Fresno State cornerback Charles Washington moved forward on two fronts in his return from offseason surgery to repair a core muscle injury.
He took part in individual drills for a second day in a row Tuesday, this time adding some extra reps during a special team’s period with defensive graduate assistant Ricky Manning. And the results of a precautionary MRI that Washington had following practice Monday showed evidence of a deep tissue strain in a hip, but nothing related to the surgeries.
The plan is to continue to progress with the individual drills and gradually adding to the workload.
“It was good to know that it didn’t have anything to do with my surgery,” Washington said. “I know what it is, so I just have to work at it. Just keep strengthening it and more treatment, more treatment, more treatment. ... You can’t get enough treatment.”
Entering fall camp, Washington was expected to hold down the left cornerback spot before he went to the sideline during the third practice and since had been doing conditioning workouts. He returned Monday, and is on a timetable that could have him ready to go when Fresno State opens the season Sept. 3 against Abilene Christian at Bulldog Stadium.
14 Starts last season for Charles Washington – six at strong safety, five at left cornerback, two at right cornerback and one at nickel back
Despite the time off, there are no concerns about fitness due to the work he has done with the training staff during practices and no concern where he is with the defense.
Washington started all 14 games last season at four different positions – six at strong safety, five at left cornerback, two at right cornerback and one at nickel back.
“He’s gradually working his way back in,” defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson said. “It was good to see him back in action. He looked good moving around.
“We’re going to let it play out with him. The good thing about Charles is that when it comes to the schemes, he knows it inside and out. From a mental aspect, he’s not missing out on a lot. He’s staying engaged, He’s coaching up the younger guys, and that’s continuing to keep him mentally sharp.”
Safety DeShawn Potts back on field
Redshirt freshman safety DeShawn Potts, who has been sidelined since suffering a foot injury in spring practices, also is back on the field taking part in individual drill work.
“Potts, just like Chuck, he’s a mentally sharp kid. You tell him something once, he has it,” Woodson said. “The mental aspect for him isn’t as big a deal. Now, physically, that’s going to be the big deal for him, just making sure that he can get back and not go two days and then have to sit out two days because the foot has gotten sore.
He flies around and he loves the game of football. Just his presence is going to make us better with how he approaches practice.
Fresno State defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson on DeShawn Potts
“I’m just looking forward to seeing how his foot responds to actual contact and some resistance from the ball carrier. That’s going to be the main thing with Potts. But I’ll tell you what: When he’s out there, he brings a different mindset to the group. He’s a guy that plays with a lot of energy.”
The plan there is to progress slowly, but with Potts missing the second half of spring practices because of the foot injury there is more ground to cover to catch up in the defense.
“He didn’t get as much I would have liked him to,” Woodson said. “In the time he was out there, he really made a difference. He was the leader throughout the spring as far as forcing turnovers and even with the time he missed, he continued to be the leader. He just has a knock for making plays, creating turnovers and his attention to detail is really high.
“But he didn’t get enough in the spring. So unlike Chuck, with him the sooner the better just to work the different techniques and get back into the groove of things.”
QB Chason Virgil takes step forward
Freshman quarterback Chason Virgil has had some rough practices the past week, dealing with a myriad of blitzes the defense has thrown at him. But he took a nice forward step in two live practice periods, particularly an end-of-game scenario with the No. 2 offense.
Trying to burn the final 2:30 off the clock, Virgil faced two third-and-7 situations and converted both with strong throws against some pressure. On the first, the freshman hit Darrell Fuery on a slant on a play that turned into a 30-yard gain. On the second, Virgil found Josiah Blandin open for an 18-yard gain.
“He did a nice job,” offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said of Virgil. “He had a lot of poise standing in there, throwing that slant route. He operated very well. I was pleased to see that. He did a nice job in the 4-minute deal, too, controlling the huddle. He’s coming along. He’s making strides.
“He did a nice job in the red zone (Monday), so I’m pleased with what I’ve seen so far. That’s a learned thing. It doesn’t just happen, especially against our defense.”
Offense gets tough yards in drill
The second live period consisted of two plays. The offense had the ball at the opponent’s 33-yard line on a third-and-1. They obviously needed to make a first down, the defense needed a stop. Coach Tim DeRuyter has proven he is not shy about going for it on fourth down on the plus side of the field, so the defense had to defend everything that it had seen from the offense to this point in camp.
“It was a unique situation,” DeRuyter said. “At that part of the field, we talked to both sides of the ball about, ‘We may take a shot here,’ knowing that we’re probably going to go for it on fourth down. The defense has to be smart and not give up the big play. It’s a tough situation, but it’s something that I like drilling in camp so that when we get into that situation and it’s third-and-1 between the 30 and the 37 when it’s a long field goal that we might be able to make, but we also might just go for it.”
The offense got there on both plays – Malique Micenheimer, running with the No. 1 offense, bulled his way for 5 yards and a first down with two linebackers attached to his legs; Virgil, again running the No. 2 offense, picked up a first down throwing the football.
A healthy Micenheimer definitely adds a dimension for the Bulldogs’ offense.
“The thing I’ve been impressed with is he is running with a much different pad level than he did a year ago,” DeRuyter said. “He has always been a physical guy. But if you run high, guys can get into your legs and negate that. He’s running with a much better pad level and when guys have that last-season mentality – I know missing last season left a bitter taste in his mouth – I think you just work that much harder when you know it can be taken away at any time. Hopefully, he’ll be able to take advantage of everything this time.”
The Bulldogs had success rushing the football on third-and-short plays last season, gaining an average of 5.6 yards on 43 plays and converting a first down 27 times.
But in 2013, not so much.
“You’d almost rather it been third-and-8 as opposed to third-and-1,” DeRuyter joked. “But when you have a back like Mice, who is physical, you don’t have to block everybody because if he’s running with his pad level the way it was (Tuesday) he’s going to go get you those yards. I like where he’s at right now.”
CB Malcolm Washington also back on field
Sophomore cornerback Malcolm Washington, who had missed a few days with a groin strain, also was able to get on the field for individual drills.