The Bulldogs have decided to go with sophomore Zack Greenlee as their starting quarterback for their Sept. 3 home opener against Abilene Christian. (Fresno State Athletics)
Fresno State’s four-man quarterback race came to an end Wednesday when head coach Tim DeRuyter announced that sophomore quarterback Zack Greenlee will be the team’s starting quarterback for the Sept. 3 season opener.
Greenlee beat out freshmen Chason Virgil, Kilton Anderson and junior transfer Ford Childress. But of the four, Greenlee has the most experience in the system, was the most consistent and made fewer mistakes than the others throughout summer and fall camp.
“We told our quarterbacks at the beginning of camp that the No. 1 criteria is who’s going to take care of the football and make the best decisions,” DeRuyter said. “The completion percentages and a lot of stats were very close, some guys were above, some guys were below but they were all within the same range really. The biggest differentiator was the interceptions.”
Greenlee, a Stockton native, appeared in three games for the Bulldogs as a redshirt freshman in 2014. He completed 18-of-41 passes on the year for 213 yards and one touchdown in the three games, but for the most part things didn’t go as planned as he struggled in his only start and was eventually substituted. The early career struggles showed that there is plenty of growing room for the young signal caller.
Now, a year later, he has a better understanding of Fresno State’s spread offense, has an understanding of defenses and has also improved physical aspects of his game like his arm strength and throwing base.
“I think he has a much better understanding of our offense and a much better understanding of defenses,” DeRuyter said. “Our quarterback has to know not only what our 11 guys on offense do, but what the indicators are for blitzes, he has to be able to be able to change plays, make decision on a split second whether we’re going to throw the ball, and if we are throwing the ball, who are we reading. All those decision making things aren’t easy and it takes reps and experience to be really good at it.”
Aside from Greenlee, DeRuyter said true freshman Chason Virgil will likely get playing time as well and “potentially” Childress as well.
“Zack is our starter but we’re planning on playing two,” the fourth-year head coach said. “Zack may light it up but we’re still going to play Chason probably at some point in the first half. We’ll discuss that as we get closer to the game at what point exactly he’ll go in. We need to develop depth at the quarterback position because right now we have no experienced depth.”
Greenlee said he was informed he would be the starter Tuesday after practice during a one-on-one conversation with offensive coordinator Dave Schramm. Even though he no longer has to compete with the other three passers for the starting spot, he is still going to bring the same approach and mentality every day to practice.
“Either way I’m coming out here and competing at practice and working hard,” Greenlee said. “Whether you have the job or not, you have to come out here and give it your all for the team.”
The Fresno State football team opens the 2015 season Thursday at home against the Abilene Christian Wildcats. The Bulldogs are coming off a rocky 6-7 season and quarterback play will play a prominent role in getting back in the Mountain West title conversation.
“I’m just ready to get after it,” Greenlee said. “For this week leading up to the game, I’m just going to prep as hard as I can. I just want to go out there and help the team win. That’s all I’m worried about right now.”