Fresno State spent the week pushing competition at its outside receiver positions and trying to squeeze more production out of the group, and as a result there will be some lineup changes Friday when the Bulldogs open Mountain West Conference play at New Mexico.
Redshirt freshman Delvon Hardaway or sophomore Da'Mari Scott will start against the Lobos opposite senior Josh Harper while Aaron Peck, who had started the first four games there, has been moved inside and will split time at the 'Y' receiver spot with senior Greg Watson.
"Aaron does some good things blocking outside, but we need some more explosive plays outside and Delvon and Da'Mari showed last week some of their capabilities. They're getting better every day, so it's going to be in constant flux until we find out who fits our offense the best and how we get out best players on the field," coach Tim DeRuyter said.
"The good thing about Aaron is he can play inside as well as outside — not everybody can play two positions and we'll see where he fits as an inside receiver for us."
Hardaway caught three passes for 49 yards and one touchdown last week in a victory over Southern Utah including a 32-yard gain in the hole between the cornerback and safety against Cover Two when the Bulldogs were running the 2-minute offense at the end of the first half. They went on the score on the drive, the first of four touchdowns in five possessions over the second and third quarters.
Scott caught an 81-yard touchdown pass from Zach Greenlee in the fourth quarter and had another reception for a 21-yard gain.
"Both those guys, Delvon especially, can run and that's what we have to have at that position," DeRuyter said. "We want a guy that can vertically stretch the field and make plays vertically down the field. It was good to see Delvon make the play down the field last week and see that he's capable of doing those things. It gives you encouragement for the future, that he just needs reps to get the confidence to do it."
The Bulldogs had seven explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards in their first three games, but got four in their last game against the Thunderbirds — the 81-yard touchdown from Greenlee to Scott, a 41-yard pass from Brian Burrell to Harper, a 32-yard pass from Burrell to Hardaway and a 21-yard pass from Greenlee to Scott.
Fresno State was able to move up into a tie for fourth in the conference and into a tie for 51st in the bowl subdivision with 11 pass plays of 20 or more yards.
Peck has one of them — a 53-yard pass play at Utah. But he struggled against Southern Utah, dropping a potential touchdown pass when open on the sideline. He spent the week practicing with the inside receivers group, and at this point may be better suited there.
"I think so," DeRuyter said. "He's going to get matched up more on linebackers and safeties than he is on corners so speed-wise it's going to be better for him and he's got a body that he can use on those type of players. Hopefully, that will be a better fit for him."
Root to return
The Bulldogs also will have inside 'H' receiver Dillon Root back against the Lobos.
Root went down in the first quarter against Southern Utah with a lower leg injury and at the beginning of the week was in a protective boot and considered doubtful. But he was able to do some work in individual drills Tuesday and was in team reps Wednesday.
"We got good news from the doctors the other day," DeRuyter said. "They did a MRI and it wasn't as severe as we thought it might have been and so he's been getting treatment and looked good out there (Wednesday) moving around so it looks like he'll go.
"He didn't get a ton of reps in practice, but it gives us more depth, which we need."
Root will play behind LeKendrick Williams at the 'H' this week.