Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Returning lettermen: 1

Incoming: 2
Lost: 2 (Tom Brandstater, Matt Faulkner)

It’s the most visible position on a football team, yet presents the most invisible outlook at Fresno State. It’s hard to say, just five days before the season opener, if the coaches even know who’s going to start yet. On one hand, the position Pat Hill is in to choose his guy is not enviable. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to have so many options that seem to be good ones. While no one can predict with certainty who will take that first snap on Saturday against UC Davis, laying out the evidence makes for interesting debate and office talk.

Junior Ryan Colburn (6-3, 220) is the only quarterback who’s actually played in a college game, but hasn’t thrown a pass in a game since 2007 – when he threw for 48 yards in garbage time at Oregon. Overall, the left-handed Colburn is 4 for 5 for 52 yards. One can’t help but question why Pat Hill didn’t get Colburn into more game situations last season in preparation for life after Tom Brandstater? If Hill would have played Colburn more last year he’d have more experience and coaches would be more knowledgeable of his in-game capabilities, which would have made for an easier decision this fall as to who gets the starting nod. The biggest plus going for Colburn is his familiarity with the playbook and his teammates – he’s been around some of them for three-plus years.

True freshman Derek Carr (6-3, 190), who graduated high school a semester early to participate in spring camp and get a running start, is the other candidate. He worked with offensive coordinator Jeff Grady upon arrival to learn the offense – but as the younger brother of former all-everything Bulldog David Carr, he’s been somewhat familiar with it all his life. Coming in under the tutelage of David, Hill says Derek is further along than his big bro, the former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Carr is hands down the most talented incoming signee Hill’s ever had at the position, but he’s also just 18 years old and has never even dressed for a college game.

As far as the attributes go, both Colburn and Carr should develop into upgrades over Brandstater (yes, the same Brandstater who threw for 100-plus yards for the Denver Broncos Sunday). It’s not a knock on Brandstater, so much as a compliment on Colburn and Carr’s potential. And playing quarterback for Fresno State is always a privilege – Hill’s four starters since taking the head coaching job in 1997 are Billy Volek (San Diego Chargers), David Carr (New York Giants), Paul Pinegar and Brandstater. In practice and scrimmage situations, there’s no doubt Colburn and Carr have each thrown a better deep ball than Brandstater – especially the corner end zone routes. Hill admits as much, saying the Bulldogs haven’t had this kind of deep-ball capability since the David Carr years of 2000-01.
In the first few days of fall camp, the two looked fairly even, with Colburn getting a slight edge for his command of the huddle. But that seemed to change around the time the team got into full pads. Carr started making the “wow” throws with more consistency and Colburn was turning the ball over more often. Carr also assumed more of a presence amongst teammates and offers an element of confidence that seemed to be missing in recent years. Carr is the faster of the two, but Colburn is more physically mature and has great strength. Both can run option plays, but Carr is more likely to take it toward the sideline, where Colburn can go up the gut. Carr also has greater zip on his passes.

From an outside perspective looking in, it boils down to this – if Hill picks a quarterback with his heart it’ll be Colburn, the elder statesman who’s paid his dues and patiently awaited his turn. He at least deserves a shot right? But if Hill picks with emotions aside, it’ll be Carr, the youngster who is already as good as anyone but offers much higher upside as a potential four-year starter. Both are likely to see time in the opener. If Colburn is the guy, and assuming he keeps the role next season, the Bulldogs must redshirt Carr at some point to preserve at least three years with him at the helm – it would be dumb not to.

The one guy who already knows his role is redshirt freshman Ebahn Feathers (6-0, 210), another quarterback that many fans would like to see start. The knock on Feathers is he hasn’t progressed far enough throwing the football to be a starter yet. But he’s darn fast, running a 4.38 40-yard dash coming out of high school, and will have special packages as a change-of-pace guy for the Bulldogs. Feathers is the type of guy opponents can’t afford not to prepare for, and can break a huge play at any time – he had several long runs in the spring game. The happy, go-lucky Feathers is potentially deadly in the option game, and adds an element never before seen in Fresno State’s offense. All three quarterbacks are Valley products in Colburn (Central Valley Christian in Visalia), Feathers (Washington Union in Fresno) and Carr (Bakersfield Christian).

Freshman walk-on Tyler Stirewalt (6-1, 190) was brought in to fill out the roster and provide a scout team leader. But the Bulldogs seemed to get a bonus as he showed off a strong arm with zip in fall scrimmages, and threw a touchdown pass to Austin Raphael in the first scrimmage.
Rating: 7 of 10

1 comment:

  1. Ryan Colburn named starter...what do you all think?


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