Tyeler Davison spent last season at nose guard in the Fresno State Bulldogs’ 3-4 front, dealing with constant double teams and all of the nasty stuff that goes on snap to snap in the interior line. He did it very well – Davison was in on 43 tackles including 28 solo stops and 7.0 behind the line of scrimmage, recovered three fumbles and forced another, and was a first-team all-conference selection.
But this week the 315-pound junior will get a chance to see what life is like outside that compressed, cramped, crunching space in the middle of the defensive line, getting his reps at end for a few days in a move that will boost the Bulldogs’ depth up front.
Understandably, he is looking forward to it. ‘’I definitely want to experience that, because I haven’t got to lately at the nose spot,’’ he said. ‘’I’m kind of excited about that, so we’ll see how it goes.’’
But no more than Coach Tim DeRuyter and the Bulldogs’ defensive staff, who every week last season managed to find ways to scuttle opposing offenses despite a lack of depth up front.
With no ready backup to Davison at the nose a year ago, ends Andy Jennings and Nikko Motta got trained inside. Now it is Davision’s turn to work outside, and with junior college nose guard Ioane Sagapolu from Fresno City College arriving in the fall and the emergence this spring of redshirt freshman Maurice Poyadue at the nose, a spot that was a huge concern a year ago appears much healthier.
The Bulldogs also signed defensive end Claudell Louis from College of the Sequoias, who is expected to have a significant impact in the fall, as well as high school players Jaylen Ruiz (Memorial High), Ryan Steele (Kingsburg) and Nathan Madsen (Eureka).
But with Davision, Jennings and Motta able to play nose and end, it provides a great deal of flexibility.
‘’It makes it where you feel really good about our defensive end position,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’When you can have 300-pound defensive ends like Tyeler is, and you’ve got Andy at 285 or so, you feel pretty good. Nikko Motta was productive for us last year. I think Maurice Poyadue is starting to emerge, so it gives you a lot of depth and the key thing in college football now is not having just one deep. You have to be able to rotate guys to keep guys fresh and you can’t do that if you don’t have trust and we’re starting to develop that depth now, which hopefully will sustain us into the fall.’’
The Bulldogs are going to do work some situational and live periods in practice on Monday, so Davison is not likely to get any reps at end until the middle of the week – Fresno State also is practicing on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. But he brings a unique skill set to the position. ‘’What Tyeler possesses that not many people have is he’s 315 pounds, but he moves like a 275-pounder,’’ defensive line coach Pete Germano said. ‘’Tyeler has got great hips, great flexibility and he can run. Tyeler moves like a 275 guy, that’s what makes him special and he can be an end because he can move.’’
And the move could be a boon to a defense that improved greatly in the first season under DeRuyter and coordinator Nick Toth, jumping to 22nd in the bowl subdivision in total defense from 100th.
‘’At end, there’s a little bit more that you have to know,’’ Davison said. ‘’But a lot of the techniques that we use at nose translate over to the end spot, too. I don’t think it will be too tough. I practiced a little bit at end last year, too, so I know what’s going on and I’ve been paying attention to all the end stuff all year.
”I don’t feel like it will be too tough of a transition, and I think I can bring some pop there to the end of the line. That will be nice.’’
They started the morning practice with a Bulldog Drill, squaring off by position groups – o-line vs. d-line, backs vs. linebackers, and receivers vs. defensive backs before moving to the middle of the field where the coaches had a few players to go at it. The defensive players won all of those match ups in the middle, the best of them redshirt freshman linebacker Brandon Hughes getting running back Marteze Waller and nose guard Maurice Poyadue taking down Travis Harvey. …
That start didn’t carry through the end of practice. They weren’t very sharp toward the end …
Coach Tim DeRuyter on the practice: ‘’We got better, but we still have a long, long way to go. But it’s good to see guys who consistently compete. I think Isaiah Burse is doing a really good job. I like what he’s getting done. I think Sean Alston is getting some things done. It’s fun to watch him. And some guys are emerging that hadn’t before. I think Maurice Poyadue is doing some things. I think Daryl Cash is doing some things and flashing. Overall, it’s kind of typical spring where there is going to be some highs and lows, but it’s fun to see guys compete.’’
DeRuyter said that the Bulldogs would run some situational and live periods on Monday, and scrimmage the following Monday. …
There was quite a bit of mixing and matching with the inside and outside linebackers in the two team periods. Redshirt freshman Brock Carmen, a walk-on from Clovis North, was getting some reps with the No. 2 defense at an inside linebacker spot. He had come in last year as a safety.
‘’Inside, Jeremiah Toma is probably ahead of the other guys, but he’s a guy that needs to improve and we’ve got Kyrie (Wilson) and Karl (Mickelsen) that are flashing at times, but have to be more consistent in there,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’There’s a constant rotation in there.’’
On the unfamiliar numbers – Carmen is wearing No. 49 and Greg Spivak, from Kingsburg and Santa Barbara City College, another walk-on who got some reps, is in No. 50.
‘’Again, it’s a time for guys to earn a position, so we’re going to put guys in that maybe haven’t had a shot. Brock Carmen is in there, Greg Spivak … those guys haven’t been in a whole lot of reps, but they’re going to get their opportunity,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’Again, that’s what spring is all about.’’
The receivers and defensive backs matched up one-on-one and for a second day in a row the DBs were the ones doing push ups at the end of the period.
Some had better days than on Friday, but there were just some crazy catches made by receivers.
L.J. Jones had Davante Adams wrapped up pretty good on one rep, but with a back shoulder throw Adams just stuck a hand up and the ball somehow stuck there in his paw.
Burse also made a nice play on an underthrown ball, leaping up and reaching back over cornerback Jonathan Norton to make the catch.
Defensively, Alston made a great recovery off an inside move by Aaron Peck and closed quickly enough to make a play and separate ball from receiver.
Here is some video of a run drill …
During the 7 on 7 periods, the offensive and defensive linemen matched up in a pass pro-pass rush drill. The depth on the offensive line still is a work in progress …
Wide out Victor Dean is participating in individual drills and 7 on 7, but no team at this point, coming back from the broken leg he suffered a year ago.
During team, he signals plays into the quarterback on the field along with the quarterbacks that are not on it, another sign just how far he has come in the past year.
DeRuyter said a year ago, they wouldn’t have even asked him to try it.
Greg Watson on the full-time switch to a slot receiver from quarterback: ‘’I love it. It’s a chance for me to play more with Derek returning and everything. I have a lot to work on because it’s a new position for me still. I only played it a little bit last year. But I love it. I’ve got other receivers around me that are helping me – Isaiah Burse and Stew (Taylor Stewart) and I’ve got Coach (Phil) Earley helping me and Coach (Dave) Schramm, he stays on me because he’s the offensive coordinator.’’
If last year is any indication, Schramm can come up with a few inventive ways to make use of Watson and his skill set. But right now, the focus is more simple.
‘’I’m just trying to get a spot,’’ Watson said. ‘’I don’t know what the depth chart is, nothing like that. I’m just making my reps count. I don’t know where I am right now, I’m just trying to hit the field this season.’’
Schramm is throwing out the first pitch at the Bulldogs’ baseball game on Saturday …
There were some players looking to get some extra work at the end of practice including Adams and tight end Marcel Jensen, who missed a day of practice this week.
They were shooed off the field – the lacrosse team had a scheduled practice.