The Fresno State Bulldogs went through their 11th fall camp practice on Wednesday, working up to a scrimmage on Saturday night.
Running back Ronnie Rivers, their leading rusher a year ago, participated in team periods for the first time after starting camp with a hamstring injury. Rivers also did some individual drills and fielded punts during a special teams period.
Here are three things from the practice …
Rivers ready for Saturday night scrimmage?
The Bulldogs will add to Rivers’ workload from here, and there is some thought to getting the junior back some reps on Saturday in the second scrimmage in fall camp.
“We’ll see how (Thursday) goes, see what Friday looks like,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “We’d like to get him a few touches for sure on Saturday in a scrimmage situation, but we’ll see how he responds to the day.
“We’ll get the trainer’s report later, but he looked good,” Tedford said. “You just progress him as he goes, but I think he’s pretty close to getting some live reps.”
Barring any setbacks, Rivers should be fully ready to play when the season begins Aug. 31 at USC, though workload is a bit of a question with Jordan Mims out for the year following an ankle surgery.
Rivers carried the football a career-high 24 times for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ Las Vegas Bowl victory over Arizona State.
Of those 24 carries, 12 came in the fourth quarter.
But that game was an aberration: Rivers rushed the football only 30 times in the fourth quarter of a game all season.
Tedford said that the Bulldogs will stick to a running back-by-committee approach – Romello Harris, Saevion Johnson and freshman Peyton Dixon all have had solid camps. and the Bulldogs are awaiting word on a transfer waiver for Jevon Bigelow.
“We’ve always had at least two carry the load,” he said. “We’ve had years where we’ve had two 1,000-yard rushers in one backfield.
“But times have changed, with the tempo of offenses and things like that. If you recruit well and you have depth in the backfield you always want to keep your guys fresh. We’ve been fortunate over my career to have really deep backfields. It has been a good situation because you can keep them fresh and keep them health.”
NCAA transfer waiver limbo
The Bulldogs have not received word from the NCAA on any of the transfer waivers for players who could, if eligible, contribute this season on offense, defense or special teams.
“We’re anxiously waiting because it really makes a difference with the reps that you’re giving out here,” Tedford said.
“If you know someone is not going to be eligible and we’re still giving them reps … but we have some guys that would contribute for us if we get the word. There are guys for sure that would help us with depth, with special teams, the whole bit.”
For now, defensive tackle Kurtis Brown (Arizona), linebacker Jacob Hollins (Illinois) and running back Jevon Bigelow (Wyoming) are still getting reps while waiting on the NCAA. All three are Valley products returning home – Brown is from Bakersfield and Hollins and Bigelow both are Central High graduates.
“We’re hoping that we get an answer pretty quick,” Tedford said. “We understand that they’re backlogged with things. We just have to be patient and wait.”
Lineup changes on offensive line
The Bulldogs made some lineup changes on the offensive line, tinkering to find some answers and the best combination to play between the tackles.
Offensive coordinator and line coach Ryan Grubb and assistant line coach Roman Sapolu had Netane Muti inside at left guard with Nick Aibuedefe back at left tackle. Matt Smith was at center, Nick Abbs at right guard and Syrus Tuitele at right tackle.
“It’s that time,” Grubb said. “You get into double-digits in practices and now you start cross-training some guys. More than anything, that was it.
“We got Muti some more reps on the inside, just to get him acclimated to playing guard a little bit, and then put Abu back on the outside. We’re still working Abbs and Abu at left and right guard, working all of that.”
Muti, who has repped at left tackle most of camp, started all 14 games as a redshirt freshman in 2017 at left guard when Christian Cronk played left tackle.