Fresno State has had a wide out gain first-team all-conference honors in each of the past four seasons, with senior Josh Harper this year extending a run that started in 2011 with Jalen Saunders in the Western Athletic Conference and includes Davante Adams in 2012 and '13 in the Mountain West.
Five in a row certainly is possible -- the Bulldogs do have talent in their outside and inside position groups. But it will take some doing, given the inconsistencies of those young and inexperienced receivers.
Harper has caught 86 passes for 1,072 yards and seven touchdowns, close to three times as many as the receivers that rank second on the team, junior Aaron Peck and senior Greg Watson with 31. And the younger receivers, a group that includes third-year sophomore Justin Johnson, sophomore Da'Mari Scott and redshirt freshman Delvon Hardaway, have struggled to maintain a presence in the offense.
There will be chances to make a positive move in the Hawaii Bowl against Rice. The Owls will press and play some man coverage, be physical at the line of scrimmage with the Bulldogs receivers.
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And coach Tim DeRuyter said the Bulldogs will be looking to get more out of their receivers in bowl practices, if they get reps in the game and certainly in the spring.
"We have guys that do have talent, but talent one play and not the next isn't going to cut it," DeRuyter said. "You have to be consistent. We have to know who you are every single day, every single down, and until we get to that point we're going to keep looking at new guys to be who can be a consistent guy.
"Part of it is being young and immature and part of it is not practicing with consistency and we have to demand it as coaches and players have to step up to that challenge. The more competition you bring the more there's an onus to be consistent and we have to keep pushing that competition."
Peck has taken a forward step over the past three games -- he caught four passes for 57 yards in the Mountain West Conference championship game at Boise State and has 11 receptions over the past three games, after catching just five passes over the five previous games.
But Scott does not have a reception since the Bulldogs' victory over San Diego State at the beginning of October and Hardaway after a four-game stretch where he caught 11 passes does not have one in the past two games. He did not play a snap in the championship game. Johnson has played more the past two games, catching two passes in both. But he had only two receptions in the first 11 games.
"Not everybody starts out as fast as Davante did," said Ron Antoine, who coaches the outside receivers. "You look at freshmen across the country and check their numbers and what they're doing, it's probably comparable. But we expect a lot out of those guys because they're talented guys. They're guys we wanted to see play a lot this season and they did play a lot this season."
There are only nine freshmen ranked among the top 100 receivers in the bowl subdivision in receptions, including Devonte Boyd from UNLV, who is tied for 43rd with 64 catches.
In the spring, the competition level will increase. Freshmen KeeSean Johnson outside and Jamire Jordan and Keyan Williams inside will be in the mix, and the Bulldogs have two non-scholarship walk-ons playing outside that have made strong impressions on the practice field in freshman Justin Allen and junior Michael Martens, who went to Bakersfield Centennial High and transferred in from Azusa Pacific.
"Guys like KeeSean and guys like Jamire, they're talented guys that need a year in the weight room, but have a ton of talent," DeRuyter said. "Come this spring, if those guys don't pick it somebody is going to go by them and that's what is going to eventually let the cream rise to the top and hopefully make it to where everybody is competing on a daily basis.
"Justin Allen has done a great job and Mike Martens, who transferred in, both those guys I love the attitude of them and they're going to go compete and challenge guy to see if they can make it into the two-deep. Both of them have been scout team players of the week because they come out and they like to compete. They have the right attitude. If they're better than some of the scholarship guys, they'll go by them."
RB Micenheimer on track for spring
Running back Malique Micenheimer, who had surgery in September to repair an injured shoulder, has started to do some running and strengthening exercises with an eye toward spring football.
"There haven't been any setbacks with that, so that's a good sign," he said.
Fresno State will have to apply for a medical redshirt for Micenheimer, but that is considered a formality since the senior has not used a redshirt season.
Around practice ...
• Harper will go into his final college game with a chance to become Fresno State's all-time leading receiver. The senior from Stockton has 224 career receptions and is just nine behind Adams, who caught 233 passes in his two seasons at Fresno State. Harper has caught 10 passes in a game five times, including the Mountain West championship game at Boise State (10 receptions for 131 yards).
• The Bulldogs are 28-9-1 against the 13 teams in Conference USA, with 27 of those games coming against Rice, Southern Methodist or Louisiana Tech when they all were in the WAC. Fresno State is 6-0 all-time against the Owls.
• Fresno State is one of nine teams from Group of 5 Conferences that played three nonconference games against Power 5 opponents and one of three to advance to a bowl. The Bulldogs played at USC, at Utah and against Nebraska, who went a combined 25-11 (.694), the third highest winning percentage in that group. Southern Methodist, which went 1-11, played at Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas Christian, those three going a combined 28-7 (.800). Tulane, which went 3-9, played Georgia Tech, at Duke and at Rutgers which went a combined 26-11 (.703).