Fresno State ran some live periods at the end of practice on Monday, their first hitting this spring. They flew around pretty good. But the physical nature of practice started well before they went live, and redshirt freshman safety Dalen Jones and the younger players watching learned a lesson there.
In team run, running back Marteze Waller came through the line running right at Jones. It didn’t appear that the safety was expecting big contact but he got it – Waller, who has been known to finish runs on the practice field, just plowed him.
Jones got Waller down, but he was flat on his back at the end of the play and he heard about it from defensive coordinator Nick Toth.
‘’You know, you have to make your decision when you get in those drills,’’ Toth said. ‘’You’re either going to be physical and deliver it and get yelled at for being too physical, or you’re going to catch it and get your face knocked off and I don’t want guys that are going to catch.
‘’I want to yell at them to pull it back and Dalen learned that from that drill. Dalen, he’s not afraid to hit, but he got in there and was a freshman. You better get in there and smack. You better get in there and go. But he learned a lesson, a lesson you probably have to learn as a freshman.’’
Jones recovered nicely the rest of the way. ‘’After I yelled at him early in practice, Dalen got better,’’ Toth said.
There were a couple of injuries and the Bulldogs are lucky they weren’t more serious. Waller went down with a right leg injury. Coach Tim DeRuyter said it was a quad. Waller spent the rest of practice on the side with ice on it.
Cornerback Sean Alston was on the wrong end of one of the biggest hits in the live periods, trying to make a tackle on running back Malique Micenheimer.
He was down for a few minutes, but was able to get up and to the sidelines, albeit moving very slowly. He had a stinger.
Micenheimer, who has played linebacker and fullback, is an absolute load with the ball in his hands, by the way …
Quarterback Marcus McDade absorbed the other big hit in the live stuff, scrambling to the right sideline. DeRuyter had the quarterbacks live when they were outside the pocket, and Karl Mickelsen just drilled him, one of a number of physical plays the inside linebacker was involved in.
During individuals, the wide outs and cornerbacks matched up in a sideline drill – the receivers catching a pass at the numbers, the corners needing to wrap up or get them out of bounds.
The corners routinely got killed in this drill a year ago, but were much better on Monday.
Still, no one had much an answer for Davante Adams. He got pretty much whatever he wanted, making a move to the inside or beating the defender to and up the sideline.
Slot receiver Dillon Root (car accident) was in practice for the first time, participating in individuals. He is expected to be cleared for contact for the Wednesday practice.
Here is some video from a ball security drill …
There were no changes in the first, second or third offensive lines. James Le’au continued to run with the ones at left guard and seems to have separated himself a bit from Mike Saenz.
Le’au is not getting much of a push, but DeRuyter said he has come along.
‘’He has been making some strides,’’ he said. ‘’I think he’s separated himself a little from Saenz. He’s had an opportunity to work with that first group. He still has work to do, but I do see progress there.’’
One thing Le’au is doing better: competing play after play after play.
‘’Which is encouraging,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’To be frank, a year ago at that position we weren’t real consistent with our starter there, either. I think he’s starting to figure it out. I think, when he came in, I don’t know if he had the mentality, ‘I’ll wait my turn,’ and he was dinged up a little bit and he never really was in a rhythm. He’s had a chance to get healthy now and I think he understands the offense better. When you understand things fully you can play closer to your potential and he’s getting closer to that.’’
When 7 on 7 was going at the other end of the field, the offensive and defensive linemen were matching up in pass rush drills, first two-man and then one-on-one.
The Bulldogs’ defensive line got the better of most, which is no surprise.
Tyeler Davison didn’t take a lot of reps, but on one he just blew right by center Lars Bramer. He also tried a spin move in a matchup against Saenz and midway through decided to just go right through him, which he did.
Todd Hunt also had a good rep working to the inside against Le’au.
Maurice Poyadue, the backup nose, had a good rep against Bo Bonnheim.
Andy Jennings also was a handful for JC transfer Patrick Kim, though Kim come back and get Jennings later in the period.
When the live periods started, Brian Burrell got the first reps with the No. 1 offense. McDade then worked with the No. 2s and Myles Carr with the No. 3 offense.
All three backup quarterbacks ended up taking some reps with the No. 1 offense.
The field goal and PATs have been a question, but the placements could be a factor in that. Davante Adams has been holding when Garrett Swanson is taking kicks, and Swanson has been holding when Blake Dunn is doing the kicking. But it is an area that needs some development.
Punter Andrew Shapiro did the holding a year ago and, as DeRuyter said, was nails at it. But someone will have to develop some consistency there. ‘’Garrett has all day long to work with Blake, so you hope that he ends up emerging to be the guy,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’As we get into fall camp we’ll figure who that guy is and we’ll go with it from there.’’
Along with Mickelson, Kyrie Wilson had a very good practice. ‘’He’s starting to play with some confidence,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’He’s always had the physical tools, but for him, understanding the scheme at times slowed him down … or, trying to understand the scheme. I think now he’s feeling more comfortable and you can see him really burst and when he gets there he’s a physical load.’’
Toth on the inside linebackers: ‘’Karl has had five good days, five really good days. I feel really good about him right now. Him and Kyrie, both, and (Jeremiah) Toma, have all played really well. The offense is doing some stuff schematically that bothers us, too, so for them to be fitting it the way they are, I’m happy.’’
Rodney Mathews continued to get the reps with the No. 1 defense at strong safety, but DeRuyter and Toth both had a lot of positives on Charles Washington, as well.
The strong safety position should be interesting to watch throughout the spring.
‘’The hard thing is, they’re learning it for the first time. They’re not like most of these other guys, where it’s carry over. Charles was playing free (safety) and really didn’t even play that much. There’s plenty of work to do – we have 10 (practices) left and there’s plenty to do.’’