Fresno State Football

Fresno State spring football: Offense slowly putting it together

Fresno State offense shows improvement in second spring scrimmage

Coach Tim DeRuyter, quarterback Chason Virgil and running back Dejonte O'Neal weigh in on the growth Fresno State's offense showed in the team's second scrimmage of 2016 spring camp.
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Coach Tim DeRuyter, quarterback Chason Virgil and running back Dejonte O'Neal weigh in on the growth Fresno State's offense showed in the team's second scrimmage of 2016 spring camp.

Fresno State quarterback Chason Virgil admits learning a new offense has at times felt overwhelming.

And he’s speaking for a number of players.

Knowing new plays. Being aware of the protections.

Making the proper reads. Providing an accurate throw each time.

And doing it at a high level.

It was a lot to take in initially and still is for some.

“When you hear (the coach) talk about (the playbook), I’d kind of look at him like ‘I don’t get that,’ ” Virgil said. “But as you get back on the field and understand why you’re doing certain things, it definitely slows it down.”

New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau noticed it, too.

So entering Friday’s second spring scrimmage, Kiesau limited the number of plays.

The Bulldogs responded with a higher level of production, particularly compared to their first scrimmage when the unit struggled the majority of the day.

There were more downfield completions, improved protection and red-zone drives that turned into touchdowns.

“I try to keep it as simple as possible for the quarterback,” Kiesau said. “Everything’s got to go through the quarterback’s eyes. Everything’s got to be simple for him to make a clean decision in less than three seconds.

“We’ve slowed the installation down to let (Virgil) get settled in. Do the same stuff over and over to get more reps at it, which is helping the whole group.”

Highlights included Virgil’s 24-yard strike to tight end Chad Olsen into a small hole in the middle of the defense – two plays after a sack.

The playbook will come. It’s just as important to establish the mindset of how they handle adversity.

Fresno State offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau

“The biggest difference was in the first scrimmage, when we had some adversity, we didn’t handle it well,” Kiesau said. “When it was going bad, it got worse. This scrimmage, when we had some adversity, we rebounded and responded better.

“The playbook will come. It’s just as important to establish the mindset of how they handle adversity.”

Red-zone efficiency – The offense was at its best during a red-zone drill with the ball spotted at the 12.

On four tries, Fresno State converted four touchdowns.

Virgil found receiver Da’Mari Scott for a touchdown on an out route.

Running back Dejonte O’Neal scampered in for a 12-yard touchdown run.

Running back Dontel James thundered through for a seven-yard score.

And receiver-turned-running back Treyvon Green found the end zone on a two-yard run up the middle.

4 of 4Touchdowns on an equal number of drives for Fresno State during a red-zone drill that started 12 yards from the end zone.

“Any time you get close (to the end zone), the energy level is better,” Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said. “We just executed better.

“I think we were a lot cleaner. Our offense is doing a much better job understanding what we’re trying to do. We’re not putting a whole bunch of new concepts in. We’re getting better at refining the details.”

QB development – Virgil and fellow quarterbacks Kilton Anderson and Ford Childress, who all started at some point last season, each received snaps with the first team Friday.

Virgil continues to display the most consistency, though he still must show more, DeRuyter and Kiesau said, while Anderson and Childress are progressing.

RB Oglesby out, O’Neal stars again – Already thin at running back, the Bulldogs learned redshirt freshman Bryson Oglesby will be out at least until fall camp after knee surgery.

Oglesby went down on a run during the first scrimmage.

Walk-on running back Dejonte O’Neal shined again, scoring the first touchdown of Friday’s scrimmage. He had the only two touchdowns during the first scrimmage of spring camp last week.

In his absence,the 5-foot-7, 166-pound O’Neal has received more reps behind James, the presumed starter.

O’Neal had the only two touchdowns in the first scrimmage and followed with the first TD of the second, racing up the middle from nine yards out during the regular 11-on-11 portion. A walk-on from Bullard, he has shown shiftiness reminiscent of another former Bulldogs back from Fresno, Clifton Smith.

On one play, O’Neal looked as if he was going to get crushed in the backfield. But he bounced to his left to avoid a big hit and broke for a 15-yard run.

The Bulldogs’ top three running backs in 2015 were all seniors. O’Neal, who had 16 carries while playing in four of Fresno State’s 12 games, started 2016 spring camp at slot receiver but returned to his original position because of Oglesby’s injury.

“We’re really happy with Dejonte,” DeRuyter said. “I don’t know if there’s a guy on our team with a bigger heart.

“He’s the kind of guy as a coach you really appreciate his effort every day, takes advantage of his opportunity. He doesn’t have the measurables of some other guys. But he’s an extremely explosive football player who works his tail off.”

Bryant-Jon Anteola: (559) 441-6362, @Banteola_TheBee

Fresno State spring football schedule

After spring break, the Bulldogs return to wrap up spring ball with three practices and the annual Spring Showcase. Here is a look at what remains:

  • March 29: Practice 12, 7:55-10:05 a.m.
  • March 31: Practice 13, 7:55-10:05 a.m.
  • April 1: Practice 14, 8:10-9:35 a.m.
  • April 2: Spring Showcase, 10:30 a.m. (free admission)

Times subject to change

Practices to be held in Bulldog Stadium.

All practices open to Quarterback Club members, scrimmages open to the general public. To join the Quarterback Club, contact club president Kenny Mueller at 559-288-0991 or the Bulldog Foundation at 559-278-7160.