It was not a great day for the Fresno State quarterbacks, who threw five interceptions in 7-on-7 and team periods Monday.
Outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine jumped a pass by freshman Chason Virgil. Walk-on safety Eric Wilson was home to grab an overthrown pass over the middle of the field by redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson. Ford Childress, the junior transfer from West Virginia, was picked off three times. Twice he overextended into coverage, with safety Dalen Jones picking off one pass and deflecting a second that Jamal Ellis grabbed. On the third, cornerback Daquawn Brown jumped a quick pass to the outside. That one would have gone for six points the other way.
But there were positives. One, when the Bulldogs hit the gas, the offense did not sputter and seize due to operator error, the quarterbacks navigating a tempo period well.
That hasn’t always happened, going back three seasons in the no-huddle spread.
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“We’re getting much better with that, and that’s what is fun to see,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “I think we have a couple of groups, maybe even three, that did a really nice job with that, and we’ve never had that in the four camps that we’ve been here.
“Even in the spring, I don’t know that we were that efficient. But we have a great influx of new young talent and some older guys. ... We have some guys that can make plays.”
Virgil and Anderson also had pluses on their side in the only live period during the first day in full pads, when the Bulldogs were running second-down plays into third – they run a second-and-10 play, then a third down; they run a second-and-8 play, then a third; they run a second-and-6 play, then a third.
Virgil took the reps with the No. 1 offense and on his first set of plays made a strong throw to Aaron Peck on a third-and-4 play to pick up 15 yards and a first down.
Anderson picked up a first down on a pass to Keyan Williams on a third-down play. Running back Dustin Garrison, the graduate transfer from West Virginia, made the most of those series. He hit a long run on the first play of that series and had a second big gain to start the third series.
Childress’ NCAA eligibility in limbo
Childress remains in an academic limbo – the Bulldogs are not yet sure when he will be eligible to play this season, though sources have said it might not be until the first week of September.
He is getting a chance to get team reps, partly because the Bulldogs have been limiting Zack Greenlee to individual drills and some 7-on-7 work because of a minor ding.
“With Ford, it’s coming fast for him a little bit now,” DeRuyter said. “He has to take care of the ball better than he did (Monday), but he’s learning a ton. But it’s good when somebody goes down we have a live arm to go back in for him. Not that Zack is going to try to stay out, but he’s going to be constantly reminded if I’m out somebody is getting my reps.”
Freshman outside linebacker Bailey progressing
Freshmen continue to make an impression on defense, with Mike linebacker Nela Otukolo and cornerback Mike Bell getting a lot of reps.
On Monday, James Bailey was flashing off the edge at outside linebacker. The quarterbacks are protected in live periods, but he made a sack in the live period at the end of practice when he bolted off the edge and closed quickly on Anderson.
“He’s doing a good job,” defensive coordinator Nick Toth said of Bailey. “He’s just such a playmaker, so dynamic off the edge. He’s just a different type of guy, even than (Ederaine). Dro has some power in his game. James is more of a slasher. It’s good to watch him play. It’s hard because we’re out here on the field and I’m only watching flashes of him. I’m seeing him in the big picture. It’s not until I get into the meeting room that I get to detail it, how his progress is for the day.
“But one thing I know is he plays hard every play and that sucker can run. You look at all of our freshmen, the newcomer class that we brought in, those guys can all fly. Every single one of them, they all fly and I think that’s going to give us a chance. A lot of those guys are going to play early.”
▪ Senior center Bo Bonnheim did not participate in team periods – he has been out after tweaking a hamstring. Jacob Vazquez is taking the reps with the No. 1 center and freshman Donnie Greene is with the twos, another solid indication the Bulldogs have some hits with their offensive line in the 2015 recruiting class. “I’m really happy with it,” DeRuyter said. “I think Zack Kinninger is going to be a heck of a player. We have some great size with (Ben) Northup and Isaiah Trevino. It’s an impressive group.”
▪ The receivers ran another bubble-bullet drill, working on their perimeter blocking with some good results. The outside linebacker, safety and cornerback taking the reps defeated blocks and stuffed a few plays. But Keyan Williams escaped untouched on one play with strong blocks by Peck and Mike Martens, Jamire Jordan bounced around up the sideline off of a good block by Justin Johnson , and KeeSean Johnson got away from the defense with blocks by freshman L.J. Reed and Williams. On a play that was not blocked up well, Williams did a little shake that left the safety flatfooted and burst upfield.
▪ Toth has been encouraged by the physical play in the secondary and its harassment of receivers. “We want to be on the borderline of pass interference on every play and not get called. That’s really what we want, and we haven’t been like that for a while,” he said. “We were like that when we had those older guys our first year and even into the first half of our second year before (L.J. Jones) got hurt and we’ve kind of been in transition ever since. We have a little more retention, because we have some of the same guys back. We kept the same (defensive backs) coach two years in a row, which always helps. That’s not to be discounted, so hopefully we see gains there.”
▪ The Bulldogs have their first double-day session on the schedule Tuesday with practice No. 6 running from 8:25 a.m. to 11 a.m., and practice No. 7 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. They will be in full pads in the morning and half pads (helmets and shoulder pads) in the afternoon.
▪ The first scrimmage of fall camp is scheduled for Thursday, the back end of a double-day session. It is open to the public, running from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.