Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers took a big step toward a return to the football field on Tuesday, going through individual drills with his teammates for the first time since he suffered a foot injury in spring practices.
The sophomore back still has to be cleared for contact and coach Jeff Tedford said there is no set date for a return. But Rivers, who has been running ahead of schedule for a return, said he was hoping to be ready to go for the Bulldogs’ Sept. 29 game against Toledo coming out of this bye week. If not then, the Mountain West Conference opener Oct. 6 at Nevada would appear likely.
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“I feel great,” Rivers said. “Coming back (Tuesday), first day, no problems. I felt wonderful. I should be full-go next week, Toledo week..”
Rivers, who started the first three and five of the first six games last season as a true freshman before suffering an elbow injury in a Week 6 victory over New Mexico, could add some juice to a backfield that has been led by Jordan Mims, Josh Hokit and Dejonte O’Neal and produced 158.7 yards per game at 4.0 yards per play.
The 158.7 yards per game ranks seventh in the Mountain West Conference and the 4.0 yards per play ranks only ninth.
The Bulldogs have only three explosive rushing plays of 20 or more yards and two of them came in a 79-13 opening rout of Idaho, an FCS program.
Mims, who is leading the Bulldogs with 162 rushing yards on 40 plays, has had two explosive pass plays. He had a 25-yard gain in the loss at Minnesota and a 45-yard play in the victory at UCLA, taking in a screen pass, getting a solid block from wideout Jamire Jordan on UCLA linebacker Krys Barnes and bolting up the sideline.
Rivers, who also is the Bulldogs’ best option fielding a punt, has been working his rehab on the side and doing a lot of work away from the team during practices.
On Tuesday, he went through individual drills, but did not participate in any team periods or take any reps in a one-on-one pass protection drill. Contact is the next step.
“He has been through a progression and now he’s back in individuals and we’ll see how we move forward from there,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “This has been a process in his rehab to make sure that he’s in great shape and he’s ready to go, which he is, and he’s completely healthy.”