David White

August 23, 2014

David White: QB no-call says it all for Bulldogs

Nationally ranked USC has Fresno State down for a season-openign play date. And, there is still no starting Fresno State quarterback for the team to stand — or hide — behind.

Quick, name this year's starting Fresno State quarterback.

No, seriously. Name him, already, because we have no idea who to blame or acclaim for what's about to go down at Fresno U.

Nationally ranked USC has the Bulldogs down for a play date Saturday. As in, T-minus six days from now. And, there is still no starting Fresno State quarterback for the team to stand — or hide — behind.

Maybe it's Brian Burrell. Maybe it's Brandon Connette. It may as well be Brian Connette, at this point. If they don't know by now, will it really matter if they know by the Monday news conference of game week?

Does anyone really believe USC's defensive game plan is frozen aghast in unknowing anticipation? Want to buy a bridge while you're at that conclusion?

Fresno State has a quarterback identity problem, which is the worst problem to have when the big idea is to win college football games.

The coaching staff has known for three recruiting classes it needed a viable replacement for mega-arm Derek Carr, whose senior-year departure wasn't exactly an unforeseen event. They've known for almost as long that Life After Derek would begin with the Power 5 likes of USC, Utah and Nebraska on the calendar.

What fallback position did they string together?

A spring competition that was so uninspiring, they delegated one starting candidate -- Myles Carr — to wide receiver, and put the other — Burrell — on virtual equal training camp footing with Connette, who parachuted out of the sky with zero experience in the Fresno State way.

Think about it: Connette didn't arrive until after spring camp was over. He had never been to a single Fresno State practice in his life when players reported for preseason duty. He came in speaking Duke, not Bulldog. The kid is brilliant in the head, but you try learning a foreign playbook in no time, and running it in real time, with a defensive end hanging on your jersey's back nameplate.

And yet, Connette had as much chance to win the starting job as Burrell, who has been here since ever. One month later, Fresno State either still can't decide between Burrell and Connette, or is too embarrassed to publicly own its decision any sooner than it needs to.

Either way, this can't be good.

And those who think there is a competitive advantage to concealing your quarterback's identity, let's be clear: when you've got a quarterback, and you believe in him, you couldn't care less who knows it. They didn't disguise Derek Carr when he was the starter. You all know who USC's quarterback is, no matter how hard you try to forget the Las Vegas Bowl.

There is no surer way to a 1-2 start to the 2014 season, and that requires the assumption that Utah is a gimme even though Utah feels the same way about Fresno State.

Everyone knows Derek Carr was the captain of this ship the past few years. He was the face and unquestioned leader of this program, in voice and in practice. His departure to the NFL left a massive leadership void that needed to be filled, and it needed to be filled by the next quarterback.

Fresno State needed to pick its starting quarterback in the spring, and stick with him through high water. The team needed to know whom to get behind.

The players needed to know the coaching staff believed in their quarterback, so that they could believe in their quarterback, too. Instead, everyone's going to have to wing it against USC, which is no way to beat Tommy Trojan.

If coach Tim DeRuyter was that bent on holding an open competition, he should have closed it halfway through camp and let the team rally behind the winner on the back half of August.

Did he really think one of the quarterbacks was suddenly going to speedboat the other guy given an extra week?

Maybe Brian Burrell or Brandon Connette can pull the team together on a week's notice. That, or USC is about to show everyone the real reason DeRuyter couldn't make up his mind.

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About David White

David White

@bydavidwhite

David White is a former sportswriter for The Fresno Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is pastor of the Porterville Church of God.

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