Fresno State is looking at more personnel changes on its kickoff cover team this week, trying to shore up an area that has been an issue since the start of the season.
The Bulldogs have had a touchback on only 12 of 48 kickoffs and allowed an average of 26.4 yards on 29 returns, ranking 116th in the bowl subdivision. In a victory over UNLV on Saturday the Rebels started drives at their 38, 42 and at the Fresno State 45-yard line following kickoffs.
Their average starting point was the 33-yard line.
"It's been unfortunate, a little bit of popcorn," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "We've had guys at the point of attack that haven't made plays and we've had guys miss assignments. We're unfortunately at a point where we have some guys banged up that can't go cover kicks, we have some hamstring issues with guys that would be candidates for it, but we're going to look at some new guys this week and find out who the guys are that want to take pride in it and do it well."
Three of the eight longest plays Fresno State has allowed have also been on kickoff returns, the longest a 100-yard touchdown by Rutgers return man Janarion Grant.
In practice this week, the Bulldogs are looking at adding to the mix defensive end Suli Faletuipapai, outside linebacker Jaamal Rose and defensive end Ben Letcher, all of whom have reason to be looking to make an impression.
Faletuipapai is an undersized end who rarely gets into a game, Rose is coming back from knee surgery and Letcher is a senior who also plays sparingly in the defense.
"We're going to look at getting some other bodies out there to compete," DeRuyter said. "They're guys that are long, can run and hopefully go down there and be forceful."
Rose, who had a setback over the summer when rehabbing following his knee surgery, has been practicing with the scout team, but made progress physically the past few weeks.
Fresno State had a rookie scrimmage at the end of their practice on Monday, and even though Rose is a third-year sophomore he put himself on the field.
"He wanted to get reps and he did some good things out there," DeRuyter said. "I think he's getting closer. He's not quite 100 percent, but he's getting closer where he can compete at a speed he can go make plays."
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