You can’t really look into Ohio high school football without noticing the dominance of the Midwest Athletic Conference. The conference has won 35 state football championships since 1989, including multiple state titles in 23 of the last 27 seasons. It has gotten to the point that the teams who emerge from that conference each year and make the playoffs are pretty much assumed to be near locks to be playing in the state title game a few weeks later.
The MAC is a small-school conference, filled with farming communities such as Marion Local (8 state titles in the last 15 seasons), St. Henry (7 titles since 1990), as well as Versailles, Delphos' St John’s, and Coldwater (six titles each). Bengals quarterback Keith Wenning is from one of these small-town football juggernauts, the Cavaliers of Coldwater, Ohio.
After setting various school and championship game passing records in high school, Wenning ended up playing college ball in another MAC conference, this time, the Mid-American Conference as a member of the Ball State football team. In his freshman season, Wenning became the Cardinals’ starting quarterback, which is a role he held all four years in Muncie, Indiana.
Wenning had a productive career at Ball State, throwing for 11,400 career yards and 92 touchdowns, which is the 32nd highest total in FBS history.
Wenning was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2014 NFL Draft, 172 spots after Johnny Manziel, and 30 spots after AJ McCarron. After spending his rookie season on the Ravens, Baltimore cut Wenning in May 2015, at which point the Bengals signed him to their offseason roster. Wenning went on to make the Bengals practice squad, where he remained until Andy Dalton's thumb injury in Week 14, which forced him onto the 53-man roster for the first time in his young NFL career.
Experience: Entering third NFL season
Weight: 225 pounds
College: Ball State
- $525,000 Cap Hit in 2016
- Exclusive Rights Free Agent after the 2016 NFL season
Why he might improve in 2016
What I remember from watching his game tape when he was entering the 2014 NFL Draft , Wenning throws a nice, catchable ball and was fairly accurate. No one (outside of his family, maybe) envisions him to become the next Tom Brady, a sixth round pick who becomes one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. But, he is a capable backup, if given an opportunity. After two years of practice squad experience, one with the Bengals and one with the Ravens, you'd have to think Wenning has improved since he entered the NFL.
Why he might regress in 2016
One factor working against Wenning is that he is on his third offensive coordinator in three NFL seasons. He spent his first year as a Raven in Gary Kubiak's offense, before spending last year in Hue Jackson’s offense and now this year, the Bengals are turning to Ken Zampese as offensive coordinator. Being a deep backup, his repetitions are always going to be limited, which means he has been forced to continue to learn new offenses with limited opportunities to practice them. Additionally, if the Bengals don't feel Wenning is someone who could be a long-term backup for the team, they may opt to cut him completely rather than keep a spot on the practice squad for him.
Odds of making the roster
With Dalton and McCarron entrenched as the starter and backup quarterbacks, Wenning’s chances of making the 53 man roster are slim to none.. Since the Bengals only carry two quarterbacks on their roster, his only chance of making the roster is based on an unforeseen injury to either Dalton or McCarron. And even then, the Bengals may need someone more experienced. His odds of making the practice squad are much higher. Though, the Bengals could opt to keep a younger player with higher potential on the practice squad instead, whether it's Joe Licata, who's currently on the roster, or a player who will be cut from a different NFL team later this summer.