Maurice Poyadue, the Fresno State defensive lineman, was going to lose playing time. There was no getting around that.
When the Bulldogs decided to end a well-intentioned plan to get Tyeler Davison reps at defensive end this season and again make the 310-pound senior a full-time nose guard, where he is happiest and most productive, it was going to happen.
"Every nose guard is caught with one of the best that has played here. It's tough to take him out, and they know that. There's no argument," said Pete Germano, the Bulldogs defensive line coach.
But Poyadue, well, Germano said, he found kind of a unique way to get around that.
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The redshirt junior actually found his way outside, to end, working his way into the starting lineup in a matter of weeks while taking a crash course at the position.
He got a handful of reps against San Diego State. The following week he made his first start at UNLV, playing about 20 reps. He made his second start at Boise State, playing about 47 reps. He will make his third start on Saturday against Wyoming, and he figures to hold that spot as the Bulldogs try to win a third consecutive Mountain West Conference championship and qualify for a bowl game.
"Ever since I met him, his ultimate goal was to get on the field and play, and he said, 'I'll do whatever I can to get on the field and if that means playing end I'll do it,' " Germano said. "So he embraced it and he worked hard at it. We had a period there for two weeks where he was coming in every day for 20 or 30 minutes and we were going over stuff. He had an eagerness to learn it, and I think in that week going into Boise it became very obvious to me that he's the guy that has to start.
"I did start him against UNLV, but didn't play him as many reps. But he played quite a bit at Boise and he did a nice job in there. I think the bottom line is it is his eagerness to get on the field and wanting to play it and learn it. He picked it up pretty quick. The work ethic and the eagerness to get on the field, that's what motivated him to pick it up so quickly, and he did."
That, really, is what it was all about.
"When they moved Tyeler back I just tried to find a way to get on the field, and they gave me a shot at end and it fit," Poyadue said. "I'm still learning it. I have a harder time doing the 5-technique. The 3-technique comes a lot more natural. But it's fun."
There still is a lot to learn at end with the different calls, and he is gaining a comfort level with it. "I know all the nose play calls, but end is different and it's two different positions, so sometimes I get rushed out there and it takes me too long to get the plays down," he said. "I need to just do it. Sometimes I know it and I don't do it, and if I just do it I would have been right."
But Poyadue has gained on the position quickly enough that coach Tim DeRuyter said he probably is the Bulldogs' second best defensive lineman at this point in the season.
"Going from a nose to a 5 (technique) obviously is a little bit different," DeRuyter said. "He's been very solid especially in the run game. He plays with a good motor, and I like the progress he's making."
"I like where Maurice is at and he's getting better and better with it," defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. There's still plenty for him to work at, but that guy, just his work ethic, the changes I've seen in that man since we've been here with his work ethic, I don't know that anyone has had a bigger change. Two years ago if you would have said he'd be starting at end for us ... there's no way. I wouldn't have believed you.
"There's still plenty of room for him to get better, but we fit things better up front and he's helped us there. He's made things more solid, we're a little more gap sound with him. He's not getting moved around. He's got some strength. He's got the ability to athletically split some double teams and show up and make plays. He put himself in a position to make a lot of plays the last couple of weeks. He has the ability. In this league he can be a guy that is good there."