Fresno State quarterback Zack Greenlee prepares for spring practice Saturday at Bulldog Stadium. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
The Fresno State football team is heading in to the 2015 season with no guarantees at the starting quarterback position.
The Bulldogs, who opened spring ball last week by participating in four of the 15 practice sessions that are set to take place over the course of March, had uncertainty at the quarterback position last offseason. This year, so far, appears to be no different.
Last season, three quarterbacks saw playing time: Brian Burrell, fifth-year transfer Brandon Connette, and redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee. Burrell decided to forgo his final season of eligibility, and Connette’s eligibility has expired, so they are no longer with the team.
So now, their departure leaves three young guns, Greenlee, redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson and newcomer Chason Virgil to battle it out for the starting job.
“All three guys are doing some good things and some not so good things, which is what you expect,” said head coach Tim DeRuyter after Friday’s practice session. “Today, in the first day in pads, they had a little bit more of a pass rush against them.
“I thought Zack handled it better than he handled things in the past, but the young guys are still learning, so it’s going to be in flux. We won’t make a decision until way later on.”
Greenlee, who has the most experience among this year’s unit, has one start under his belt from last season against Wyoming. The lone start, however, did not nearly go as planned. He completed 7-of-16 passes for 55 yards and no scores. The inconsistency on defense paired with the quarterback struggles forced the ‘Dogs to punt the ball often, which gave the Cowboys more opportunities in the 45-17 loss.
Although his first start was nothing to brag about, he looks to learn from that.
“Experience always helps, but we’re all just competing and working to get better,” Greenlee said. “Obviously I have more experience, so I’m just trying to help these guys out and just keep getting better. Taking that experience from last year gives me sort of an edge, so I just have to use that and keep getting better.”
The struggles in that game provided room for improvement for Greenlee. He has been working on his mechanics this offseason and getting receivers out there to run routes for him even if it’s outside of practice to help with his development.
“I think I’ve improved a lot,” he said “Up until now, I’ve been working a lot on my footwork, my work in the pocket, trying to stay calm and poised. That’s a huge part of the game and developing the mental part in the classroom and in the film room.”
This spring, Greenlee looks to not only looks to get better to improve his chances of starting but also notes he would like to “develop as a leader.”
The other two, Anderson and Virgil, last played in high school.
Anderson, who played his senior year of high school ball at Skyline High School in the Seattle, Washington, area, redshirted the 2014 season, so his potential has yet to be determined. In his final year of high school, the 6-foot-3, 207-pounder accounted for 2,116 yards and 15 touchdowns while adding 544 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Virgil, on the other hand, threw for 2,790 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior at West Mequite High in West Mesquite, Texas. The freshman also rushed for 411 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Virgil was highly recruited and had various offers from Power Five schools like Louisville and Mississippi State. He decided to come to Fresno State, because it provided him with the opportunity to come in right away and compete for the starting role.
“It’s still early. First, we’re going to go through these 15 spring practices and then through fall,” DeRuyter. “If he’s the best guy, he’ll start, if he’s not he’ll likely redshirt but it all depends on how he competes.”