Fauber: Hornets face QB quandary

Shenandoah University’s quarterback situation has already been solved this season, but the answer didn’t come the way Hornets head coach Scott Yoder would’ve liked.

Justin Neff, who would’ve been participating in his sophomore season with the Hornets this fall, suffered a torn ACL this past winter during what Yoder said was a non-football related activity and won’t play for SU in 2014. Last season, Neff was part of Shenandoah’s two-quarterback system that arose as neither he nor then-junior Drew Ferguson could claim the starting job outright.

Yoder and the Hornets now face a different kind of quarterback conundrum this season.

The bright side is that Ferguson returns to Shenandoah for his senior season this year. The bad news is that when the Hornets broke camp on Wednesday, he was literally the only viable option the team has at quarterback.

Yes, most football teams in any given year establish who will be “the” guy at quarterback early in preseason camp — or at least have a player that they expect to step in and take the reins from the get-go. Shenandoah is at the extreme end of the stick in that regard.

Aside from Ferguson, there are five — yes, five — freshmen listed at quarterback on Shenandoah’s football roster, all brand new to the Hornets’ program. SU can forget about having a healthy quarterback competition this fall — the coaching staff will be too busy trying to groom one of those five freshmen into a capable backup to Ferguson.

“From the selfish, program standpoint it’s disappointing because you wanted this two-quarterback competition where one of them was going to win the job and take us into this year, and that’s not going to happen,” Yoder said earlier this week.

That lack of depth at quarterback could also very likely impact how the Hornets’ offense operates this season.

Last year, Shenandoah’s offense was more multi-dimensional with Ferguson taking the snaps due to his running ability. While Neff was the more efficient passer (102-for-159, 1,054 yards, 8 touchdowns, 2 interceptions), Ferguson was the Hornets’ second leading rusher in 2013, as he carried the ball 66 times for 202 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed 81 of 157 passes for 944 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Ferguson could see a minimized role in Shenandoah’s running game as the coaching staff tries to keep him healthy for the entirety of the 2014 season.

“We’ve got to keep him upright,” Yoder said. “I know he did some good things in the run game and we can’t hamstring us offensively. But we’ve had numerous conversations already about how we’re practicing, how we’re going to protect him, how we’re going to play, play calls. He’s our guy and if he goes down our season drastically changes no matter what happens in preseason camp.”

If Ferguson is used in a lighter capacity in the Hornets’ ground game this season, it will put more pressure on an inexperienced group of running backs to shoulder the load. Last season’s leading rusher, Andrew Smith, has transferred to Division II Shippensburg (Pennsylvania) University, and none of Shenandoah’s returning backs has much varsity experience.

Yoder said the one thing he and his staff can take comfort in regarding the quarterback situation is that offensive coordinator Stan Hodgin has experience in dealing with instances where the starting quarterback is the only true option at the position.

The quarterback situation at Shenandoah will again be something worth keeping an eye on this season, but for much different reasons this time around.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com