Fresno State Football

3 things from Bulldogs practice: Grooming future lineman, Rivers’ health and center mainstay

New players impress at Bulldogs preseason camp

The Fresno State Bulldog football team held its first pre-season training camp Friday, with new players impressing head coach Jeff Tedford.
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The Fresno State Bulldog football team held its first pre-season training camp Friday, with new players impressing head coach Jeff Tedford.

The Fresno State Bulldogs went through practice No. 12 in fall camp on Thursday, working in full pads. Included in the 30-plus periods was some live work, the No. 1 offense going against the No. 1 defense, the twos against the twos.

The Bulldogs will have a light practice on Friday before going through their second scrimmage on Saturday, running through a mock game.

Here are three things from practice …

2020 project is 6-8 and 303 pounds

Offensive tackle Elijah Carson is one of the more intriguing players the Bulldogs have in camp, though he is a good year away from seeing the football field.

Carson is 6-foot-8 and 303 pounds and was a Power Five-level recruit in the 2018 class before suffering a broken leg during his senior year at Morse High in San Diego. A lot of schools backed away, but Fresno State stayed in the game and got Carson on campus this summer and into fall camp.

“A lot of skill, a lot of talent,” assistant offensive line coach Roman Sapolu said. “He’s real raw and coming off a big-time injury in high school. We’re kind of knocking the rust off him this summer, but he’s moving around well. He has to continue to fight through the playbook, but he’s doing some good things.”

Carson got a few more reps in one-on-ones on Thursday, and the upside is intriguing.

The measureables alone grab some attention.

“It makes life fun, for sure,” Sapolu said. “It’s a little different world for him. Some of those shorter guys don’t have to worry about some of the things that he does.”

The focus this season will be getting Carson game-shape for 2020.

“I think we start from scratch and I think that’s the good thing about it,” Sapolu said. “He’s learning how to play again. There are no bad habits that way, so (offensive coordinator and line coach Ryan Grubb) and I can really start from the ground up and really teach him the fundamentals and the things that we want him to know.

“We just want him to stay in the playbook, get better every day. We’re popping him in and out at different positions here and there, but we want him to keep growing every day. One thing at a time, and not repeat any mistakes.”

No let-up for Ronnie Rivers in his second practice

The Bulldogs did not back off at all with running back Ronnie Rivers, who went through team periods for the first time in fall camp on Wednesday.

Rivers, who is on the watch list for the Doak Walker Award and the Bulldogs’ leading returning rusher, went through Thursday’s practice without limitations and for a second day in a row did some extra running at the end of the workout.

Smith at center one constant for offensive line

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Fresno State center Matt Smith Keith Kountz FRESNO STATE ATHLETICS

The Bulldogs had Netane Muti inside at left guard for a second day in a row as they tinker with the interior of the offensive line.

Muti, who started fall camp at left tackle, is repping inside. Nick Aibuedefe and Nick Abbs have had time and left and right guard, and Aibuedefe is now at left tackle. Freshman Bula Schmidt has had some run at guard, as has Quireo Woodley.

The one constant inside has been junior Matt Smith at center, who at 5-11 and 285 pounds is a bit undersized, but has been passing every test every day.

“It’s just making sure I get my calls down, because it all starts with me,” he said. “If I make the right call, everyone else can fill in.

“It’s just working with the guys, making sure we have the right communication, asking then if I’m loud enough, if they can hear me. As long as I’m prepared and I make the right calls, we should be fine up front.”

The scrimmage will be a test, a chance to see if the move with Muti inside to guard is a better fit for the Bulldogs.

“No matter what the combination is, we’ll get it right,” Smith said. “I think we’re coming together as a unit. We’re getting that balance together, working for the first time in a long time But we’re getting the rhythm going, get the calls down and our combinations on blocks. I think it’s going really well right now.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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