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Wagner search is on for a new quarterback (photo gallery)
Next year began for the Wagner College football team on a bright but brisk Friday morning atop Grymes Hill.
The Seahawks are coming off a historic season for the program. Their first Northeast Conference championship was followed by the league’s first FCS playoff win, delivered by Wagner with a 31-20 win over Patriot League champion Colgate at Hameline Field.
They’ll have 15 sessions over the next month — the last the Green & White Game on April 20 — as they get ready to defend their conference title.
“We call it missions,” said coach Walt Hameline, coming off his 32nd season with a new stack of coaching awards added to his resume. “The kids have been doing real well with the offseason weight training program and now we go to our second mission we call it; spring football.
“One thing I can see right out of the box is we’re really young. Defense there’s a lot of new faces and offense there’s some new faces and obviously the guy that’s running the ship there are four guys that are gonna fight that battle. That’ll be the intricate part, seeing who rises to the occasion and gets it down.”
The battle Hameline speaks of is a crucial piece of the spring sessions that may extend into the summer preseason as well. And that is identifying a successor to four-year starting quarterback Nick Doscher.
Doscher put up huge career numbers, ascending to the top of the Wagner charts in total offense and passing yards and grabbing the No. 2 spots in completions and touchdowns.
It was Doscher’s sturdy leadership and his mastery of the offense that laid the foundation for those numbers. Decision-making was his strength, and that was clear by the way he finished his college career on a run of 231 straight passes without an interception that covered the final 12 of Wagner’s 13 games last season.
“We’re not gonna replace that,” said associate head coach Tom Massella, who is taking over as offensive coordinator following Jason Houghtaling’s departure for Cornell. “What he did was, he was a coach out there. The way we did it was an amazing thing. We would ask him to break the huddle with 10 seconds, get everybody lined up and get us in the right play.
“Well now we’re not huddling. Why aren’t we huddling? Because we don’t think our quarterbacks can do what he did from that standpoint. So we’ll control a little bit, and let ‘em get to the line and we’ll manage the clock, without keeping them in the huddle. What he did was pretty special.”
So, who’s next?
Spring practice began Friday with four primary candidates pressing their case — Matt Misley, Kramer Berg, Marshyl Rothman and Chris Andrews.
“The biggest thing is if you could piece ‘em all together, we’d be great,” said Massella. “They’re all good kids, they’re all bright kids. They’re competitors.”
Misley will be a junior in the fall. He’s been in the program since 2010, redshirting his freshman season. Misley started one game for an injured Doscher in 2011, completing 23 of 43 passes for 230 yards against Georgetown. Berg, who transferred to Wagner in January 2012 from Rochester Community & Technical and will be a senior for the 2013 season, was Doscher’s primary backup last fall.
Rothman transferred in from Murray State prior to the 2011 season, sat out that year and was the Seahawks’ top punt returner last season. Chris Andrews is a freshman who redshirted last fall.
Before the Seahawks pick one guy, they’ll likely narrow it down to two.
“We’ll have to make decisions,” said Massella. “You can’t go with four. Four guys can’t get reps. It just doesn’t work. You’re hurting everybody. So we’ll have to narrow it down, probably in the middle of the spring.”
And decisions — smart decisions — are what the coaches are looking for out of their candidates.
“My biggest thing is being able to walk out of here at the end of spring and see who can run the offense,” said Hameline. “Maybe it’s gonna be a guy that’s not the best passer but is able to run our offense and control the game.
“When you look back at our previous quarterback, Doscher, he controlled the football game. And obviously ran the football and did great things. But we didn’t turn the ball over. So management of the game is the key thing for us. Coming out of spring, who’s going to be able to manage a game and get us going in the right direction.”
By Tom Dowd, Staten Island Advance