Marcus McMaryion has not been officially announced as Fresno State’s starting quarterback for Saturday night’s Mountain West opener against Nevada.
I’m listening to whispers, reading tea leaves, tracking smoke signals.
But unless something unexpected happened in the 24 hours leading up to kickoff, McMaryion will be the guy breaking the huddle on the Bulldogs’ first offensive play in the season’s most important game.
Why change now? Poor performance by Chason Virgil can’t be the reason. The sophomore has been serviceable over the first three games, especially considering the competition in the last two.
However, there’s still a sense McMaryion can bring a more dynamic, multidimensional element to the offense now that the Bulldogs have reached conference play and will be facing teams closer to their own measure.
As previously stated, I’m not convinced McMaryion is a superior passer to Virgil. (No, Mr. Emailer, one cross-field throw against Incarnate Word does not count more than his 15-game body of work at Oregon State.) On the playing field of every FBS starting quarterback, both would be rated below average.
When my time gets called, it gets called. Hopefully there’s no looking back from there.
Fresno State QB Marcus McMaryion
But there’s no question Fresno State will be more diverse and harder to defend because of McMaryion’s willingness to run. The Bulldogs’ offense contains a fair amount of RPOs (run/pass options), plays where the quarterback decides whether to pass, hand off or run himself based on the positioning and reaction of the defense.
So when a quarterback shows on film that he’s hesitant to run – as Virgil has done during his career – it makes those plays much easier to defend.
(During Fresno State’s sole touchdown drive against No. 1 Alabama, Virgil scooted for 11 yards on third-and-10 on the play before his 26-yard touchdown pass to Derrion Grim. Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer called a QB draw, probably the last thing Alabama expected because of this tendency.)
I’m not sure how much of that comes into play tonight against Nevada, torched for nearly 340 passing yards per game and a 68 percent completion rate.
The Bulldogs have to feel they can exploit that weakness as well, if not first by establishing a traditional running game behind an offensive line that has been one of the season’s early bright spots.
Except it’ll be McMaryion behind center the first time Fresno State goes on offense.
“When my time gets called, it gets called,” the Dinuba native told me a couple weeks ago. “I’m excited. Hopefully there’s no looking back from there.”
Bulldogs coach Jeff Tedford and DeBoer have gone a good job handling the quarterback situation. They’ve shown confidence in Virgil (while not committing to him 100 percent as the starter), praised him for what he’s done well and not been hypercritical of his mistakes.
Players appreciate that show of support, even when they’re watching from the sideline. As was the case for McMaryion when he and I spoke after practice.
“I know the coaches don’t want to turn it into a quarterback carousel when every time a guy makes a mistake he’s looking over his shoulder,” McMaryion said.
“Because that kind of brings an awkwardness to the room and just timidness. They know what’s best for the team. I’m just going to keep doing what I do and hopefully I get to play soon.”
By all indications, soon is now.