Spring football starts Monday, and that means the Bulldogs are practicing for the first time under new head coach Jeff Tedford.
For the ‘Dogs to have a fighting chance at having anything close to a good season, Tedford needs to name his starting quarterback early on, and back his choice with confidence.
What was often missing during former coach Tim DeRuyter’s tenure was the inability to name a starting quarterback and stick with the choice.
The choices this year are third-year sophomore Chason Virgil, redshirt freshman James Quentin Davis, senior Christian Rossi and junior West Los Angeles transfer Jorge Reyna, who is the only Tedford recruit of the group.
Even though Fresno State endured the worst season in program history last year, the team had stability with Virgil starting 10 games.
A simple trip down memory lane reveals the pitfalls of not choosing a starting quarterback and backing him up with confidence.
In 2014, Brian Burrell was the starter but split time with Brandon Connette in the opener at USC. Burrell never received the full confidence from the coaching staff that he deserved.
In 2015, Kilton Anderson, Zach Greenlee and Virgil all received meaningful playing time, but the coaches never settled on one.
Both seasons proved unsuccessful, though the ‘Dogs did make the Mountain West championship game in 2014. That was due to the abysmal West division.
It would seem that Virgil is the favorite for the job given his experience. But he is coming off shoulder surgery and will be limited in spring practice. Also, Tedford is implementing a pro-style offense, which will be dramatically different from the spread system that Virgil is experienced in.
Virgil may be the incumbent, but Reyna is the most intriguing candidate and most likely to challenge for the job. Reyna threw for 3,646 yards, 39 touchdowns and only eight interceptions last season in junior college.
Tedford should make a choice early on to breathe stability and confidence into the program. But whoever ends up taking the first snap at Bulldog Stadium Sept. 2 against Incarnate Word should not be expected to lead the Bulldogs to the Mountain West Championship, let alone a winning season.
People should not expect Tedford to replicate the quick turnaround he managed at UC Berkeley in 2002, when he came into a 1-10 situation and led the Bears to a 7-5 record.
Yes, Tedford has a history of a quick turnaround, but the current Fresno State team is in very bad shape coming out of the DeRuyter era.
The Bulldogs’ future is unknown. The offense returns 10 starters, including all the offensive line, but there were times last season when the production was nonexistent. The defense returns six starters.
On the plus side, punter Blake Cusick, the ‘Dogs’ best player last year, returns for his sophomore year and should continue to provide the defense with good field position.
Last season, the defense failed to stop the run when it mattered, which kept the ‘Dogs on the field for far too long.
Factor in the tough schedule, and any expectations for this team should be tempered.
The Bulldogs travel to national champion runner-up Alabama in Week 2 and have a date with College Football Playoff participant Washington in Seattle the next week. The nonconference schedule is rounded out with a home game in November against Brigham Young University.
Besides the daunting nonconference schedule, the ‘Dogs face Boise State at home in the last game of the season.
It looks like Tedford is reinstalling the culture of the Valley into the program, with phrases like “No ‘Dogs Down.” But he needs time to get this team back on top to clinch the transformation.
My suggestion: Choose a quarterback early with confidence.