A year ago, Travis Brown was an outside linebacker. He lined up there 85% to 90% of the time, playing in the Fresno State Bulldogs' 4-3 scheme. He was pretty good outside, too. Brown was the leading tackler on the team and was a first-team all-conference selection.
But it was the 10% to 15% of the snaps that he played inside, at the Mike linebacker, that Brown felt most at home and was the most productive. So he saw only opportunity Monday when he got a chance to take reps inside, playing the Mike linebacker in the multiple 3-4 defense that has been installed by coach Tim DeRuyter and defensive coordinator Nick Toth.
"I'm excited about it. I feel like it's something that I was born to do, is play inside," said Brown, who sat out spring practices following shoulder surgery and in fall camp had been running mostly with the No. 2 defense at outside linebacker behind senior Shawn Plummer.
"Most of my high school career was inside and I always felt more comfortable about it. When they said they wanted to see me inside, I jumped into it."
There are differences in the position, from the 4-3 to the 3-4, but the 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior from Clovis West is looking forward to the challenge. Short at the inside positions with Jeremiah Toma out for a second practice with a left ankle injury, Brown got the reps at the Mike with the No. 2 defense.
ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE
San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley is sacked by Fresno State linebacker Travis Brown, right, defensive lineman Nat Harrison, second from left, and defensive tackle Logan Harrell, second from right, in San Diego on Dec. 3. This preseason Brown is getting a chance to get some reps inside.
During the season, he could end up playing at both positions. But his experience inside could be valuable, given some communication issues during fall camp with the younger inside linebackers.
"I just have to learn the new techniques for the defense, which will come quick," Brown said. "Most of it is just getting the signals down from the coaches and then just being vocal, and that's what I always love to be. At outside backer, there weren't enough chances to, and it'll be good. I think my voice will be heard on the defense. I think it will be good for them, too."
On the fast track
David Keller and Alex Fifita were late to camp, working through issues with the NCAA initial-eligibility clearinghouse. Neither had cleared the five-day acclimatization period when the Bulldogs took the field Monday morning for their 21st practice in fall camp.
But both were in with the No. 2 offensive line, getting a crash course in the offense. Given depth issues up front, the Bulldogs hope both will be able to play catch-up and make an impact this season.
"We're going to force feed them and find out," DeRuyter said.
"You look at them body size-wise and athletically, they're exactly what we're looking for," the coach added. "It's a matter of how quickly can they absorb what we're doing. We're going to be going at a fast tempo, so they have to be able to stay up with that."
One to go
With Keller finally in camp, the Bulldogs still have one recruit from their 2012 recruiting class dealing with issues with the NCAA initial-eligibility clearinghouse.
Defensive lineman Jean-Marc Brierre has yet to be cleared. The defensive end with some bulk at 275 pounds was expected to provide some depth this season at a position the Bulldogs are trying to build after ditching the 4-3 for a multiple 3-4 look.
-- Left guard Matt Hunt, who has been sidelined with a right knee injury, was able to do some individual and situational work and is expected to be a full-go in practice today when the Bulldogs are scheduled to go through a 90-plus play scrimmage.
-- Fifita cleared the acclimatization process with the practice on Monday and will be able to don full pads for the scrimmage. Keller will be in full pads Thursday.
-- Three weeks into camp and the Fresno State defense still is having some issues with the "thud" concept and hitting without taking ball carriers to the ground. DeRuyter and Toth want defenders going full speed, to hit and wrap up, which is not always happening. "Some guys still haven't got that figured out," DeRuyter said. "We've got to get that straightened out."
-- The Bulldogs worked an 8-minute end-of-game scenario toward the end of practice. Down 10 points and needing quick scores, the No. 1 offense got a touchdown and then set up a 36-yard field goal to tie the score with 40 seconds remaining. Quentin Breshears missed the kick wide right.
The Bee will publish a special section Aug. 30 previewing the Bulldogs' upcoming season.
Football: Fresno State ending spring camp with questions
Fresno State went into its spring football practices with a number of questions, and it will come out with many of them still unresolved. But coach Tim DeRuyter and the Bulldogs appear set at least in finding a replacement at strong safety for departed All-American Phillip Thomas.
Fresno State football will test physicality this fall
The Fresno State Bulldogs closed out offseason strength and conditioning last week without doing any physical testing to measure 40-yard dash times or the rest. That will wait until the fall, on the field.
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