Brian Burrell took the first snaps at quarterback for Fresno State on Saturday against San Jose State, as he had in eight of the first nine games this season.
The results were promising, much more good than bad. Getting that over the final three games would be better than just one, but the inconsistency with Burrell, redshirt freshman Zack Greenlee and graduate-transfer Brandon Connette all playing to this point in the season has not forced the Bulldogs to alter their recruiting plans.
Coach Tim DeRuyter said Fresno State isn’t looking to sign an older quarterback, a junior college or FBS transfer, in its 2015 class to strengthen or deepen the mix.
“I don’t think so,” DeRuyter said. “I think Brian is making progress. I think Zack has got the talent. We have to develop it. We’ve also got Kilton Anderson, who is being redshirted, who we think has tremendous upside. Were likely to sign just a young guy going forward, but we’ll see. We’ll see how the offense goes and we’ll see how spring camp goes. But right now, we feel good enough that we can develop the guys that we have.”
That development will be crucial, obviously. Fresno State went into its Mountain West game against the Spartans ranked second in the conference in passing attempts with 37.9 per game, but it was ranked only ninth in completion percentage at 55.1% (188 of 341) and passing efficiency rating at 113.45, was tied for 10th with 12 interceptions and was 11th in yards per play at 5.9.
“We just have to grow up,” offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. “Our guys are talented. Maybe I should do a study -- who is having the best year as a first-year starter? And then look at who they’ve played. But I like our guys. I think that Zack hit a rough patch in the game last week (against Wyoming, his first career start), but he’ll be better for it. He’s a competitive guy. I know Brian is a competitive guy.
“I remember being at Utah, Brian Johnson his junior year I think he threw something like 10 interceptions and 11 touchdowns or 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, something like that, and the next year we went undefeated and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.”
With Johnson, it was 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2007 with an efficiency rating of 129.60. The next season, the touchdown-to-interception ratio was 27-9 and his efficiency rating was 149.40.
Schramm also pointed to the improvement made by Derek Carr through his Fresno State career.
Carr, the Bulldogs’ all-time leading passer, completed 62.7% of his passes and had a passing efficiency rating of 144.5 as a sophomore playing in a pro-style offense. By the time he was through, Carr was one of only 19 quarterbacks in history to pass for more than 10,000 career yards with 100 or more touchdowns, had set 27 school records and in two seasons in the Mountain West set 21 conference records.
“The position takes time, and there’s no simulator that you can get in,” Schramm said. “It takes time. You have to feel the heat. You have to get in the game. You have to do all of those things.
“I think we’ll get better. I think we are getting better and we’re going to stay the course with these guys because they know the program, they know the system, they work extremely hard, they’re good kids. There’s a lot happening for those guys. I don’t know if there’s a more pressure position than all of sports than being a quarterback. It’s something you have to continue to work on and get better at.”
The play this season has been inconsistent -- and has been impacted by an inexperienced set of inside and outside receivers. But the Bulldogs feel the tools are there in Burrell, Greenlee and Anderson. They just have to understand better how to use them and then execute.
“We do a lot of self-evaluation, self-scout, all of those things, so probably going in maybe we had a little too much in, I don’t know,” Schramm said. “But we have to continue to get better at every position. The quarterback position gets magnified because you touch the ball on every single play.
“In the overall evaluation, we have to throw the ball better. We don’t have a fullback, we don’t have an on-the-ball tight end type we can line up and run the power. We just have to be more productive throwing the football. It is what it is.”