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.
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.’’
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.
In a photo from the 2012 Spring Game, Fresno State’s Nat Harrison, right, penetrates the line and grabs running back Daryl Cash. In a scrimmage on Monday, March 11, 2013, Harrison delivered a big hit for the defense on Cash, who on a different play scored on a 60-yard run.
Looking for clarity, or even just an inkling where the competition to be the backup to quarterback Derek Carr might be headed, Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter got only clouds.
The offense on Monday scuffled through the first scrimmage of the spring, which was muddled by an injury to backup center Patrick Kim in an individual drill before the scrimmage went live, some poor line play and a lack of competitiveness that impacted the Bulldogs’ play throughout.
“I just thought mentality-wise, our defense came to play, especially up front, and our offense didn’t, by and large,” DeRuyter said. “That’s not everybody, but clearly there were too many guys on the offensive side that didn’t come out and compete.”
The quarterbacks were part and a party to that, the first two scoring drives amounting to single plays. On the first, backup running back Daryl Cash picked up a snap from center Travis Harvey that rolled into the backfield and sprinted 60 yards for a touchdown. On the second, quarterback Brian Burrell hit Davante Adams in the left flat and the wide out put a wicked stiff arm on the cornerback and raced 35 yards down the sideline and into the end zone.
Running back T.J. Thomas later scored on a short run to cap a seven-play drive led by quarterback Marcus McDade, but the Bulldogs have a few issues to sort out.
The offense gave up eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss, and McDade hit 6 of 11 throws for 37 yards and one interception, Myles Carr was 6 of 11 for 15 yards with an interception and Burrell was 3 of 11 for 71 yards, most of it coming on the touchdown catch and run by Adams.
“It was popcorn — one or two plays here and there, but there was nothing consistent done by any of the quarterbacks,” DeRuyter said. “It’s a concern.”
The loss of Kim didn’t help — he suffered a stinger and had to be removed from the field in an ambulance. Travis Harvey had to move up to the No. 2 line, until back-to-back snaps went awry, one low and one high, and he spent the rest of the scrimmage on the sidelines doing some up-downs. Guard Mike Saenz moved over to center with the No. 3 unit.
Kim update (8:30 p.m.): Kim was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons after complaining of pain in his neck from the stinger. He was discharged after passing all of the tests. He’ll be evaluated by the team physician Tuesday and is not yet cleared to return to practice.
Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said he would expect the quarterbacks to be a little farther along, after nine of 15 spring practices.
“I would,” he said, “especially with the guys that have been here for a year. I think when you’re not playing you have a tendency not to study as much as you should or not pay as close attention as you should because it’s not your job. But you never know when your number is called and you have to go.
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.’’
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.
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.’’
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. …
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.’’
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. …
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. …
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. …
The Bulldogs’ offense went through some individual drills that hinted at some more interesting stuff from coordinator Dave Schramm in the fall …
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.’’ …
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.
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 …
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.’’
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. …
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.
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. …
With a change in scheme, the Fresno State Bulldogs went from one of the worst defensive football teams in the bowl subdivision to one of the best, particularly when it came to takeaways.
Just one year after ranking in a tie for 119th and last with only nine turnovers gained, they were fifth with 35. Playing a defense brought in by coach Tim DeRuyter and taught by defensive coordinator Nick Toth, line coach Pete Germano, and secondary coaches Tim McDonald and Jordan Peterson, the Bulldogs also took significant strides up the rankings in passing, total and scoring defense.
It was not all just scheme, of course. Fresno State played with a confidence it was not close to having the previous season, the Bulldogs more aggressive and more physical. This spring, Toth wants to make sure they recapture that, even as they try to find replacements for some key contributors starting with strong safety Phillip Thomas and including SAM linebackers Shawn Plummer and Tristan Okpalaugo.
That is the goal this spring and it is a challenge to every player and every coach. Written on the board in his office is this: “You can’t be the same player/coach you were last year.”
Toth wants the Bulldogs better, and to be building. He talked about that and more in this Q&A leading in to spring practice, the first of 15 for the Bulldogs scheduled for Monday.
Question: Well, you have some bodies to replace …
Answer: Yeah, we’ve got a couple guys … not a whole lot (he was joking, obviously). We have some work to do. We definitely have some work to do. But it has been good. The winter workouts have gone well, so hopefully we get these 15 practice days and go.
What’s the priority this spring for this defense?
We want to make sure, No. 1 that we re-establish our identity. I think the first thing we did when we got here is say, “Hey, we’re going to go out and run around on defense.” That was the big thing. We are going to run to the ball. We are going to try to be physical. And, regardless of what is happening with the offense, we’re going to control what we can control and that’s our attitude, our physicality and our energy level. We’re coming out to re-establish that, and take it to a higher level. That’s the thing that our kids have been talking about, that we’ve been talking about, throughout winter workouts.
Fresno State defensive coordinator Nick Toth is one of 29 nominees for the 2012 Broyles Award, named for former Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles and honoring the top assistant football coach in the country.
With the Bulldogs, Toth has led one of the biggest defensive turnarounds in the bowl subdivision. Last season, Fresno State tied for 119th and last place with nine turnovers gained. Going into a game on Saturday against the Air Force, the Bulldogs have 30 takeaways and are tied for fourth in turnovers gained.
Fresno State also has become the first FBS team since 2001 to have nine takeaways or fewer in one season and 30 or more one year later. The Bulldogs also are giving up 12.3 fewer points per game on defense and 99 fewer yards.
