David White

David White: His career built on chasing QBs, Tim DeRuyter now graded on performance of one

Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter keeps an eye on players as they run drills during the first day of practice fall camp. The Bulldogs will open the 2015 season against Abilene Christian on Thursday, Sept. 3, at Bulldog Stadium.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter keeps an eye on players as they run drills during the first day of practice fall camp. The Bulldogs will open the 2015 season against Abilene Christian on Thursday, Sept. 3, at Bulldog Stadium. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Tim DeRuyter never played quarterback when he was a kid. He was an outside linebacker who made varsity chasing down quarterbacks, and then a coach who made his bread schooling other madmen to do the same.

So, what cold dish does life – being the jerk-hat that life most often is – serve up DeRuyter? A dinner plate of judgment, not based on the defensive genius he brings to the head coach’s headset at Fresno State, but rather on the performance of his quarterback.

You know. The guy he has forever loved to hate.

“I wasn’t a big fan of quarterbacks when I played,” said DeRuyter, laughing because it’s funny how not funny it is. “And, when we’re on defense, I’m not a big fan of them. But I am a big fan of quarterbacks when we’re on offense.”

DeRuyter has to love his quarterback, even when he doesn’t know which quarterback to love most. Last year, he played whoever was least bad, which is the quickest path to a losing season.

This whirl-a-round, DeRuyter picked Zack Greenlee’s name out of the chin-strapped hat, and you better believe DeRuyter hopes he gets this one right.

Because, without a quarterback, it doesn’t matter how improved his secondary plays, or how quickly his pass rush comes together, or how strong his backers bring the hammer.

A lousy quarterback means too many turnovers, just like last year; and too many three-and-outs, just like last year; and that means his defense ends up wiped out by overexposure to the conditions on the field, just like ... catching on yet?

A lousy quarterback means too many turnovers, just like last year; and too many three-and-outs, just like last year; and that means his defense ends up wiped out by overexposure to the conditions on the field, just like ... catching on yet?

We love how much DeRuyter knows about defensive schemes and blitz packages. But, what does any of that matter if his quarterback can’t give his defense a breather? There isn’t a cornerback or defensive end in the conference who can hold the line for 32 game minutes.

If you got tired of watching Fresno State’s 108th-rated defense in 2014, it’s probably because the unit spent more time on the field than 96 teams in the land. Thank your offense for all that huffing and puffing.

That’s why you had better cross your fingers that Greenlee cuts it as a starting quarterback. And if that wish doesn’t come true, then bank the rest of your lunch money on Chason Virgil or Ford Childress.

The Bulldogs don’t need another Derek Carr, as nice as that would rate. Their defense is good enough to win with the next Paul Pinegar or Tom Brandstater, but only when afforded proper rest and field position between series.

I think it is fair because if you look at it, by and large, teams are led by the quarterback. While you can win with an efficient guy who doesn’t have to be spectacular, more times than not, if you’ve got a real guy there, if you’ve recruited a real guy, developed a real guy, you’re going to have a real chance to win games.

Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter

We want to remember why everyone loved DeRuyter’s defense in his first installment of Bulldogs football, when the cornerbacks caught the other team’s passes and the pass rushers put footballs on the ground.

We want to see what DeRuyter can cook up under his visor when his defense has a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, or when the bad guys line up for a third-and-goal in the final minute.

We want to know that DeRuyter can find a quarterback we can all love to not hate. This is his fourth year here. Seems like a reasonable amount of time to find a reasonable enough quarterback to us. If you can’t find a quarterback in that time, then you forfeit the right to complain when the rest of us complain.

DeRuyter can argue that point all day, but tell me this doesn’t sound like a defensive coach who knows his coaching fate rests in the arm of the one player he has been most trained to destroy:

“I think it is fair because if you look at it, by and large, teams are led by the quarterback,” DeRuyter said. “While you can win with an efficient guy who doesn’t have to be spectacular, more times than not, if you’ve got a real guy there, if you’ve recruited a real guy, developed a real guy, you’re going to have a real chance to win games. It’s hard to win games 9-6 every time in college football nowadays.

“What you’ve got to do is make your best guess as a coach based on what we see and what we project, and hope the guy you pick steps up and is everything you hope that he is.

“That’s the one position that 42,000 people watch when he’s on the field.”

And, the one position that will put 42,000 people back in the seats at Bulldog Stadium.

The reporter can be reached at bydw@sbcglobal.net and on Twitter @bydavidwhite.

Three-point stance

▪ 1. Because my prediction is just as laughable as yours, here’s to another 6-7 season for your Fresno State Bulldogs … with a two-score victory over tiny old Abilene Christian, just to let you know it’s going to be that kind of year again.

▪ 2. Buchanan edges Edison. Memorial tips Washington. Tranquillity holds off Caruthers. So good to see you again, high school football. But I thought we did this in the chill of fall, not in the August heat. Is it wrong to prefer an autumn wind at our back rather than a summer blast?

▪ 3. So, Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt got hurt playing with his kids. On his day off. Anyone who has a problem with a dad being Dad, well, you must be reading this at your office. On your day off. May we all pull a hammy making memories with the ones who will one day choose the care level of our hospice facility.

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