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Fresno State football: Notes from the Spring Showcase

The battle for QB1 went under the public microscope this morning, but there were a few other things to take away from Saturday's scrimmage.

The Bulldogs took the field for fans around town to wrap up spring practice.
The Bulldogs took the field for fans around town to wrap up spring practice.
Matthew Kenerly

The Fresno State Bulldogs have a lot of questions surrounding their potential to rebound from a disappointing 2014, and Saturday morning's Spring Showcase was the best opportunity for Tim DeRuyter's team to put minds at ease until the fall. While several of the biggest stars and other expected contributors did not up suit for one reason or another -- Ejiro Ederaine, Chad Olsen and Charles Washington, among others, did not see action while recuperating from various ailments -- the scrimmage did highlight a few promising young athletes and may have done something to answer the biggest question of all.

Who will start at quarterback?

For the second year in a row, the quarterback competition is ongoing. Would-be incumbent Brian Burrell is gone. The Fresno Bee has already noted the possibility of adding to the depth chart at some point, and while no one will be named the starter until fall camp is well underway, my intuition is that Zack Greenlee currently has the inside track. The sophomore led two drives, including a lengthy 10-play march that culminated in a touchdown to redshirt freshman Keyan Williams, before giving way to Chason Virgil, who then gave way to Kilton Anderson. Virgil and Anderson both got long looks in various situations, though Virgil, the true freshman from Texas, showed flashes of playmaking ability with his arm and his legs while Anderson by and large struggled to move the ball.

While he showed a willingness to stand in the pocket against the rush, a refreshing contrast to the urgency to move on the part of both Greenlee and Virgil, Anderson had one pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage and misfired on several others. I could sympathize with the displeasure he showed walking off the field after his red zone drive stalled, though of course it's far too early to say he's entirely out of the running.

Because Virgil and Anderson got so many reps, though, not to mention Greenlee's overall effectiveness, leads me to believe that the coaching staff is more confident in Greenlee's current grasp of the playbook right now, and that the scrimmage was likely the first staging ground for who might challenge him for the starting job. With that in mind, I'd give the nod to Virgil.

Kody Kroening looks much improved

The sophomore kicker was thrust into an unenviable position last year when Colin McGuire left the team, and while he had a couple of #collegekickers moments early on, he improved as 2014 progressed and was essentially the entire offense in the Hawaii Bowl. That improvement has carried over thus far, it seems, as Kroening showed quite a bit of range throughout the morning.

His most impressive feat was rebounding from a 48-yard try, which fell short, to crush a second attempt that would have been good from over 50, and he had only one miss during the scrimmage itself. If the young quarterbacks do struggle in game action, I imagine the coaches would have a much easier call trusting the kicking game than they would have a year ago.

Replacing Derron Smith

I believe it's safe to say that one player will have a tough time replacing the all-Mountain West performer, but it's worth noting that Stratton Brown played alongside Dalen Jones at the safety position this morning. Charles Washington started last year at safety, but he switched to corner and is likely to stay at the latter position once he's 100% healthy. Jamal Ellis and Malcolm Washington will also have significant roles on the outside, which leaves the junior Brown, who appeared in 12 games last season, to vie with Shannon Edwards, who started three games at safety but is another defender recovering from injury and that did not play Saturday.

There's no shortage of receiving options

For a program which put two wide receivers in the NFL last year and is likely to put another there come May, you might imagine whoever comes through the ranks next will have some lofty expectations. Thankfully, the receivers and the quarterbacks appear to be growing together.

Aaron Peck and Justin Johnson are the only two seniors currently listed on the roster, and while both saw a bit of game action, the young wideouts really stood out. Start with Keyan Williams, the New Orleans native who hauled in two touchdown passes this morning, and include KeeSean Johnson and Jamire Jordan, both of whom also made a couple of nice catches. They're just three of eight receiving targets listed as redshirt freshmen (including the tight end position), and while the race for starting roles is still wide open, I imagine they took at least a small step forward in securing a spot in the rotation.

Depth chart standouts

There were a couple of other particular players who had a pretty good Saturday on the field. Defensive lineman Kyle Hendrickson had a sack and swatted an Anderson pass at the line of scrimmage. When the 'Dogs ran zone read plays with Greenlee and Virgil, running backs Chris Moliga and Dejonte O'Neal showed toughness between the tackles.

Were you at the spring game, too? Feel free to chime in with your own observations or your questions down in the comments!