With the Sept. 3 home opener against Abilene Christian approaching, the dust has yet to settle on Fresno State’s quarterback battle.
The Bulldogs originally had a trio of signal callers competing throughout fall camp including freshman Chason Virgil, redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson and redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee. But a fourth was added to the mix with former West Virginia quarterback and junior transfer Ford Childress – who joined the program over the summer.
“It’s going back and forth,” Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “In the scrimmages, those guys have done some really good things and some things they need to work on, and it’s been that way through camp. But right now there’s no leader in the clubhouse.”
DeRuyter – entering his fourth season with the program – added that there is no timetable for when the starter will be announced because of a lack of persistent play.
“It has to play out,” DeRuyter said. “You can artificially pick somebody and as soon as you do, someone’s going to play better. So we want to look at the sum of what guys are doing: who’s leading, who’s making good decisions and who can do it on a consistent basis, and right now we’re not consistent enough with any of them.”
Of the four, Childress has the most in-game experience. The junior transfer is the eldest of the group, and played in the Big 12 Conference when he appeared in two games for the Mountaineers in 2013. He left the program after the season and enrolled at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas – where he spent the 2014 season.
In his two starts, Childress threw for 427 yards on 36-of-63 passing for three touchdowns and the same amount of interceptions. The former Mountaineer faces the challenge of learning the terminology of Fresno State’s offense, but offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said he is making good progress.
“Ford is a little bit behind only because of his situation, but I’ve been very impressed with how fast he’s picked things up,” Schramm said. “The different terminology catches him sometimes because they called it different at other places he’s been but he’s doing a good job, and spending time in the meeting rooms. He’s working at it and that’s all you can do, right? Even though at West Virginia they were in a spread [offense], the concepts kind of carry over, but terminology and the way we protect are much different.”
When it comes to Virgil and Anderson, neither have in-game experience. Virgil was an early high school graduate and enrolled at the university in January to compete in spring ball.
Anderson redshirted last season and didn’t appear in any games. He was however, allowed throughout the season to get reps in practice, learn the system and develop both physically and mentally.
Redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee – who has the most experience with the Fresno State system – has three in-game appearances under his belt, including a start from last season. In his first and only start, he completed 7-of-16 attempts for 55 yards, struggled and was eventually relieved of the starting duties. But, he also had bright spots such as when he threw an 81-yard touchdown pass late in the game in a Week 4 blowout win over Southern Utah.
The Stockton native used his rocky 2014 season as motivation to elevate his game and be better prepared this time around.
“I’ve just been waiting for camp to start,” Greenlee said. “All the film work that I’ve done over the summer and everything I’ve worked on, I just want it to show. I’m just coming out here and trying to do the best I can. We just come out and compete every day and take every period seriously. You can’t ever take a day off or any drill off because there’s always someone right behind you working just as hard.”
Schramm said he sees no frontrunner yet for the starting spot and there is still a “long way to go” until the coaching staff unveils the starter, but his evaluation process is simple: he is looking to see who makes the best decisions when the pressure is on.
“Don’t turn the ball over and lead the team,” Schramm said. “They have to play right in situations. We can’t do the dumb things that are going to hurt the offense and the team, in general. You can’t take sacks, you can’t throw the ball into coverage — all those things. So, that’s what I’m looking for. The guy that basically screws it up the least may have the best chance.”