Fresno State will hold a third and final scrimmage in fall camp Monday. The next day, when the film of those 100 or so plays has been scrutinized, it will be 10 days until the season opener against Abilene Christian.
That, of course, is the magic number: 10. Coach Tim DeRuyter and offensive coordinator Dave Schramm have said they would like to settle on a starting quarterback Tuesday so he can begin taking most of the reps in practice and the game plan can be fine-tuned.
It could happen, with redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee slightly ahead of freshman Chason Virgil and junior transfer Ford Childress in the quarterback competition.
But DeRuyter said the Bulldogs likely will play more than one quarterback, at least in the opener. The scenario is reminiscent of last year, when Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette made it difficult to select a starter entering the opener at USC.
I liked our competition this spring and I’ve liked our competition this fall. I think we’re at a better place right now, but the true test is going to be when we line up against Abilene Christian.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter on the search for a starting QB
“You wanted to have more competition there. We didn’t have it,” DeRuyter said of last year’s quarterback situation.
“I liked our competition this spring, and I’ve liked our competition this fall. I think we’re at a better place right now, but the true test is going to be when we line up against Abilene Christian to see who can translate what they’ve done on the practice field with the pressure, being hit and all the noise of a college football game and still lead our team and not panic.
“We don’t get the advantage of having a preseason game. I wish we would, especially in situations like this where you don’t have an established guy. But whoever we start with is going to get a majority of the reps, and we likely will play at least one other quarterback.”
The scrimmage will be very telling for all three quarterbacks, who have yet to find a level of consistency on the practice field. Greenlee, who has the most experience in the Bulldogs’ up-tempo spread offense, might have a lead, but he is not miles ahead.
“The clock is ticking, right, so we’re going to have to make a decision based on what we see,” Schramm said. “We still have one more scrimmage to put them in some more situations and go from there. That’s all we can do is take a look and see where we’re at, what’s the best thing to do from here.
“One of the things that has gone on is I don’t think there has been one guy to this point who has just taken it. I think they’ve all kind of done some good things, and all kind of done some bad things. Our decision at this point is who gives us the best chance to win based on who’s not going to hurt the team, and that’s a maturity thing. They all want to play. They’re all eager and willing. But they have to be productive. It’s a production-oriented business.”
DBs mix it up
The Bulldogs have been pushing competitiveness and aggressiveness with their defensive backs throughout camp, and some quality plays Saturday illustrated that emphasis.
In a one-on-one drill with the cornerbacks challenging the outside receivers off the line of scrimmage, Jamal Ellis closed quickly to break up a pass. On the next rep, Josiah Blandin caught a slant off the line, but Charles Washington stripped the ball from his grasp. On the next one, Malcolm Washington made a nice play to break up a slant to KeeSean Johnson.
I’d feel comfortable putting my job on those guys. They all bust their tails, they all try to do it as you ask them, and they all have a high care factor.
offensive line coach Cameron Norcross on four key players in the interior
Anthoula “Tank” Kelly broke up a pass intended for freshman L.J. Reed. Later, Kelly came back to make a nice play on a deep ball to Da’Mari Scott, again breaking up the play.
Caring means sharing at right guard
The competition at right guard also appears it will go into the season, with junior Jacob Vazquez and redshirt freshman Micah St. Andrew getting reps there.
“I think it’s going to be something through our first couple of games, both are going to play a lot,” offensive-line coach Cameron Norcross said. “I think we have four guys on the inside that I think can really do a good job for us (with left guard Aaron Mitchell and center Bo Bonnheim).
“Last year, we had guys that were backing up, but none that I would have been putting in a situation in a meaningful game, where any of those four guys, I’d feel comfortable putting my job on those guys. They all bust their tails, they all try to do it as you ask them, and they all have a high care factor. They truly care, and it truly matters to them.”
▪ Stratton Brown, getting reps at strong safety with Dalen Jones sidelined by a knee injury, has played well there. He intercepted a pass in a 7-on-7 period, preying on a late throw over the middle by Kilton Anderson.
▪ Virgil made some nice plays in the first 11-on-11 period against the No. 1 defense. He stepped inside a blitz and kept going, sprinting up the middle of the field for a score. Then he hit Darrell Fuery for a long touchdown, though strong safety DeShawn Potts missed a chance to knock down the pass.
▪ Outside linebacker Justin Green, nose guard Nate Madsen and outside linebacker Gabe Newman had sacks in the second team period.
▪ Freshman center Donnie Greene continue to get reps with the No. 2 offense. “We still have a little learning curve with him,” Norcross said. “Assignment-wise, he’s doing a pretty good job. He’s not making a lot of silly mistakes. It’s just putting it all together … typical things as a freshman. You have to set a front, set the protection, set the run play, do all that and then snap the ball. Oftentimes one of those things gets left out, but he has been thrown into the fire, and overall, I’ve been pretty pleased with how he has responded.”
▪ The Bulldogs have Sunday off, returning Monday for the scrimmage and their final morning practice. Classes start Tuesday, with practice scheduled for 3 p.m.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada