For a school like Fresno State that only had five primary starting quarterbacks from 2000-2013, the QB situation has been bizarre to say the least.
Kilton Anderson, who opened the season has the team’s fourth-string quarterback, has started the last four games. However, after the Bulldogs’ loss to Nevada last Thursday, Fresno State Head Coach Tim DeRuyter opened the quarterback competition. The only other healthy scholarship quarterback is sophomore Zack Greenlee, who was benched after the Bulldogs managed only 89 yards of total offense at San Diego State.
It seems likely that Greenlee would get the call on Saturday, but no announcement will be made until gameday.
Kilton Anderson: 55/117, 570 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT (34 rush attempts for 117 yards and 3 TDs)
Zack Greenlee: 40/80, 456 yards, 7 TDs, 3 INT (12 rush attempts for -2 yards)
Brian Burrell, who started against Hawaii last year, called it quits prior to spring even with another year of eligibility.
In his place, Fresno State started the season with two quarterbacks - true freshman Chason Virgil and sophomore Zack Greenlee. Virgil was knocked out in the third game of the season after winning the starting job. Also after that third game, Greenlee was arrested for public drunkenness.
Third third-stringer, West Virginia transfer, Ford Childress started game No. 4. Childress had little success at San Jose State and it was revealed that he had ruptured his spleen at some point during the game.
Greenlee returned from suspension for one start before being benched for fourth-string QB Kilton Anderson.
How has Greenlee played?
Greenlee is the most experienced quarterback in the system although he is only a redshirt sophomore. He started one game and played as a reserve in two games last year. He opened the season as the starter while splitting time evenly with true freshman Chason Virgil.
Greenlee threw for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns in the opener. After the first quarter at Ole Miss, he didn’t see the field again until Virgil was hurt late in the following game. Greenlee threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter of that matchup vs Utah. After a miserable performance at SDSU he was benched. Last Thursday vs Nevada, he came in during the fourth quarter and threw for 66 yards but also threw two picks.
Ultimately, Greenlee seems to have the best arm and passing talent on the team and is quick despite his numbers on the ground this year - but he has been very poor staying in the pocket and has had a big struggle sustaining drives.
Fresno State’s coaching staff was fortunate to inherit Derek Carr. Since his departure to the NFL, the staff is yet to prove they can develop quarterback talent. Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm is the primary quarterbacks coach, but there has been little opportunity to prove that having Wynn in the program has helped the position this year due to injuries. His role doesn’t appear to be nearly as big as it was at Hawaii.
“I only saw one Fresneck game this season. Granted it was against then #3 Ole Miss, they looked bad. They would drive to midfield, then sputter. Their scoring plays in that game resulted from long gains that either got them into the endzone, or just close enough to run a few more plays. They looked like they couldn't sustain long, grinding drives. Their defense...they got torched. 73 points, but that was against a high-powered offense.”
Pat Hill’s Bulldogs prided themselves on playing the power-five programs. Even when the teams were well overmatched, they typically put up a fight to be proud of, similar to Hawaii’s efforts at Ohio State and Wisconsin this year.
With the schematical changes since the coaching switch, matchups against top-25 programs has been a nightmare. The Bulldogs’ up-tempo, spread offense tends to quickly go three-and-out against superior defenses, while the opposing talent breaks off huge play after huge play against the Fresno State defense.
In the ‘Dogs last six games versus power-five opponents, the scores have ranged from the closest score of 45-24 versus Utah to the most lopsided score of 73-21 at Ole Miss.
“This game will be a tough, hard-fought game. No guarantee for a Warrior victory, even though the opponent is junk, because our team isn't that good either. Nothing special here...our team has to play better than their team for a full 60 minutes.”
This will likely be true. Fresno State claims that the locker room has been positive and hard-working despite the struggles on the field. If Hawaii Head Coach Chris Naeole gets the Rainbow Warriors motivated for the matchup, it should be fairly even in both motivation and talent. Both teams struggle in time of possession and have other similar weaknesses - something will have to give.
One last note…
Hawaii brought in multiple transfers and also signed several junior college players after signing day who slipped through the cracks and appeared to be capable to plug holes in the lineup. Fresno State had the same idea at several positions on the team.
Though the commits seemed like good grabs at the time, now both teams sit at just two wins in November. Those late adds don’t seem to be nearly as valuable as developed, in-program talent. We’ll see if their approaches to the class of 2016 changes.