Jan 28, 2020

Converted ’Dogs succeed

Juan Villa / The Collegian

Tom Brandstater isn’t the only player on the Fresno State football team that can throw the football around.

Tim Lang, Bear Pascoe, Tyler Clutts and Jason Crawley all have something in common: They all played quarterback in high school.

But Fresno State head coach Pat Hill didn’t bring them to Fresno State for their passing abilities.

And it is not uncommon in the college ranks for high school quarterbacks to change their position for the sake of their college teams.

Lang and Crawley are now receivers. Pascoe plays tight end, while Clutts isn’t even on offense now — he’s a defensive end.

“When you recruit, you can’t look at what position they play,” Hill said. “The odds are he’s going to be reassigned to a different position once he gets here.”

For a high school, the chances of getting talented athletes depend on the size and location because of the bar on recruiting.

The bigger the school, the better chance there is that a student will come through that has athletic talent.

When there isn’t much talent, which can happen when there is a small student body, a coach will put the best athletes in skills positions like quarterback or running back to help and carry the team.

Since coaches can recruit at the college level, they can go out and look for the best athletes they can find.

The athletes that they are looking for might have played quarterback at the prep level based solely on the fact that there was no one else at their school who could play the position.

When Hill is recruiting, he can’t just compare a player to others at that position — he compares them to everyone on the field.

“When we recruit, some of the things you look for are athleticism, speed, balance and explosiveness,” Hill said. “You see that a lot in high school quarterbacks.”

Because Hill recruits players based on factors that are skill-related, and not necessarily the position they play, Hill liked what he saw in Crawley.

“We saw him play on the volleyball team in high school and we were impressed,” Hill said. “That to me showed that he had a lot of athleticism.”

Getting a former quarterback to play at another position could be difficult, but Hill hasn’t had any problem with it so far.

All players, Hill said, come to Fresno State knowing that they can end up playing another position.

“We’re pretty honest with them,” Hill said. “We’ve never had a player come here that wasn’t open to changing positions.”

In Pascoe’s case, the transition didn’t happen until the spring of his redshirt season.

Pascoe, who played quarterback at Granite Hills High School, came to Fresno State in hopes of playing quarterback.

That season, four-year starter Paul Pinegar was a junior and Pascoe ran the scout offense.

Due to injuries and the number of graduating seniors, Hill asked Pascoe if he was willing to change positions.

“He made it my choice,” Pascoe said. “It was either change positions or be the backup quarterback for at least another two years. I think I made the right choice.”

“In a perfect world, we would be three deep at every position,” Hill said. “When someone gets hurt, you just put in the No. 2 guy. What happens though is players are shifted around and change positions because of the lack of depth.”

After becoming successful at quarterback, it takes time for a player to get into the rhythm of a new position.

“It’s a learning curve,” Hill said. “We just hope as time goes on that they can continue to grow and to get better.”

Pascoe has been a fast learner. This season, he leads the team with 332 receiving yards and has four touchdowns.

“It was rough at first,” Pascoe said, who has now been playing tight end for four years.

“You’re going from a finesse position to one where you have to block and catch,” he said. “As time goes on, I’ve become more comfortable in my new position though. I’ve enjoyed it down in the trenches.”

That comfort is noticed by Hill, too.

“It’s impressive. In four years of playing the position, Bear has become one of the best tight ends in the nation,” he said.

While Pascoe has had time to grow into his position, because of injuries to starters, Lang’s learning curve was shortened.

Lang, a true freshman who went 13-0 while winning the section championship his senior year as the quarterback at Grant High School in Sacramento, is likely to see more playing time because of the depletion of the depth in the receiver position.

“For me, the biggest thing has been learning the playbook,” Lang said. “When I line up now, I have the [cornerback] right in my face. It’s different.”

And with a slew of former quarterbacks running around the field, the Bulldogs can benefit since these players can notice things they probably wouldn’t if it wasn’t for their experiences from under the snap.

“I understand the quarterback’s urgency since I’ve been there,” said Clutts, who is now a senior. “You get a feeling when they are going to try and escape, and that helps a lot.”

Pascoe believes his past experience gives him the edge as a tight end.

“I’m able to line up and read the defense because of it,” he said. “I can read the safeties and I know where [Brandstater] is gonna put the ball. It seems to put us on the same level.”

Lang agrees.

“I know what the quarterback is looking for,” Lang said. “I can look at the defense and know what gap to go to. I know where the ball is going.”

Changing positions hasn’t changed much for these former quarterbacks either.

“It’s all worked out,” Pascoe said. “I’ve enjoyed playing tight end.”

As for Clutts, there is another reason he’s happy with not being a quarterback any more.

“I’ve taken my share of hits,” Clutts said. “It’s my turn to hit somebody.”

Previous Story

Judge slashes Vivas discrimination award damages to $4.52 million

Next Story

‘Hannah Montana’ ticket prices skyrocket