Fresno State has been on the practice field twice now in fall camp running around in helmets and shorts as it goes through the NCAA acclimatization period, building up to Sunday and a first day in full pads. And, whether it’s wide out Derrion Grim, center Markus Boyer, defensive end Kwami Jones, tight end Daniel Moraga or running backs Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims, there are one or two new players or returning players coming out of a productive summer that is forcing more competition into just about every position group.
That’s the biggest difference, as the Bulldogs work their way away from 1-11 a year ago. It just wasn’t there, in fall camp or through the season.
“Recruiting-wise, we had some young guys come in and now there’s actual competition on the o-line, on the d-line, there’s competition everywhere,” said right guard Micah St. Andrew, a fourth-year junior who started all 12 games a year ago.
A lot good, really. Typically on the first day there’s a lot of energy and excitement, guys are running around, and so the next day is always the real test. I was really pleased with the guys flying around, their attention to detail, how hard they’re working.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford
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“Now, it’s like, you have to earn your spot instead of last year it being like we had a spot and we’re just kind of playing through a season. Now we’re trying to compete and keep it up and try to be the best we can for these young guys, try to be a good role model.”
The Bulldogs last season made few lineup changes except for injury, ineligibility or with the formation the offense started a particular game (say, 11 personnel with one back, one tight end and three wide outs versus 12 personnel with one back, two tight ends and two wide outs). There was not a lot of ready depth, but that is changing.
“It’s how they’re learning, what their effort is like, the attention to detail is new for a lot of them – what our standards are, what we look for,” coach Jeff Tedford said of the newcomers. “But they’re a great group. They really are. They’re really eager to get things done. They pay attention to coaching. They’re giving great effort.”
Haynes steps up
Tedford has another former walk-on on scholarship this season – third-year sophomore defensive tackle Jasad Haynes, who last season played in five games.
“I don’t really know what to say,” said Haynes, who played his high school football at Clovis North. “It’s good. It’s a blessing. That’s what it really is, a blessing. I’ve been waiting to hear, ‘You’re on scholarship’ since my freshman year in high school and to get that opportunity from coach Tedford was a huge blessing.
“I almost cried when he told me that because I’ve been wanting to hear that for six years. It feels real good. It feels like all my hard work paid off, but I still have a lot more.”
Just two practices into fall camp, running some team periods and some 7 on 7 in helmets and shorts, there isn’t much to delve too deeply into the quarterback competition.
Chason Virgil, who started 10 games last season, held a lead on junior college transfer Jorge Reyna coming out of the spring. But there could be more legitimate competition over the next couple of weeks there as well – the Bulldogs will run the first of three fall camp scrimmages on Tuesday, following an off day.
“It’s too early to tell,” Tedford said. “I think Jorge Reyna really took a big step from spring, because it was his first spring and he was just getting into the offense and the speed of the game at this level, but I think he has taken a big step from spring ball through summer to now.”
Cornerback Juju Hughes on what he learned a year ago, coming in from Hanford High and playing as a true freshman at one of the toughest positions on the field ...
“I really just like to wipe all of last year out. Last year, we’re going to leave it in last year. It just didn’t happen. This is a whole new team, whole new program now. Last year, we’re going to leave it there.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada