transition from Cincinnati to Youngstown has been an easy one.
"It helped that I've been here all summer," Gonzalez said. "It has been a pretty easy transition for me so far and I've picked up the offense very quickly. Three years at a D-1 school has helped me a lot."
"I really feel great about this team, we've made a good close bond over the summer and I'm looking forward to getting things going on the field now," Gonzalez said.
Rycraft, a 6-0, 181 pound sophomore, has been at YSU for a year, but was ineligible to participate in football because he didn't meet all the academic requirements.
He's one of the fastest players on the field and rated by head coach Jon Heacock as one of the most versatile athletes on the squad.
Green, a 6-0, 180 pound senior, transferred to YSU from Bethany College a year ago and had to sit out the 2001 season as his transfer year. He played three seasons with the Bison and in his junior year there passed for 463 yards and four touchdowns.
Wright feels that all five candidates are pretty close going into camp.
"Colby is the only one with playing experience here, but he lost some of his edge by missing most of spring practice, but that just put him on the same level with the rest of the candidates," Wright said.
"Marshall is probably the most complete athlete in the bunch as he can do just about everything, but he hasn't had much experience," Wright said. "Gonzalez is impressive with the velocity of his passes."
Scrimmages hold key
"They are all very good athletes and the one who steps up once we begin our scrimmage session and stays standing will probably be the one who gets the job," he said.
The Penguins will hold their first contact drills Monday at 8:30 a.m. when the annual "Hoot 'N holler" drill will be held. Their first jersey scrimmage will be Thursday at 6 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium.