Bulldogs spring practice report: interceptions will hurt QBs more than usual

Marcus McDade stepped in to take his first rep in a team period during the Fresno State Bulldogs’ first spring practice on Monday, and threw a pick. His throw was high and behind tight end Marcus Jensen, the intended receiver, and linebacker Kyrie Wilson made a nice play on the ball, picked it off and took it back for a defensive score.

McDade was yanked.

Brian Burrell, the JC transfer from Bakersfield City College, dropped back to throw on his first rep, looking for Taylor Stewart on the sideline and that pass also was picked off. Safety Dalen Jones undercut the route on the sideline and made a great diving play on the ball to come up with the turnover.

That was it for Burrell – he, too, went to the back of the line.

The Bulldogs’ competition to be the backup to quarterback Derek Carr took an interesting turn there. The three candidates – McDade, Burrell and Myles Carr – all need to reps to make an impression and win the job and they are going to lose them for game-changing errors. They can’t count on taking five or six consecutive reps, then rotating.

‘’I like it here,’’ offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. ‘’If you turn the ball over a lot and you’re the offensive coordinator, then you have to go find another job somewhere.”

That is one way to crank up the competition within that position group – and perhaps fix an issue from a year ago.

‘’We have to do a better job,” Schramm said. ”We turned the ball over 18 times and gave up five touchdowns on offense last year. We can’t allow that to happen.

‘’If you want to play, then don’t give the football to the other team. We’re a better football team if we punt than we are turning the ball over and offensively, we’d like to end every drive with some sort of kick. We don’t want to punt, but that’s a lot better than throwing an interception or fumbling.’’

The Bulldogs’ quarterbacks all got back into the rotation after the interceptions. But the message there was perfectly clear – those types of mistakes will hurt.

Practice report

The Bulldogs were in helmets and shorts for their first workout inside Bulldog Stadium …

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Defensive lineman Andy Jennings was excused from practice following a death in his family. Wide out Dillon Root also was not in practice – he was hit from behind in a car accident on Sunday night. …

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Receiver A.J. Johnson, who sat out last season for violating team and NCAA policy, has again been suspended. A decision whether he will make it back to the team will be made later this week, Coach Tim DeRuyter said. …

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Malique Micenheimer, who came to Fresno State as a linebacker and was moved to fullback in his freshman season, then started the year on defense before being moved back to offense last season, was working out with the running backs. …

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Center Lars Bramer is carrying more weight on his frame – a good thing. ‘’He’s changed his body and that’s encouraging to see,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’A lot of times guys get into their final year and they see that curtain going down and they push a little bit harder.’’

Bramer took the reps with the No. 1 offense and James Le’au was at left guard, as the Bulldogs try to find replacements for center Richard Helepiko and left guard Matt Hunt. …

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The No. 1 offensive line from the left tackle in – Austin Wentworth, Le’au, Bramer, Cody Wichmann and Alex Fifita. The No. 2 line – Josh Tremblay, Mike Saenz, Patrick Kim, Bo Bonnheim and Justin Northern The No. 3 line – Tyler Simonsen, Allen Brown, Kim, Travis Harvey and Andrew Gustafson. …

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The cornerbacks – all of them – had a very good day in 7 on 7 and in the team periods. Not a lot of space for the receivers and more than a few errant throws, which also helped.

‘’L.J. (Jones) and Sean Alston did a good job last year. I think they’re continuing to push,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’But to see Jamal Ellis and Shannon Edwards, those guys are starting to flash a little bit. I think the off-season program, especially for Jamal, he’s gained a bunch of weight, I think that’s given a lot of confidence. He did a great job in our Red Dawn works and really started flashing there and it’s translated to the field, so we’re excited about where we are at our corner positions.’’ …

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Linebacker Nat Harrison also stood out physically from where he was at the end of last season. Harrison was with the No. 1 defense throughout the practice. …

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JC safety Rodney Mathews took all of the reps at strong safety with the No. 1 defense, ahead of Charles Washington. Both will get a lot of work at a position the Bulldogs are trying to fill a huge void with the departure of Phillip Thomas, the Jim Thorpe Award finalist.

‘’It’s coming a little fast for him, but I liked the way he moved around,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’He’s not shying away. He’s not playing as nearly as fast as he will be because he’s still learning things right now.’’

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Derek Carr took reps in both 7 on 7 periods, but did not participate in the team periods. …

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Of the backup quarterbacks, Myles Carr had the best day and was most accurate with the ball. He also has more zip on the ball than he did a year ago.

There is a long way to go in that competition, though.

‘’I can say this, we’re a lot faster in practice one than we were a year ago in practice one,’’ Schramm said. ‘’But, again, the things that beat you are the interceptions and it’s not like we were throwing the ball and it was getting tipped. There was one great play on defense, but still we got it out of our hand (on that play) way too late. Some of that is guys trying too hard to make a play, but that happens in games. You have to be smart enough to take care of the football.

‘’Derek didn’t do much – we kept him out of most of the stuff. When he’s in there things go pretty good. The other guys have just got to learn and the only way they’re going to learn is be getting in there and doing it. They’re not going to learn by sitting inside watching film or watching someone else play. They have to get in there and go through it.

‘’They did some good things, too, for the first day. It’s a good group. We’re a little bit ahead of schedule from where we were at this time a year ago, so things are good. At least they understand the terminology.’’

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Linebacker Patrick Su’a, coming back from knee surgery, worked out on the side. Receiver Justin Johnson, who had elbow surgery after the season, also was held out and doing conditioning work on the side.