The chances of seeing quarterback Ford Childress back at West Virginia looked grim back in January 2014 when word broke he was not enrolled at West Virginia for the spring semester. Childress had been suspended from the program for a violation of team rules, and now he is looking to renew his football playing career at Fresno State.
As first reported by BarkBoard.com, Childress will attempt to walk on to the Fresno State program. Childress is believed to have received interest from Texas and Texas A&M, which would make this a nice pickup for head coach Tim DeRuyter and the Bulldogs. He could also be stepping right into a chance to win a starting job once he becomes eligible to play again. Childress would be available to play this season after sitting out of action for the entire 2014 season. That bodes well for his chances of winning a job as a starter as well, as he will be the oldest quarterback at Fresno State and brings some previous starting experience to the table.
Fresno State is entering another year looking for a way to replace Derek Carr at quarterback. Last season Brian Burrell led the team with 2,690 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he was intercepted 18 times and completed 58.3 percent of his pass attempts. Burrell decided not to return to the football field this fall, leaving Fresno State with redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee, redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson and true freshman Chason Virgil. Greenlee appeared in three games for Fresno State last season, in which he completed 18 of his 41 attempts for 213 yards and a touchdown.
Somewhat surprisingly, Fresno State has lost its incumbent at the quarterback position.
In a press release, head coach Tim DeRuyter announced “that Brian Burrell has been released from his football responsibilities as the quarterback wishes to forgo his last remaining season of eligibility with the Bulldogs.” Why Burrell is foregoing his final season of eligibility with the Bulldogs, and whether he will transfer to another football program to continue his playing career, are great unknowns.
Burrell is slated to graduate in May, so, if he decided to continue his playing career at the collegiate level, he could transfer to another FBS program and be eligible to play in 2015.
“I’m very thankful for the dedication and determination that Brian Burrell brought to our program, especially this past season,” DeRuyter said in a statement. “He now wishes to pursue other avenues with his life and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
The 2014 season was Burrell’s first, and now last season as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback as he started 13 of 14 games last year. He completed 58 percent of his 432 passes for 2,620 yards, 22 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Those 18 picks were tied with, among others, Florida State’s Jameis Winston for second-most among FBS quarterbacks.
With Burrell’s departure, the Bulldogs will have three options at the position when they open spring practice in early March: redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee, redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson and true freshman Chason Virgil. Greenlee was the No. 3 quarterback in 2014, completing 18 of his 41 pass attempts. The other two have not thrown a pass at the collegiate level.
Fresno State is looking to build on a Mountain West Conference championship season but must do so while looking to fill some big shoes on offense. That is still going to take some work after losing quarterback Derek Carr, receivers Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse and tight end Marcel Jensen, but as the spring practice schedule came to a close Saturday with the annual spring game, head coach Tim DeRuyter seems optimistic about the depth developing on his roster.
“I think a lot of guys improved,” head coach DeRuyter said. “Offensively, I think our offensive line is starting to gel. The quarterback situation is still wide open. Guys look good at times and not so good at times and consistency is what they are looking for.”
The defense appears to be ahead of the offense heading to the summer. In the spring game, the defense controlled the tempo of the game by shutting down the offense on third-down drills and allowing just two first downs on 12 conversion attempts by the offense. The defense also provided the play of the day when Jamal Ellis returned an interception for a touchdown.
“I thought defensively as a unit we are playing much better with that first group and I thought our secondary improved a ton,” DeRuyter said.
Zack Greenlee was the victim of the pick-six by Ellis, but he shrugged it off to lead the offense on one of the more impressive drives of the game, going 69 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown. Greenlee also led the Bulldogs to another red zone possession that would end with a touchdown run by Darryl Cash, who had a decent showing running the football.
The Fresno State offense is far from where the team left off at the end of the 2013 season, but DeRuyter says they have come a long way since the start of the spring.
“We are light years ahead of where we are today than where we were our first spring,” DeRuyter said, referring to the 2012 spring practices when he took over. “I like where our guys know where we are at as far as the system, but we’ve got to do a lot of work to get it polished.”