The defense beat the offense and at times the offense beat itself with a couple of turnovers. There was some operator error in there, too, with bad snaps, procedural penalties, dropped passes and, in general, a lack of pop, which is something that bears watching.
But the final scrimmage of the spring aside, Fresno State emerged from its 15 practices in better shape than the Bulldogs went into them.
They emerged healthy Saturday afternoon, incurring no major injuries, which is a fortuitous switch.
Position groups developed through more credible competition, with some veterans (quarterback Chason Virgil, cornerback Tank Kelly and running back Saevion Johnson) and some newer faces (guard Netane Muti and linebacker Tainoa Foster) moving forward.
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I think anytime you get a new coaching staff everyone gets a fresh start, so whether you were at the top you’re right back down with everybody else or whether you were at the bottom you’re in there competing with everyone else.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford
And the expectations and standards pushed by first-year coach Jeff Tedford and his staff and vital to pushing away from the past two seasons are fairly well set.
“Really pleased with it,” Tedford said. “We came out injury free, which is great. You always have your fingers crossed the last day to stay healthy, we did that. I was really pleased (Saturday), actually. The offense got the better of it last weekend and the defense rose to the occasion this weekend. It was really competitive, so it was nice to see.
“The guys did a nice job of taking what we practiced during the week, the fundamentals, and putting them into game time, so it was a very productive spring ball for us.”
In the scrimmage, defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer did some mixing with the ones and twos – or, A’s and B’s as they called them this spring – no one yet earning a first-team designation. The defense did rebound nicely from the second scrimmage of the spring when Virgil threw five touchdown passes.
Defensive tackle Nate Madsen forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive end Stephen Van Hook. Outside linebacker Andrew Wright picked off a pass.
There was pass rush, noticeably absent a week earlier, with safety Mike Bell, defensive tackle Patrick Belony, defensive end Justin Green, linebacker Trent Soechting, Madsen and Foster all credited with sacks. The quarterbacks were not live.
126 Days until Fresno State opens the 2017 season at home against Incarnate Word
The offense was most productive late in the situational scrimmage, scoring on three short touchdown runs.
“I said this last time, but it’s just constant improvement,” Steinauer said. “There are going to be roller-coaster rides. I tell them all the time the only thing we’re guaranteed is adversity, so it’s about our adversity response and I was proud of their effort today.
“We’re still not where we need to be, but sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses along the journey. I’m happy with it, but we’re definitely not satisfied.”
Bigger picture, the standards and expectations and the scheme … the Bulldogs ended the spring in a good spot and with some momentum.
“I feel like they have a really good grasp of the concepts that we’re teaching, the pressures that we’re trying to bring, those types of things,” Steinauer said. “I feel like the foundation is laid and we have something to build on.”
The summer is really important. The quarterbacks have to take charge of that, the rest of the team has to buy in …. They know what our expectations are because they’ve been through 15 practices with us. Now they need to run those summer practices just like we would if we were there with them.
Fresno State offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer
Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer was similarly pleased. The Bulldogs, last a year in the Mountain West Conference in scoring when producing only 17.7 points per game, improved throughout the spring.
“They did a nice job I thought in the second half of spring ball,” DeBoer said. “I’m really pleased with the progress that we’ve made. I think we know who some of our playmakers are and I think we know where we’re at. We know what our strengths are, we know what our weaknesses are. Now, the summer is really important.”
Coaches will hit the recruiting road Monday – the spring-evaluation period started April 15 and runs through May 31 – and this summer will work at least two camps held by Pac-12 programs. The players get a break from football through final exams next month.
In the first week in June, they will start a strength and conditioning program under coach Andy Ward leading into fall camp in August. The opener is Sept. 2 against Incarnate Word, followed by games at Alabama (Sept. 9) and Washington (Sept. 16).
There is something to build on, more solid than a 1-11 season in which Fresno State ranked last in the conference in rushing, scoring and total offense and produced only one win for the first time since 1944 when 0-6.
“I think that we’ve just laid the foundation and I think the players understand a little bit about what the standards and the expectations are,” Tedford said.
“Obviously, it’s going to be great to welcome in the new players and get them on the same page, but they’ll be here through the summer as well and our players will do a good job of teaching them that, I’m sure. I just can’t wait to get the whole team together and see what we have moving forward.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
- Saturday, Sept. 2: Home/season opener vs. Incarnate Word, kickoff TBD
- Saturday, Sept. 9: Game at Alabama, kickoff TBD
- Saturday, Sept. 30: Mountain West opener vs. Nevada, kickoff TBD