Fresno State Football

Fresno State practice standouts: Reyna throws, former tryout player and yet another freshman

The Fresno State Bulldogs went through practice No. 4 in fall camp on Tuesday and working in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) it was their longest to this point.

They get to put on full pads for the first time on Wednesday and will scrimmage for the first time on Saturday.

Here are three things from practice …

Reyna making his mark

Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna continues to progress toward an opening start on Aug. 31 at USC, making some sharp throws into very tight windows in a 7 on 7 passing drill.

Reyna hit tight end Raymond Pauwels for a touchdown with one, wideout Zane Pope for a touchdown with another.

That’s either a really good thing or … “scary,” quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said.

“A couple of them were really good,” Langsdorf said. “We had a pressure period and there are going to be some tight windows. We hit one that probably went for a touchdown, but we don’t want to get into the habit of forcing balls, either.”

Through four practices, Reyna has been solid. There have not been an extreme of highs and lows, which can plague some quarterbacks lacking experience.

“I think from the time we (named Reyna the starter) until now you’ve seen him continue to take control and take charge,” Langsdorf said. “He has earned and is continuing to earn respect from his teammates, both in being more vocal and then with his play.

“Some guys earn that respect through playing and he hasn’t played much, so he has to earn that a little bit through practice and being around them and making plays, but he’s doing that. This past week he has done a nice job making some big plays and I think guys are noticing that. I’m excited about where he’s at. He’s working hard. He’s communicating well, making some good throws. He’s doing a good job making some checks, too.”

From tryout player to starter?

If Nick Aibuedefe is not the best story in fall camp, he is near the top of the list.

Aibuedefe was offered an opportunity to walk on at Fresno State after going through an open tryout. He had played just one year of high school football at Capital Christian-Sacramento and came in as a 240-pound defensive end.

Fresno State offensive lineman Nick Aibuedefe, who joined the Bulldogs’ program through an open tryout, is as a fifth-year senior repping with the No. 1 offense at left guard. Keith/Deborah Kountz FRESNO STATE ATHLETICS

Now, as a fifth-year senior, he is working with the No. 1 offensive line at left guard.

“Honestly, I think about it every day,” Aibuedefe said. “It’s really a blessing where I’m at. I’m really thankful for the coaches believing in me and giving me different opportunities, putting me in different situations so I can grow as a player and as a man. The gratitude I have for them is just out of this world, really.”

Aibuedefe moved to offensive tackle from defensive end, and is now playing inside.

“It was tough at first,” he said. “Being at tackle, being on an island, you’re kind of by yourself, it’s a mano a mano kind of a deal. Being inside, the physicality for sure picks up a lot, because you have some players that like to line up tight and shoot the gap. You have to be able to get your feet down really quick and shoot your hands at the same time and maintain that physicality.

“I kind of like inside. It wakes me up, gets me going. That initial hit wakes me up – ‘OK, it’s time to work.’ “

Speaking of the offensive line, the Bulldogs will put on full pads for the first time on Wednesday, and the center position could start to come into some focus.

Matt Smith has been taking No. 1 reps, but Quireo Woodley and Tyrone Sampson also are competing for that spot and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said that freshman Bula Schmidt will get a look at center, too.

Warkentin another freshman to watch

The Bulldogs have some decisions to make at the defensive end spots with Kwami Jones out following back surgery, and a lot of competition in the group between Isaiah Johnson, Andrew Wright, Alex Cruz, Leevel Tatum III, David Perales and Colby Warkentin.

Johnson, who played well down the stretch of his freshman season a year ago, obviously will be on the field for a lot of snaps. Cruz had a solid spring, coming back from a lower leg injury. Tatum, the Edison High product, has made a lot of progress.

It’s a deep group, though lacking in experience. But Warkentin, a 6-fooot-5 freshman from Centennial High in Bakersfield, definitely has piqued interest.

“He has been very impressive so far,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “He has a lot of range, can really run. He can play outside or inside. He has been playing outside and then we knock him down inside. I think that’s a big difference with him.

“A lot of those young guys that played inside last year, they were really tentative at this time last year, and Colby shows no signs of being tentative whatsoever. He looks like he has been here for a long time. I think he has a really bright future ahead.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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