Fresno State continued to extend and test its young quarterbacks Saturday in its third practice of fall camp, with redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee, redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson, freshman Chason Virgil and junior transfer Ford Childress all taking reps at different points.
Toward the end, when working situational team periods — on third downs and then ending with a 2-minute, end-of-half, wanting-a-touchdown and needing any points they could muster mode — they might have found the best barometer where the position group stands at this early juncture.
Greenlee and Virgil took those reps and produced some wow and some what moments, both obviously ending with different punctuation marks.
It wasn’t perfect, but there was enough on there to teach off of that it worked out well.
coach Tim DeRuyter
“I think for the first time, it wasn’t bad,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Obviously, defensively we don’t have all of our stuff in, but going through the procedure, I think both sides it helped. It wasn’t perfect, but there was enough on there to teach off of that it worked out well.”
In the 2-minute, Greenlee took a bad sack when nose guard Nate Madsen burst through the line. But on the next play, facing a third-and-16, Greenlee came back and made a nice back-shoulder throw up the right sideline to Aaron Peck for a first down.
Two plays later, with time, Greenlee forced and underthrew a pass to Justin Johnson that was almost intercepted by cornerback Jamal Ellis. Greenlee and the Bulldogs settled for a field-goal attempt.
Virgil started well in his series, hitting redshirt freshman Keyan Williams for a 17 yards on the first play and freshman L.J. Reed for 8 on the second. He converted a third-and-9 with a nice inside shot to junior transfer Josiah Blandin to get to the 16. But there, with the 2 minutes winding down and no available receivers, rather than chuck the football out of bounds and take the points from a field goal, he started to scramble, found running back Dustin Garrison, and was fortunate that the graduate transfer from West Virginia could find the sideline before time expired.
Garrison got out of bounds, and the Bulldogs got their three points.
“Not bad, especially Zack,” offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. “He has been here. He knows how we operate. We need to end with a touchdown, that’s what our goal is. We took a sack, which we can’t do, but came back with a nice throw to the boundary. I thought Chason did a nice job again. But there at the end, you have 12 seconds left and you’re in field-goal range, you don’t want to spend a lot of time scrambling around and burning time on the clock, especially now that you’ve checked the ball down. That guy has a chance to get tackled in bounds and we don’t have any timeouts left.
We’re not playing football yet — we’re not tackling, we’re not cut blocking like we would. It’s getting your assignment down and demonstrating that you know what your assignment is, especially at quarterback.
offensive coordinator Dave Schramm
“We have to learn from that. But it was good. I thought it was a good learning deal. We’re not playing football yet — we’re not tackling, we’re not cut blocking like we would. It’s getting your assignment down and demonstrating that you know what your assignment is, especially at quarterback.”
More on Childress
Childress got his reps in 7 on 7 and in team, running from the Bulldogs’ base offense.
Schramm on the transfer quarterback: “We have to bring him along slow. It’s good to have him out here. I know he’s still fighting through all of those eligibility things. It’s just hard to take reps away from some of the other guys that we know we can count on playing. We don’t have an established guy yet and he’s just getting out here, so we just take our time with him and see where he is.
“I like his presence — you can tell he has played before. The terminology and what we do is different obviously from what he did at West Virginia (where he played in 2013), but it’s good to have him out here and good to have him out here and see him start to understand it all.”
Strong safety DeShawn Potts, who is working his way back from a foot injury suffered in the spring, is close to participating in some individual drills.
Potts, who was a quarterback as well as defensive back in high school, is a player the defensive staff wanted to take a long look at in the spring and he was off to a good start before his injury.
“As we recruit safeties, we like guys like Derron (Smith) and Phillip Thomas,” DeRuyter said. “Both those guys were high school quarterbacks.
“They were athletic guys that when they were in their high schools, their coaches obviously saw that athleticism and leadership, and decided to put the ball in their hands every play. From a defensive standpoint, to have a guy in the back end to be your quarterback, that has that big picture view and is used to being a leader, former high school quarterbacks to me are a premium at that position.”
▪ Center Bo Bonnheim did not practice — he tweaked a hamstring in practice Friday. With the senior out, the Bulldogs moved Jacob Vazquez, who had been working at guard with the No. 2 offense, to center with the 1’s.
▪ Tyquwan Glass, the JC transfer cornerback who joined the team Friday, was in practice. He was in helmet and shorts, having missed the first two acclimatization days. But clearly he can make an impact this season. “Ball skills, that’s one of the biggest assets I look for in a defensive back and he possesses that,” DB coach Marcus Woodson said. “He will help in that department because of his ball skills, and not only his interceptions. You watch his tape and he’s going in and creating fumbles. Takeaways can come in different ways, not just interceptions but guys coming in just thinking, ‘Get the ball out.’ He has that knack, something that you can emphasize but you really can’t coach. He has that.”
▪ Glass will add to the competition at the cornerback spots, a position battle that has played out well through three fall practices. Redshirt freshman Anthoula Kelly made a nice play in 7 on 7, squaring off against freshman running back Wesley Hill. Hill caught a pass in the flat and Kelly came up and popped him, knocking the football free. Jamal Ellis also made a nice play in the second 7 on 7 when working third downs, breaking up a pass intended for Peck.
▪ That pass in 3-minute, Virgil to Blandin, highlighted the potential that the transfer wideout from Long Beach City College brings to that outside receivers corps. “Josiah, he’s a big target,” DeRuyter said. “Having those guys makes quarterbacks feel a lot more secure. With the range that guy can catch with, you don’t have to be 100% pinpoint accurate.” Blandin is 6-4 and 214 pounds.
▪ Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Bobby Johnson is taking reps with the No. 2 offense, but his greatest asset to an offensive line that has been in a rebuild mode the past three seasons is the changes to his body. He reported to camp at 265 pounds, and is building back up leaner and stronger than when he came in as a freshman. “He looks a lot different than this time last year,” offensive line coach Cameron Norcross said. “He’s got some athleticism, but he was a little heavy last year. He dropped down to 265 and is getting back up to 275, 280 right now. Once we get him back to 305, he’ll be a good looking football player. He might be a guy who plays at 295 — we’ll see where his athleticism goes based on his frame. Some guys they can hit 305 and be really athletic. Some guys hit 300 and their athleticism drops through the floor. If that happens, well bring him back down. But as long as that strength and everything is how he builds the weight, he’ll be all right.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada