Fresno State’s Bramer closing in on magic number — and closing hole in middle of offensive line

Fresno State lost Patrick Kim before he could play a single down of football, the junior college transfer going down in spring practices with a neck injury. He has taken a medical retirement. And that leaves the Bulldogs with a huge question in the middle of their line, which remained unsettled through the spring outside of returning starters Austin Wentworth at left tackle and Cody Wichmann at right guard.

Lars Bramer worked with the No. 1 offense at center through the spring. But, ideally, they are looking for a bigger body there, a 300-pounder with presence.

Fresno State center Lars Bramer has made some solid gains through the ‘Dogs strength and conditioning program

‘’You’d love to have a 300-pound guy who can move,’’ coach Tim DeRuyter said. ‘’Patrick was like 290 or so, and was closer to that.

”Lars, he’s got to get himself up into that range and he knows, he knows this is his last go at it and he feels a sense of urgency to get there.’’

With one week remaining in the Bulldogs’ offseason strength and conditioning program, Bramer, a senior from Buchanan High, is in fact closing in on that number and improved his strength.

He is at 282 pounds, after playing at 274 or so last season.

‘’That’s huge for him and you see the improvements in the strength when we start putting on some weight (when lifting) with those guys,’’ strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese said. ‘’And Lars is a guy, movement-wise, that has gotten a lot better, just from pure running mechanics and things. He’s really cleaned up some of that stuff that he had going on.’’

Boese is confident the 6-foot-5 Bramer can carry 290 good pounds, but the question, as it was a year ago, is whether he will be able to hold it through the season.

Bramer started the first seven games a year ago, then missed a game when suspended for a violation of athletic department policy. When he returned, the Bulldogs had gone to a bigger lineup up front, with Richard Helepiko moving in at center from a guard spot, and he never regained playing time.

‘’Lars knows that and we’ve been pounding Lars about making sure he’s eating and what he’s putting in his diet and those things,’’ Boese said. ‘’He’s done well in here, from where he started to where he is now strength-wise, he’s gotten a lot better. And it’s important to Lars, which is huge.

‘’He knows he’s going to have to be a huge part anchoring that line and making sure we’re not getting that bull rush. When he sees a guy like Tyeler Davison (in practice) or that guy from Boise last year, that, ‘Hey, I’m not putting a move on you, I’m lining up right in front of you and I’m putting a bull rush on you,’ he knows that from last year now and that offensive line continues to grow.’’

Football: Fresno State’s Patrick Kim has career ended by injury

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.

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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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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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