Quarterback Brandon Connette, shown here as a Duke Blue Devil, scores against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first quarter of the Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013. Fresno State signed Connette last Friday. Photo by Brant Sanderlin/McClatchy-Tribune
The Fresno State football program may have finally found a successor to arguably the best passer in school history.
The Bulldogs announced Friday that former Duke quarterback Brandon Connette signed a grant-in-aid agreement to play for Fresno State.
Connette, a Southern California native, transferred to Fresno State be closer to his mother Nancy, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in December.
The 2014 campaign will mark the former Blue Devil’s fifth and final season of eligibility. Since he already received his degree from Duke, NCAA rules make him eligible to play immediately instead of being forced to sit out a year.
“Our staff is fired up to have Brandon join our team this summer and strengthen our competition for quarterback,” head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “He is a high-character, very intelligent young man that I think will fit in very well with our team.”
The addition of the 22-year-old provides an immediate upgrade at the quarterback position considering the ‘Dogs’ signal-caller situation is still up in the air.
Junior quarterback Brian Burrell, who served as backup last season, emerged as the favorite coming out of spring ball but lacks something Connette possesses: FBS experience.
Add the fact that he played in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), one of the most competitive conferences in the country, and Connette has a little bit of an edge over the other Bulldog signal callers.
“Given his experience of helping Duke and their spread offense go to the ACC Championship,” DeRuyter said. “I think he is well positioned to compete to be our starting quarterback this fall.”
His dual-threat style of play will be a perfect fit for Fresno State offensive coordinator Dave Schramm’s offense. Last season, he became Duke’s all-time rushing touchdowns leader with 31.
The fifth-year senior played under head coach David Cutcliffe, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when NFL star and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning was at Tennessee. Connette split time at quarterback with Anthony Boone in 2013, featuring in 13 games, making three starts and accounting for over 25 scores.
Out of the 27 total touchdowns he accounted for last season, more than half of them came on the ground. He rushed for 337 yards and 14 scores, while passing for 1,212 yards.
In 2013, he helped lead the Blue Devils to a 10-4 overall record, an ACC Coastal Division championship and berths in the ACC Championship and Chick-fil-A Bowl games.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Connette played his high school football at Santiago High School in Corona, Calif. He played alongside current Bulldog linebacker Ejiro Ederaine, a 2013 second-team All-Mountain West selection. His brother Simoin also plays in the Mountain West Conference as a safety for the San Jose State Spartans.
Connette’s signing provides an immediate upgrade and new life at the quarterback position for the Bulldogs. However, nothing is guaranteed for the fifth-year senior, as he will have to compete with a trio of Bulldog signal callers that includes Burrell and underclassmen Myles Carr and Zack Greenlee.
Considering his expertise, he should be regarded a favorite for the starting quarterback job heading into the fall.
His arrival came at the right time considering Fresno State’s tough schedule next season that features three straight BCS opponents to kick off the year.