Fresno State found a player-friendly way to feed its football team after efforts to operate a training table program fell flat.The university took advantage of NCAA rules allowing unlimited food to athletes while ensuring players get more money in nine scholarship checks through the school year.
With meetings and practices this season switched to the morning rather than the afternoon, the Bulldogs can grab a light meal before hitting the field from the healthy nuts and snacks plan available at the Meyers Family Sports Medicine Center. After practice, the football program is having a supplemental catered meal that players can eat at the football facility or grab and go on the way to class.
Under NCAA rules, both methods are considered snacks outside a breakfast, lunch, dinner or training table meal, with the cost covered through the football budget.
The Bulldogs will hold a third and final scrimmage of fall camp Friday night. It will be closed to everyone.
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With the training table last year, as well as the meal plan at the residence dining hall that preceded it, student-athletes were charged an institutional cost per meal whether or not they ate. Few did.
The athletic department sought a better way to feed its student-athletes because up to 40 percent of those meals were wasted, even though student-athletes prepaid the cost and there was no uptick after an initial bump under the training table program, which began in November 2014.
“We decided to go away from that and give them more money in their checks and then just give them as many supplemental meals as we can,” said Lou Major, director of football operations.
“We’ll do things during the week, after practice, and once the season starts, Friday nights there will be dinners, snacks, a burrito or something to take home with them. So they’re getting quite a few meals throughout the week, but it’s just not as structured where it’s, ‘Hey, you have to sit down for this meal.’ It’s more just taking it with them.”
Several factors hurt the training table, including the lack of a permanent location – bouncing between the RDH and a conference room in the North Gym – and convenience for student-athletes who trained, practiced and had classes or academic commitments at different times.
“I think this is the best combination of being able to feed our guys and make sure they get a couple of good meals and then at night have some flexibility what they want to eat,” coach Tim DeRuyter said.
“They can go out and make sensible choices or stay at home and cook up some chicken breasts or whatever they want to do.”
The players have more responsibility. But with no deduction for food many were not eating, they will have more options and better choices.
And with the supplemental meals, what college student is going to complain about free food?
“That’s a plus,” said cornerback Jamal Ellis, a fifth-year senior. “Of course, some guys are going to buy clothes or stuff they need. But it’s good to have the coaches have the extra snacks there for us in case guys don’t get it. Like young guys slip up a little bit and spend money on something they shouldn’t, they’re able to get food here, which is clutch.”
Tank attack – Defensive back Anthoula “Tank” Kelly, his knee much better and cleared to participate, was back on the practice field for a second day Wednesday and again was in individual drills and took some reps in team periods.
Playing this season, he said, is a realistic goal after early fears he would need season-ending surgery coming out of spring practices.
It’s a blessing to be able to play again and to know that I actually have chance.
Bulldogs cornerback Anthoula “Tank” Kelly, who was expected to miss the season with a knee injury
“I’m just trying to get back to doing regular football things so my knee is ready for football itself, a whole game itself, trying to get back to where I was in the spring before everything happened,” he said.
“It’s not physically hard. It’s just mentally hard. Mentally I’m ready, and physically I know my body is ready. I’m prepared. I’m just waiting to be in full pads so I can show my ability.”
QB plan – Fresno State is expected to end what little suspense surrounds its starter at quarterback by the end of the week, with Chason Virgil obviously the leading candidate.
Once that is done, the Bulldogs also will have a plan to run the offensive scout team with the four quarterbacks in the program, all of whom need reps in the offense to be ready once the season starts. There are no plans to add a fifth quarterback as a walk-on to work the scouts now that school has started.
“We’ll likely have two quarterbacks rotate between scout team and taking the third reps,” DeRuyter said. “The fourth quarterback is not going to be able to get any reps so we have to get them work and we have to get our defense some looks, so we plan to rotate our No. 3 and No. 4 guys.”
After what happened last season, the Bulldogs would be tempting fate not getting the entire group of Virgil, Zach Kline, Christian Rossi and James Quentin Davis reps in the offense and game-ready.
“I mean, we went through four (quarterbacks) last year, unfortunately, so you have to be prepared and with three of the guys not having been here except for the summer, all the reps that they can get are going to be helpful,” DeRuyter said. “It’s not like you have a guy who is a veteran who can go down during the week and know the offense coming back.”
Et cetera – Inside (Mike) linebacker Trent Soechting took another step back from a hamstring injury that has kept him out of practice the past week and a half.
The good thing for him is he was here in the spring. He’s a smart kid, but just like every one of our guys, he needs reps.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, on linebacker Trent Soechting, who is coming back from a hamstring injury
“He’s slowly getting back,” DeRuyter said. “Hamstrings are kind of like back injuries. There’s no exact timetable for them and you don’t ever want to push those things because you’re susceptible to re-injury. He has been easing himself back, and he needs the reps.
“The good thing for him is he was here in the spring. He knows the base package, knows our adjustments. He’s a smart kid, but just like every one of our guys, he needs reps. So the quicker we can get him back at full speed and into live reps, the better.”
▪ Offensive tackle Logan Hughes, a community college transfer from Victor Valley College, got some reps with the No. 1 offense at right tackle in a scout period.
▪ Tight end Stephen Babagian, who suffered a neck injury in practice last week, has returned to practice and is taking part in individual drills. “It’s good to see him back,” DeRuyter said. “He had that injury that at the time looked pretty scary. He got medical treatment here and has been fully cleared by our doctors, and the team is excited to have him back and I think Stephen is excited to be back.”
▪ Defensive end Austin Vaimili signed during the community college period in December, but he didn’t make it to Fresno State in time to participate in spring ball. Now 21 practices into fall camp, he is starting to build on where he might have been in April had he had those 15 sessions.
“He flashes at times,” DeRuyter said. “I think he’s starting to get more comfortable. When JC guys come in during the summer, it’s a lot. It’s much different from what they’re used to, but he’s giving great effort. I think (defensive-line coach Pete Germano) is doing a great job of getting him to work on the detail of the position. He’s getting better at that and it’s showing up in his play.
“He’s catching up quickly and we’re hoping to have him where he’s playing as fast as possible next week against Nebraska.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Meet The Teams
- Who: Fresno State football and soccer players
- When: 5-8 p.m. Thursday
- Where: Campus Pointe
- Details: KFIG (AM 940) will broadcast live from 4-7 p.m., with players available to meet with fans and sign autographs from 6-7:15 p.m. … Fresno State’s band, cheerleaders and mascot Time-Out also will be on hand. … Raffles and ticket deals plus discounts at the shopping center’s restaurants and retailers will be offered.
2016 football schedule
Home games in CAPS
Sept. 3: at Nebraska, 5 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Sept. 10: SACRAMENTO STATE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17: at Toledo, noon (ESPN3)
Sept. 24: TULSA, 1:30 p.m. (MWN)
Oct. 1: at Nevada-Las Vegas, 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 8: at Nevada, TBA (ESPN network TBD)
Oct. 14: SAN DIEGO STATE, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 22: at Utah State, 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 28: AIR FORCE, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Nov. 5: at Colorado State, 12:30 p.m. (ROOT SPORTS/MWN)
Nov. 12: BYE
Nov. 19: HAWAII, 4 p.m.
Nov. 26: SAN JOSE STATE, 12:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Dec. 3: Mountain West Championship, TBA