DeRuyter summer tour to begin

Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter will begin his summer stops throughout the Valley, starting Monday in Visalia.

DeRuyter will hold five meet-and-greet events and discuss some of the goals and expectations going into this season. The Bulldogs, who won a share of the Mountain West title last season in DeRuyter’s first season, will aim for an outright championship this coming year and perhaps grander goals there after.

Each stop is open to the public and fans are welcome to stop by, and get autographs and take photos.

Here are DeRuyter’s scheduled stops while he visits the Valley:

Monday (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) — Lunch Meet and Greet at The Planing Mill – Artesian Pizzeria in downtown Visalia
Tuesday (4-6 p.m.) — Afternoon Meet and Greet at the Firestone Walker Taproom in Paso Robles
Wednesday (4-6 p.m.) – Me-n-Ed’s Meet and Greet in Bakersfield (9000 Ming Ave)
Friday (9-11 a.m.) — Morning Meet and Greet at Madera Auto Center

Friday, (3-6 p.m.) Buffalo Wild Wings Meet and Greet in Fresno

For more information about each stop, contact (559) 278-DOGS.

Friday (4-6 p.m.) – Buffalo Wild Wings Meet and Greet in Fresno – Happy Hour

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 coach Tim DeRuyter to be honored by his high school

Tim DeRuyter will be Long Beach on Friday to be honored by his high school alma mater.

Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter will be honored Friday by his high school alma mater, St. John Bosco, at the second annual Braves Gala in Long Beach.

A 1981 Bosco graduate, DeRuyter lettered in both football and basketball for the Braves. He was a first-team all-league selection in 1980 when the Braves won the league title. DeRuyter also won the Coaches Award for being a leader during games. Upon graduation, DeRuyter received an appointment to the Air Force Academy, where he played linebacker for the Falcons.

The Bulldogs also have a Bosco graduate on their roster: Sophomore wide receiver Justin Johnson graduated from the school in 2012 and played in 10 games last season as a true freshman as Fresno State in DeRuyter’s first season went 9-4 and won its first conference title since 1999.

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 practice report: Situations still throwing backup QBs

There was a play in red zone where Marcus McDade, one of three quarterbacks at Fresno State vying to backup Derek Carr, was able to sidestep a blitz and loft a ball just short of the back line of the end zone where his intended receiver, Taylor Stewart, was able to run under and catch it for a touchdown.

It was a nice play to avoid the rush, the right idea where to go with the football and a well executed difficult throw for a touchdown, McDade pretty much hitting the trifecta on that one.

But McDade, Myles Carr and, presumably, Brian Burrell, who did not practice on Monday because of a bruised right (throwing) shoulder, have yet to prove this spring they can manage game situations consistently. They will flash on one play, Coach Tim DeRuyter said, but then take a sack in the red zone or make the wrong decision where to go with the football on a third-and-short play.

McDade did that, too, when the Bulldogs were in a 3rd-down period. On a 3rd-and-4, he tried to hit slot receiver Greg Watson 25 yards down field when bracketed by defenders when Davante Adams was all by his lonesome, wide open at the first-down marker.

Part of that, offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said, is trying too hard to make a play. But there’s more to it, which is why the Bulldogs’ last padded practice of the spring (they will go helmets-only on Friday and play their spring game Saturday) was loaded with situational periods.

‘’It’s also not understanding the situation,’’ Schramm said. ‘’It comes with experience and it comes with playing, but at some point you have to demonstrate that you understand situational football. It’s a very high percentage throw. But that’s why we put them in those situations. Just coming out here and running plays doesn’t do anything for you. When you’re the quarterback in this offense, we’re not protecting both edges, we’re not handing the ball off 60 times a game. You’ve got to have the ability to show that you can handle those situations and not take sacks in two-minute or in the red zone.

‘’To continue to make the same mistakes day in and day out is not a good thing. There’s no better way to do it than to make them do it in practice and make them demonstrate that they can do it or they can’t, and we definitely have to be more consistent at quarterback in those areas.’’

Practice report

The Bulldogs went through a short practice in full pads and got in some live work running through situations – second-and-long to third-and-medium and third-and-short, red zone, backed up against the goal line.

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Fresno State spring football practice report: Quarterbacks have a way to go

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.

Notes

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.

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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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