Fresno State held their first of three scrimmages of fall camp on Thursday night and, as expected, redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee started with the first-team offense. True freshman Chason Virgil also spent time with the first team, while redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson and West Virginia transfer Ford Childress ran the second and third teams, respectively.
Greenlee looked very comfortable. He's learning how to read defenses, looked very poised and had great pocket awareness. He is understanding and using his hot reads, and his eyes are downfield. In Greenlee's three possessions within the 98-play scrimmage, two went for touchdowns while the third became a field goal when the offense sputtered in the red zone.
One very noticeable detail was Greenlee's athletic ability; he ran nearly untouched for a 55-yard touchdown run on 3rd and long, and scrambled for 10 yards on another 3rd and long situation. He finished the night with 7 completions on 13 attempts for 54 yards and a passing touchdown, and also rushed twice for 65 yards and another score.
"I've worked on a lot of things. I feel like I've gotten a lot better keeping my eyes downfield and working the pocket," Greenlee said of his performance, "It's one of the main things I've worked on since spring ball and I want to just keep progressing. This is just the first scrimmage and we have another one coming up soon so I just want to get better, watch this film, learn from it and do the best I can in the next one."
Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm sees Greenlee improving throughout fall camp.
"He understands the offense. We have to get him going a little faster, but that's progress. It doesn't just happen, especially when you're playing a defense like ours," Schramm said. "We can't do anything better for the growth of our quarterbacks - what we see in practice is the hardest thing we'll see all year. He did some good things and so we keep going."
Virgil, on the other hand, struggled a bit but occasionally flashed the raw ability and athleticism he possesses. With time and mechanical work, Virgil should have a bright future. He finished the night 5-for-13 passes for 45 yards, an interception and a rushing touchdown. All of the quarterbacks finished with either a TD pass or a TD run. Childress completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Da'Mari Scott while working on red-zone situations, and Kilton Anderson completed a 66-yard pass to freshman tight end Jared Rice. Though Anderson finished the night by going 10 of 15 passes for 121 yards, he struggled a bit with handoff exchanges, one of which happened on third-and-goal and forced the offense to settle for a short field goal.
Running back depth
Lack of running back depth was the talk of fall camp, but the Bulldogs have a couple of young backs that look to have solidified the backfield. Starting tailback Marteze Waller didn't participate in the scrimmage, though he looks bigger, stronger, faster than he's ever been. Malique Micenheimer, coming back from missing nearly all of last season, looks as healthy as he has ever been. West Virginia transfer Dustin Garrison appears to be a very good complement to Waller. He's fast, strong, and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Redshirt freshman Chris Moliga had a good performance, as did true freshmen Wesley Hill and Dejonte O'Neal. All provided a different element.
Defense showing up
There were a couple times the first team defense conceded a first down and a touchdown on 3rd and long situations, but other than that the defense was all over the place.
"Well, I think early on the defense should be ahead of the offense," head coach Tim DeRuyter said. "The offense takes a little while to execute and get the timing down, but I like the way our defense is competing.
"The defense got a bunch of guys that played, not necessarily well at times last year but just that experience when you come back there's this different swagger about you. We got some guys back like Ejiro (Ederaine) who played with two bad shoulders last year, he's playing back better than when he was a sophomore, because he understands that he's playing quicker. We got some guys that can make some plays over there.
"I think on the back end we got some guys that are doing a much better job of competing, so that's been encouraging to us. We gave up a big play, I know we had a blitz dialed up and Zack (Greenlee) scrambled on the big run, but other than that I don't remember a lot of big plays giving up which has been a big achilles heel the last year and half. So that was encouraging to see we didn't have a lot of those, not a lot of missed tackles, but we had some guys running through tackles. We got some offensive guys that can make guys miss and run hard."
Will quarterbacks reps change going forward?
DeRuyter's answer: "I don't think so. You know we're still going to have it spread pretty well. I think Ford will be getting more reps now. We got a ton more competition right now. We got guys that can get in and run our offense. We got much more depth at our skill position, we can give the ball to somebody and make someone miss and run through tackles and move the chains. A year ago we're still young there. I think having the four quarterbacks, they know if one day ‘I don't get it done, I may not be getting the reps tomorrow' so I think the competition is driving. I just know on both sides of the ball we feel much better as a staff about where we are right now, just from a competition stand point."