Friday, August 20, 2010

Position Breakdown 2010: Quarterbacks

The 2010 position preview series begins with the guys who are so comfortable with their masculinity, they go back-of-the-hand to nuts on every play to get their hands on the football. We'll call them quarterbacks.

These force-your-voice-to-be-deep-and-raspy signal callers have a proud and productive history under Fresno State coach Pat Hill, a trend that didn't take a year off in 2009. Yes, the spotlight was 7 yards behind the quarterbacks all season (followed quickly by it being 65 yards in front of them), but even with front row seats to the Ryan Mathews show, Ryan Colburn and Derek Carr flashed exciting glimpses as to what the 2010 air assault could bring.

In addition to those glimpses, the Bulldogs have been working hard behind the scenes to add yet another dimension to the offense. This addition, known largely as the wildcat, isn't just for show. Multiple players can fill this role capably for Fresno State, while a couple can do so spectacularly.

Throughout our position-by-position previews, we'll break down each player, provide our individual thoughts on each player and provide a general outlook for what to expect from each facet of your 2010 Bulldogs. -- DaCo

Returners: Ryan Colburn, Derek Carr, Tyler Stirewalt
Newcomers: Kelly O'Brien, Greg Watson
Lost: Ebahn Feathers

Ryan Colburn: Improved Colburn ready to surprise
Sr, LH, 6'3", 220
Visalia (Central Valley Christian HS)

This is not last year's Ryan Colburn. Entering the 2009 season, Colburn had attempted just five career passes and was neck-and-neck in a fall camp battle with Derek Carr for the starting job. Exiting 2009, Colburn haNumbered Listd completed 181 of 298 passes (61%) for 2,459 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Entering 2010, Colburn has a python's grip on the starting role and has increased vocal leadership, respect and the confidence of his teammates. Throughout fall camp, Colburn has been encouraging teammates with "good jobs" while composing himself with the on-field poise of a team leader. And he's complemented those intangibles with his play, making what coach Pat Hill called "NFL throws" in the camp's first scrimmage. He also showed he still has that "Bulldog Football" mentality, making a crackback block on a screen pass despite the fact he was wearing a yellow, don't-hit-me practice jersey.

DaCo on Colburn: Subtract Derek Carr from the mix and Ryan Colburn is viewed as a potential breakout star for this team. This is a guy who has earned and deserves massive respect for not only his work ethic and leadership, but his actual on-field ability. Colburn is nothing short of a great person and is easy to root for. Beyond that,he has shown seriously impressive offseason growth. His improvements leave no doubt he's capable of leading this team to a first-place WAC finish.

FSDogs1 on Colburn: Personality wise, Colburn is practically the perfect Bulldog. His love for the community, pride for what being a Bulldog stands for and his chip-on-the-shoulder mentality are ideal qualities for a likeable, winning QB. Expect him to throw for more yards, more touchdowns and at least 25% less interceptions as a senior.

Derek Carr: Everyone's favorite Carr still waiting to be unveiled
So, 6'3", 205
Bakersfield (Bakersfield Christian HS)

The star QB waiting in the wings looks like he will stay in the wings for at least one more year, barring any injuries. It remains obvious to practice regulars that Carr has the strongest arm and best accuracy on the team. But Colburn has proven to be a viable option as a starter, so there's no reason to sit him on the bench for a year when Carr is eligible to redshirt. But that'll be the key to the quarterback situation this year -- finding a capable backup not named Carr so that Carr can redshirt and preserve three years of eligibility for the post-Colburn era. In limited action as a true freshman, Carr completed 10 of 14 passes for 112 yards. Fans should be chomping at the bit for the near future with a guy who can make throws most college QBs can't and has had the privilege of growing up under the tutelage of an older brother who was the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick in 2002.

DaCo on Carr: It should come as no surprise after watching Derek Carr play that his favorite player is Brett Favre. He's energetic, he's youthful, just cocky enough and has a cannon for an arm. Carr has also mastered a complicated pro-style offense before this 2010 season, and physically, is the baseball equivalent to a 5-tool player. He is the best quarterback on this team still, which is saying something. His pre-snap reads, throwing versatility and natural instincts for the game are mind-boggling. And he still has a redshirt year to make even more growth.

FSDogs1 on Carr: As exciting as Carr's potential is, and as confident as he is, he needs to continue working as hard as he has been and focus on being the Bulldogs go-to QB when he's called upon. With a guy with his ability, it's important to not let the future-pro thoughts turn into a hinderance the way it did with some Bulldogs in the disgusting 2006 season.

Tyler Stirewalt: Our Tyler Stirewalt is better than yours
R-Fr, 6'2", 200
San Bernardino (Aquinas HS)
It's still a bit early to tell what direction the coaching staff is leaning with Tyler Stirewalt, a walk-on who redshirted last season. Pat Hill has made a habit of develping walk-ons at Fresno State, but that hasn't included the QB position. Stirewalt is in uncharted territory there, but performed well in camp relative to the newcomers. He showed more comfort not only in his mechanics, but also in his command of the offense, and showed nice zip on the ball. But he never got to show his stuff against the first-team defense.

