Football: Fresno State QB Derek Carr named to Heisman Pundit Watch List

Derek Carr, passing against Oregon last year, and the Bulldogs open the 2013 season Aug. 29 against Rutgers at Bulldog Stadium.

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr has been named to the 2013 Heisman Pundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Trophy Watch List.

Carr last season as a junior was the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year and was named an honorable mention All-American by Sports Illustrated after passing for a conference-record 4,104 yards to go with 37 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

Carr is one of 29 players on the list and one of 18 quarterbacks, including two more from the Mountain West — Nevada junior Cody Fajardo and San Jose State senior David Fales.

For his career, Carr has thrown for 7,760 yards — on a school-best .652 completion percentage — with 63 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He enters his senior season needing 3,049 passing yards to break Kevin Sweeney’s school passing record that has stood since 1986.

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Fresno State football spring scrimmage notes: Northern opens up another position battle on O-line

Head coach Tim DeRuyter, top, talks to his team following Fresno State football team’s Spring Game held at Bulldog Stadium on Saturday, March 23, 2013. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

The interior offensive line is fluid, but it was expected to be at this point. Fresno State, looking to replace starting center Richard Helepiko and left guard Matt Hunt, had some options to explore this spring with more coming in this fall and line coach Cameron Norcross is making concessions to make sure he gets a look at those bigger, longer, linemen, most notably guard Sean Rubalcava from Cerritos College.

A proponent of finding his five best linemen and putting them to work, developing continuity and a confidence across the line, Norcross in the fall will get Rubalcava some reps right away with the No. 1 group to get a gauge where he is coming in and how quickly he can assimilate the Bulldogs’ schemes and calls up front. ‘’He’s a guy that we’re going to have to do that for,’’ he said.

But exiting spring practice, the right tackle spot also is wide open, which was not expected. Justin Northern, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound redshirt sophomore, made it that way. And that would be the case whether or not returning starter Alex Fifita had not missed the last week-plus with a hamstring injury.

‘’Alex coming (into the spring) was a clear-cut favorite, but it didn’t finish that way,’’ Norcross said. ‘’They’re going to finish head-to-head or Justin may be a little head because Alex has been hurt and Justin took the opportunity he got and ran with it.

‘’He didn’t back down and step away and concede to Alex. He said, ‘No, I’m going to take this opportunity, I’m going to take this starting job’ and I love that attitude. I was proud of him that way.’’

Northern didn’t have the best spring in the position group, but Norcross said he had made the most improvement coming off a solid offseason.

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Bulldogs get their Mountain West Conference championship rings

Fresno State safety Derron Smith shows off his Mountain West division championship ring he, along with the rest of the team, received at the annual awards banquet March 22, 2013. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

The Fresno State Bulldogs received their Mountain West Conference championship rings on Friday at their annual awards banquet; big, bright numbers with a Bulldog logo prominently featured in the middle. ‘’They’re blingy,’’ Coach Tim DeRuyter said, with a smile.

Running back Robbie Rouse, who set the all-time school record for rushing yards, was honored as the team’s most valuable player, and linebackers Tristan Okpalaugo, Shawn Plummer and Jeremiah Toma, punter Andrew Shapiro, quarterback Derek Carr, strong safety Phillip Thomas, running back Josh Quezada and defensive end Matt Akers also won individual awards.

Akers, a senior who had started all 13 games in 2011 as an undersized defensive end, lost his chance to play much less start when the Bulldogs switched to a 3-4 from the 4-3, spent the last half of the season preparing true freshman Alex Fifita to start week to week at right tackle and was honored as the defensive scout team player of the year. ‘’He had as big a role in us winning those last five of the regular season as anyone did,’’ offensive line coach Cameron Norcross said.

Akers in practice went at Fifita on every rep – he was working with the first and second teams to get as much work as possible – using his quickness to get the freshman used to the speed of the game.

‘’I think it’s quite a testament to his character,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’A senior who was a former starter … scheme switches, coaches change, a lot of times those guys go south and become problems in the locker room. He was a guy that really pushed Alex Fifita to get better and I don’t know that Alex would have been good enough to start for us a year ago if it weren’t for Matt Akers.

‘’To me, he’s the essence of what a team guy is – ‘I may not get the glory of playing on Saturday, but I’m going to make our team as good as possible.’ For him to earn that award, I think it speaks volumes.’’

