Fresno State offensive lineman Shane Gama has been doing some light conditioning work on the field during practices the past few weeks, working his way back from heatstroke suffered during a conditioning workout in July.
When he gets out there Friday when the Bulldogs go through their final prep for a nonconference game against Tulsa, he is expected to be wearing his helmet and starting the NCAA acclimatization process every player must go through at the start of camp.
“He has been working really hard to try to get back and we need him back,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Hopefully, as he progresses through the acclimatization there are no setbacks, but we want to get him back involved as soon as is safely possible.”
Gama was not available to comment – Fresno State does not allow freshmen and incoming transfers to meet with the media until they have played in a game.
Fresno State is a minus-two in turnover margin but will have a chance to turn that number in its favor against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane has lost eight turnovers, tied for 118th of 128 in the nation.
Under NCAA rules, his first two practices must be in helmets and shorts before progressing to half pads (helmet and shoulder pads) and full pads. Given the Bulldogs’ practice and game schedule, he would get into half pads Tuesday and could get into full pads Thursday – Fresno State practices in full pads only Tuesday and Wednesday, so Gama’s first full day would be Oct. 4.
“He’s not going to be the shape where he could go play a series of 15 plays in a row – he has to develop that as we go through and practice,” DeRuyter said. “While he’s released to practice, he’s not anywhere near getting ready to play in a game. It’s probably weeks before he’s ready to play in a game. But it’s really good news.”
Going live – The Bulldogs finished their game-week practices in full pads Wednesday with a live run drill, live tackling in some individual drills, live work against scout teams and live work in team periods.
We really made an emphasis on tackling this week. We did a lot more live periods, with the ones and the twos. We have to tackle full speed. It’s hard to simulate tackling, so you really have to bring guys to the ground.
Fresno State defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward
“You have to give them confidence, and the only way you do it is by doing it,” DeRuyter said. “The thing I’ve been impressed with about our team is they understand that.
“We’ve communicated that to them, they understand that’s what they need to do to get better, and they’re all fired up about trying to get better and get this thing fixed.”
Playing tentatively has been an issue the past two weeks in a win against Football Championship Subdivision school Sacramento State and a loss at Toledo, most glaringly last week in the number of missed tackles. In reviewing the film, the defensive staff counted 37.
“Way too many,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “We had a couple of plays where we had them on screens behind the line of scrimmage and they got out for 30 yards on both.
“We really made an emphasis on tackling this week. We did a lot more live periods, with the ones and the twos. We have to tackle full speed. It’s hard to simulate tackling, so you really have to bring guys to the ground. We’re trying to make that an emphasis as a staff.”
No return rerun – Looking to boost their kickoff return game, the Bulldogs likely will switch their lead return man against Tulsa, DeRuyter said.
Fresno State has punted away the football 26 times, more than any team in the nation. The Bulldogs also have allowed no punt return yards, and are one of only 12 teams yet to allow a return.
They worked on kickoff returns in practice with the same cast of returners, but running back Dejonte O’Neal now appears to be the primary return man.
Fresno State is averaging only 19.6 yards on 12 kickoff returns, but O’Neal is leading the group with an average of 23.7 yards on three returns.
Et cetera – Free safety Stratton Brown has been on the practice field long after the Bulldogs have been done for the day the past two weeks, catching footballs fired out of a JUGS machine.
Brown is in search of an interception – he does not have one in 26 career games.
“Just working on my hands,” he said. “Want to be the best.”
▪ Tulsa, like Fresno State, is playing young this season. Through three games, the Golden Hurricane has played 15 freshmen, including five true freshmen. It also has played two first-year transfers.
The Bulldogs have played 15 freshmen, including five true freshmen: cornerback Juju Hughes, outside linebacker Josh Hokit, inside linebacker Jeffrey Allison, defensive lineman Elijah Piper and safety Jaron Bryant.
▪ The 12 penalties called on the Bulldogs at Toledo were the most by a DeRuyter-coached Fresno State team and the most since the Bulldogs had 12 in a loss at Oregon in 2007.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
TULSA AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 1:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
- Records: Golden Hurricane 2-1, Bulldogs 1-2
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (themwc.com)/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Series: Fresno State leads 4-2, but lost most recent meeting 27-26 at Tulsa in 2012