Fresno State still does not have any clarity with quarterback Ford Childress and his eligibility this season – it could come in the next day or two, or in the next week or two.
But with the junior transfer catching up with the terminology and protections and everything else there is to navigate within the offense, coach Tim DeRuyter and offensive coordinator Dave Schramm are considering all contingency plans to keep him in competition to play this season.
Sources have said the 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior might not gain eligibility until the first week of September, which would take him out of the Sept. 3 opener against Abilene Christian.
Once into game prep, the Bulldogs would focus the reps on a quarterback or quarterbacks who will play in that game between redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee, redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson or freshman Chason Virgil, all of whom had uneven practices on Tuesday in a double-day session.
But until then, and after, they’re keeping all options open as they go through the season.
“We’re proactively thinking through all of the possibilities,” DeRuyter said. “If we know by Sept. 10 or if it’s Sept. 1, whatever that date is, we’ll know that we can actually have him as part of the competition. Right now, it’s still up in the air. We feel confident that it’s going to get done, but until we have a definitive we won’t know whether we can have him fairly compete for the job.
“Right now, he’s still at a stage where he’s just learning the offense. It’s still a little farfetched – today – but as he learns the offense, then we have to get into that decision, ‘Do you give him reps to compete at a first-team level given that he may or not be eligible for X number of games?’ ”
Young cornerbacks get in mix with Washington out
Cornerback Charles Washington tweaked a groin in practice and was out Tuesday, and that allowed the Bulldogs’ young cornerbacks to get some good reps with the No. 1 defense.
Freshman Mike Bell was in that mix, as was junior college transfer Tyquwan Glass.
“Those reps are great for those guys because they’re going against our good guys. They’re going with the group of starters or second-teamers that are making the right checks, that are helping them get lined up,” DeRuyter said. “It’s always good to have your young guys that aren’t quite so sure around the veteran guys.”
The Bulldogs also have given Daquawn Brown, the transfer from Washington State, some reps. Brown is sitting out this season under NCAA transfer rules, but he definitely brings an energy to the field.
“He’s a fun guy to have at practice,” DeRuyter said. “He brings a ton of energy and I just like the way the guy competes. He wants to win every single snap, and it’s infectious. On defense, you play with emotion. You have a guy like that on the field everyone gets excited to play with him.”
Spotlight on QBs during drills
The Bulldogs ramped up the pressure on the quarterbacks in both double-day sessions, ending the afternoon with a 2-minute drill with the offense needing a score. It was not live – they practiced in full pads in the morning and half pads (helmets and shoulder pads) in the afternoon – but the quarterbacks had to deal with a blitzing defense.
Virgil scattered the ball around a bit, but Greenlee got his unit into the red zone with a nice blitz-beating pass that went to KeeSean Johnson for a gain of 38 yards to the six and then the end zone.
Johnson was working against redshirt freshman corner Anthoula (Tank) Kelly up the left sideline, and just after Greenlee let the ball go he created some separation and made the catch just in bounds.
On the next play, Greenlee scrambled to his way left and ran it in for the score.
Virgil, in his series, missed all four of his passes high to varying degrees.
There was a third-down period in the morning in which Virgil, Childress and Anderson took reps, working third-and-long and third-and-medium situations while taking some heat from the defense.
There were a lot of missed throws there – and some very good coverage by a Bulldogs secondary that continues to improve.
“We feel a lot more aggressive,” cornerback Jamal Ellis said. “We just have the mentality this year that we’re not taking anything from anybody. We’re going to get them before they get us, so we try to be as aggressive every play as possible and see where it falls.”
▪ The Bulldogs went live at the end of their morning practice, and freshman outside linebacker James Bailey turned in one of the better plays of the series, cutting down 243-pound running back Malique Micenheimer on a third-and-short play. One play later, Micenheimer again was hit when barrelling through the line, this time by inside linebacker Jeff Camilli. Camilli, though, took him on higher and the senior running back was able to push the pile forward.
▪ The offense ended up the winner of that competitive period, and the defense got to do a little extra running afterward. On the decisive play, Greenlee hit redshirt freshman Jamire Jordan crossing under a linebacker and the fleet inside receiver turned it into a big play. Safety Dalen Jones was able to track down Jordan and made a touchdown saving tackle, but the damage had been done.
▪ The Bulldogs will hold the first of three fall camp scrimmages Thursday and it will be big for a lot of players. Fresno State had to push a couple of freshman onto the field last year because of a lack of depth, and depending on where they are on the depth chart this fall it could opt to reset an eligibility clock or two with a redshirt year. Outside linebacker Justin Green, who came out of a redshirt year in the seventh game of the season at UNLV to try to add some oomph to the pass rush is among them. Green, who played last season with 183 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame and this fall is at 201 pounds, could use a year of physical development but with his speed could also be one of the Bulldogs’ best four pass rushers off the edge. “We’ve had those discussions,” DeRuyter said. “We’ll examine that as the time comes. I don’t know that we’ll have the luxury over a season to do it. You’d love to be able to redshirt him because a year ago we didn’t anticipate playing him, but with where we were depth-wise we had to. But he is doing some good things off an edge and if he’s one of our best guys were going to use him.” Fresno State played eight true freshmen last season – tight end Chad Olsen, left guard Aaron Mitchell, inside linebackers Xavier Ulutu and Michael Lazarus, cornerback Malcolm Washington, outside linebackers Tobenna Okeke and Green and kicker Kody Kroening.
▪ The scrimmage on Thursday will be open to the public, running from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Bulldog Stadium. Admission is free.
▪ Greenlee, the most experienced of the quarterbacks who went through spring practices, was held out of some team periods the past few days due to a minor quad strain. He is expected to be a full-go in the scrimmage.