Fresno State football freshman running backs Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims clearly aren’t going to make any decisions in putting together a playing rotation very easy.
An automatic redshirt, for either one, isn’t likely, and three practices into fall camp both appear to be right in the middle of a mix that includes sophomore Josh Hokit, fifth-year senior Dontel James, junior Dejonte O’Neal and redshirt freshmen Saevion Johnson and Deonte Perry.
All of the backs have been getting reps and the Bulldogs, coach Jeff Tedford said, will work through that day by day. But potential separators are not far off as they install more offense and on Sunday put on full pads for the first time.
It’s nice to have a little bit more like real football. We could see some pad level and see some fundamentals of football, which is a little bit more realistic with some shoulder pads on.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford, after Thursday’s first day in shells in fall camp
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The Bulldogs practiced in helmets the first two days of camp and added shoulder pads on Thursday, some solid collisions coming with the extra protective equipment. Rivers took a solid shot in one period, and popped right back to his feet.
“As the playbook expands, installation expands, sometimes that separates backs, when different things start coming on defense, with pass protection, different stuff like that,” Tedford said. “We’ll give them all a chance to show what they can do and we’ll move forward as we go through camp, see how they react. Hopefully they all stay healthy, but we have a good stable of backs.”
The Bulldogs’ playing rotation will likely include three backs, with two getting the majority of playing time.
The Bulldogs have been stacking up the offensive installations – coordinator Kalen DeBoer said they have done more in three days than the team did in nine or 10 practices during the spring.
That has had quarterbacks Chason Virgil and Jorge Reyna in positions where they have had to direct traffic, get a wideout or a back lined up correctly, and be more vocal on the field and with teammates. But that also is an area both have improved since the spring and during the player-run workouts over the summer.
We’re communicating better than we did this spring. Guys are into it. It’s all about taking ownership in the offense, each and every one of them. If they do that, then the sky is the limit.
Fresno State offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer
DeBoer said of Virgil, “I think he’s feeling more comfortable with putting himself out there and saying something, asking for more out of his teammates, which means you’re comfortable with the level that you’re putting in with your effort and attitude.
“That’s part of becoming a leader. It’s a big deal to have a quarterback operating that way, and I think Jorge has grown that way, too. I’m excited about those two guys. We need a lot more than just those two, but that’s an area that we’ve improved on since the spring. You want them to lead by example, but we really need some guys to be vocal.”
Two of the more impressive plays in team periods to this point have been made by Kenny Gagnon, a redshirt freshman walk-on cornerback.
On Thursday, Gagnon was in coverage against Anthony Grayson when the wideout slipped and went down as the pass was being delivered to him. Gagnon dived over Grayson and made an interception as he was hitting the ground.
A day earlier, Gagnon made a leaping interception against the sideline.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada