Fresno State cornerback Johnny Johnson, a Central High product and graduate transfer from UCLA, didn’t take long to make an impact on a position group that suddenly has some depth.
The Bulldogs’ staff has been getting a lot of players reps at every position through the first four practices of fall camp. But the past two days, Johnson has worked with the No. 1 defense and quickly put himself into the equation to start the Sept. 2 opener against Incarnate Word.
“Yes he has,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “I think that comes with experience that he has at a high level, and he works really hard. He’s a veteran guy that provides leadership and knows what it takes at a high level. He has been playing really well and he has a great attitude, creates some energy for people and is giving us a lift.
The guys were upbeat and energized all the way through.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford on the Bulldogs’ three-hour practice
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“Competition is key and we have really upped our competition at just about every position on the field. That’s key.”
Cornerback was a question coming out of spring, with talent but not a lot of depth. But the Bulldogs do have competition there now.
Johnson is in the mix with sophomores Juju Hughes and Jaron Bryant, fourth-year junior Tank Kelly, transfer Matt Boateng and some newcomers including Sherman Coleman, Wylan Free and Chris Gaston.
Johnson was unavailable after practice – the Bulldogs’ policy is freshmen and transfers are not allowed to meet with the media until they have played in a game.
Working OT – Fresno State was on the practice field just short of three hours Friday, which is a long time. But with a break built into the middle, the Bulldogs got a lot out of the extra reps and a bit of a lesson about finishing.
Those second-half numbers from a year ago are a bit frightening. They scored 99 points combined in the third and fourth quarters while allowing 189.
“All of it goes together,” Tedford said. “It’s important to get everybody reps, but it’s also important to know to start fast in practice and we have to finish strong in the second half. That kind if simulates it right there, and I thought the energy was good.”
After the longest practice to this point in fall camp, cornerback Johnny Johnson stayed to run extra sprints and was not alone. At least 15 players including quarterbacks Chason Virgil and Jorge Reyna stuck around to work on conditioning, technique or catch footballs off the Juggs gun.
Not all of the Bulldogs seemed to get the concept of a work break – running back Dejonte O’Neal and defensive tackle Nate Madsen jumped on stationary bikes while fueling up on the Little League lunch of PB&J, bananas and Gatorade.
But the energy was there through the second half of the practice.
“There’s no such thing as a double-day anymore, but you have a three-hour limit on your practices,” Tedford said. “When we’re giving so many guys reps like this it’s important to have an opportunity to get them in there.
“I don’t know exactly how many reps we got today, but we got a lot. We had five team periods today and we had four special-teams periods. That’s a lot of work.”
Look who’s here – Bobby Johnson, part of an offensive line group in the 2014 recruiting class that quickly fell apart, is back and on Friday started to go through the NCAA acclimatization process.
“He played at Cerritos College and called and wanted to come back,” Tedford said. “We’ll see what he can do. He;s going to create some depth for us, a little bit.”
Johnson left the team midway through 2015, his redshirt freshman season.
Down in the red zone, where it’s me and the defensive back, we both have to work on our craft because there's not a lot of space. If you do anything wrong, you lose.
Fresno State wide out Jamire Jordan
Also in that class were offensive linemen Art Gomez, Jacob Hicks, Ben Simonds and Aaron Mitchell. Only Mitchell made it through two full seasons in the program – he is about to enter his senior season and has made 24 consecutive starts.
Johnson returns as a fourth-year junior.
Could X mark his spot? – Jamire Jordan, fully recovered from offseason hip surgery, is getting reps at different positions, playing some H in the slot and some at the X outside.
“With the playbook, they want us to know every single spot,” he said. “I know all the positions on the field and I actually like playing outside so it’s fun for me. I’m having a lot of fun with this offense.”
Whether or not Jordan gets any reps outside during the season, the work he is getting now, he said, will make him a better receiver. The mismatches are inside, working against linebackers and safeties, but the challenge is outside going against corners.
“The battle on the outside, I love it a lot,” he said. “Those guys out there, especially on our team, they’re very talented, so just to be able to go against them day in and day out is just going to make me and them better. It’s always fun.
“Down in the red zone, where it’s me and the defensive back, we both have to work on our craft because there’s not a lot of space. If you do anything wrong, you lose.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Fresno State 2017 schedule
Home games at Bulldog Stadium; additional kickoff times to be announced
Sept. 2 vs. Incarnate Word, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Alabama, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sept. 16 at Washington, 6:30 p.m. (Pac-12)
Sept. 30 vs. Nevada, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 at San Jose State
Oct. 14 vs. New Mexico, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 at San Diego State. 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 28 vs. UNLV, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 vs. Brigham Young (ESPN networks)
Nov. 11 at Hawaii. 8 p.m.
Nov. 18 at Wyoming, 11 or 11:30 a.m.
Nov. 25 vs. Boise State, 12:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Other key dates
Sunday, Aug. 6: First day in full pads
Tuesday, Aug. 8: Scrimmage 1
Saturday, Aug. 12: Scrimmage 2
Saturday, Aug. 19: Scrimmage 3/Fan Appreciation Day (open to public)
Tuesday, Aug. 22: Classes start