There was a play late in the Fresno State Bulldogs’ first practice in fall camp where quarterback Zach Kline was moving to his right, on the run, squared up and fired.
Downfield, just outside the right hash marks, one defender was moving to his right and another to his left, creating a very small window for Kline to fit the football, and he did.
Kline got the ball through that opening and to wide out Frank Dalena running a corner route, the result a sizable gain, and while redshirt freshman Chason Virgil has an edge in the quarterback competition with his experience through spring practices, it was made clear Thursday he will face competition at the position that the Bulldogs have not had for some time.
Behind Virgil, there is freshman Quentin Davis, the graduate transfer Kline and junior college transfer Christian Rossi.
“Pure talent-wise, we know what Chason is. But the new three guys that we haven’t seen before, they all have live arms, they’re all athletic,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “They all have I think a really good understanding of what we do. You get them on the move and they can throw the ball well.
The new three guys that we haven’t seen before, they all have live arms, they’re all athletic.
Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter
“I think it’s going to be really interesting the first few weeks of camp having those guys spin through the different groups and see, whether it’s the young guys they’re working with or some of the veteran guys they’re working with. … I think there’s going to be some good competition.”
Just from an arm-talent perspective, they are well ahead of where they were.
The throw by Kline?
“Since I’ve been here, we have not had four arms in camp that look like what we have right now,” DeRuyter said. “Obviously, Derek (Carr) is a special guy, but thank God he didn’t get hurt because there was a drop-off from him to the No. 4 in particular.
“But we have four guys that, like I said, talent-wise can do it and it’s going to be a matter of how quickly do they pick it up and how they lead our guys and make good decisions. I know they’re all eager and anxious and it’s going to be a fun camp.”
They took reps in the same order they did through summer workouts – Virgil, followed by Davis and Kline and with Rossi, who reported for camp, taking his reps fourth in line.
Virgil will take the majority of the reps with the first offense, but DeRuyter said the other three would get opportunities with the Bulldogs’ best on the field.
At the end of the day, the competition drives me.
Bulldogs QB Chason Virgil
“We brought in a couple of new guys, obviously, three new guys,” Virgil said. “Quentin, Zach and Christian all can play at a high level. They’ve showed that and so that just helps me moving forward. At the end of the day, the competition drives me.”
Pads go on for the first time Monday.
Move right in – The Bulldogs added a junior college transfer to the offensive line in Logan Hughes, a four-for-three sophomore who played last season at Victor Valley College.
They wasted no time in taking a look – Hughes, who is 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, got his work in with the No. 2 offense at left tackle.
“We like his athleticism, he has some length to him, and he’s going to get thrown in the fire right away,” DeRuyter said. “We’re going to see what he can do.”
Move right up – A key to the season is the development of the young players, those who played a year ago and those who were taking a redshirt season.
One who stood out: redshirt freshman cornerback Mike Bell, who at 6-3 and 185 pounds has the length and athleticism to be a very tough matchup for opposing receivers, but had an inconsistent first year in the program working on the scout team.
“He was up and down in camp, but we’ve always thought he has a tremendous upside,” DeRuyter said. “When visiting with (strength and conditioning coach Thomas Stallworth) he was really happy with the maturity that Mike showed this summer, the growth that he made and his strength gains.
“You can see it out here in his confidence. When he is dialed-in, he’s a long corner that can make things happen. He can get his hands on guys and he can pick balls off. I’m excited about his growth. Even in the spring, he still had a freshman-mentality mindset. He’s still a redshirt freshman, but he’s a guy that is starting to feel good about himself and the work that he has put in. Hopefully it will convert once we put pads on and get in scrimmages to where he’s playing like he feels right now.”
Et cetera – The No. 1 offense line lined up as it did at the end of spring. From the left tackle across, Christian Cronk, Aaron Mitchell, Jacob Vazquez, Micah St. Andrew and David Patterson. The No. 2 line was Hughes, Ben Northup, Zack Kinninger, Isaiah Trevino and Ryan Popolizio. …
▪ Freshman defensive end Kevin Atkins also had a strong start. Atkins, who was taking his reps with the No. 2 defense opposite JC transfer Austin Vaimili, made two nice plays in knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. Elijah Piper, another freshman defensive end with a chance to make an impact this season, was working with the No. 3 defense.
▪ The Bulldogs received an oral commitment from offensive lineman Jesse Chamberlain from Burbank Burroughs High. Chamberlain was on campus Thursday and took in part of the practice.
▪ Freshman running back Justin Rice sat out the last half of practice with what appeared to be a foot injury. The injury is not thought to be serious, DeRuyter said.
▪ Developing some players at the safety position is a priority in fall camp and they got one, albeit on the first day of practice when the Bulldogs were in helmets and shorts. Senior Alan Wright made a nice play jumping a route and undercutting right end Jared Rice to pick off a pass from Davis.
▪ Running backs coach Dave Ungerer on 5-6 running back Dejonte O’Neal: “He’s just a special guy as far as his dynamic cuts. He can cut on a dime and change direction. He can’t play every down, but we’re definitely going to find a role for him, a package, and get him in there. He’s special when it comes to making guys miss in space.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Fresno State football key dates
Monday, Aug. 8: First day in full pads
Saturday, Aug 13: Scrimmage No. 1 (open to public)
Saturday, Aug. 20: Scrimmage No. 2
Friday, Aug. 26: Scrimmage No. 3
Saturday, Sept. 3: Season opener at Nebraska, 5 p.m. PDT
Home games in CAPS
Sept. 3: at Nebraska, 5 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Sept. 10: SACRAMENTO STATE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17: at Toledo, noon (ESPN3)
Sept. 24: TULSA, 1:30 p.m. (MWN)
Oct. 1: at UNLV, 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 8: at Nevada, TBA (ESPN network TBD)
Oct. 14: SAN DIEGO STATE, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 22: at Utah State, 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 28: AIR FORCE, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Nov. 5: at Colorado State, 12:30 p.m. (ROOT SPORTS/MWN)
Nov. 12: BYE
Nov. 19: HAWAII, 4 p.m.
Nov. 26: SAN JOSE STATE, 12:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Dec. 3: Mountain West Championship, TBA