There's no question Fresno State quarterback Marcus McDade has the physical tools to succeed; Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter was quick to admit as much.
"He's got the measurables," DeRuyter said. "There's no doubt there."
At 6 feet, 3 inches and 214 pounds, McDade looks the role of a budding star and often displays the strongest arm during practices -- sometimes with even more zip and a quicker release than starter Derek Carr.
But through seven spring workouts, along with a year's worth of practices dating back to last year when DeRuyter and his coaching staff took over, McDade has yet to prove he deserves to be Carr's primary backup or the Bulldogs' heir apparent.
So much so, that Fresno State has signed two quarterbacks since the end of last season in junior college transfer Brian Burrell and high-schooler Zack Greenlee. The staff also brought in a quarterback last year in Myles Carr.
McDade knows he didn't do himself much favor by not learning the playbook quickly or reaching out to offensive coordinator Dave Schramm about the difficulties he had in understanding certain concepts, reads and scenarios. He also was recruited by the previous coaching staff, and building rapport with the current staff was rocky in the beginning.
"It was rough for me at the beginning," McDade said Friday. "I didn't have a relationship with Coach Schramm. We didn't know each other. I didn't feel I could ask him questions. I shouldn't have been like that. I should have approached him sooner.
"We have a better relationship now. I'm trying to get better at applying what I learn in the film room to the field."
Still, the staff waits to see signs of consistency, better knowledge of the system and someone who can take care of the football -- from all of their quarterbacks as McDade, Burrell and Myles Carr compete to be the No. 1 backup.
DeRuyter complimented Myles Carr (no relation to Derek Carr) on his performance Friday. Burrell, meanwhile, remains new to the offense. And then, there's McDade, trying to separate himself from the pack and show coaches he isn't the timid, unknowledgeable player from a year ago.
"He's up and down," Schramm said. "Like the other guys, he has his good moments; he has his bad moments. That's natural. Derek Carr took most of the reps since we got here. They haven't got many reps. It's a position that you've got to play to get better at. That's what we're working on this spring.
"The thing that's going to separate them is who can take care of the football and who can handle situations. They all got pretty similar skill sets. Marcus has some more zip. But arm strength doesn't have anything to do with what we're looking for. If you can get the ball out of your hands on time and to the right guys, that's a lot more important."
McDade initially signed twice with the Bulldogs, first in 2010 out of St. Mary's High-Stockton, then out of Hargrave Academy prep school in 2011 (didn't academically qualify, initially). McDade was rated as the 26th-best player in California coming out of high school. But Pat Hill's staff also visioned McDade running a pro-style system and Fresno State used a huddle between plays.
But McDade, who will be a sophomore next season, said he understands DeRuyter's no-huddle, spread offense better now, and he's reached out to Schramm at times for clarification on concepts. He's also turned to Derek Carr for help.
McDade also realizes how important it is to win the primary backup job. The quarterback who serves as the No. 2 likely will have the inside track on becoming the starting quarterback in 2014.
"When Coach brings in another quarterback, I take it as a sign that he's trying to push me, step up to the position," McDade said. "It's been a good process. As a quarterback, as an athlete, you want to compete. I don't mind the competition.
"It's been a process. We're a fast-tempo team, and you've got to think fast and play fast. I'll get there."
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