The quarterback competition at Fresno State became much clearer Saturday when coach Tim DeRuyter confirmed transfer quarterback Ford Childress could gain eligibility around Aug. 24 rather than Sept. 3.
That would put the junior in line to compete fully for the starting job with redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee, freshman Chason Virgil and redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson.
Just before fall camp opened, it was determined that Childress had to pass two additional classes to transfer and meet NCAA guidelines. But after further review of academic work that had been completed at West Virginia and at Trinity Valley Community College, just one class is required.
It gives us a chance to truly get an evaluation on him knowing that if he takes care of his end of things we’ll have enough time to get him eligible for that first game.
coach Tim DeRuyter
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“It gives us a chance to truly get an evaluation on him knowing that if he takes care of his end of things we’ll have enough time to get him eligible for that first game,” DeRuyter said of the Sept. 3 opener against Abilene Christian.
“He was taking a second class that wasn’t going to be finished until September, so it’s great news and really a testament to the hard work of our academic staff.”
Childress, who began his career at West Virginia and started two games there as a redshirt freshman in 2013, took some reps with the No. 1 offense in team periods during double-day sessions Saturday morning and afternoon. By team rule, he was not available to comment – DeRuyter does not allow players to meet with the media until after they have played in a game.
Greenlee also got work with the first offense, with Virgil taking most of his reps with the twos.
The Bulldogs had been faced with a quandary in determining how many reps they could give Childress as they prepare for Abilene Christian. Had he not been eligible until or after Sept. 3, they would have had to cut short his reps when they went into game prep in order to get the other quarterbacks ready to play and then get him restarted once he gained eligibility.
Now, the competition ramps up with scrimmages Aug. 20 and Aug. 24.
“I think what we’re going to look at, all three of those guys are going to compete on a fairly equal footing,” DeRuyter said. “Obviously, some have more experience. Chason has been here since the spring and Zack has been here a couple of years. But Ford, through his performance, has earned some additional reps so we’ll work him with our first and second group as we go through our team periods.
“With our terminology, he’s learning the language of it, but he does a lot of things naturally for a quarterback in a spread system. He understands the timing. He understands protections. He understands reading coverages and where the ball needs to go and the timing of things. A lot of those things are developed over time. Those are things that some of our younger quarterbacks are maybe working through. He now needs to apply it to our system.”
Greenlee held a lead on Virgil and Anderson coming out of spring practices and likely remains there after performing well in the first fall scrimmage. Virgil, who graduated from high school early to enroll at Fresno State and participate in spring practices, has gained ground, but has struggled with his mechanics and been inconsistent in his throwing this fall.
Anderson, who struggled with ball security issues in the scrimmage, got reps in seven on seven Saturday but not in team periods and has ground to make up.
Childress has work to do within the Bulldogs’ offense as well, but also has an experience edge on the competition.
Greenlee played in three games last season, including a start against Wyoming. He completed 18 of 41 passes (43.9%) for 213 yards and one touchdown. His passing efficiency rating was 95.59.
36 of 63, 421 yards two-game totals for Ford Childress at West Virginia in 2013
Childress had the two games at West Virginia, starts against Georgia State and Maryland. He hit 36 of 63 passes (57.1%) for 421 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. His rating was 119.47.
Virgil, a true freshman, obviously has yet to take a snap in college.
But starting Monday when the Bulldogs return to the practice field, the competition deepens.
‘”You get what you earn,” offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. “We go through this thing every day and grade it every day, grade your accuracy and grade your decisions. People talk all the time about completion percentage, but if you make a bad decision that should be intercepted and it gets tipped up and the guy catches it runs for a touchdown, you get credit for a touchdown pass, but that still was a really bad decision. That’s what we go through when we grade.
“When you’re sitting there watching it, it might look like a good play, but in reality you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do based on, did you flip the protection, based on the coverage, and are you’re looking the right way with the ball? You get what you earn and the guys that keep growing and building, we’ll make our decision from there.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada