When it comes to the Saint Francis quarterbacks during spring practice, the message from Coach Kevin Donley is simple.
Don't touch them.
After a rash of injuries at the position a year ago that saw three different signal-callers see action in at least five games, the Cougars are hoping at the very least to get to the fall without a major injury.
The precautions against that include yellow jerseys for the quarterbacks during drills, making them off-limits for defenders.
“We just had that injury bite there last year,” Donley said. “We want to avoid that.”
Senior Josh Miller sits atop the depth chart with a week left in the spring, with the annual Blue and Black Game scheduled for next Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Miller has been hobbled at times the last few years with injuries. He injured an ankle against St. Xavier last season, then re-aggravated the injury in the first-round playoff game against Baker.
He finished the 2012 season throwing for 912 yards, including seven touchdowns against two interceptions and missed the majority of winter conditioning. He appears healthy so far this spring.
“We want to keep him as healthy as possible,” Offensive Coordinator Pat Donley said. “We sure don't want a setback with him through the summer because he is a workaholic and want him to prepare for the season.”
Two other quarterbacks that saw significant playing time a year ago, juniors David Yoder and Wesley Hunsucker, are both members of the Saint Francis baseball team and have missed practice time. In fact, Hunsucker has yet to take a live rep so far on the football field this spring.
Yoder threw for 1,200 yards a season ago, with eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
The missing players has led to a pair of youngsters, sophomores Logan Rehrer of Columbia City and Brad Jarzab, earning plenty of practice time with the Cougars over the last few weeks.
“They have a lot of work to do and are very young and new to the system,” Pat Donley said. “But they are coming along and we have a great problem with the depth we have at the position.”
Despite Miller being atop the depth chart, the Cougars will not balk at bringing in another quarterback if it fits what they are trying to do offensively. Saint Francis hopes to operate at a quicker tempo than in the past and has experienced growing pains early on.
Substituting a quarterback in on certain plays and situations could further confuse opposing defenses, and with the experience Yoder and Hunsucker gained last season, the coaching staff is comfortable inserting either one of them into big games.
“Yoder is very capable and we have some younger guys coming along that are pretty good,” Kevin Donley said. “We just want to keep them all healthy.”