Fresno State inside linebacker Xavier Ulutu was dismissed from the team on Friday for violations of team rules and athletic department policy.
“Unfortunately we had to release him,” coach Tim DeRuyter said after the Bulldogs’ 19th of 29 practices in fall camp.
“We’ve had multiple conversations with X, but unfortunately he made some poor decisions that there are consequences to. While we wish him the best, our team needs to know that we have standards and we’re going to hold everybody to those standards.”
Ulutu, one of the highest-rated players in the Bulldogs’ 2014 recruiting class, played in 13 of 14 games last season as a true freshman. He had 20 tackles on the season, including 13 solo stops and a career high of four in a victory against San Jose State.
Our team needs to know that we have standards and we’re going to hold everybody to those standards.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter
He had not practiced in fall camp, instead rehabbing a foot injury, and was not projected in the Bulldogs’ depth at the Mike or Will linebacker positions at least early in the season.
Fresno State has depth at both spots with senior Kyrie Wilson and junior Jeff Camilli working with the No. 1 defense and freshman Nela Otukolo and third-year sophomore Robert Stanley with the No. 2 defense. George Helmuth, a third-year sophomore walk-on from Clovis North, has played his way into the equation. The Bulldogs also have sophomore Michael Lazarus, who is coming off shoulder surgery and has received few reps in fall camp.
The Bulldogs go into games with four inside linebackers set to play and sometimes a fifth. They have some options with Wilson, who started all 14 games last season at Will before moving to Mike in the spring. Helmuth, defensive coordinator Nick Toth said, also has made himself an option inside.
“George was moving there on his own anyway,” Toth said. “He is playing his way onto the field right now – special teams, defense. He was our Code Red player of the day (in Thursday’s scrimmage). That’s the No. 1 effort guy on every rep, and he got it, and that’s not me – that’s the guys saying that. So that tells you what he’s doing right now.”
We have to get Nela (Otukolo) ready to go. Robert Stanley has to keep progressing, and George Helmuth has to be ready to go. We have to get Michael Lazarus healthy.
Fresno State defensive coordinator Nick Toth
The dismissal of Ulutu hurts more going forward, costing the Bulldogs a scholarship linebacker who next season would have been a junior with a lot of practice and game reps if he had played this season. The Bulldogs must shift gears and add one to the number of inside linebackers they were going to take in the class of 2016, pulling from one of the other position groups.
“It hurts the room, because we don’t have a scholarship,” Toth said. “He was not in the equation this year. He was in the equation coming out of the spring, but when the offseason stuff happened, he was a nonfactor. We understood what we had there. We knew we weren’t going to be able to play with him for a while anyway, so we have to recruit some linebackers.
“We have to recruit some guys to replace these special ones, and we have to get these young guys ready to go. We have to get Nela ready to go. Robert Stanley has to keep progressing, and George Helmuth has to be ready to go. We have to get Michael Lazarus healthy.”