Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford and his staff will sit in a meeting on Monday morning and put together a plan for the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage in fall camp. Who to see more of? Who to see less of? Who fits best in this package? Who fits best in that package?
One topic no doubt will be Dejonte O’Neal, the diminutive back from Bullard High who in the spring was working his way back from a knee injury suffered in the fourth game of the 2016 season and did not get a chance to show or prove anything to Tedford and the new staff. And, at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, there is a lot to prove.
What you have to do is get the personnel in the right spots. Not just build the packages with the concepts, but build them with the right personnel. That’s going to be huge, and he has some talent that we have to tap into.
Fresno State offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, on Dejonte O’Neal
But through six practices, no one is discounting anything with O’Neal, who despite losing two-thirds of the season to the knee injury led the Bulldogs running backs with seven receptions and rushed the ball 16 times for 57 yards and one touchdown.
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“That’s something we’ll definitely be talking about – how to utilize our personnel,” offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said.
“You put the schemes in and kind of have an idea what certain players can bring to the table, but now what you have to do is get the personnel in the right spots. Not just build the packages with the concepts, but build them with the right personnel. That’s going to be huge, and he has some talent that we have to tap into.”
Tedford and the staff will have a lot to talk about there with a deep and diverse running backs group that also includes Josh Hokit, Dontel James, Saevion Johnson, Deonte Perry and talented freshmen Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims, and a receivers group that is deeper and more competitive than it was in the spring.
But O’Neal is an intriguing piece, now that he is healthy again.
To separate yourself all you can do is go 110 (percent) every play and know the plays, know the playbook and be more crisp than the other players.
Fresno State running back Dejonte O’Neal
“He’s 100 percent, so he brings some excitement and some elusiveness and some speed,” Tedford said. “We had no idea what he could do, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised with seeing him at 100 percent.”
Gaining any separation will not be easy – “That is what’s lovely about this game,” O’Neal said. “It’s just fun to compete. When you watch Ronnie Rivers or Josh Hokit get the ball and they break a long one, you want to do the same thing.”
But in building offense, the Bulldogs could look to make use of O’Neal and his elusiveness in more than a few packages.
“I watch him run inside and I don’t see why not?” DeBoer said. “Everyone is probably going to see him as an outside guy and we have to make sure we get him outside and let him work. But if teams just lock in on him being that person for us, I don’t think we’re utilizing everything that he can bring to the table and then we’re becoming pretty predicable as well.
“I’ve seen a lot of runs where he has done some really good things instinctually and then physically he has the ability to handle the physical end of it, too.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada