Josh Hokit came to Fresno State as a walk-on to the football team, which means he didn’t have much standing in the program. He doesn’t have a bio in the media guide. He isn’t even listed on the roster.
Hokit had sterling credentials as a wrestler, a state champion at 182 pounds for Clovis High School. But with football, the expectations, as they are for most walk-ons, were well tempered. He’d get some reps in camp, maybe a shot to get onto a special-teams unit covering punts or kickoffs. But he’d more likely join the scout team replicating the guys in the different colored jerseys come Saturday.
It’s a low ceiling, and he has blasted his way well past it.
On Monday, in the first of double-day sessions coming out of the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage in fall camp, the freshman was moved from the inside (Mike) linebacker to an immediate impact spot at the outside (Sam) linebacker, where he will compete with Justin Green to get into the two-deep. The Bulldogs also were using Hokit on offense as a fullback in short-yardage and goal-line situations where he could be deployed as a blocker, a ballcarrier or a receiver.
He has a got a little edge about him, which with a defensive player you really love.
Coach Tim DeRuyter, on Josh Hokit
“Any freshman, let alone a guy that walks on, you have hopes for them, but you don’t put anything in ink because it’s likely you’re going to be trying to erase that,” coach Tim DeRuyter said.
“But I’ve really been impressed with his work ethic. He has got great maturity. He has a got a little edge about him, which with a defensive player you really love.”
Hokit, who in the spring signed a national letter of intent to wrestle at Drexel, where his older brother Isaiah is a redshirt freshman on the wrestling team, was not available to comment. DeRuyter does not allow freshmen or incoming transfers to meet with the media until after they have played in a game. For Hokit, that likely will be Sept. 3 at Nebraska.
Inside linebacker (Will) linebacker Jeff Camilli returned to practice after missing about a week with a hamstring strain, and inside (Mike) linebackers Trent Soechting and Nela Otukolo are expected back from injuries soon. But the move to the outside with Hokit was more about the impression he has made in camp and finding the best spot for him on the field.
The good part of it is he has a foundation of the defense big picture-wise because the inside linebackers are making a lot of the checks and making a lot of the calls.
Outside linebackers coach Jordan Peterson, on Josh Hokit
The plan is to rep Hokit at both outside linebacker positions, the Sam and the Joker, playing to the field and to the boundary. But the Bulldogs believe he has the athleticism to land at Sam competing with Green behind sophomore James Bailey. To the short side of the field, the Bulldogs have senior Brandon Hughes and juniors Tobenna Okeke and Stephen Van Hook.
There is a learning curve, and initially Hokit likely will play more on downs when the Bulldogs are in their base defense. But moving from the inside linebacker position should help with the transition.
Fresno State has three career starts among its outside (Sam) linebackers group, all by sophomore James Bailey.
“The good part of it is he has a foundation of the defense big picture-wise because the inside linebackers are making a lot of the checks and making a lot of the calls, setting the front and that kind of thing,” outside linebackers coach Jordan Peterson said.
“I just took that and showed him how he was playing Mike and how that relates to where the Sam’s fit is in the run game. Obviously, he’s about nine days behind when it comes to the learning curve, but I met with him (Sunday) twice and he’s already doing a pretty good job. Is he doing everything right? No, but generally speaking he has the concepts down already, which is good to see.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada