In Fresno State’s offense, the inside receivers and the outside receivers run much different routes, have different responsibilities in the run game. They do have one thing in common – the football and catching it, preferably for touchdowns, which actually is three things.
But when it comes to Da’Mari Scott, who in the spring was moved from the outside to the inside, the simplest way to look at his role then and now is this: When he looks across the line of scrimmage, there’s a good chance he will be matched up against a player wearing a number in the 40s or 50s rather than the 20s or 10s.
And that, Scott said, is a pretty good deal.
“I don’t want to say it’s an easier battle, but it’s a better matchup for me,” he said. “Instead of going up against corners that are more athletic, I’m going against linebackers.”
That is a matchup the Bulldogs would expect to win, and one that stands out among many in the pass game that have been emerging through fall camp.
The Bulldogs’ improved passing game could face some challenges in conference play – last year, eight Mountain West teams ranked in the top 45 in the nation in pass defense.
Between its inside and outside receivers as well as its tight ends, Fresno State can put some talent on the field in different combinations to stress opposing defenses.
Inside, Scott and sophomore Jamire Jordan pose divergent matchup problems; Scott with a combination of speed and physicality and an ability to find and work in holes in a defense, and Jordan with his flat-out speed against linebackers and safeties getting vertically up the field.
Outside, the Bulldogs have Aaron Peck, KeeSean Johnson and Delvon Hardaway while Darrell Fuery has, in his fourth year in the program, had a strong camp and made himself a factor.
Fresno State also has quarterbacks who are better able to exploit those matchups than it did a year ago when four combined to hit on only 50.1 percent of their throws and had a passing efficiency rating of 103.17.
“The thing we want to do is make a defense defend the entire field, which is why you spread people out, to be able to highlight and isolate those matchups,” coach Tim DeRuyter said.
I don’t want to say it’s an easier battle, but it’s a better matchup for me.
Fresno State senior Da’Mari Scott on playing as an inside receiver
“Jamire is a very fluid, quick – as fast a guy as we have on our team-type of athlete, and Da’Mari is more of a powerful guy, but still can really run vertically. You’ve got two different skill sets there, but they both work and they both work the inside part of the field.”
Scott, who last season was third on the team with 24 receptions, has adjusted well to dealing with linebackers and their tricks of the trade when running his routes.
“Outside linebackers will try to re-route you,” he said. “With a corner, off the line, that’s the only time you’re getting re-routed. But in the slot, five, six yards down the field they’re trying to re-route you so it’s just working past that and getting back on your route.”
“He has handled it well,” receivers coach Burl Toler III said. “He understands the plays and with our thing, teaching concepts, guys playing inside-outside, nobody gets stuck in one position. But I’m proud of what he has done so far and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does come game time.”
Scott last season averaged 15.2 yards on his 24 receptions
There it comes back to the matchups, ones the Bulldogs expect to win.
Scott just smiled. “I like my role better in this offense,” he said.
“The inside guy, typically, you want a guy who is very smooth, understands defenses and knows where linebackers are dropping and kind of fits in holes,” offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said. “And the one good thing about our offense, we can switch guys around. If I want to get Peck inside, I have a formation where I can move guys around depending on matchups. If we have a matchup inside and we want a bigger body, we can flip those guys.
“But Da’Mari is doing a good job for us. It’s more of a feel. You don’t necessarily have to be the fastest guy, you have to just be really good at body control, find those holes and fit in windows and he does a good job with that.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada