Fresno State appears to have found answers at its center position, but the Bulldogs continue to look for their top five on the offensive line as line coach Mark Weber did some tinkering with his group Monday in the first practices since the first live scrimmage of fall camp.
The No. 1 group through the first two weeks of camp remained basically the same, with Christian Cronk at left tackle, Aaron Mitchell at left guard, Jacob Vazquez at center, Micah St. Andrew at right guard and David Patterson at right tackle. But Weber also had junior college transfer Logan Hughes take some reps with the ones at left and right tackle, and redshirt freshman Jaleel Carter with the ones at guard.
“I’ve got some snaps. I know that Aaron can play enter also and Zack (Kinninger) has always been running at the second-team center,” Weber said.
“But I’m trying to let him settle in at that position. I’m trying to let Aaron settle in at the guard position and then let those five guys get reps together, but the competition is not over.”
Logan comes to the field with an edge and I like that about him.
Coach Tim DeRuyter on tackle Logan Hughes
Hughes could shake up the status quo. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound sophomore, who played last season at Victor Valley College, joined the team for fall camp and made it clear from the start that he will mix it up with his competitive nastiness to his game.
“I think it comes naturally to him,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Some guys you have to prod a little bit with that, but Logan comes to the field with an edge, and I like that about him. I think Coach Web appreciates that about him, because he’s a real competitive guy who’s not going to take anything from the defense and he’s going to go compete.”
And then there were three – Freshman running back Saevion Johnson escaped serious injury in Saturday’s scrimmage, taking a helmet to the knee midway through the 107 plays. But the Bulldogs’ injury bug caught up to him in the first of double-day practices.
Running back Dontel James and inside linebacker Nela Otukolo, who had minor knee procedures on Friday, did some light work on the field during the second of double day practices, jogging and rehab exercises.
Johnson was in practice after absorbing that hit and almost made it to the end before going down with a hamstring injury during a third-down period. Johnson was racing toward the sticks on the right sideline when he pulled up, leaving a thin group in the afternoon session.
The Bulldogs had only three there for the practice – Dejonte O’Neal, Treyvon Green and Austin Harper.
Fresno State since the spring has had difficulty keeping its running backs healthy. Bryson Oglesby and then Wesley Hill went down in the spring with knee injuries, then in fall camp Justin Rice fractured a bone in his left foot, Deonte Perry went down with a knee injury and Dontel James also tweaked a knee.
Strong safety DeShawn Potts had a second interception in as many practices Monday, picking off a pass by Zach Kline.
Johnson, the sixth to miss time with injury, is expected to be out only a few days.
Et cetera – Nose guard Malik Forrester, who played large in the scrimmage, has been excused from practice for a few days to tend to a family matter. He is expected back in practice Thursday.
▪ Tight end Stephen Babagian, who suffered a neck injury Friday in a 7-on-7 period, took in the afternoon practice. He has not yet been cleared to return to the field.
“The doctors want to be very cautious with him because of the nature of the injury and I think once they go through the protocol where he’s totally clear, he’ll be out,” DeRuyter said. “Right now, he’s not showing any wear and tear from the injury and he’s champing at the bit just waiting for the OK.
“But it’s great to see him out here. Anytime you have one of those scary injuries where you have to bring an ambulance out – obviously you’re doing it as a precaution – it gives you pause. I know his teammates were worried about him when they first took him off, but he let us know that afternoon, (tight ends coach Joe Bernardi) saw him at the hospital, and was able to tell everybody that there was nothing more than the initial stinger feel.”
▪ Graduate transfer quarterback Zach Kline got the first reps with the No. 1 offense in the morning practice but had a pass intercepted by DeShawn Potts and offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau immediately went back to redshirt freshman Chason Virgil.
Kline and JC transfer Christian Rossi, who also had a pass picked off in the morning, had to pay the price, rolling the width of the practice fields. It’s a painful exercise, but at least they were rolling through grass rather than the field turf inside Bulldog Stadium.
▪ With freshman Kevin Atkins moving back to defensive end after a couple of days taking reps as an offensive lineman, the Bulldogs moved walk-on Nick Aibuedefe across the line to offensive tackle.
Aibuedefe, a redshirt freshman from Sacramento, is expected to work there with the scout team this season.
▪ DeRuyter on the sluggish start by the offense in the scrimmage: “I think we’re still fairly young in the offense. We’ve been going for about a week and a half. I think early on typically in camp offense can take some time to get their rhythm going. Defenses are typically ahead. That’s not to make any excuses for them, that’s just kind of typical. But I like how our offense responded (in the morning practice). Nobody was happy with the way they played. We had a third-down live drill today and the first six third downs the offense converted. That’s a great job by them.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada