Fresno State opened spring football Monday with sophomore Aaron Mitchell and junior Jacob Vazquez at the left and right guard spots with the No. 1 offense, redshirt freshmen Jacob Hicks and Micah St. Andrew with the No. 2.
Mitchell and Vazquez both practiced with the No. 2 offense last season, Mitchell primarily at left guard with some center sprinkled in there and Vazquez mostly at center with some guard.
The time at center should help both as they try to hold down those spots and replace departed seniors Sean Rubalcava and Cody Wichmann, the latter a second-team all-conference selection.
"To me, when you're training guys at center, you're helping them learn the whole offense, too," offensive line coach Cameron Norcross said. "A young guy like Mitchell, we didn't want to put him in at center to start. I want him to learn first, just like (Bo) Bonnheim. His first game action wasn't at center; it was at guard. He got the speed of the game without having to ID everything and call all the fronts and do that. Once he gets used to it, it's easy to play center after that if you know the stuff.
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"Aaron is pretty good. Knowing the scheme, he's fine with it. But the thing is, it's putting it to practical application on the field of how the defense is going to react in certain situations. When we're pass protecting and he slides, it's (knowing) what that nose tackle is going to do. That's what you saw today -- how is he going to react to me and how am I going to react once he reacts to me? He's still figuring that out. That's just game reps and practice reps and a ton of fast reps against good guys. Jacob, he knows the offense. He's a really sharp kid. His stuff is more in the weight room and getting stronger and being football strong. But he's going to be a real good player here, too."
The Bulldogs had to do some shuffling when Bonnheim, the starting center, had to bolt for a class. Vazquez got some reps back at center toward the middle to end of practice, with St. Andrew moving up with the ones at times and with Ben Simonds getting some reps at center with Vazquez back at guard at others.
The Bulldogs, as always, are looking for their best five and then swing guys at the guard and tackle spots.
St. Andrew, a walk-on, is an intriguing prospect among a youthful group that includes left tackle Bobby Johnson, Mitchell, Simonds, Hicks and Art Gomez from the 2014 recruiting class.
"Very interesting," Norcross said. "As big as he is, when we got him I think he was 370, we had him down to 330-ish and over break he got back up a bit and that's a battle we're going to continue to fight, but he's super athletic for as big as he is and he's one of those guys I probably won't push down to 305. I think he can play at 320. But he's super light on his feet. He's athletic. He's a big wide body in there at guard and I like what he does. He has done a good job."