Football season will kick off this Saturday when the Bulldogs face Incarnate Word, but up until this week the team’s main focus has been itself.
“It’s not so much about [Incarnate Word],” new head coach Jeff Tedford said during a press conference Monday morning. “We need to concentrate on us, on what our rules are, our fundamentals, our techniques and our details in every phase of the game.
Part of that self-analysis has come in the form of positional battles within the team, the most prominent of which was for the quarterback position.
Sophomore Chason Virgil, who started the first 10 games for the Bulldogs last season, will start on Saturday. Virgil fended off competition from Oregon State transfer Marcus McMaryion and West Los Angeles College transfer Jorge Reyna.
“I think Chason’s knowledge and consistency through camp gave him the nod, but it’s been very, very competitive,” Tedford said.
Virgil is looking to improve on his freshman season during which he threw for 2,021 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Tedford also confirmed that true freshman Ronnie Rivers will be starting at running back.
“(Rivers) is very locked in, doesn’t make mental mistakes, instinctive runner, good pass protector, catches the ball really well out of the backfield,” Tedford said. “He’s a complete back.”
Tedford said that although Rivers would be getting the start, the team will still be using a running-back-by-committee system for their backfield. Rivers will be sharing playing time with Dejonte O’Neal, Josh Hokit and Jordan Mims.
“We’re in a good position there to have really four guys with (Rivers), Dejonte, Hokit and Mims, all four of those guys will play,” Tedford said. “We feel like we have some quality depth at the backfield, but Ronnie really has done a lot in this camp and deserves to be the one to start it out.”
As for when the focus will turn from themselves to Incarnate Word, Tedford said that transition was completed Tuesday.
“We practiced two days last week with emphasis on Incarnate Word, but still had a lot of crossover to make sure that we’re continuing to play fast,” Tedford said. “[Tuesday], we’ll really ramp it up, and the focus will be really on Incarnate Word starting [Tuesday] morning, with who they are, game plan, so on and so forth.”
Incarnate Word finished eighth in the Southland Conference last season, finishing with a 3-8 record. Its offensive and defensive statistics in conference ranged from middling to below average.
Much like the Bulldogs, Incarnate Word was also picked to finish last in its conference in a preseason poll.
“Like any team, you have goals. This is your first chance at that, so they’re going to be motivated,” Tedford said. “We’re going to get their best shot, I’m sure.”