Fresno State running back Dontel James, who made solid first steps back from a lower leg injury in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, has had a setback in his return and is now likely to miss another month and perhaps the remainder of the season.
"It's a tough situation," coach Tim DeRuyter said, after the Bulldogs wrapped up three days of bye week practices with a short workout on Thursday. "He's been battling his tail off to get healthy and get better. But we had him go through some light workouts the past couple days and he had a setback."
James, a redshirt freshman, was injured in the Bulldogs' season-opening loss at USC. He returned to practice this week and the Bulldogs were going to try to get him ready to play a role when they return to Mountain West Conference play on Nov. 1 against Wyoming.
But with James sidelined again, the depth at running back again is an issue. Marteze Waller has started all eight games and is fourth in the Mountain West averaging 103.1 yards per game. Juice Quezada is the Bulldogs' second back, with T.J Thomas and Darryl Cash behind the top two.
Thomas and Cash have carried the ball only in a blowout victory over Southern Utah, a championship subdivision program.
Recruiting weekend ahead
The Bulldogs coaches will be out recruiting this weekend -- Ron Antoine, Jordan Peterson and Marcus Woodson already are in Texas and the other position coaches hit the road in-state on Thursday.
They have had to adjust the game plan after losing kicker Colin McGuire, cornerbacks Corey Ferguson and Bryan Harper and safety Justin Holmes -- Ferguson was dismissed for a violation of athletic department policy before the season, McGuire left the team to deal with personal issues after the opener at USC and Harper and Holmes quit the team for personal reasons at the end of September.
DeRuyter and his staff inherited only three scholarship cornerbacks and have been trying to get that number up the past three years -- of the 85 available scholarships, their blueprint calls for seven to eight cornerbacks. They were there from a numbers standpoint before Ferguson and Harper left the program, and they are losing one senior in Curtis Riley.
"Obviously, we've had to reevaluate that," DeRuyter said. "Those were two positions we thought going into this year we weren't going to have to reload, but when you lose two guys that are a redshirt sophomore and junior, now you have to look at, do you bring an older guy in or do you bring in some really talented young guys? It's tough, but it's part of our plan."
Fresno State also is looking to sign a kicker to replace McGuire and the offensive line -- another position that was under-stocked when DeRuyter was hired -- is a primary focus.
The Bulldogs have 14 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster and will be losing three seniors including starters at right guard in Cody Wichmann and left guard in Sean Rubalcava.
"We've got to continue to work at getting some good length in there," DeRuyter said. "I like last year's class of offensive linemen. If we can stack another group like that, I think it will really help us. We need to get a couple of tackle prospects. We'll have Alex (Fifita) back and we'll have Justin (Northern) back, but we need to have some guys in the pipeline, so we don't necessarily get a junior college guy, but someone we think can play in a couple of years."