How important was Marcus McMaryion to Fresno State? He was the catalyst to 22 wins the past two seasons, two in bowl games, and a Mountain West Conference championship. He also stabilized a position group that had lacked credible depth going back to when Derek Carr was flinging the football all over the field, giving coach Jeff Tedford and his staff time to come up with fixes.
The Bulldogs are not in the same situation they were in going through spring ball in 2014 after Carr finished his Fresno State career, with much better and more depth of talent in the program in senior Jorge Reyna, redshirt sophomore Hunter Raquet and redshirt freshmen Ben Wooldridge and Steven Comstock.
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The four quarterbacks also have diverse skill sets, which will make for an interesting competition this spring and decisions in the fall for Tedford, quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb.
But this spring, that competition is wide open.
“The biggest thing right now is just to get to know them,” said Langsdorf, a former coordinator at Oregon State and Nebraska who last season was a quality control assistant at Oregon. “With practice coming up I’ve seen enough film through cutups to have a little bit of an opinion … We haven’t had much time besides the conditioning workouts. We haven’t really had a lot of instruction.
“It has mostly been in the film room. We get a chance on Monday to be able to put them through the drills and work on some of the fundamentals and techniques that they’ll need. But I really like the group. It’s a willing group that’s ready to go and they’re hungry to get to work.”
Reyna obviously is well ahead – he is the only one to have taken a snap at this level, and when he has had the opportunity he has played well, albeit at the end of blowout games. He hit 8 of 12 passes for 111 yards with one touchdown, and is a threat rushing the football.
“Jorge is a quick reader, can interpret things pretty fast,” Grubb said. “I think that goes back to his Juco years – he did a lot of running and RPO-type stuff, so he was able to make those decisions quickly and can see things pretty well.”
Wooldridge is more of a pro-style pocket passer: “For a freshman he has shown some things already even back to the fall that make him pretty special,” Grubb said.
Comstock has work to do in the passing game, but adds a physical element to a run game that struggled much of 2018. “He has the ability to be a game-changing runner,” Grubb said. “He is a different kind of athlete with the ball in his hands.
“Raquet is a big strong runner, as well. He, like Steven, has to polish his passing game, work on his timing and when the ball is coming out of his hands.”
The competition in the spring will spin off the basics, whether it be the Bulldogs’ play action pass game or certain pass game concepts.
For all four, that is where the tests will come.
“What’s their saturation point? When are they making mental mistakes?” Grubb said. “Are they the guys that are doing the little things on the field, meaning, ‘Hey, the Z’s alignment is off, I need to have him over here, this guy needs to be on (the line of scrimmage), this guy needs to be off. The little things like that I think are cues to when a guy really is coming into his own where a guy can say, ‘OK, I get the whole picture, I know where the fourth guy is coming in my run check or in pass protection, understanding why your slot receiver’s alignment matters to get into a certain window in a pass concept.’
“For those guys, nurturing that and getting them to realize that those are the things that they’re going to have to fix on a Saturday. You don’t want to put it all on their plate, but we have to have them ready for that.”