The five finalists for the 2012 Broyles Award will be announced on Monday, Nov. 26. The 2012 Broyles Award winner will be announced on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
Fresno State Coach Tim DeRuyter is sending his assistant coaches on the recruiting road on Thursday – practice will be run by DeRuyter, offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, defensive coordinator Nick Toth and the graduate assistants. They will remain on the road through Saturday, using the NCAA evaluation days to look at high school and junior college players in the 2013 recruiting class.
The Bulldogs are in need of a lot of help, losing key seniors in strong safety Phillip Thomas, linebackers Travis Brown, Shawn Plummer and Tristan Okpalaugo, offensive linemen Richard Helepiko and Matt Hunt, running back Robbie Rouse and wide out Rashad Evans, among others.
But sitting at the top of the Mountain West Conference race, tied with San Diego State, DeRuyter and his staff are finding the going a little better this year compared to last, when they first came in.
There has been …
‘’A little different response?’’ DeRuyter asked. ‘’Oh, yeah. You know, the phones are ringing a lot more coming this way as opposed to always going that way. That’s typical. Guys want to go where they can have success, so if they see a team having success, playing an exciting brand of football and seeing guys having fun doing that, it becomes an attractive product for future players. We’re looking forward to going out and finding the next generation of guys that can do what these guys have done.’’
The Fresno State Bulldogs will spend a long time on a bus on Friday, traveling to Reno for their game against Nevada. They will have their iPads and will be able to pass at least some of the time by watching game tape or a movie or a combination of the two in the horror flick, ‘Fresno State at New Mexico.’
It wasn’t all that bad – the Bulldogs did exit with a victory. But they allowed 349 rushing yards on 51 plays in that game and had several busts against the Lobos’ option – schemes similar to what they will see from the Wolf Pack on Saturday with their hold on first place in the Mountain West on the line.
Many of those busts occurred when the Bulldogs went outside their responsibility on a specific play, and given what is at stake against Nevada, they again could be suckered in to trying to do too much. So, trusting and sticking to responsibility has been an emphasis all week in practice and Coach Tim DeRuyter said the carryover from that New Mexico game should help, as well.
‘’I think what’s good is sometimes when you touch a stove and you realize it’s hot and you get burned, you learn that lesson a little more than someone just telling you,’’ he said. ‘’The fact we were able to escape out of New Mexico not playing great, getting hurt, helps this week in preparation for Nevada because they’ll run some similar schemes and so guys have got to realize if you don’t trust, if you think you have to make up for someone else, you’re going to make us susceptible to big plays.
‘’Hopefully, it’s a good lesson learned. We were able to lean it and still get a win, but it’s part of the learning process for our guys and hopefully they can take that to Reno.’’
Whether that one time is enough to drive the message home won’t be known until Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
‘’It’ the beauty of the option, but it’s something that forces you to be responsible and have guys trust that you’re going to do your job right or you’re going to get burned in a hurry. Hopefully our guys will use that lesson from the last game and not make those mistakes.’’ DeRuyter said.
‘’(Defensive coordinator Nick Toth) showed our guys, hey, look what happened in the New Mexico game, and here’s Reno running those plays. If we fit it right we should be fine, but if we don’t and you lose trust they’re capable of running it up on us.
‘’There’s a reason (Stefphon) Jefferson is leading the country in rushing – he’s a good back and they have a good scheme. I think our guys are conscious of that and realize now, moreso, because of what happened in the New Mexico game that they have to be consistent and they have to be diligent in taking their responsibility. They can’t just go, well, I thought this guy had it. That doesn’t work, you’ve got to go do what you’re supposed to do.’’
There is enough for the Fresno State Bulldogs to worry about when facing a Nevada offense that is averaging 260.6 rushing yards per game and 262.7 passing yards a game, the only team in the bowl subdivision gaining more than 260 yards per game in both categories.
The Wolf Pack is ranked eighth in total offense, 14th in scoring offense. They have scored 30 points or more in every game this season, which is something even the Bulldogs have not managed to do, scoring 26 in a loss at Tulsa, 28 in a win at Colorado State and 10 in a loss at Boise State.
And, they are coming into this Mountain West match up with the Bulldogs off a bye week, which has given them plenty of time to add a bit to the offense they run from the Pistol formation.
‘’He’s had two weeks so there will be a whole bunch of new wrinkles. He’ll do stuff in the off week that we’re not expecting, so we have our hands full dealing with that,’’ defensive coordinator Nick Toth said.
Adjustments will need to be made, but that, Mike linebacker Travis Brown said, is why the Bulldogs’ defense will go into the game with a degree of confidence.
‘’They’ve been pretty solid about keeping what they’ve been doing. We looked at them today and they haven’t run any kind of shotgun empty this whole year,’’ said Brown, who is third on the team with 46 tackles. ‘’I don’t know if they’re into too much new stuff, but what they’ve done in the past is add an option guy to it. That’s what they did to our old scheme.
‘’But if it does happen, they won’t be the first team to add a little wrinkle into their offense to catch us off guard. That first series or two, we catch it, we make our adjustments off of it. That’s what these coaches do best. We’re in good hands if they come out in something different.
‘’We have adjustments on the field that, if they come out in a funky formation, we can check into and get cleaned up right there. But if they come out in a totally crazy play, we’ll just wait until we get to the sidelines and if it gets bad enough where they’re hitting chunks we’ll call timeout and fix it right there.’’