Through one week of fall camp, it’s evident Fresno State had improved since the spring at every position group but one.
Marcus McMaryion addresses that.
Now let’s not get carried away. McMaryion’s addition to the quarterback room doesn’t suddenly elevate the Bulldogs to co-favorites in its Mountain West division.
It doesn’t mean they’re going to a bowl.
It doesn’t mean there will be a rush on tickets … except maybe in Dinuba.
Simply means Fresno State is stronger today than a week ago at football’s most important position.
Which is no small thing.
Recall what Jeff Tedford said in his first in-depth interview as Bulldogs head coach, that the program he inherited resembled one “on probation.”
That’s no longer true.
Here’s what I’m talking about: Fresno State already had a pretty good returning receiving corps. The additions of Derrion Grim and Namani Parker (pre-spring) make it even better, deep enough to withstand Delvon Hardaway’s season-ending knee injury.
At running back, Jordan Mims and Ronnie Rivers are handling themselves quite well as freshmen. Same with Daniel Moraga at tight end. Along the offensive line, transfers Cody Pound and Markus Boyer have beefed up the numbers and heightened competition.
The same can be said on defense. Graduate transfer cornerback Johnny Johnson is already practicing with the 1s, while precocious freshmen Damien DeGruy and Arron Mosby are making it look like a matter of time.
It’s quite impressive really, how much talent Tedford and his staff have added to the roster in such a short time.
It’s quite impressive really, how much talent coach Jeff Tedford and his staff have added to the roster in such a short time.
Except at quarterback, where Chason Virgil and Jorge Reyna (a JC transfer who was Tedford’s first signee) were still locked into a two-way competition with walk-on Christian Rossi a distant third.
McMaryion instantly alters that dynamic. By making that group better.
Again, let’s not anoint McMaryion as some savior. The Oregon State transfer is not the sort of rifle-armed passer who makes NFL scouts drool and defensive coordinators pop NoDoz. His fortes are toughness, leadership ability, command of the huddle. And, as evidenced by the fact that it took him three years to graduate with a degree in public health, smarts.
All valuable traits for a quarterback.
That McMaryion is eligible to play this season (thanks to that diploma) and has two years of eligibility remaining (thanks to a redshirt) are bonuses. Big ones.
Don’t make the mistake of lumping McMaryion into the same category as Brandon Connette, Ford Childress and Zach Kline – recent Fresno State quarterback transfers who made little to no impact.
If you do that, you’re also lumping Tedford into the same category as the previous coaching staff.
McMaryion will be welcomed heartily, but he won’t be handed anything. The 6-foot 1-inch, 205-pounder (as listed by Oregon State) will have to earn his playing time, first by learning the offense, then by developing a rapport with new teammates and finally by beating out those ahead of him on the depth chart.
No way that happens before the Sept. 2 season opener. Nor by Sept. 9 when the Bulldogs roll into Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or the following week’s sojourn to Seattle. After that comes a bye week, a time to assess and evaluate. That’s the earliest I can see McMaryion snaring the job.
I want somebody right there. I want guys around me that are going to continue to push me.
Bulldogs quarterback Chason Virgil
Of course, much of this depends on Virgil’s performance and health. While Virgil has been solid so far in camp, leading six touchdown drives during Tuesday’s first scrimmage, the coaches say Reyna has narrowed the gap.
“Not because Chason is doing anything wrong,” offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer told me following a recent practice, “more that Jorge has started to grow more comfortable in his surroundings.”
McMaryion, for all his experience at Oregon State (six starts last season including season-ending victories over Arizona and Oregon, seven appearances in 2015) will need time to acclimatize, as well.
This is still Virgil’s job for the foreseeable future, but college football doesn’t come with a writ of guarantee.
Virgil completely understands this, by the way. Following Saturday’s practice, before any news had come out about McMaryion, I asked Virgil about Reyna and the perception that the competition between them was tightening.
“I want somebody right there,” Virgil insisted. “I want guys around me that are going to continue to push me. That way, at the end of the day, none of us can relax because guys are always coming. That’s what gives us that energy we need.”
Virgil didn’t know how right he was. Guys are always coming, all right. And this one makes the Bulldogs better where it matters most.