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Henry A. Barrios

Henry A. Barrios / The Californian Fresno State football coach Pat Hill speaks to the Rotary Club at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

It was a friendly luncheon and still some six weeks before college football season starts, but Fresno State coach Pat Hill was in midseason form.

Yes, Bakersfield Christian product Derek Carr looks wonderful as a Bulldog, especially considering he's a true freshman.

No, Hill isn't yet ready to name Carr his starting quarterback.

"Not ready to do that yet," said Hill, a few minutes before he spoke to the Rotary Club of Bakersfield on Thursday at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. "But he's in the mix. He's still got a chance to start. But I'm not going to make that statement until I'm ready to."

Carr is competing with two other Central Section quarterbacks for the job. Visalia-Central Valley Christian graduate Ryan Colburn, who's a sophomore, and Ebahn Feathers of Fresno-Washington Union, a redshirt freshman. Hill said Feathers likely will get 10-15 snaps a game as a mobile quarterback or a Wildcat option back, but that the drop-back passer role is down to Carr and Colburn.

Hill reiterated that stance to his audience, giving a 10-minute answer to a question about Carr.

It began with a story about Carr's older brother, Stockdale product David Carr, who was one of Hill's first recruits as FSU head coach 13 years ago. David Carr led the Bulldogs to an 11-win season and a top-10 ranking in 2001, and he became the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft the following spring.

Hill said being around that experience -- including David's NFL career -- has made Derek Carr ready to shine earlier in his career.

"David was a special guy, but David coming out of high school did not have the people around him that Derek had," Hill said. "... He grew up as a football junkie. He was exposed to so much more than Dave."

Hill went on to praise Carr's ability and attitude, and the coach said the QB's only shortcoming was that he sometimes tried to be too perfect.

"To answer your question, in short," said Hill as he finished the 10-minute diatribe, "Derek Carr is a very, very good player."

Whether that means Carr will start as a true freshman might not be decided until well into the season. Fresno State opens at home with UC Davis, then has trips to Wisconsin, Illinois and Hawaii sandwiched around a home date with defending Western Athletic Conference champion Boise State.

"We're going to find out," Hill said. "... I'd say after the first five weeks of the season, we'll have a quarterback. But I don't think you can determine in practice."

As for other Bakersfield players wearing Fresno State uniforms, the news is almost uniformly good.

Ryan Mathews, a running back out of West High, is healthy again after missing much of last season with a knee injury. He did not play a full game after September.

He rushed for 866 yards on 145 carries and 14 touchdowns as a freshman in 2007. Hill noted Thursday that Fresno State is 12-2 in games Mathews played from start to finish.

"He's a pretty important guy to have in the lineup," Hill said.

Fresno State's A.J. Jefferson, who was Mathews' teammate at West, led the nation in kickoff return average in 2007 but Hill said Jefferson was less effective in 2008.

"I think A.J.'s got a little chip on his shoulder right now, and I expect big things out of him," Hill said.

Also, East High product Ryan Skidmore is in competition to be the starting tight end, and former Bakersfield High quarterback Phillip Thomas might start at safety. Liberty product Matt Akers figures to see some playing time at linebacker, and Highland's Anthony Johnson is now academically eligible and participated in spring practice.