Fresno State and the three quarterbacks vying to become its starter this season have had four practices to work on and through the initial installations this spring, to take care of the football, develop a presence and operate the Bulldogs’ spread offense.
There has been some good, some not so good. And the expectations for the first scrimmage of the spring on Monday are fairly modest, as can be expected considering Zack Greenlee is the oldest and most experienced as a redshirt sophomore with all of 41 passes in his college career. Kilton Anderson is a redshirt freshman who last season ran the scout team, and Chason Virgil is a true freshman who graduated early from high school to enroll in time to compete for the job this spring.
“We want to be clean. We want to have a clean practice,” said offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, who tested the quarterbacks in practice on Saturday by pushing tempo in a live practice period run between the 30-yard lines. “We want to take care of the ball. We want to get lined up right. It’s like I just told them, we don’t want to have a bunch of balls on the ground, bad snaps, guys jumping offside, guys misaligned. Even the receivers, they have to understand, they have to line up right in order to get open on a route. If we’re trying to throw a skinny post and you’re lined up too tight, well, that closes the window even more. It’s all those little things. We don’t want to come out here and look sloppy.”
And it all falls to the quarterbacks to make sure those things are happening and to avoid operator error to push the football up the field — and the opportunity should be there, with the defense not at this point throwing a lot of blitzes and disguise in coverage at them.
“They need to take command and that’s one of those things, especially for Kilton and Chason, right now they’re in a mode where they just know what they do,” Schramm said.
“They have to start to learn that it’s important that they know what everybody does, because we have had some times where the back is lined up wrong. Well, you have to fix that. In the game, the coaches aren’t going to be out there yelling at them to line them up right. If we have the receivers in the wrong formation or lined up wrong or whatever, you have to fix that. That comes with reps and time. But those are the things that we want to be clean with on Monday.”
Four practices in, Schramm and coach Tim DeRuyter weigh in on the three quarterbacks:
•Schramm on Greenlee
: “I think Zack is showing a lot more confidence in the offense, just the little things that he’s doing.”
•DeRuyter on Greenlee:
“I think he’s much more comfortable now being the guy in the huddle, where last year I think he still looked at himself as, ‘Hey, I’m just the young guy.’ He looks around now and realizes that he’s not the young guy anymore. That’s the way it is in college football. Guys move on and you have to be ready to step up and stake your claim and I think he’s starting to get more comfortable in that role.”
•Schramm on Anderson:
“Kilton, he has shown he’s a pretty dynamic guy when he pulls the ball and it’s important guys learn that they have to play to their own strengths. Sometimes, you might not get to No. 3 in the progression. The best thing for you to do there might be to pull it, to tuck it and run. Well, if that’s your strength, be who you are.”
•DeRuyter on Anderson:
“Kilton has done a really nice job in our offseason program. He’s put on some good solid weight. Physically, he has the tools. I think he has the right mental attitude about being a quarterback, being a leader, being the guy who is accountable. But he has to get comfortable in making the reads consistently and delivering the ball accurately.”
•Schramm on Virgil:
“I’ve been impressed by how sharp he is and he studies his tail off. He doesn’t make very many in the pass game especially misreads. Now, we haven’t been very accurate to this point, which is going to happen, but he’s absorbing a lot of the offense in a pretty quick manner.”
•DeRuyter on Virgil:
“Chason has played in a spread system (in high school) so he understands the concepts, but he has to understand our terminology and protections and be consistent in that. He has a live arm and I like the confidence that he’s playing with already just getting here. But he still has a long way to go, and for all three quarterbacks the key is going to be consistency. Can you do it down in and down out and not make the mistake that kills you and get the ball to our playmakers?”
Latest on tight ends
Tight end Chad Olsen became a key piece to the Bulldogs’ offense during the season half of his freshman season, catching 13 passes for 150 yards (11.5 ypc) and ranking third on the team with four touchdowns. Kyle Riddering and David Tangipa both took redshirt years, working in the strength and conditioning developmental program to improve their flexibility and mobility as well as strength and speed.
“We’ve done a lot of hip mobility with those guys, hurdle work, trying to get them comfortable bending and putting their bodies in uncomfortable positions and being able to come out of it,” strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese said. “When they come here we do a lot of change-of-direction speed work in the offseason and a lot of it is based on competition, so guys figure it out real quick as far as what they have to do to be able to sink, settle and get out of a cut. The great thing about it is when you see it transfer onto the field, when you see a guy who maybe had some mobility issues, some stiffness issues, be able to go down and put his foot in the ground, come back, catch the ball ... It’s really a testament to the kids and how hard they’ve worked.
“They’ve both done a tremendous job. It’s important to both of those guys. I think that’s a huge part of it, it’s the kid’s desire to want to be good or the kid’s desire to work in the weight room and transfer that onto the field.”