Fresno State defensive back Charles Washington has been back at his favored spot in the Bulldogs’ secondary the past four weeks, starting at strong safety.
But after a rough loss to Wyoming, he is back in the mix at cornerback and could start there on Saturday against San Jose State.
One spot or the other, he will be out there.
But changing positions for what would be a fifth time would present some challenges.
"I think for some guys it would be difficult, but Charles has been playing in this defense for a while," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "He understands it really well and he has a skill set that allows him to play multiple positions. But having said that, there’s nothing like experience, so if you play the same technique week in and week out you'd obviously be better at that technique, and that goes into our decision on who is going to be playing corner."
Washington didn't completely divorce himself from cornerback when moved back to strong safety for the Bulldog' 35-24 victory at New Mexico — for the record, he started the opener at USC at strong safety, the second game of the season at Utah at nickel, the next two against Nebraska and Southern Utah at cornerback and the past five games at strong safety.
The corners and safeties are all in the same meeting room, which has helped.
"I don’t get everything when I’m at safety, but I would hear it so some stuff will click to me," said Washington, who is competing with Curtis Riley for that starting corner spot. "I would catch on to the cornerback stuff, just in case I always prepare for the worst-case scenarios like this. If I did have to play corner, I’d be ready for it. I have no doubts about it. I still have a couple mental things that I have to lock onto as far as the playbook and assignments here and there, but I feel good about it."
Not a lot of guys can do it, but he’s demonstrated multiple times that he’s able to,’’ DeRuyter said. "He did it last year after the San Jose State game he started (at corner) against Utah State and in the bowl game and I think he handled himself well. Obviously, he did it earlier this year as well. There’s a little but if rust initially, going through the techniques and the reads, but big picture-wise he understands that."
QB Greenlee has more to earn than a second shot at job
That first start for Zack Greenlee didn’t go quite as expected — the redshirt freshman quarterback completed only 7 of 16 passes (43.8%) for 55 yards in the Bulldogs’ loss to Wyoming and finds himself this week competing against junior Brian Burrell for another start.
But while what he does in practice can get him another opportunity, it isn’t going to prove resiliency.
"He goes out and he practices well,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’The question is going to be when he gets back on that horse that bucked him off in a game-day situation, and how is he going to respond to that?
"I know he’s a competitor. I know it’s important to him. He’s going and doing the things that we’d like him to do, but the true test is going to be on Saturday."
Fresno State is not expected to name a starting quarterback against San Jose State until game day.
Spartans defending, though true tests are few
San Jose State is leading the bowl subdivision in passing defense for the fifth consecutive week, but the Spartans have faced only one team in the FBS ranked in the Top 50 in passing offense.
Colorado State, which beat San Jose State 38-31 last week, is ranked 13th.
Practice produces new optimism
Washington on the Bulldogs' defensive preparation this week:
"We haven’t been playing up to our potential or our capabilities, so I’m excited to see how we bounce back for Homecoming weekend,’’ he said. ‘’We’ve been out there flying around. When some teams have been put into a situation like this, they won’t respond — a lot of seniors will say, ‘Oh, my season is over.’ People can take it all kinds of ways.
"But we’ve done a good job of bouncing back and responding. They say you practice how you play, so we’ve put in the work and the effort. We’ll see on Saturday how it comes together and hopefully we can put it together how we’ve been practicing."
Bulldogs tackle another yardage machine
There are only three players in the FBS this season that have had 300 or more all-purpose yards in a game. Fresno State has faced two already and will face the third on Saturday in the Spartans’ Tyler Ervin.
Ervin had 308 all-purpose yards last week in a loss to Colorado State.
The other two; Wyoming running back Brian Hill, who had 387 yards last week against the Bulldogs, and Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who had 341 yards against Rutgers and 313 against Miami.
When the Cornhuskers beat up Fresno State back in Week 3, Abdullah had 110 rushing yards, but did not catch a pass.
San Jose State created a big break and opportunity in that 62-52 victory over the Bulldogs last season when coming out of halftime, gaining possession on a perfectly executed onsides kick.
The Spartans were up 42-41, but did not want to put the football back into the hands of Derek Carr and the Bulldogs’ offense. Kicker Harrison Waid tapped the ball forward the required 10 yards and fell on it. The Spartans went on to score, taking a 49-41 lead.
It was a play the Bulldogs had talked about at halftime, but failed to execute against. They’ll need to be ready again.
"If you tell guys every single kick, sure they’re going to be conscientious, bit it tends to drown out,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’But this is definitely a team that does a nice job executing it. They really got two kicks against Colorado State. They did it, but we’re called for offsides. Then they did it again and executed it. The kicker is obviously very good at it and it’s something that our guys are going to have to really be conscious of."