Saint Vincent settling on QB position as opener approaches
When Saint Vincent football coach Ron Dolciato spoke at the annual Presidents’ Athletic Conference media day, his main concern was finding a quarterback to run the show.
“We shuffled quarterbacks too much in 2017,” Dolciato said. “I’d like to pick a quarterback and stick with him the entire season.”
Camp ended Saturday for the Bearcats, and Dolciato has two players working behind center.
Saint Vincent started camp with five upperclassmen quarterbacks vying for the starting job -- juniors Michael Navarro and Colt Roe, and sophomores Aaron Austin, Zavion Thompson and Shawn Rutherford, a Cal (Pa.) transfer.
“They all did a pretty good job and if we could mesh them all together we’d have a darn good one,” Dolciato said. “They all worked hard in the offense, and they know they’ll compete to be on the field. I don’t like to move players in and out.”
Well, the battle is down to two: Thompson and Rutherford. That’s who will play when the Bearcats face Ithaca on the road Saturday.
Saint Vincent was picked to finish seventh in the PAC after a 2-8 season.
Navarro and Roe have stepped away from playing, and Austin has moved to wide receiver.
Thompson played in three games as a freshman, completing 14 of 31 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, and Rutherford didn’t see the field in two seasons at Cal.
“Shawn is still earning the offense,” Dolciato said. “He’s bigger than Zavion and has a big arm. Zavion is a complete package, not as big (6-foot, 145 pounds) but can take a hit. I’m comfortable with both.”
Dolciato, a fifth-year coach with a 15-25 mark at Saint Vincent, said Austin’s switch keeps a good athlete in the field.
The Bearcats return 10 starters -- four on offense, six on defense.
The running game also received a boost with sophomore Malik Wells transferring to the program from Robert Morris.
While sophomore Mike Stasko, who rushed for 135 yards last season, will open the year as the starter, Wells will see playing time when he gets healthy.
“Malik got nicked up early in the preseason,” Dolciato said. “So we haven’t seen what he will bring. He looks good. When he’s healthy, he definitely will help.”
Joining returnee Ariel Martinez and Austin at wide receiver include junior Sam Nowicki, sophomore Keith Kalp, freshman Mike Battaglia and junior Shaquille Edmond.
This is a group that shows a lot of promise, according to Dolciato.
The offensive line returns three senior starters -- Cullen Higgins, Dan Simko and Ean Eshelman. Sophomore Colton Belmont has been tabbed at center.
Anchoring the defensive line will be senior tackle Cody Henry, senior Noah Emerick, junior Izaak Gray and sophomore newcomer George Hillen.
Dolciato also is pleased with the return to the program of junior outside linebacker Zack Altieri (Jeannette). He will join a talented group: juniors Ben Davis and Adam Paredes and sophomores Hauns White and Mike Turner Jr.
Senior Cameron Mack, an All-PAC honorable mention pick in 2016, will lead a young secondary.
The player who really excites Dolciato is junior punter Christian Witchey, who is ranked as a top-25 punter in college football at any division. He averaged 41.3 yard per kick last season.