Athletic Wess gets shot

By Mike Medina  |   Tuesday, August 08, 2006  |  Comments( 0 )

Cincinnati Bearcats
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Watching West Virginia quarterback Pat White bewilder the University of Cincinnati defense last fall with his passing and athleticism was excruciating for the UC coaching staff but it could be a positive development for the Bearcats in the long run.

White's success might already have provided a boost to UC's David Wess.

Wess, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore from Whitehall Yearling High School in Columbus, is convinced that White's performance inspired UC coach Mark Dantonio to move him back to quarterback, his position in high school, after being tried at safety, running back and wide receiver.

"They saw (White) and were like, 'man, we might have that kind of player in Wess,' " Wess said.

It's true, Dantonio said, that the possibility of taking the field with an athletic quarterback who can run as well as he can pass is tantalizing.

In addition to his painful exposure to White's talents last fall, Dantonio was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State when Troy Smith was developing into a Heisman Trophy candidate.

"An athlete at quarterback sometimes gives you an extra dimension," Dantonio said. "Not to say the other guys aren't athletic, but (Wess) gives you a special kind of guy."

Wess didn't complain last season when he was moved to safety, which he also played in high school, but he never felt comfortable there.

"You know how you can feel if you're into it?" Wess said. "I just wasn't into it. I liked it because I was playing football but I didn't put my heart into it because honestly I didn't like that position. But the coach asked me to play there and I'm going to do whatever my coach asks ..."

An honor roll student in high school, Wess originally signed with Minnesota but fell short of the test scores he needed to qualify academically as a freshman.

Minnesota wouldn't let him enroll as Prop 48, so Wess' high school coach contacted Dantonio to see if he could play at UC.

"He said I could come down here and try," Wess said.

Wess spent only two days at quarterback near the end of spring practice, but he used the summer to familiarize himself with the offense in the hope that he'd be ready for summer camp.

"It comes down to him getting in there with 10 other guys and seeing what he can do execution-wise under the gun," said UC quarterbacks coach Dave Warner. "We like his athleticism. We want to see how he can pick up the pass game more than anything."

Like the UC coaches, Wess saw what White did for West Virginia and dreamed of being afforded the same opportunity at UC.

Now that he has it, he plans to do his best to pry the job away from incumbent starter Dustin Grutza.

"I just think if I do everything the coaches ask of me, the right man will win the job," Wess said. "I'm not saying who will win or if I think I'll get to start. I'm just going to go out there and play every practice like it's a game."

He has a long way to go. Because he lacks Grutza's experience, the odds are against Wess being under center for the Sept. 2 season opener vs. Eastern Kentucky.

But Dantonio isn't ruling out anything.

"It'll be difficult," Dantonio said of the obstacles Wess faces. "It may be a year. It may be a year and a half. But you never know because if you use your ability to improvise, it can be a positive thing."

BY BILL KOCH | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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