Entering 2014, Shane Montgomery faces a big challenge – make Youngstown State’s lethal offense click. The biggest problem with that plan is that Kurt Hess has graduated and can’t play as a Penguin anymore.
The leading replacements for the newly vacated starting quarterback position are a junior, Dante Nania, and a sophomore, Tanner Gary. Both were backups last year and both played when Hess missed a game-and-a-half with injuries. The games they appeared in were both losses. Nick Wargo and Ricky Davis were also on the Spring roster – lots of competition, lots of choices.
Montgomery is an offensive guru. He can call plays and read defenses from the press box with the best of them. He will be a head coach again within the next few years. Unfortunately, he has his work cut out this season – his fifth with the Penguins. In his first four seasons, Montgomery had Hess – a luxury for any offensive coordinator.
Hess, for the most part, protected the ball and controlled the offense – two of the biggest tasks a quarterback is asked to do. He hit some rough patches, especially in his junior season, but all-in-all, was the heart and soul of the YSU offense.
Nania and Gary may develop, with experience, into the type of signal caller geared to run Montgomery’s offense. Whomever Montgomery and Head Coach Eric Wolford decide on – they will have the luxury of growing into the role after the Illinois opener. The next three YSU games are against Duquesne, Butler, and Saint Francis before heading into league play.
Some of the things the future quarterback will have going for himself will be the return of Jelani Berassa, Nate Adams, Christian Bryan, Michael Wheary, and a full-blown running game with established backs in Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb.
Unfortunately, college athletics end for everyone in the same limited time span of four seasons of eligibility (minus redshirts and medical problems). YSU will have to go through a little growing spell at QB. An improved defense and established base offense should help the new quarterback, whoever wins the job, mature faster.