Notes from Fresno State’s Last Fall Scrimmage
With the regular season just two weeks away, what did we learn from the Bulldogs’ lone public scrimmage of fall camp?
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There’s still work to be done ahead of the home opener.
The Fresno State Bulldogs took the field for the public on Saturday night, running their third scrimmage of fall camp for a crowd that, to the untrained eye, might have outnumbered the dismal crowd that showed up for last November’s rainy season finale.
Some of the fans in attendance might have been most upset about having to leave earlier than anticipated: The scrimmage was scheduled to go until 10:00 PM, so there was a bit of confusion when it was made known that the second half would be exclusive to the athletes’ families. Was there anything in the on-field product, however, which left some concern? Maybe, depending on your point of view. Here are my significant takeaways:
1. Marcus McMaryion will need time to seriously challenge for the starting quarterback job.
McMaryion’s arrival from Oregon State came with the requisite hype of a local star coming home, but his time on the field suggested to me that any hopes of his seizing the starting role by October need to be tempered.
In 7-on-7 drills, it was clear that his arm strength is at least equal to Chason Virgil and Jorge Reyna. In the actual scrimmage, however, the playcalling was telling: They appeared to emphasize the run more than they did with his competitors, and his throws were mostly short.
He was also victimized by more bad luck than Virgil and Reyna, as well. The defense grabbed one interception on a tip drill and nearly had another on a short pass thrown low. I’m not expecting McMaryion to fade from the hunt any time soon, but it’s going to take time for him to fully acclimate to the system. Patience is a virtue.
2. When you have six running backs, do you have one?
It seems pretty clear that the Bulldogs are in a position to run their backfield by committee, but what’s not clear is just how that committee will split time. True freshman Ronnie Rivers saw time with the first-team offense, but Saevion Johnson had the team’s most notable rushing gain by making a great cut back to the middle on an outside run. Josh Hokit worked with an H-back in the backfield with him, while Dejonte O’Neal showed no ill effects from last year’s season-ending knee injury.
Will there be a role for everyone? I didn’t even mention Dontel James and Jordan Mims, both of whom have received positive feedback from coaches throughout fall camp. I’d guess the Incarnate Word game will be a live testing ground for someone to stake their claim for more work, but it’s anybody’s guess as to who that will be.
3. Will the ‘Dogs be able to count on its special teams?
Granted, this is based on a very small sample size, but last year’s offensive MVP, Kody Kroening, did not have a very good night. He missed three kicks in a row, sandwiched around a success which was erased by penalty. His primary competition, Jimmy Camacho, performed a little better. If the ‘Dogs offense scuffles as much as it did last year, when it ranked 125th nationally in points per trip inside the 40-yard line, it will need to take full advantage of every scoring chance with a reliable kicker.
4. Keesean Johnson will be very good.
This probably states the obvious, but Johnson had the most impressive catches of the scrimmage and scored its first touchdown on a shockingly easy catch-and-run. Regardless of who is under center, he’ll make them better.