Football practice at Fresno State has a soundtrack all its own.
Whistles shrilling, helmets and shoulder pads cracking.
Hip-hop music thumping, unless it happens to be “White Boy” Wednesday.
A female voice over the speaker that interrupts the music for periodic announcements such as, “Period 7: individuals” or “Period 14: 7 on 7 a.”
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Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm hollering at someone, usually (but not always) for screwing up.
And Ejiro Ederaine talking.
The senior outside linebacker is constantly talking. You could call Ederaine a motor mouth, except motors eventually run out of gas. His chatter doesn’t. It’s nonstop.
“From the time he wakes up to the time he goes to sleep, he’s talking,” said wide receiver Aaron Peck before suffering a season-ending foot injury. “I don’t know how he does it. I don’t know how he keeps it so consistent throughout the day. But he always has something to say.”
That’s part of his thing. He always says he’s got the best hands and he could play receiver right now. That’s Dro and has always been Dro.
Fresno State safety Dalen Jones on linebacker Ejiro Ederaine
During practice, Ederaine is the guy who gives grief to the offense whenever the defense forces a turnover or stuffs a play.
He’s also the guy who encourages the defense whenever the offense breaks a long gain, or senses the energy level isn’t where it should be.
“I like to motivate my teammates, and I like to get under the skin of the offense,” Ederaine said. “That’s just fun to me. If I can use my words to get inside an offensive lineman’s head, that gives me an advantage and I want every advantage I can get.
“But at the end of the day, it’s all fun. We never take anything I say out here too seriously. Guys know I’m just messing with them.”
The main reason guys know that is because Ederaine is always smiling while he’s talking. It’s also because some of his claims tend to be outlandish.
While speaking to me following a recent practice, Ederaine interrupted one of his answers to badger Zack Greenlee as he passed by: “I’m a better quarterback than you.”
While speaking to me following a recent practice, Ejiro Ederaine interrupted one of his answers to badger Zack Greenlee as he passed by: “I’m a better quarterback than you.”
In the next breath, he told Peck: “I’m a better receiver.”
“It never stops,” Peck said the next day with a shake of his head. “The other morning I was in the (dining hall) and I hear this voice going, ‘I can catch a fade ball.’ He thinks he can do anything. He needs to stick to linebacker.”
One reason Ederaine feels this way is because he’s healthy again after playing all of last season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Then in the Mountain West Conference opener against New Mexico, he tore the labrum in his right shoulder.
Ederaine played through the injuries even though they greatly reduced his effectiveness as a pass rusher. After recording 10 sacks in 2013, he managed just two last year and typically left the field on third down.
“It was frustrating,” Ederaine said. “Mentally, it was a lot to deal with. I just tried to do the best I could.”
Why keep playing? A redshirt wasn’t an option because Ederaine played in too many games. Also, he remained one of the Bulldogs’ better run defenders – at least when his shoulders weren’t popping out of place.
Why did Ejiro Ederaine keep playing? A redshirt wasn’t an option because Ederaine played in too many games. Plus, he remained one of the Bulldogs’ better run defenders – at least when his shoulders weren’t popping out of place.
But most of all, Ederaine kept going because he insisted.
“I did it for the seniors,” he said. “Those seniors last year, those were my guys. I couldn’t be out injured in what could be their last year of football. I had to stick it out because I knew I had one more year to go.”
Both his shoulders needed surgery. Ederaine underwent one operation New Year’s Eve and the other in mid-February and used the recovery time to build much-needed strength in his legs and hips.
The results have been obvious. Provided Ederaine stays healthy, the Bulldogs’ edge rushing – a huge component of the 3-4 defense – will be much improved.
“He’s looked phenomenal,” defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. “Besides his health and increased strength, probably one of the best things for him that’s happened is his lower-body athleticism has increased.
“Really, until this past year, his lower body was really weak. So when he was involved in contact while changing direction, he showed burst, but he didn’t have explosiveness. He’s really explosive on that field right now.”
Not only is Ederaine bigger physically (listed at 234 pounds, 13 more than last year), he seems to have a larger presence.
Ederaine has always been talkative. That’s just his personality. But now that he’s a senior, that talk takes on a larger dimension. His teammates are looking to him for leadership.
We’ve challenged (Ederaine) to be more of a leader. A lot of guys on defense the last two years kind of let Derron (Smith) be that guy.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter
Ederaine began to take on that role last spring and has fully embraced it during fall camp.
“Sometimes you wake up in the morning, you don’t got that juice,” he said. “You’re like, ‘Man, I’m tired. I want to go home.’
“That’s when you need a senior leader or a leader on the team to give you that juice. No matter how I’m feeling, I still try to wake up and give the team juice because I feel that’s the role I’m lucky enough to play.”
All while continuing to be the loquacious linebacker who continually claims to have the best hands on the team.
“He’s hilarious,” safety Dalen Jones said. “That’s part of his thing. ... That’s Dro and will always be Dro.”
“He’s annoying,” countered Peck, the receiver.
Guess that depends which side of the practice field you’re on.