For almost two seasons, Fresno City College had a proven quarterback in Christian Rossi.
That luxury is gone, however, with Rossi now at Fresno State.
The Rams entered fall camp with a quarterback battle between sophomore Anthony Monken, redshirt freshman Andrew Zimmerman and freshman Trey McJunkin (Mission Oak High School in Tulare).
Monken came out ahead and will start for the Rams in their season opener against Sierra College in Rocklin on Saturday. Rams coach Tony Caviglia, however, said he expects Monken and Zimmerman to split time against the Wolverines.
They have strong arms and are identical in a lot of ways.
Fresno City College coach Tony Caviglia on quarterbacks Anthony Monken and Andrew Zimmerman
“They’re pure quarterbacks,” said Caviglia, who needs one win to become the school’s all-time leader. “They’ve been playing quarterback their whole life. They have strong arms and are identical in a lot of ways, and Andrew might have a stronger arm. Anthony may be more active on the run.”
Monken, listed at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, arrived last season from Louisiana-Monroe and backed up Rossi. The Libertyville, Ill., native said he learned a lot from Rossi that he’ll take into this season.
“Christian was a warrior,” he said. “I’ve never seen a guy take that many hits and bounce back like it’s nothing. The very next play, he comes down and delivers a strike. It was a fun year to watch Christian go back there and work. …
“He worked with me a little bit in the spring and helped me get better perfecting my craft. It’s been a blessing to play under someone as good as he is.”
Zimmerman, meanwhile, transferred after redshirting last season at Eastern Washington. He participated in spring football for the Eagles before moving to Fresno and is eager to get on the field.
“I haven’t played in two years, so I’m itching to get out there,” said the 6-foot-2 and 205-pound native of Monroe, Wash. “I’m excited. I’ve never been so ready mentally and physically, and I know once I get in I’m going to make plays.”
That is what offensive coordinator Vince Branstetter hopes for from both quarterbacks.
Monken is going to get the first crack. Hopefully he just relishes in it and plays well.
Fresno City offensive coordinator Vince Branstetter
“I feel good about both guys,” Branstetter said. “We’re going to play two quarterbacks, and it’s not going to be by design: ‘Hey, you got the third series.’ We’re going to see how the game flows. Monken is going to get the first crack. Hopefully he just relishes in it and plays well.”
Fresno City and Sierra played twice last season at Ratcliffe Stadium. The Rams won the season opener 42-41, and the Wolverines won their State Center Bowl matchup 31-28.
Secondary looking to rebound – After a dreadful 2015 for the secondary – allowing 275.4 passing yards per game and intercepting just seven passes all year – the Rams hope to reverse that this season.
Fresno City will get a boost with former Edison star A.J. Greeley manning the nickel position. Sophomore defensive back Cody Watts feels this group is better than last season’s.
“I got that confidence in our defensive backs,” he said. “We’re ready.”
Et cetera – Wide receiver Darian Owens left the Rams after the first day of fall camp and has since enrolled at Marshall. The former Clovis West standout will sit out this season in hopes of qualifying for next season.
▪ Wide receiver Marcus Rose , a redshirt sophomore, is poised to play in his first game since 2013-14 when he helped Clovis North High go 11-3.
▪ Other notable players on the Rams’ roster: outside linebacker Anthony Shepard (Edison), the brother of former Division I player Tee Shepard, and wide receiver Coltin Velasquez of Clovis High.
Saturday’s nonconference games
Shasta at West Hills, 1 p.m.
Fresno City at Sierra, 2 p.m.
Contra Costa at Sequoias, 2 p.m.
Los Medanos at Reedley, 6 p.m.