Fresno State in spring practice No. 3 put on full pads Friday for the first time and though the Bulldogs did not tackle live, nose guard Nate Madsen got a chance to bump and get bumped around a bit, deal with double teams that come with playing over the center after spending his first two seasons at end in the Bulldogs’ 3-4 defense.
So far so good for the redshirt sophomore, who is taking the position where Tyeler Davison last season was a first-team all-conference selection.
“I like how his attitude has been,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “He has been hard-charging, had a real good offseason. I think with that banked experience, you come back the next year and you feel like, ‘Hey, I’m one of the guys now,’ and I think he’s starting to play that way.
“He expects to be a leader. He knows that Tyeler isn’t here anymore and that it’s his job to lose so he’s stepping up to the challenge, which I like.”
Madsen said he was excited to make the switch, moving inside to help the line and the defensive unit as a whole. But it is a process, learning the technique and getting used to the physical demands at the position.
“At end, you get double teams every once in a while, but you get them sparsely, to where you never quite get the feel of them, whereas I’m getting them a lot now,” he said. “I’m getting used to the technique, I’m getting used to the pad level and where my hands need to be, my physicality. It’s just getting a feel for it, learning the technique and working on it every day.
“The mentality, you have to be in the right mindset. Playing at end also, but more so at nose, it’s so physical in there if you show up here just kind of out of it you’re not going to have a good day, you’re not going to get any better. You need to mentally prepare — I’ve been mentally prepared for this the whole month. I just have to mentally prepare for the technique, for every day in practice. It’s easy to come out here and do this stuff one day, but day after day and stack the days together to get progressively better, that’s what you really have to learn. That’s what I’m trying to do every day.”
Said defensive coordinator Nick Toth: “I like how well he’s grabbed on to playing inside. He’s playing with the pad level and the get-off that you want from a guy over the ball. He plays with pretty good leverage. At times, the body position he’s in is very similar to what Tyeler was in. Now, it’s the next step. The block-reaction stuff has got to be the next thing that comes with him. But I’m pleased with him. It’s definitely the right move for him right now and for us. He looks good in there.”
Around camp …
• When starting center Bo Bonnheim takes off for class toward the second half of practices, the Bulldogs have a number of options in how to deploy their centers and guards with the Nos. 1 and 2 offenses. On Friday, they gave nonscholarship walk-on Micah St. Andrew the reps with the ones at the right guard. “I’ll tell you what, I’ve been impressed with for a big guy how well he moves,” DeRuyter said. “He’s a guy that we think has a really big upside and potentially could earn a scholarship pretty quick. He’s going to get in there and get his opportunities to compete. We know what Bo can do, he’s established, and he’ll be out here (Saturday) not having class. But what it does is, it creates opportunities for guys like Micah and I think Micah is taking advantage of it.”
• Senior running back Malique Micenheimer, who is not taking any contact this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery last season, was in full pads and participating in individual drills. “I was teasing him, he held out the first couple of days, but his agent got him to sign his contract,” DeRuyter joked. “It was good to see him out there.”
• The young outside receivers flashed now and then last season, but in the first three days of spring 2015 have practiced with more consistency. Redshirt freshman KeeSean Johnson made some nice contested catches in the 7 on 7s. Third-year sophomore Delvon Hardaway and redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Riddering also teamed up to make a nice block on a pass to the outside, allowing tight end Chad Olsen to get up the sideline.
• The Bulldogs were in full pads for the first time, but in team didn’t tackle to the ground. They will run some live periods Saturday building up to their first scrimmage of the spring on Monday.