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 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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Fresno State O-line coach Cameron Norcross has high expectations for spring practices

Offensive line coach Cameron Norcross demonstrates technique to Bulldogs players during fall camp in August 2012. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

The Fresno State Bulldogs will hold the first of their 15 spring practices bright and early on Monday morning, and the Mountain West co-champions have more than a few questions to answer.

Many are up front on the offensive line, which lost senior starters Richard Helepiko and Matt Hunt and do not have much ready-depth at any of the five positions coming back. There are no candidates to step up and slot in at the center or left guard – not without a lot of work, anyway.

That will make for some interesting sessions for offensive line coach Cameron Norcross, who still is stinging from the Hawaii Bowl loss to Southern Methodist.

The players, Norcross said, should be, too.

The line coach answers a few questions about the line and the expectations he has for the position group through the spring as well as scouting reports on the junior college players who could have an impact this season.

Bee: Your group had a pretty good season last year, but now you lose Richard Helepiko and Matt Hunt and that has to be a concern – one thing that wasn’t there was competition within the group or a lot of depth, and you have two starters to replace …

Norcross: “There was one thing we didn’t have enough of last year, and that was depth. The biggest thing this spring is not who are the five guys that are going to start, but it’s who is going to make the group better, because then you’ve got continual competition. We didn’t have that. We would have our five starters, our five to seven guys that are going to play, and there was no one else who stepped up. That’s what we have to have this spring. We’ve got to be able to find 10 guys that are going to be able to step up and compete day in and day out for jobs. I didn’t think we were as good as we could have been last year just because our level of competition in practice wasn’t there.”

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DeRuyter: Thoughts on JC offensive line transfer Patrick Kim

Fresno State has enrolled three junior college transfers in its 2013 recruiting class, all of whom will participate in spring practices and could step into major roles right away.

Patrick Kim, an offensive lineman from Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, was brought in as a center and could also play guard and gives the Bulldogs a bigger body to work with trying to replace center Richard Heleiko and guard Matt Hunt.

Coach Tim DeRuyter offered some quick thoughts on Kim, who started his college career as a walk-on at USC after playing at Ayala High in Chino Hills:

‘’We think he has a great chance to come in and compete at center,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’He’s got good size. He’s 6-4. He’s 295. He’s very quick. And with our seniors (Richard Helepiko and Matt Hunt) missing from last year, he can play either the guard or the center spots. I think just bringing him into the fold is going to really add to our depth and help us out this fall immediately.

Kuwada: At 295 pounds he obviously has a good head start physically on guys he will be competing with, thinking here about Lars Bramer and Bo Bonnheim …

‘’Oh, no doubt. And we want to have competition. We want those guys to understand, we can’t be comfortable. We’re going to get guys at a certain size and hopefully they’ll use that as inspiration to work harder and get more size on them. For Lars, it’s his senior. Hopefully he’ll go out as hard as he possibly can and Bo needs to get a little bigger as well. This offseason is going to be one of competition and guys are not going to be comfortable.’’

What stood out about Kim, watching him on tape?

‘’I think he’s real athletic. He plays with a great motor. He can get to the second level. He’s what we’re looking for in an inside guy.’’

JC transfers Burrell, Kim and Mathews enroll at Fresno State

Brian Burrell fires off a pass for Bakersfield College. (BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN)

Quarterback Brian Burrell, offensive lineman Patrick Kim and safety Rodney Mathews have enrolled in classes at Fresno State as mid-year junior college transfers and will be able to work out with the team and participate in spring football practices, which are scheduled to begin on Feb. 25.

“I’m really excited about Rodney, Patrick and Brian joining our team,” Coach Tim DeRuyter said, in a statement released through the athletic department. “To have them here for the spring semester will give them a great opportunity to compete for a position as well as get a jump on their academic progress.

”These are outstanding young men with strong character and solid academic backgrounds. I look forward to seeing them compete this spring.”

Burrell (6-foot4, 210 pounds) led Bakersfield College to the 2012 CCCAA State Championship last season with an 11-2 record. He was a CCCFCA Region IV all-state first-team selection and selected to the Northern Conference first-team in the Southern California Football Association.

He threw for 2,555 yards with 27 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Burrell will have three years to complete his two remaining seasons of eligibility.

Mathews (6-0, 190), from Citrus College, was a 2011 first-team All-West Conference selection and in 2012 was selected to the CCCFCA Region IV all-state first-team. He set a Owls’ record with 54 solo tackles in 2012 and had a team-high 89 total tackles on the season. In his career at Citrus, Mathews racked up 158 tackles, ranks second in school history with nine interceptions and third with 14 pass breakups.

He has two years of eligibility remaining.

Kim (6-3, 295) was a walk-on at USC coming out of Chino Hills Ayala High, redshirting in 2010 and did not play in 2011. He transferred to Mount San Antonio College where he helped the Mounties average 421.5 total yards and 34.6 points playing both at guard and at center. Mt. SAC fell to Bakersfield College in the 2012 CCCAA State Championship game.

Kim will have two years to complete his two remaining years of eligibility.