Still little clarity in Penguins’ muddled QB race

By Joe Scalzo


Midway through his 100-yard fumble return in Saturday’s scrimmage, Youngstown State safety Kevin Wilson blew past quarterback Dante Nania, then started weaving around near the 20-yard-line to avoid speedy wideout Michael Wheary.

“I was wiggling,” Wilson said, grinning. “He was on me. I seen it.”

Turns out, Wilson can wiggle out of trouble off the field, too.

In his postgame interview, Wilson was asked who he thought should be YSU’s starting quarterback. His answer took longer than the fumble return.

“Um … it’s a tie between … I wouldn’t say ... all of them are pretty good to me, but the toughest is … I don’t know,” he said. “They all pretty good to me. I can’t say who the toughest is. They all get after it. They all competing.”

So, you’re leaving it up to the coaches?

“Yeah, that’s up to them,” he laughed.

They’re not sure, either.

Saturday’s opening scrimmage at Stambaugh Stadium lasted two hours and seven minutes but it wasn’t enough time to clarify what has become a three-man race to replace Kurt Hess.

Nania, a junior, started the scrimmage with the first team offense and completed 6 of 8 passes for 46 yards, but didn’t have a touchdown, overthrowing a wide-open Jelani Berassa from 40 yards out.

Ricky Davis, a redshirt freshman, was just 1 for 6 for 16 yards (although the completion was a 16-yard touchdown to Andrew Williams) while true freshman Hunter Wells was 5 of 8 for 50 yards and no touchdowns. No one threw an interception, but no one made a convincing case to be the starter, either.

“Going into today, it [the competition] was getting muddier and muddier,” YSU coach Eric Wolford. “We’ll go back and look at the film and really sit down and sleep on it and try to get it down a little bit going into Monday’s practice.

“It’s too hard to split up three guys getting reps with the ones [starters] and twos [backups].”

It was a run-heavy scrimmage, with true freshman Ryan Moore rushing six times for 79 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown through the right side of the line. He went untouched for the first 50 yards, then used a late stiff-arm to finish it off.

“I already knew I was caught [from behind] so I had to give them something,” he said. “Woody [tight end Jacob Wood] had a great block for me, I made the right cut and it was off to the races.”

Freshman Sidney Sandidge added 14 carries for 50 yards and freshman Raekwon Washington had five carries for 15 yards and a 3-yard TD, although he also fumbled at the goal line to set up Wilson’s return.

Overall, YSU ran 41 times for 206 yards, with several quarterback runs not counting in the statistics because they were wearing black non-contact jerseys. Starting RB Martin Ruiz, the reigning Missouri Valley freshman of the year, ran seven times for 10 yards and his banged-up backup, Jody Webb, sat out the scrimmage as a precaution.

“We’re all just competing for a job and just trying to contribute the best we can,” said Moore, when asked if he felt he could break into the running back rotation. “Anybody could get comfortable when you have an offensive line like mine.”

After practicing 10 times over the first nine days of training camp, the Penguins will have their first day off today, then practice twice on Monday. They’ll hold their final scrimmage of the summer next Saturday — scrimmages are only open to family members — and open the season at Illinois on Aug. 30.

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