Malique Micenheimer is getting reps this spring at running back.
Malique Micenheimer has moved around quite a bit in his Fresno State career, coming in as a linebacker and moving to fullback when he was a freshman, then last year starting out back on the defensive side of the football before moving again to offense midway through the season.
It is too early to tell whether he has found a more permanent home at running back this spring, but he is becoming an intriguing proposition in the competition to replace the record-setting Robbie Rouse.
Micenheimer, at 240 pounds, is nothing like Rouse physically and appears to be a much better fit as a short-yardage back or a fullback, when the Bulldogs put one on the field. But offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said he definitely has piqued his curiosity.
“Malique has done a nice job and having a big back in this offense can be a really good thing because of all the pass-protection stuff,” Schramm said. “Malique has got good feet and he’s a smart guy. We came into spring ball and talking with (running backs coach Joe Wade) I said, ‘Let’s give him, Malique, a chance and see what he can do, instead of just being a fullback all the time.’
“He would be a guy, and you hear it all the time, that a back gets stronger as a game goes on. Well, that’s really not the reality of the situation. Those big backs, those guys on defense get tired of tackling them. He’s still running as hard as he’s always running, but in the first quarter they’re hitting him and they’re tackling him and in the fourth quarter they’re ducking out of the way because they’re tired of trying to tackle him. A big back in this offense can be a really big weapon for us.”
The junior from Stockton will continue to get reps at running back, competing at the position with Josh Quezada, Marteze Waller (who is out with a quad injury), T.J. Thomas and Daryl Cash, and get a push to avoid being labeled strictly as a short-yard back or as a fullback.
Waller, who injured his left quad in practice on Monday, is out for the remainder of the spring. He had a brace on the leg at practice. Cornerback Sean Alston, who came away from a collision with Micenheimer with a stinger, had his left arm in a sling. There is a chance that he can return later this spring, but Coach Tim DeRuyter said both are likely out the rest of the way.
It wasn’t a great day for backup quarterbacks Myles Carr and Marcus McDade, both making some costly mistakes in the two team periods and again at the end of the practice when the Bulldogs were running their two-minute stuff for the first time this spring.
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 defensive end Andy Jennings made it through the Bulldogs’ victory at Nevada without tweaking the ankle injury that forced him to the sidelines for one game and most of another. But he came out of it with a broken left hand, so at practice on Tuesday he was equipped with a protective club-like cast and on the other side of the defensive line end Nikko Motta still is playing with a club on his right hand.
‘’We had to balance it out. We were kind of tilted there for a while,” Coach Tim DeRuyter joked. ”Now Tyeler (Davison) has to get two, so we’ll have one on one side, one on the other side and then Tyeler will have two in the middle.’’
A week ago at New Mexico, Tyeler Davision, the Fresno State Bulldogs’ sophomore, played a ton of snaps at nose guard. He didn’t have to deal with double-teams as he has much of the season when defending the Lobos’ triple-option offense, but he likely will see more than a few on Saturday when the Bulldogs take on Hawaii in a Mountain West Conference game.
Still, defensive coordinator Nick Toth, short options across the line with Anthony Williams out for the season following foot surgery and Andy Jennings questionable with an ankle injury, has no doubt Davison will be able to shoulder a heavy load.
He might not have to – Hawaii has struggled to do much on offense, ranking 97th of 120 bowl subdivision teams in scoring, 103rd in rushing and 114th in total offense.
But Davison definitely is capable of playing a high number of snaps.
‘’He’s playing 80 to 85 percent of the snaps right now. That was different when Andy played – Andy didn’t play this past week,’’ said Toth, who has helped turn around the Bulldogs’ defense. ‘’But we’ll play Tyeler all day. He’s in great shape. We’ll play him all day and he wants to play.
‘’He hasn’t had any issues at all. He’s better in the fourth quarter. We dominated that second half (at New Mexico) and he was at his best in the second half. I feel totally comfortable with that kid playing all day long.’’