Fresno State Football

Less than 3 weeks from opener, Bulldogs are shuffling linebacker positions. Here’s why

The Fresno State Bulldogs went through a light practice on Sunday morning coming out of the first scrimmage in fall camp.

There was some review, some install, some special teams periods. At the end, coach Jeff Tedford had the players and the staff play a name game. The players won, the coaches lost and were stuck with 20 push-ups.

The Bulldogs will not practice on Monday, but Tedford said the staff will be going through personnel meetings and there could be some changes out of that with players having practice reps cut or increased as coaches put the pieces together with an Aug. 31 opener at USC less than three weeks away.

“We’ll see where everybody fits, who needs more reps next week and who is farther away that we can start weaning off a little bit, but all of that is going on and on,” Tedford said.

“We’ll start narrowing in, not that guys won’t get any reps, but instead of a set of five they may get two or three.”

Three things from practice …

Linebacker Who?

The Bulldogs’ No. 1 linebackers have been set through fall camp with Mykal Walker, Justin Rice and Arron Mosby, but linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson said they will start to cross train a couple of players in that group to develop more depth.

Fresno State linebacker Justin Rice, center, with defensive back Juju Hughes to the right, at the start of spring practice Monday morning, March 11, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA

Rice obviously is one. The fourth-year junior from Modesto, who sliced through a gap and had a strong tackle for loss in the scrimmage, is playing Will (weakside), but already has experience playing all three linebacker spots.

“We’re trying to develop a couple more guys like that, but he would be the first guy,” Thompson said. “As camp goes along we’ll start to do more of that, moving guys around so they the flexibility to play several positions so we can make sure we always have the best players on the field.”

Mosby also could cross train.

“His athleticism allows him to be able to play anywhere on the field,” Thompson said. “He would be a guy that we’d like to get to that point because then he would be able to help us create some other opportunities. But with his athleticism he should be able to play anywhere on the field.”

The Bulldogs’ twos – senior Dorrzel Hicks, redshirt freshman Sherwin King Jr. and redshirt freshman Rian Fields – also would be in that mix.

Tedford said it’s too early to make any call there. Hicks, though, is now in his second season working in the defense and has been solid through camp and the Bulldogs have options in working their depth.

Will Hokit redshirt?

The plan to redshirt Josh Hokit so that he can learn the Mike (middle) linebacker position and transition to the defensive side of the ball, wrestle as a heavyweight in the spring and then come back for a final season of college football in 2020 is on a good track.

“It’s going smoothly,” he said. “I still have a lot of that instinct that I developed over my high school days and even my freshman year of college, doing the little fall back fits …

Fresno State junior Josh Hokit secured a top-six finish and All-America honors at the NCAA Championships. Hokit, who finished fifth, is returning to football and will take part in the final two weeks of spring practices. Keith Kountz Courtesy Fresno State Athletics

“I just need to keep getting the playbook down, keep studying the plays and no matter what, though, if I mess up, still run to the ball, fly to the ball and keep great effort.”

Hokit just wants to be ready and in position to play, if there were an injury in the group.

“He is coming along well,” Thompson said. “He has worked hard to try to close the learning curve and pick up a lot of things and I’ve been really pleased at what he has shown.

“He has a natural knack about getting to the football. The biggest deal will be some of our terminology and being able to communicate because the Mike for us has to be able to communicate with other guys and kind of tell them what to do as declarations and what not. He has done a good job with that.”

No. 2 QB Wooldridge will get reps with ones

Ben Wooldridge, the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Jorge Reyna, took a few reps with the No. 1 offense last week and likely will do so again this week.

Not, though, as a reaction to anything that happened in the scrimmage.

“You have to mix those guys up,” Tedford said. “You give him a chance to work with other people. You get the other group pushed to his snap count. You want to make sure that he’s on the same page with those guys.

“If he only works with so many guys during a scrimmage or a team setting, then you don’t get a chance to necessarily be on the same page with them.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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