Fresno State Football

Fresno State football post-McMaryion thin at quarterback position. Reason for Tedford to worry?

Jeff Tedford and center of attention at MW media days

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford breaks down a critical position battle in fall camp at Mountain West media days in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 23, 2019. The Bulldogs were picked to win the West Division in a preseason media poll.
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Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford breaks down a critical position battle in fall camp at Mountain West media days in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 23, 2019. The Bulldogs were picked to win the West Division in a preseason media poll.

Fresno State couldn’t find a fourth quarterback in the offseason, certainly not one who fit into its program and plans as well as Marcus McMaryion did for two years, so it will defend its Mountain West Conference football championship with only three scholarship QBs.

Senior Jorge Reyna hits fall camp as the starter.

Redshirt freshman Ben Wooldridge is a solid No. 2 on the depth chart.

Redshirt freshman Steven Comstock is No. 3.

There are two freshman walk-ons, Blaze McKibbin out of Servite-Anaheim and Nate Lamb from Tulare Union.

“We feel good with those guys,” coach Jeff Tedford said at the Mountain West Conference media days. “That’s going to be it.”

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Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford throws to wide receiver Zane Pope during the final spring practice of 2019 at Bulldog Stadium on Saturday, April 13, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

But It’s a tenuous position – Tedford going back to his days at Cal has carried five scholarship QBs, and most FBS programs have four or five.

Tuesday in Las Vegas, other MW coaches took note of the Bulldogs’ situation.

UNLV starts 2019 with four scholarship QBs and one walk-on. But in Tony Sanchez’s first season, 2015, the Rebels had three QBs and “we had a guy get injured,” Sanchez said. (UNLV played No. 2 QB Kurt Palandech in a 31-28 loss at Fresno State that year.)

“That’s a tough situation. Can you do it? Yeah, you can. But it’s hard because if you have one injury it’s tough. Who’s your scout quarterback now? You’re trying to get No. 1 and No. 2 developed. That’s a hard deal. It’s difficult.”

San Jose State has five QBs on scholarship. Spartans coach Brent Brennan said his level of comfort with fewer QBs “depends on the quality of the walk-ons. Do you have a walk-on or two in the program that you trust, that are smart, that can execute your offense at a high level?”

Tedford: Walk-ons ‘impressive’

Tedford said McKibbin and Lamb fit that bill.

“They’re very impressive,” he said. “Their high school tapes are very impressive. That could happen. I don’t feel like our talent level after three guys is way down. I feel like it’s pretty strong, without seeing the live football. Their skill set is really good and they’re good-sized kids, they’re athletic.

“I feel fine about it. Obviously, if you get to that point in a season where you start losing three quarterbacks, four quarterbacks, it’s a pretty uphill battle anyway.”

History lesson

That has happened, and Tedford might remember.

In his first season as a head coach, at Cal in 2002, the Golden Bears knocked out two UCLA quarterbacks in a 17-12 victory over the Bruins.

Senior Cory Paus, the UCLA starter, went down with a broken ankle early in the third quarter. Freshman Drew Olson entered and soon was lost with a separated shoulder.

The Bruins finished the game with another freshman quarterback, John Sciarra, and on his second snap he was sacked and fumbled away the football at the UCLA 25. That turnover set up the Golden Bears’ winning touchdown.

UCLA, with Paus at quarterback, had averaged 437.0 yards and 33.5 points per game.

Standing pat, and good chemistry

Reyna, who was McMaryion’s backup last year, emerged from the spring as the Bulldogs starter, and no one who was in the NCAA transfer portal or at a junior college sparked much curiosity.

“You can’t bury your head in the sand,” Tedford said. “We’ve looked at many guys through the portal. Things come up and you weigh the options – how would that fit?

“So, yes, we’ve done our homework on quite a few guys, but we felt that the best thing that we could do for the stability of our team and the confidence of our team, for the players that we have now, is to just let them keep developing.”

That cannot be discounted, Tedford said.

McMaryion left Oregon State in the summer of 2017 and was immediately eligible at Fresno State. In nearly two full seasons he helped resuscitate the Bulldogs’ program by going 21-4 as a starter with two bowl wins and one conference championship.

Tedford said team chemistry was a big reason for McMaryion’s success.

“We were really fortunate with Marcus, because it’s not always about talent,” Tedford said. “It’s about the chemistry that they bring to the team.

“In my opinion, you always have to take that into consideration. What is the chemistry of the team when someone new at that position comes in? Right now, I think our chemistry is good. I think we have talent at that position and I didn’t feel that it was important to bring someone else in.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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