Fresno State center Patrick Kim, the JC transfer who was expected to at best start and at worst provide depth this season, has had his college football career ended by injury.
The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Kim hurt his neck in a non-contact period during spring practices and results of further evaluation and testing found an increased risk of injury should he continue to play football. The decision was made to retire, and Kim will remain on a medical hardship scholarship, which does not count against the NCAA maximum of 85 for football.
“To continue playing would put him in too high a risk for re-injury,’’ coach Tim DeRuyter said. “It’s tough on Patrick. It’s kind of a rare thing, but unfortunately it happened. The good news is that we caught it before something traumatic happened and we’re going to do everything we can to keep Patrick involved in our football program either as a student coach or some type of other role because he’s a great kid. It just hurts when those type of things happen.”
Kim came to Fresno State from Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, playing center and guard for a team that went 11-1 and averaged 421.5 yards and 34.6 points per game. He started his career as a non-scholarship walk-on at USC in 2010 and did not play for the Trojans as a redshirt freshman in 2011.
He was off to a solid start in the spring, working at center with the Bulldogs’ No. 2 offensive line but sat out the last week of practices because of the injury. The line remained unsettled throughout with only the left tackle and right guard spots set with returning starters Austin Wentworth and Cody Wichmann.
When the Bulldogs open fall camp senior Lars Bramer, who had started the first seven games last season and was with the first unit throughout the spring, will be the center. Senior Mike Saenz, who was moved to center from guard in the spring after the injury to Kim, goes in as the backup.
Third-year sophomore Bo Bonnheim also has practiced at center and went into fall camp a year ago as the starter there. Redshirt freshman Travis Harvey, who was a center at the start of the spring, had issues with the shotgun snaps and was moved to guard.
But the starting center and left guard spots are far from determined, with junior college transfer Sean Rubalcava coming in and expected to make an immediate push for playing time at guard.
“When (Kim) came here, he worked his tail off and we thought he’d work his way into a starting role so there’s a little bit of a hole there,” DeRuyter said.
“Coming out of spring, we weren’t locked in with our first unit so there’s still going to be some upheaval there. Sean Rubalcava will be here this summer – we anticipate him based on our film evaluation to be a guy that can come in and compete right away, but he’s going to have to learn it an then prove it to us. It will be an interesting first couple weeks of August.”