What Does Marcus McMaryion’s Arrival Mean For Fresno State?
The local product returned home after two years at Oregon State, but how will Marcus McMaryion affect the Fresno State Bulldogs now and in the future?
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Will history repeat itself, or will Jeff Tedford learn from his predecessor’s mistakes?
The much ballyhooed return of Marcus McMaryion went from rumor to fact in record time, but now that the former three-star quarterback has traded his Oregon State orange and black for Fresno State red, Jeff Tedford and offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer have a situation on their hands.
Fresno State’s fall camp has been underway for about a week now, and the team just had its first scrimmage yesterday. If eyewitness reports are to be believed, it didn’t change the status quo all that much: Sophomore Chason Virgil was the front-runner out of the spring and didn’t do anything to really hurt his chances of becoming the starter. The word, however, is that McMaryion has expectations of jumping into the race and challenging Virgil immediately.
Is this realistic? Should the offensive staff entertain this notion? What does McMaryion’s presence mean for the Bulldogs’ short term and the long term hopes? Here are some important things to keep in mind.
1. We know McMaryion can play a little, but it shouldn’t be oversold.
In retrospect, Tim DeRuyter’s track record with graduate transfer quarterbacks was lackluster: Brandon Connette was a one-trick pony who shouldn’t have had any business pushing Brian Burrell for playing time back in 2014, and Zach Kline… well, placing any faith in a guy who couldn’t win a competition in the Power 5 or the FCS was probably a bad move.
McMaryion is not like these guys, despite being thrust into an unenviable situation after injuries knocked Darell Garretson out for the year. On the whole, you could see the promise by season’s end: His sack rate was just 4%, the best among Oregon State’s three quarterbacks last year; he completed over 70% of his passes in the last three games; and he had a positive effect on the Beavers’ overall passing Success Rate which, on the season, ranked dead last in the FBS (30.1%, which McMaryion beat three times in six starts).
The numbers suggest a work in progress. For instance, McMaryion’s efficiency dropped in every quarter. His effectiveness dropped from first down to second down to third down. Less than half of his passes on third-and-manageable (six yards or less) moved the chains. He mostly struggled against good secondaries (Stanford, Washington) and played well against bad ones (Arizona, Oregon). Considering last year’s DOA offense, Fresno State fans would probably take this in a heartbeat, but it’s not quite a game-changing move.
2. Avoiding another Ford Childress situation is for the best.
Some in the local media have already suggested that, in spite of his late arrival to fall camp, McMaryion could challenge for the starting job by the end of September. That kind of optimism should be cautioned against, if only because recent history has shown us what a short leash can do.
Remember Ford Childress? His lone start as a Bulldog back in 2015 came after Chason Virgil broke his collarbone, but he started the fourth game of the year against San Jose State and was largely ineffective: He averaged only five yards per attempt, and just eight of his 19 completions went for a first down. He wasn’t ready to run the offense, and it was an unmitigated disaster.
Hoping for, or expecting, the same accelerated timeline from McMaryion is unwise. We’re not going to learn much from probable beatdowns at Alabama and Washington, and if Virgil scuffles in taking a step forward, Tedford will turn first to Reyna, anyway. If Reyna isn’t much better, then perhaps we can expect McMaryion to see the field by November. Realistically, he’s much more likely to be a significant factor in 2018’s quarterback competition.
3. He had a pretty good run game to lean on. Will he have that here?
Last year, the Oregon State duo of Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce ran for 1,474 yards at six yards per carry. That’s more production than Fresno State had as a team in 2016, and it can’t be ignored that McMaryion’s insertion into the starting lineup coincided with a marked increased in rushing production: The Beavers averaged over 5.6 YPC just twice in their first five games, but did so in five of their last seven.
By contrast, Fresno State has accomplished that feat just once since October 2014. Regression to the mean (and the new offense) suggests the Bulldogs running game will get better almost by default, but the potential in this group of runners — Dontel James and Josh Hokit and Dejonte O’Neal and others — is still mostly that: Potential. No matter who’s under center, it’s not yet guaranteed that this unit will be as productive as the Beavers were for McMaryion a year ago. We don’t have much of a picture of what McMaryion could do if forced to be one-dimensional.
All in all, bringing another talented quarterback into the mix should pay dividends for a revitalized offense, but tempering expectations for the near future is everyone’s best bet.