By Charles Grove
It appears as if the search for a starting quarterback for the Youngstown State football team has been unofficially narrowed from four candidates to two.
Ricky Davis and Hunter Wells were the only two quarterbacks to get reps with the first string on Wednesday while Trent Hosick played exclusively with the second string and Nathan Mays saw no snaps.
“I think we kind of know who’s the top two and who’s the bottom two,” Davis said. “But we’re just worried about ourselves. If you worry about the next guy you’re just going to be as good as him.”
But according to head coach Bo Pelini, nothing is going to be official until likely Sept. 1 against Duquesne to open up the season.
“I think the competition is pretty good,” Pelini said. “We’ll figure it out when we see who walks into the huddle on that first game.”
At least for Hosick, he’d like a little more transparency into what the quarterback situation currently is.
“I’d like to know what’s going on but you can’t think about it,” Hosick said. “As tough as it is you’ve just got to focus on your job.”
While Davis got playing time with the first string throughout the day, Wells got reps with both the first string and a mixture of the second-string offensive line and the first-string skill position players.
“As far as it goes for the team I want to be the guy but whatever gives us the best chance to win, I’m for it,” Wells said. “It’s a coaching decision at the end of the day.”
Davis believes he’s matured more than any of the other three candidates from a year ago, focusing on his passing while trying to maintain his running threat.
“Maturation is something that has been a huge step for me,” Davis said. “I’ve been able to work on my pocket passing and drop backs a lot more while obviously keeping my mobility where it’s at.”
Offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery was unsure if the right approach is to have two quarterbacks seeing significant playing time, but the coaching staff still has not ruled that out entirely.
“We did finish last year playing two quarterbacks,” Montgomery said. “I don’t know if you want to get in the situation where you’re rotating quarterbacks all year but at the same time if guys are deserving to play then you’ve got to be ready.”
But the message to the foursome has been clear.
“I’ve told the guys we’re not ready to do anything yet,” Montgomery said. “Let’s just compete and try to get better.”
A productive practice did have a few ugly moments when tempers flared between the offense and defense. Scuffles have not been uncommon during fall camp, but this one lasted much longer and featured more than a few bravado-filled shoves. Pelini had the team run sprints in the middle of practice to address the situation.
“In the spring it was a one-sided show,” Hosick said. “The defense took care of business against us but now things are getting a little chippy. We’re teammates at the end of the day but you want to see competition.”
Tempers continued to flare a few plays after the sprints when Wells wasn’t happy with the way wide receiver Isiah Scott was running routes. A few choice words were exchanged but another fight didn’t break out.
“It just comes down to someone’s got to step up and take charge,” Wells said. “Obviously there’s more people on this team but I kind of feel like it’s my role to step in since this is my third year now. I feel like it’s my turn to step up and make sure people are held in check.”
One of the bright stars of the practice was wide receiver Damoun Patterson. The junior college transfer, who didn’t arrive at YSU until this summer, had his way with the defense for much of the day, finding space and busting multiple big plays.
“He’s a guy that has a lot of potential,” Montgomery said. “We knew he had talent but the biggest thing was getting [Patterson] used to what we’re doing offensively.”
Davis said the quickness in which Patterson has picked up the playbook will pay dividends as the season nears.
“He’s doing an incredible job,” Davis said. “I would say mentally he went through the roof. He is mentally above some guys that have been here two or three years.”
YSU has practice today through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Stambaugh Stadium before Sunday’s day off. Practice from Aug. 22 onwards is still TBA.