Fresno State tight end Kyle Riddering has had surgery to repair a left shoulder injury and is expected to be out of football activities for up to six months, which will impact the Bulldogs in two ways.
One, there is not much depth in the position group for the final game of the season against Colorado State, though sophomore Chad Olsen is expected to practice this week and be available.
Two, the Bulldogs were planning to take a look at the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Clovis North graduate in spring practices at a different position, perhaps as an offensive tackle or as a defensive end, and those plans will not have to be put on hold into the summer.
“We’ll have to see,” Coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Obviously, his weight right now is where we want him as a tight end. We’ll see what strength work he can do. If he’s just eating and not strength training he’s probably not going to gain the kind of weight that we’re looking for him to build, so he may be a tight end for us, more of an anchor tight end us, going into the fall. But we’ll see how his body responds and how quickly he can start training. That will be up in the air a little bit.”
Riddering, who has played in nine games this season and caught two passes for seven yards, played center, tackle, tight end and defensive end in high school for the Broncos.
“When we signed him, we talked to Kyle about this … ‘We don’t know where your body is going to go,’ ” DeRuyter said. “We do know he’s a tough hard-nosed football player. Obviously, it’s a setback when you have surgery and you lose six months like this, but we’ll see where he’s at and make the best decision for where his body is at and what our needs are.”
Small problem – The Bulldogs’ offensive line looked small in comparison to some of the players it was trying to block in a loss at BYU last week, particularly the 6-8, 280-pound Bronson Kaufusi, who had five tackles including four tackles for loss and three sacks as well as a pass breakup.
They are smaller than they were at the start of the season – DeRuyter said several players on the line have dropped between five and 10 pounds over the course of the season.
And while restarting a rebuild on the offensive line this recruiting season, they likely will continue to do so with players with larger frames, as they did last season in signing Zack Kinninger, Isaiah Trevino and Ben Northup. Kinninger is 6-5 and 299, Trevino is 6-5, 357 and Northup 6-5, 337.
“We still want long, athletic guys,” DeRuyter said. “Those are long, athletic, thicker guys, and I think you want to get those frames. But they have to be able to play in space and they have to be able to play fast. We had Cody Wichmann, who is a big guy. He dropped about 25 pounds and played right around 320-ish and I thought played really well for us and could move.
“That’s the ideal. You get those bigger bodies guys and you lean them down and those guys can retain that weight a little bit better as opposed to building it up and having to fight that battle all the time. But you want to get the biggest, most athletic guy you can find. Everybody is looking for those guys.”
Et cetera – Fresno State took another hit to its offensive line depth with redshirt freshman Jacob Hicks quitting the team. Hicks was part of the 2014 recruiting class, one of five linemen that were supposed to be the first building blocks in getting the numbers and balance between classes in the position group right. Instead, he is the fourth from that group to quit. Sophomore Aaron Mitchell, who is starting at left guard, is the only offensive lineman from that class in the program.
▪ Quarterbacks Zack Greenlee and Kilton Anderson will pick up the competition on Tuesday to see who will start against Colorado State. “It’s unfortunate. We’ve made a couple of course corrections there,” DeRuyter said. “You’d like for one guy to take the reins and be consistent. We’re not there. When you turn the ball over, that’s a concern. You can miss reads and do some things that aren’t helpful, but if you punt the ball you can survive those. When you turn it over, especially Pick Sixes or on your own end of the field, those are tough to deal with.”
▪ Greenlee in a loss last week at BYU was intercepted three times – one was returned for a touchdown that gave the Cougars a 16-3 lead in the second quarter, one was returned to the Bulldogs’ 18-yard line that set up a score to make it 24-3 and the third was returned to the Fresno State 23 and set up another touchdown that made it 52-3 in the fourth quarter.
▪ The Bulldogs’ defense has had a tough time getting off the field on third down plays this season, allowing opponents to move the sticks on 48.5 percent of the plays (82 of 169) and ranking last in the Mountain West. Colorado State, in that aspect, is a bad matchup. The Rams are second in the conference in converting 47.2 percent of their third down plays. Quarterback Nick Stevens has completed 61.7 percent of his third-down throws including 31 of 43 (72.1 percent) on third-and-short and third-and-medium plays.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada