With four games left in the regular season, a new, but familiar, face will be under center for the Fresno State football team (3-5, 2-2 Mountain West) on Saturday night when it takes on Wyoming (3-5, 1-3 MW) in a conference battle.
Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter announced during Monday’s press conference that redshirt freshman Zack Greenlee received reps with the first team during the bye week and would be the team’s starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.
“After the Boise game, Coach Schramm, the offensive staff and I looked over the tape and decided after that game that it is time to use Zack with the first team,” DeRuyter said. “He’s been getting reps with the first team, and we want to have him be our starting quarterback the rest of the way out.
“Out of the three quarterbacks that we have right now, he has the best, most well-rounded skill set for what we want to do as an offense.”
Junior Brian Burrell has started every game this season, but his lack of productivity and consistency are some of the factors that influenced DeRuyter’s decision to make a change at the position.
Burrell had a breakout game in Week 5, when he threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns to help lift his team past New Mexico. But he has failed to find consistency since.
“When you don’t have the productivity from any position — in particular from the quarterback position, you’re constantly looking at how we’re teaching it, are the concepts being understood, and why are we not getting productivity there in order to win football games,” DeRuyter said. “We’ve been asking ourselves is there somebody else who’s making some progress that deserves that chance.
“We’ve been going through that the last few weeks, and at the same time you want to support the quarterback that you have and give him all the opportunities and tools to get it done. Brian would do some things very well, but there wasn’t any consistency there.”
Greenlee has only seen playing time in one of the Bulldogs’ eight games to date: the fourth quarter of a Week 4 blowout win over Southern Utah. In that contest, he completed four of seven passes including an 81-yard touchdown pass to wideout Da’Mari Scott.
Senior Josh Harper, the team’s No. 1 receiver, will be playing with his third quarterback this season in Greenlee. Despite the lack of prolific quarterback play this year, Harper has still managed to make big plays in the passing game when his team needs him to, having caught 51 passes for just under 700 yards and four scores.
He is fully behind the coaches’ decision to bring in a new starter for the rest of the year and expressed support for the young quarterback, noting he is a guy that the team can rely on to operate the offense the rest of the way.
“I definitely think he’s a guy we can turn to lead the offense moving forward,” Harper said. “I feel like he’s really talented, smart, and he’s really matured since his freshman year. We all have faith in him to lead us for the remainder of league play.”
Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, who was involved in the decision to start Greenlee, said he likes the way his new quarterback’s progress is coming along in practice. He also notes Greenlee is getting more comfortable with operating the offensive schemes with the first team but will wait until after Saturday’s game to evaluate him.
“He’s done good in practice,” Schramm said. “He’s working hard, but practice is obviously a lot different than the games, so we’ll see how he does Saturday night.
“All the guys are very supportive. These guys want to win, and they understand it’s a production-oriented business, and we have to be more productive in the pass game. So, we’ll look to Zack right now to see if we can get that done.”