By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State football coach Eric Wolford still has five months to decide on his backup quarterback.
He might need it.
Junior Dante Nania and redshirt freshman Nick Wargo had another up-and-down scrimmage on Saturday, leaving Wolford to wonder whether it will still be an open race entering fall camp.
“It’s up in the air,” he said. “I think at times, depending on what day you’ve been to practice, you see a different guy [step up].”
Kurt Hess has never missed a game due to injury in his three years of starting, so it might be a moot point. But after losing talented backup Patrick Angle to transfer — he’s now at Ohio Northern — the Penguins are as unsettled at that position as any time in Wolford’s tenure.
“They’re doing a good job,” Hess said. “During meeting times, I like to give them some tips from when I’ve thrown picks in the past or screwed up on a certain play, just letting them know if you come out and make a mistake, that’s OK. You’re gonna be in the film room learning from it.”
Nania spent the first seven spring practices at safety, then moved back to quarterback last weekend.
He’s athletic and has a strong arm but sometimes struggles with the cerebral parts of the game, like making pre-snap reads or going through his progressions. He completed 3 of 7 passes for 5 yards in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“Dante Nania can do the things we need him to do,” said Wolford, who likes the running threat Nania provides. “We’d just need to game plan where we ask him to do specific things.”
Wargo, meanwhile, spent last fall as the scout team quarterback, meaning he spent a lot more time mimicking the opponent’s offense than learning YSU’s. Stylistically, he’s very similar to Hess, but he’s still finding his way. He completed just 2 of 7 passes for 38 yards and an interception on Saturday.
“[He’s at] exactly where I was three or four years ago with Wolf and with Coach Montgomery’s system,” Hess said. “It’s hard being a scout team guy in the fall, going off a [play] card every day and learning the other team’s plays, then going out here and learning a brand-new system.”
YSU did sign a quarterback in February, Ricky Davis, who will be a true freshman this summer. Wolford sees no need to bring in anyone else.
“We’re fine,” he said. “It’s a classic example of we had too many good players stockpiled last time. That’s why Patrick Angle’s gone.
“Right now, we’re throwing it [the offense] all at those guys and seeing if they can handle it, but we can really simplify things and make it easier for them.”