For Fresno State quarterback Chason Virgil the to-do list coming out of a 2016 season that did not go well included shoulder surgery and getting stronger and more physical to better absorb the punishment at his position. Those two things, of course, do not go together.
It’s one, then work on the other. But Virgil said on Monday after the first of the Bulldogs’ 15 spring practices that he did not feel all that far behind physically. He threw the football with some zip – good for him since he’s in a more genuine competition for the starting job now than he ever has been with JC transfer Jorge Reyna, redshirt freshman James Quentin Davis and senior Christian Rossi.
Fresno State averaged just 6.3 yards per pass play last season, ranking last in the Mountain West Conference. But that mark is the highest for the Bulldogs since Derek Carr was firing footballs to Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper in 2013 at 7.6 yards per play. It was 5.3 yards per attempt in 2015 and 5.9 in ’14.
“When I first came back I was real leg heavy every day, trying to do legs as much as possible and get my legs stronger,” Virgil said. “But they started working me back into doing upper body. I’m definitely not full strength and as strong as I want to be, but it was definitely a good offseason for me.
“I’ve just been working with (trainer Craig Tweedy) and his staff and they’ve really pushed me a lot during this rehab session that I’ve been going through. It’s all paying off and so I’m thankful for them pushing me and helped me get back.”
Virgil can make up lost ground during the summer – “That’s all you can do,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “He’s not going to take any hits when it gets to be real football, unless it’s the second half of practices after spring break. We’ll see how that goes.”
The Bulldogs’ players all have work to do with the offense, which will be a moving target as more is added through the spring.
The big thing for us is just staying focused and not getting down on ourselves too early, not doubting the system, sticking with it and sticking with the process, trusting our coaches and we should be fine.
Fresno State quarterback Chason Virgil
It is the third offensive system in three years for Virgil and many other Bulldogs. Fresno State struggled last season in putting up only 17.7 points per game, ranking last in the Mountain West Conference and 125th of 128 in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Virgil, who played in the first 10 games, attempted more passes per game than any quarterback in the conference (32.2), but working behind poor pass protection ranked last among nine qualifiers in completion percentage (51.6), yards per attempt (6.3) and passing efficiency rating (111.38).
“We’re just all trying to work through it and be productive in it as much as possible,” Virgil said. “We know it’s not going to be easy. The first couple of days are definitely going to be hard, but we all just pride ourselves on trying to make it look as good as possible. The big thing for us is just staying focused and not getting down on ourselves too early, not doubting the system, sticking with it and sticking with the process, trusting our coaches and we should be fine.
“The concepts are really not different from what we ran before, it’s really just the terminology and some of the reads. But as far as that, it’s really the same stuff we’ve run. We have to dive deeper into as we go, add more stuff, and I think then we’ll be able to see what the real difference is. For right now, it’s not that much different.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Of Fresno State’s 15 spring practices, two will be open to the general public:
Saturday, April 22 (practice No. 11): 10:35 a.m.-12:50 p.m.
Saturday, April 29 (practice No. 15): Spring Preview, 10:35 a.m.-12:50 p.m.
Of note: The Bulldogs’ season opener is Sept. 2 against Incarnate Word at Bulldog Stadium, time TBA