Fresno State defensive lineman Tyeler Davison has had a fairly light load to this point in the season when compared to a year ago, when he was on the field for a very high number of the Bulldogs' snaps — including 100%, a numbing 100 of 100, in a victory over Boise State.
He didn't play in the fourth quarter of blowout losses at USC and Utah at the start of the season, and has played 40 to 60 snaps in each of the first four games.
But with Mountain West Conference play starting Friday at New Mexico, the senior nose guard/defensive end is prepared to get more and more than likely, he will.
"We're going to play our best guys as much as we can," defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. "You count on playing 60-plus minutes, so you rotate, but our best guys have got to be able to go. Guys like Tyeler, if Tyeler can go 90 then Tyeler will go 90. That's the deal."
The Bulldogs have been able to develop some depth in the defensive line, getting improving play from Claudell Louis and Nate Madsen at end. Todd Hunt has been solid at end, and is leading the defensive line group with 16 tackles including 1½ behind the line of scrimmage.
At nose guard, Maurice Poyadue and Ioane Sagapolu have held up and should be more productive in conference games. Poyadue has even started to follow Davison, taking some reps out at defensive end in practice.
But it is very tempting to keep Davison on the field.
"I know (defensive line coach Pete Germano), that's his comfort blanket having Tyeler in there, and it is mine, too," coach Tim DeRuyter said.
Davison, who has played nose and left and right end this season, sounded like he missed it.
"Yeah, a little bit," he said. "The only benefit, really, is that I feel that I can play harder when I'm not tired in the middle of the game or I'm not in the for every single snap."
And he is ready for it.
"You just have to get your mind right," he said. "There are times when you're tired and you have to push through it and keep playing hard. It's just getting your mind right.
"In high school I used to wrestle and sometimes there would be a match where you're wrestling somebody good, and you have to get your mind right for a 6-minute match, all three rounds, and going something like that helped me in football, getting ready to be tired and work through it and still be able to perform. It's not as hard. It's kind of a skill I've acquired, definitely something that translates over."
Against the Lobos and their option attack, staying on the field will be critical to the Bulldogs' success. In 2012, Davison didn't see many double teams from New Mexico and had a game-high eight tackles including 1½ behind the line of scrimmage.
Last season, the Lobos doubled almost every play and the 305-pound senior still had two tackles while occupying an extra blocker.
This year, the Lobos are averaging 349.7 rushing yards per game, third best in the bowl subdivision.
"In an ideal world, we've got a rotation going to keep him fresh, but Tyeler has shown he can go 90 or 100 reps if we have to," DeRuyter said. "Anytime you're at one of those positions inside where guys re falling down, you're always nervous about that, so you'd love to be able to sub him out at times, but he's clearly our best defensive lineman so there's ways that element of risk-reward."