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Fresno State spring practice report: Smith out, Dean back in doghouse

Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter talks with receiver Victor Dean during a game last season. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

The Bulldogs went through their final football practice of the spring Friday, a short workout in helmets and shorts. With the spring game on Saturday, they were on the field for about 75 minutes.

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Wide out Victor Dean, who has had some maturity issues in his time at Fresno State, has done a little backsliding over the past week or so. He was held out of practice and afterward had to barrel-roll the length of the field, which can’t be a whole lot of fun.

‘’Victor has got some things he has to take care of,’’ coach Tim DeRuyter said. ‘’Right now he’s not being very accountable, so he has to earn his trust back. He’s slipping right now.’’

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Free safety Derron Smith also did not practice. He was out with a sprained right ankle, suffered playing pickup basketball on Thursday night. He had the foot and ankle in a protective boot.

Smith will not participate in the spring game.

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Fresno State spring fooball report: It didn’t rain, but DeRuyter made sure it was wet enough

Tim DeRuyter, shown during the Spring Game last season, made sure the Bulldogs got some wet-weather work in Friday at spring practice, dousing the ball with water before every play during one drill.

It didn’t rain at all during the Bulldogs’ spring practice Friday, but football coach Tim DeRuyter was hoping that it would to see his team compete and perform in some adverse conditions.

Because it wasn’t wet enough, during 7 on 7 he stood there pouring water on the footballs as they were about to be snapped to the quarterbacks. DeRuyter, at least, seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. Not so sure about the quarterbacks, though Derek Carr made some really nice throws with the wet footballs. The other quarterbacks, not so much. The wet ball apparently wasn’t enough, because DeRuyter took to squirting water at the quarterbacks from behind the play.

“We had to artificially create some situations,” DeRuyter said. “But our offense took care of the ball much better. Having to hold and kick and snap with a wet ball, it was decent today. We’ve got to do a better job actually kicking field goals — we’re not consistent enough there.

“But I liked our situational stuff. We had some live periods. We saw guys like Myles Carr make some guys miss and make a play. We know Isaiah (Burse) can makes plays and he got an opportunity to do that. Defensively, we’ve got to look at the tape and see who is missing tackles in space and work on that.”

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Myles Carr did stand out among the backup quarterbacks with his ability to run — and the quarterbacks were live in everything this time, not just outside the pocket. Carr came through the line on one play and made a nice cut to the outside to elude two tacklers, kind of an eye-opener.

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Bulldogs’ spring practice report: corrections on the fly are a good sign for improving defense

Fresno State had a pretty good season a year ago, defensively. The scheme got put in, absorbed. The Bulldogs played it well enough to make a huge jump in turnovers gained, as well as total and scoring defense. And all of that has shown through in their first two practices of the spring, particularly in a secondary that is without strong safety Phillip Thomas, but does return three starters.

The Bulldogs are making plays, and the difference from this time a year ago with the scheme and playing techniques is rather large.

‘’It’s funny, a year ago we were worried so little about scheme and just trying to establish a whole bunch of other stuff,’’ defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. ‘’I feel real good. Our kids are showing up and they’re playing pretty hard right now – the intensity is real good, they’re running to the ball.

‘’So we’re getting to worry about more technique and scheme stuff and the DBs, they’re the ones we’re seeing a whole bunch of results with that. Three of the four are back and they’re light years ahead.

‘’They’re all self-correcting, which is a sign of the scheme sinking in. I saw (linebacker) Kyrie Wilson today self-correct. As he was making a mistake, he felt it, and that’s because he had all those reps from before. I feel good about that stuff. Everything looks good, but we don’t have pads on. We’ll find out more on Friday, but I’m happy with where we are.’’

 

Practice report

Defensive lineman Andy Jennings was back in practice – he missed the first spring practice due to a death in his family. Wideout Dillon Root was at practice, but not in practice – he was involved in an auto accident on Sunday and is moving a bit stiffly. Tight end Marcel Jensen was excused from practice, so the Bulldogs had to move third-string tackle Andrew Gustafson to tight end for a day. …

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Coach Tim DeRuyter on the practice: ‘’It was much cleaner than it was on Monday, which is to be expected. I thought our intensity, we had a good bounce in our step. Things were good today. We took care of the ball much better on offense. We put two fumbles on the ground – we can’t do that. The defense did a good job of stripping the ball. They were contact fumbles. But overall, I like what we’re getting done on both sides of the ball.’’

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The Bulldogs will put on the pads for the first time on Friday and will scrimmage for the first time next Monday, which is practice No. 9 of their 15. …

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A decision regarding the status of receiver A.J. Johnson is expected on Friday. Johnson, who missed last season for violating team and NCAA policy, is under suspension for a violation of team rules. …

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Backup long snapper Chad Preacher, who is graduating this spring, has decided not to return to the team, leaving the Bulldogs short at a key position behind starter Dylan Detwiler. Coach Tim DeRuyter said there are some in-house candidates to provide some depth there, including junior college transfer Josh Tremblay, who is running at the No. 2 left tackle. …

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The Bulldogs’ offense went through some individual drills that hinted at some more interesting stuff from coordinator Dave Schramm in the fall …

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The backup quarterbacks were all sharper than they were on Monday, in the first of the Bulldogs’ spring practices. There was only one interception thrown – that on an errant throw by Marcus McDade.

On that pass, McDade was a little high and a little late on a throw to Anthony Riggins, the play broken up and the football popping into the air, where it was picked by safety Dalen Jones. …

JOHN WALKER / THE FRESNO BEE
Among the top goals for Fresno State in 2013 is keeping Derek Carr upright and giving him the time to find his receivers. The Bulldogs ranked 78th in the nation last year, allowing an average of 2.23 sacks per game.

Derek Carr threw in the two 7 on 7 periods, but again sat out both team periods. The line play should be improved with some competition in the position group and the receiving corps should be healthier, meaning they won’t be shuffling players between positions as much. But it wouldn’t be like Carr to sit back and expect that to cure the ‘Dogs problems with sacks and interceptions a year ago.

‘’For me, it’s continuing to grow however I can grow,’’ he said. ‘’If there’s something I see, then I’ll work on that. Right now, I’m working on my eyes, making sure my eyes are right 100 percent of the time, make sure I make the decision right 100 percent of the time here at practice.

‘’My whole goal throughout spring ball is to not turn the ball over once. Keeping that as a goal, keeping my eyes right, that will help me get better and that will help the offense.’’ …

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That no-turnover streak came close to ending after one practice. In 7 on 7, Carr made a late throw to Isaiah Burse and safety Rodney Mathews came over and was able to make a play on the ball, batting it away. Aside from that throw, he was spot-on, completing the other four he had in the period.

For what it’s worth, scribbled in the notebook were three ‘’NTC’s’’ … nice throw and catch.

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Of the backup quarterbacks, McDade had 10 reps between the two 7 on 7 periods and completed six and three of them were to backs. Myles Carr hit seven of his 10 reps including a perfectly placed pass to Burse running up a hash and bracketed by defenders. Brian Burrell hit six of his eight reps …

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In team, running back Marteze Waller was stripped of the ball on the very first play of the period and, like the quarterbacks on Monday, lost reps for the turnover.

The best pass-catch in the team periods was Myles Carr and Anthony Riggins up the right sideline. Carr threw a bit late and the ball hung up in the air, but Riggins went over cornerback Shannon Edwards to haul in the pass.

Riggins had trouble catching the ball last season, getting his eyes, hands and the football to intersect at the same time. But he did a lot of work after practices last year, and over the winter, and is catching it much cleaner than he had been.

‘’It’s coming along,’’ Riggins said. ‘’I’ve been working on it. I started OK, but started struggling later in the season. I just have to keep working on it to get it perfect.

‘’I’m a lot more confident and comfortable playing the game at this speed. I just have to get my eyes on the ball – they told me to take a picture of it when I’m catching the ball and that’s what I’m working on. I have to make that second nature. A lot of times, I was trying to catch the ball and I wasn’t even looking at it. I have to look at it every single time all the way in.’’

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Riggins did some work after practice again, catching balls fired out of the Juggs gun. Aaron Peck also took some extra work after practice, something he did not do a lot of last season. …

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Wide

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA / THE FRESNO BEE
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter chats with wide receiver Victor Dean during a November 2012 game. Dean is working to return from a broken leg suffered last season.

out Victor Dean, coming back from the broken leg, did not participate in team, but he stayed after practice as well, running some routes and catching passes from receivers coach Ron Antoine.

