YSU quarterbacks get a closer look
By BRIAN DZENIS
While Youngstown State is taking things slow with quarterback Nathan Mays, the Penguins are getting some extra looks at their other QBs.
Mays was heathy enough to do some individual drills in the Watson and Tressel Training Site on Monday as the football team resumed spring practice after spring break, but was held out of anything involving the rest of the offense. He also leaves practices early to tend to academic obligations. Mays is recovering from surgery to address the nerve issues in his leg that plagued his 2018 season.
“It give us a chance to see what [Joe Craycraft and Mark Waid] can do. We still try to give Nate some reps,” head coach Bo Pelini said. “We went into these 15 practices thinking we would take it slow with Nate. We want to be sure he’s back at 100 percent before we throw him out there.”
A loose pecking order has been established behind the resting senior. Craycraft, a redshirt-sophomore, saw most of the first-team work on Monday. Waid — the former Girard QB who graduated in December — has appeared to leapfrog redshirt-freshman Jayden Cunningham on the depth chart and saw mostly second-team duties.
“I’m just seeing it. You can watch film all you want, but until you actually get our there and do it and see it in real life, that’s when you really start to grasp it,” Craycraft said. “I’m glad Nate is feeling better, but I want to take as much from these reps as I can.”
Craycraft made his collegiate debut with a cameo appearance at the end of a 42-7 win against Valparaiso last season, but has yet to throw his first career pass. On Monday, Craycraft showed off both his arm and legs, channelling some of the speed that made him a regional finalist in the 200 meter dash at Marion Pleasant.
With Waid, quarterbacks coach Joe Ganz said physically, Ohio’s fourth all-time leader in passing yards has all the tools for FCS football, but there’s more work to be done on the mental side of the game.
“I talk to him a lot and with him, it’s not about how you do when you succeed, but how you do when you fail because it’s going to happen. I never want my guys to be afraid to fail because I know they’ll get picked off at some point,” Ganz said. “There was a little lull [last Thursday] when we scrimmaged and he had a couple bad plays in a row and you can tell he isn’t used to it.
“He’s used to having a lot of success, but how he handles failure is what I’m trying to teach. He isn’t going to be perfect. He’s not going to have the numbers he had in high school, but he can be a really good football player.”
Citing his status as a freshman, YSU declined to make Waid available for an interview. Ganz is also trying to get Waid to embrace the number 24. Waid was initially assigned that number as a homage to former Penguin quarterback Tom Zetts. On the team’s roster, he’s listed as No. 5, but wore No. 18 on Monday.
“He got made fun of on the first day by some of the guys and Zetts was there to ref our practice [Friday before spring break] and he didn’t wear it and I was mad at him,” Ganz said.
Both Ganz and Pelini consider the quarterback job to be open in the fall, but Mays will be given every chance to enter the 2019 season as a starter for the first time in his career.
“He’s earned it. He’s played in big games for us so it’s like he’s the senior who waited his turn, he’s proven it. Is it Nate’s job from day one? No because of what Joe has done in the spring and he has seven more practices to prove what else he can do,” Ganz said. “If he comes in the fall and blows everyone’s doors off, it’s one thing, but it’s Nate’s team and it’s important he knows that.”