There was a play in red zone where Marcus McDade, one of three quarterbacks at Fresno State vying to backup Derek Carr, was able to sidestep a blitz and loft a ball just short of the back line of the end zone where his intended receiver, Taylor Stewart, was able to run under and catch it for a touchdown.
It was a nice play to avoid the rush, the right idea where to go with the football and a well executed difficult throw for a touchdown, McDade pretty much hitting the trifecta on that one.
But McDade, Myles Carr and, presumably, Brian Burrell, who did not practice on Monday because of a bruised right (throwing) shoulder, have yet to prove this spring they can manage game situations consistently. They will flash on one play, Coach Tim DeRuyter said, but then take a sack in the red zone or make the wrong decision where to go with the football on a third-and-short play.
McDade did that, too, when the Bulldogs were in a 3rd-down period. On a 3rd-and-4, he tried to hit slot receiver Greg Watson 25 yards down field when bracketed by defenders when Davante Adams was all by his lonesome, wide open at the first-down marker.
Part of that, offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said, is trying too hard to make a play. But there’s more to it, which is why the Bulldogs’ last padded practice of the spring (they will go helmets-only on Friday and play their spring game Saturday) was loaded with situational periods.
‘’It’s also not understanding the situation,’’ Schramm said. ‘’It comes with experience and it comes with playing, but at some point you have to demonstrate that you understand situational football. It’s a very high percentage throw. But that’s why we put them in those situations. Just coming out here and running plays doesn’t do anything for you. When you’re the quarterback in this offense, we’re not protecting both edges, we’re not handing the ball off 60 times a game. You’ve got to have the ability to show that you can handle those situations and not take sacks in two-minute or in the red zone.
‘’To continue to make the same mistakes day in and day out is not a good thing. There’s no better way to do it than to make them do it in practice and make them demonstrate that they can do it or they can’t, and we definitely have to be more consistent at quarterback in those areas.’’
The Bulldogs went through a short practice in full pads and got in some live work running through situations – second-and-long to third-and-medium and third-and-short, red zone, backed up against the goal line.
A number of starters were held out of the live stuff – Fresno State has only one practice remaining before it’s spring game, scheduled to be helmet-and-shorts, and Coach Tim DeRuyter doesn’t want to get anyone else hurt. Besides, left tackle Austin Wentworth, free safety Derron Smith, nose guard Tyeler Davision and several others have proven they know what they’re doing and how to best do it.
‘’Our ones, we have eight starters back on both sides of the ball, so a lot of those guys played probably 20 snaps today and we did that on purpose,’’ DeRuyter said.
‘’We know what they’re capable of, and they’ve had a good spring. We really wanted to get some of the younger guys a lot of reps, the problem is there’s only one group or one-and-a-half groups of younger guys, that’s why we slowed things down a bit.’’
With Wentworth sitting out the live periods and right tackle Alex Fifita and Patrick Kim sidelined by injuries, the offensive lines were an interesting mix.
Josh Tremblay was at left tackle with the No. 1 and No. 2 lines, joined on the first group by Bo Bonnheim at left guard, Lars Bramer at center, Cody Wichmann at right guard and Justin Northern at right tackle. On the twos, Tremblay had Travis Harvey to his inside at left guard, Mike Saenz playing at center, James Le’au at right guard and Andrew Gustafson at right tackle.
Running back Marteze Waller (quad) is back going through individual periods. He did not participate in the live stuff. Linebacker Donovan Lewis (hamstring) also is still out.
Wide out Justin Johnson, who had surgery on his elbow after the Bulldogs’ loss to Southern Methodist in the Hawaii Bowl game, also has started to go through individual periods. He stayed after practice to get in some extra work with receivers coach Ron Antoine.
‘’He needs to have a great summer in the weight room and get back so he can be 100 percent when we open fall camp,’’ offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. ‘’Great to see him out here, though. He’s definitely got to get in condition. He has to get in the weight room. He has to get stronger upper body-wise, which as a freshman you’re deficient in that area anyway. So, he has a lot of work do, but he’ll work hard. He’s a good kid and a hard-working guy, so I expect he’ll be ready to go in fall camp.’’
In special teams, punter Garrett Swanson started off with a bad shank on his first kick, but then boomed a couple very nice ones. Greg Watson and Davante Adams were getting the reps at punt return.
With the practice scheduled trimmed back some, the Bulldogs went through only one 7 on 7 period. Derek Carr took the majority of the reps there. Sharp, as usual.
Myles Carr and Marcus McDade missed a few throws in the 7 on 7, but also had some drops. Myles Carr made a really nice throw up the right hashmark to Anthony Riggins, fitting the ball perfectly into a pretty tight window. Riggins had the ball glance off his hands.
Schramm on the offense: ‘’I think we’ve got a pretty good idea going into fall camp what our depth chart is starting to look like. There are still some spots we have to finalize. But I feel good, I feel good about where we’re at.’’
The field goal kicking might not be a huge concern because the Bulldogs are bringing in a scholarship kicker in the fall in Colin McGuire, but it was spotty again.
Blake Dunn is at a significant disadvantage – he has a morning class and got onto the field about 10 or 15 minutes before he started to kick.
During the live periods both kicker missed from 41 yards and the right hash, Dunn wide right and Garrett Swanson short; Dunn missed off the right upright and Swanson hit from 40 yards and the left hash; both hit from 29 yards just inside the left hash.
There were some nice defensive plays during the live periods – outside linebacker Nat Harrison had a sack on McDade, blowing right by Tremblay; defensive end Nikko Motta made a couple of nice plays, chasing down running back T.J. Thomas for a tackle for loss on one.