By Dan Hiner
Sports fans are creatures of habit. We love to see consistency, and something as simple as watching the same players suit up game in and game out brings fans solace.
That’s why it hurts me to say the quarterback situation at Youngstown State University could, or should, see a slight modification depending on the outcome of the game on Saturday night.
The Penguins will host #8-ranked South Dakota State University. The Jackrabbits have one of the top defenses in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and will pose a challenge for YSU quarterback Hunter Wells this weekend.
Last season, Wells was considered a godsend for Penguins fans. When Wells took over the starting job, it strengthened the YSU office.
But since his first few starts, Wells has seen a decline in production. Wells scored 14 passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown, but he also committed nine turnovers last season.
Statistically, Wells has been one of the top quarterbacks in the conference, but a couple critical mistakes played a role in YSU’s 31-29 loss to Illinois State University Saturday.
This season, Wells has accumulated 927 passing yards and seven touchdowns, but his three interceptions in the past two games could have been costly. Wells threw an interception on the first drive of the game during YSU’s loss to Illinois State. The interception was returned for a touchdown and put the Penguins behind the eight ball early in the first quarter.
I’m not advocating for the benching of Wells, but a change in offensive philosophy should be considered.
Backup quarterback Ricky Davis is a name most of you don’t know, but he’s someone that could provide a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Davis was a two-star recruit coming out of high school in 2012, but his arm isn’t where it should be for a starting quarterback.
Davis is only a sophomore and his ability to throw the ball could improve under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery. But Davis has one advantage over the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster — his ability to run.
The 6-foot-3-inch 220-pound quarterback’s ability to run with the football from the quarterback position is by far his greatest strength. He could add another quality runner to work alongside running backs Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb. And with the depleted offensive line due to the loss of Trevor Strickland, Davis’ ability to scramble could decrease sack numbers and keep the offense consistently moving in the right direction.
Davis has seen time during his first season and a half at the collegiate level. He’s seen time in certain packages under former YSU head coach Eric Wolford, but he only used him in rushing situations.
Davis’ ability to throw has improved over the summer. Recently, he played in the second half of the Penguins’ 31-3 win over St. Francis University on Sept. 19. Davis only attempted two passes, and his only completion to this point of the season was good for 21 yards. He also carried the ball four times for 32 yards.
Again, I’m not calling for Wells to lose his starting job, but the addition of Davis to take a number of snaps each game could bring a breath of fresh air to an offense that will need to produce heading into the second half of the season.
Penguins fans watching two quarterbacks taking snaps under center could be a discouraging sight because we’re used to seeing Wells consistently at quarterback, but if Wells continues to turn the ball over, Davis could provide a consistent threat and a consistent offensive weapon.