By Andrew Zuhosky
After getting beaten out in training camp by junior quarterback Dante Nania for the starting job, freshman QB Hunter Wells began the 2014 season as the second stringer on the depth chart.
Wells took his first snaps as a collegiate quarterback after Nania left with an injured ankle during the fourth quarter of the 34-23 win against Duquesne University during the second week of the season.
Wells was officially named the starting quarterback on Oct. 18. Since Wells took over, the football team has won three straight games. Wells has thrown for 1,295 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions at this point in the season.
Wells recalled the day that he was named the starter for the Butler University game.
“You always have to be ready to play as a second string quarterback,” he said. “I had a great game plan from the coaches. The team really picked me up and supported me.”
Youngstown State University wasn’t Wells’ first option. He was looked at by Mid-American Conference programs like Bowling Green University, Akron University, Toledo University and Kent State University, but was never offered a scholarship.
“I had a couple Division II offers from schools,” he said, “but I wanted to play in Division I. I came up here to Youngstown and did my thing at a quarterback camp. Coach [Shane] Montgomery saw me in camp. They said they’d contact me in a few weeks.”
Shane Montgomery, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, has been very impressed with Wells’ performance this season, as well as the way he conducts himself in certain situations.
“Obviously, we knew he had some talent, but for a young freshman like that to come in and play like he has under tough circumstances — I think that says a lot about his mental make up and the way he’s matured in the two months he’s been there,” he said. “He’s been able to handle all the situations and hasn’t gotten rattled at all.”
Montgomery said Wells has settled into his role as team leader.
“Hunter’s the guy who talks the most and the guy everyone looks to, especially in pressure situations,” he said. “He’s been really poised and has been able to handle it well. The kids have rallied around him. I think they’ve seen that he’s a playmaker for us.”
Montgomery said that Wells is his own biggest critic.
“He’s very hard on himself and since I know that, I have a tendency not to get on him very much,” he said. “I think he knows when he does the wrong thing; he’s not some guy you have to get after all the time because he made a mistake. He realizes it and learns from his mistakes.”
Managing the game and maintaining drives is an important trait for quarterbacks. Not throwing interceptions and turning the ball over is critical. Montgomery took a moment to reflect on Wells’ ball security.
“He’s very protective of the football,” he said. “Hunter came from a true spread offense in high school where he wasn’t under center very much. We’ve asked him to get under center and he’s become better with ball security as far as taking care of the ball in a running game. We do a lot of things in a running game he maybe didn’t do in high school. He’s been able to secure the ball and not force things.”
Head coach Eric Wolford recalled how easy of a decision it was to make Wells the starter going forward.
“When you’re around him every day at practice and you watch him just manage the offense, talking to other receivers and running routes and concepts and the way he sees the field — it was pretty easy,” Wolford said. “He repeatedly throws a very good ball and throws to the right people.”