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Redshirt freshman Travis Harvey, who did his work at guard on Monday, got some reps at center. He had one bad snap in team, when Burrell was in the shotgun. He stayed after to work on that – snapping the ball to quarterback turned slot receiver Greg Watson. …

 

 

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.

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Fresno State Coach Tim DeRuyter on plans for JC quarterback transfer Brian Burrell

Bakersfield quarterback Brian Burrell throws a pass while College of the Canyons’ Nathan Mitogo defends and Bakersfield’s Ricardo Figueroa lays on the ground. (SHELBY MACK/THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN)

Fresno State did not have a junior college quarterback high on its list of recruiting priorities early on. The Bulldogs had Derek Carr, who was still a junior. Greg Watson was the backup, followed by Marcus McDade and Myles Carr. It was not a pressing need – certainly not as pressing as the offensive and defensive lines, the linebacker and defensive backs positions.

But with Watson moving to receiver and questions about the progress McDade and Myles Carr made during the season, the Bulldogs went out and signed Brian Burrell, who last season led  Bakersfield City College to a CCCAA state championship with a victory over City College of San Francisco.

The 6-foot-4 Burrell is enrolled in school and will participate in spring practices, competing with McDade and Myles Carr to be the backup quarterback.

Here is Coach Tim DeRuyter on Burrell:

‘’Right now, with the younger guys that we have, nobody has established themselves as a No. 2 to where we would feel good about it. It was kind of an insurance policy. Obviously, with Derek coming back, we feel good about him. But we were thinking about maybe (taking a JC transfer) and then we saw the tape on Brian – he’s a heck of a quarterback. He’s going to come in and compete and it will be good competition for everybody.’’

Kuwada: What does he do well that translates to what you guys are running?

‘’I think he’s very athletic. He’s very accurate throwing the ball. He doesn’t run a ton, but when he does he can move the chains. I think his leadership and his accuracy are probably his high points. He took a team to the state championship game a year ago. All those things I think are key to a quarterback and that’s what he’s going to bring us.’’ Read more →

Bulldogs’ quarterback Derek Carr has surgery to repair sports hernia

Fresno State’s Derek Carr makes a long run against San Diego State in the first quarter of at Bulldog Stadium on Sept. 29, 2012. (JOHN WALKER/THE FRESNO BEE)

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr had some of his best games in the second half of the season, en route to becoming the Mountain West Conference offensive player of the year and leading the Bulldogs to a big turnaround year going from 4-9 to 9-4.

The 6-foot-3 junior from Bakersfield finished the season ranked eighth in the bowl subdivision in passing, throwing for 4,104 yards with 37 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He was ranked 15th in passing efficiency with a rating of 155.94, and 12th in total offense with an average of 315.8 yards per game.

And, he did it while playing hurt.

The Bulldogs’ quarterback had surgery this offseason to repair a sports hernia, Coach Tim DeRuyter said. Carr was able to play through it the second half of the season, but was limited in parts of the offense.

‘’We wanted to do some things to get him out of the pocket in a game like that we would normally do, but we just couldn’t,’’ DeRuyter said, of the Bulldogs’ 43-10 loss to Southern Methodist in the Hawaii Bowl. ‘’Our quarterback run series stuff, we couldn’t with him. He could play, but if we had him where he would really push, now you might further injure it and maybe he wouldn’t play. But he’s had the surgery and he’s going to be fine. We’re excited about him coming back.’’

Recovery time for the surgery is typically four to six weeks and Carr is expected to be back by the time the Bulldogs start spring practices on Feb. 25.

Carr, who announced after the Bulldogs clinched a share of the Mountain West Conference championship with a victory over the Air Force that he would return for a senior season rather than declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft, would likely have had his reps cut back in the spring even without the injury. The Bulldogs are moving backup quarterback Greg Watson to an inside receiver position to take better advantage of his play-making ability, and need to develop a backup quarterback.

Marcus McDade and Myles Carr are the returning quarterbacks behind Carr. McDade, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season, played in two games last year (against Colorado and Hawaii) but did not throw a pass. Myles Carr was a redshirt in his first year in the program, running the scout offense.