Football: ‘Dogs searching for answers heading into season, but focus remains on Mountain West title

Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter leads stretches during practice on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. The Fresno State Bulldogs will have their first game Sept. 3.
Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter leads stretches during practice on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. The Fresno State Bulldogs will have their first game Sept. 3.

Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter leads stretches during practice on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. The Bulldogs will have their first game Sept. 3.

On a 100-degree afternoon in Fresno, the average person is not crazy enough to stay outside. However, for the Fresno State football team, it’s a different story.

With the season opener quickly approaching and still much work to do, there’s no time for excuses.

Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter welcomes the heat with open arms as the team prepares for the Sept. 3 season opener against Abilene Christian.

“It felt good to practice in the heat,” DeRuyter said after Wednesday’s practice session last week. “It finally felt like Fresno. Before, I thought we were on the beach somewhere. We came out in shorts this afternoon, and guys flew around pretty good.”

Aside from the heat, the more pressing question at Fresno State remains the same as last season: who will emerge as the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs?

So far, sophomore Zack Greenlee has battled with junior transfer Ford Childress, and freshmen quarterbacks Chason Virgil and Kilton Anderson for the position. Still, a leading candidate has not emerged.

As the ‘Dogs search for their quarterback for 2015, they’re looking to cut down on the turnovers from 2014.

“We had too many turnovers a year ago. We’ve gotta eliminate those.” DeRuyter said.

Defensively, last season’s team struggled to cause turnovers, while giving up too many big plays. So far in 2015, DeRuyter is encouraged by what he has seen from the secondary in training camp.

“They’re catching balls; most of the time they’re contesting balls,” DeRuyter said. “That’s what you want – guys physically challenging receivers and making them make tough catches.”

Junior defensive backs Jamal Ellis, Dalen Jones and Eric Wilson, along with freshman Daquawn Brown, have strengthened the secondary so far in camp.

Senior Charles Washington is also back in the secondary for the ‘Dogs, along with sophomore Malcolm Washington.

After graduating from Alief Elsik High School in Texas, Malcolm Washington played in all 14 games in 2014 and made seven starts as a true freshman, becoming the first true freshman on defense to make a start under DeRuyter.

Charles Washington started all 14 games in 2014 and ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 78.

With a roster that includes a mix of young players, as well as experienced players, DeRuyter has found another reason to look forward to the season.

“We’re much more talented than we were a year ago,” he said. “We’re younger, but we’ve got some exciting players.”

A younger team also means mistakes could come here and there. But DeRuyter doesn’t want the players to worry about errors.

“If you’re hesitant because you’re worried about making mistakes, you’re not gonna be a good football player,” DeRuyter said. “We want them to go as fast as they can and when they make mistakes, just learn from it. Just don’t repeat the mistake.”

Despite the lingering questions at the quarterback position and a plethora of fresh faces coming in, the Bulldogs are firm on the focus.

“Our expectation is always to compete for the Mountain West title,” DeRuyter said. “We’re never gonna shy away from that. We know we’re gonna be young. We know we’re not picked to win it. But we like to be in that position.”

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