DaCo on Stirewalt: Stirewalt received one of the first double-takes of the year this camp after ridding himself of the 2009 Stirewalt. I've got to give him some credit for working so hard to improve, despite the fact he will knowingly be pushed to the side his entire career. Having a quarterback who can provide quality reps for the young and talented receivers gives him some value.

FSDogs1 Stirewalt: Stirewalt's offseason improvement was a pleasant surprise during fall camp, but I still get the feeling the coaching staff expects newcomer Kelly O'Brien to develop into the better of the two.

Kelly O'Brien: O'Brien to fill backup role, be introduced to weight room
So, 6'7", 200
Manhattan Beach (Foothill JC)

While finding a capable starter is far from an issue, finding a No. 2 who can step up and allow Derek Carr to redshirt is mission No. 1. Kelly O'Brien, son of former New York Jets star Ken O'Brien, was brought in from the JC ranks to be an immediate help. But he had a rough start to fall camp, throwing as many balls into the ground as into receivers' hands. That started to change as camp went on and O'Brien showed soft touch on the deep ball and an improved short and intermediate game. Unfortunately, he didn't take any first- and second-team reps early in camp -- which would have allowed for a more telling scouting report. And on a side note, O'Brien is skinny. Really really skinny.

DaCo on O'Brien: O'Brien, like all the other QBs not named Colburn or Carr, showed rapid improvement in camp. The deep ball is no doubt his best throw, yet all of his throws have improved to the level of good enough. Still, O'Brien does get lost at times when his targets are in traffic. His ability to fill out his role as the No. 2 QB is promising, but not guaranteed.

FSDogs1 on O'Brien: After three days of fall camp, the nerves sat in for the QB situation behind Colburn and Carr. But O'Brien showed strong in the first scrimmage and his improvement brightens the outlook he'll develop further.

Greg Watson: Greg Watson > Ebahn Feathers
Fr, 5'11", 200
Rancho Cucamonga (Rancho Cucamonga HS)

Greg Watson is easily the most intriguing QB prospect on the roster, especially with highly-regarded Marcus McDade not qualifying this fall. Watson is similar in size to the departed Ebahn Feathers, but less of a distraction and already a better passer. He still needs work on the passing fundamentals, as does O'Brien, but the ability to make big plays came out in the first scrimmage on his 65-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders. It would be nice to see more of what Watson is capable of on the run.

DaCo on Watson: Anyone who attended practice this camp noticed the elephant in the room. No Mark Mangino wasn't observing practice from the berm, but Greg Watson does have a striking resemblance to Ebahn Feathers in appearance, if only the first time you see him. Watson showed some of the best growth on a day-to-day basis, and really is intriguing. He has solid arm strength and can run when needed, though he appears content to throw for now.

FSDogs1 on Watson: With all the different "wildcat" QB combos the 'Dogs have shown early, it's surprising not to see Watson take on more of that role. He has worked on certain option packages, but I'd like to get a better gauge on his running ability.

"WildCat": The WildCat, now with more 'it works'
Perhaps the most forgotten man on the entire Fresno State roster might be responsible for some of the biggest plays the 2010 season could offer. Rashad Evans, the true freshman phenom at receiver two years ago, will once again fill that role. But Evans also filled the role of scout team MVP as a QB a year ago, performing his impersonating duties as Diondre Borel and other scrambling QBs a little too well. While Evans is guaranteed a prominent role in this formation, the Bulldogs have several other thrilling prospects as well. Among them is Isaiah Burse, a true freshman wide receiver and high school state-champion quarterback with immediate impact potential. Running backs Robbie Rouse, A.J. Ellis and Michael Harris also possess the ability to make plays out of this formation, which has been a focus this camp. When used, expect a wide array of potential plays, rather than the fake handoff, off-tackle runs used in games to date.

DaCo on the WildCat: Historically, I haven't been the biggest fan of the wildcat formation. But, I am starting to really become intrigued by its possibilities on this team, if only situationally. Rashad Evans is simply lethal out of this thing, and Isaiah Burse adds a great passing element to the position. This formation has gone from useless in this program to one of the more advanced wildcats around, with the potential to make a house call on any given play.

FSDogs1 on the WildCat: Last season, the Bulldogs seemingly had the tools to put together a successful wildcat package, but it was too predictable because they never passed out of the formation. Plus, Ryan Mathews' 6 yards per carry were much more of a sure thing than whatever Ebahn Feathers was trying to do. This year there is no Mathews, meaning the formation could become more vital to the offense. Or not?

Position Rating:


  1. Nice write-up and I think you guys nailed it.

    I have mixed feelings on the whole Carr/Colburn thing. I feel like the best player should play, but I also see the value in waiting. I will stand behind whoever the Coaches choose. That being said, if we are undefeated and Colburn were to go down, I wouldn't mind seeing Carr come into the game. If, however, we have lost a game or two and Colburn were to get injured, I think we should play the best player NOT named Carr.

  2. Nice quarterback position review.
    From my observations, Derek Carr will stay motivated and provide the Bulldog fans plenty of excitement starting in 2011 if he indeed redshirts.


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