In the inside receivers’ meeting room, there is a practice schedule and plan on the wall, and a week or two into fall camp all of those days will no doubt run together to some degree, not one all that much different from another.
But as for practice No. 3 on Saturday, that one did stand out because it was the first that Fresno State would be in half pads and they all knew there would be some physicality required. It was right there on the wall — a bubble-bullet drill.
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And a first chance to get ahead in an area where they did not perform well a year ago.
The inability to block on the perimeter hurt. The short quick passes to the outside that Davante Adams or Isaiah Burse could, with a well-timed and well-executed block, take a long distance in 2013 were largely ineffective in 2014, with the Bulldogs’ yards per pass play falling to 5.9, tied for 116th of 128 in the nation.
Execution suffered often because the blocks to spring a play were not there.
After a slow start to the drill, they were on Saturday.
We preach it all the time — we have to be physical.
Justin Johnson, Fresno State senior wide receiver
“It’s just a mindset,” said senior Justin Johnson, who hit his reps, and some defensive backs, during the drill. “They give you all the protective gear that you need to go out there and excel in the drill, the only thing is you have to want to. You have to want to go out there and do it and I’ve been trying to lead by example with the younger guys. We preach it all the time — we have to be physical.
“We’ve been looking forward to this the past couple of days. We were really anxious to put on the pads and get after it and I thought we did a good job with that.”
Initial reviews also were positive from the coaches, but it is something they will continue to stress.
“It’s a great drill because it kind of shows which guys are going to go get it done,” inside receivers/tight ends coach Phil Earley said. “We did it in the spring and these guys did a decent job in the spring and we challenged them to take it up a notch and I think they did.
“But it’s a good drill because as you know a lot of receivers, they want to just go catch the ball. But in this offense we have to have guys that are going to go block and show some toughness.”
Coach Tim DeRuyter was focused on the inside and outside receivers in the period as well.
“I think we’re running that drill finally with the intensity that it should be run,” he said. “We have some guys that are physical and I think (strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese) is making some good strides with them in the weight room, but even more so than that, we have guys with the right attitude out there getting after each other.”
Johnson said the requisite mentality is more deeply ingrained in this group. And while solid on Saturday, he expects continued improvement.
“We all need some work, but we all attacked it,” he said. “The physicality was there.”
The difference it all can make starting Sept. 3 against Abilene Christian could be significant for the Bulldogs, who managed to rack up 406.1 yards per game despite getting little from a bubble-bullet game that has proven to possess explosive properties.
I want to challenge these guys to be the most physical blocking group in the conference.
Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter
The weapons are there, with an underrated mix of veteran and young talent — from Johnson and redshirt freshmen Jamire Jordan and Keyan Williams inside to senior Aaron Peck, redshirt freshman KeeSean Johnson and newcomers Josiah Blandin and L.J. Reed — competing to get on the field.
Sophomore outside receiver Delvon Hardaway will rejoin the group at some point in September as he works his way back from knee surgery.
“I want to challenge these guys to be the most physical blocking group in the conference and if we can, that totally opens up our outside run game with the bubble-bullet game,” DeRuyter said.
“If we can’t get that going because we’re not blocking, it takes a huge part of our offense out. Conversely, we have some big, long guys that will be physical and that’s going to make it extremely difficult for a defense to try to defend our whole field if we have guys that will block like they did today.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
’Dogs in camp
Camp highlights leading up to the Sept. 3 season opener against Abilene Christian at Bulldog Stadium:
- Monday: Practice No. 5 (first in full pads)
- Thursday, Aug. 13: Practice No. 10, 6-8 p.m. (scrimmage No. 1; only practice open to the public)
- Thursday, Aug. 20: Practice No. 18 (scrimmage No. 2)
- Monday, Aug. 24: Practice No. 21 (scrimmage No. 3)
- Wednesday, Sept. 2: Practice No. 29 (pregame walkthrough)