By JOE SCALZO
When Purdue asked Najee Tyler to make a switch, he decided to make a change.
Tyler, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound quarterback, will transfer to Youngstown State, bolstering the Penguins at the game’s most important position — and the one with the most question marks entering the fall.
He will sign with the team today and have four years of eligibility remaining after redshirting last fall with the Boilermakers.
“When I came for my visit, it just felt like family right from the start,” Tyler said by phone on Monday afternoon. “The players, the coaches, the tradition of Youngstown football itself and Youngstown the town, I liked all of it.
“It felt like a real football town.”
Tyler was the Brooklyn (N.Y.) player of the year at Xaverian High after completing 160 of 306 passes (.523) for 2,300 yards with 23 touchdowns and six interceptions as senior. But at Purdue, he would have been stuck behind sophomore QB Robert Marve, who started 11 games at the University of Miami in 2008.
The Boilermakers wanted Tyler to switch to H-back or tight end but his heart was under center.
“In my point of view, I’m a quarterback,” he said. “I had a real good experience at Purdue competing at a big-time program but we had a kid who had some time under his belt [at QB] and it didn’t work out for me.”
At YSU, Tyler will compete for the starting job with junior Marc Kanetsky and redshirt freshman Kurt Hess, who were neck-and-neck for the No. 1 position during spring practice. Redshirt freshman Gannon Hulea was the No. 3 quarterback after true freshman Meiko Locksley left the team midway through spring practice.
Kanetsky is the only quarterback on the roster with college experience, having started one game last fall. Hempfield Area (Pa.) High QB Dante Nania, who will be a senior this fall, verbally committed to the Penguins last week.
Because YSU competes in the Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA), Tyler is eligible to play right away. He would have had to sit out a season if he transferred to a Football Bowl Subdivision school (I-A).
“That was one of the big factors,” said Tyler, who plans to enroll a few days after July 4.
Tyler didn’t know much about YSU before he made the decision to transfer but was quickly impressed by the school’s tradition and its facilities.
“After talking to my high school coach and a lot of different people who know a lot about college football, I realized this is where I wanted to be,” said Tyler, who also liked that it’s only about 61/2 hours from home. “I mean Youngstown itself, not just the university. You look at all the coaches that have come out of Youngstown and the tradition of Youngstown.
“Then you look at the football program — they compete at a very high level.”