Fresno State opens the season Saturday against Cal. But the ‘Dogs will be without their starting free safety.
“That was really tough, said Fresno State head coach Pat Hill about the injury.
“Phillip Thomas is not only a great person and a great player, but he’s just such an emotional part of this football team. Yesterday when he went down that was hard, but today we stood up Cristin Wilson, Terrance Dennis, and Zak Hill, somebody's got to pick up the flag. We don’t know if we’re even going to have Phillip back for the year.”
Redshirt junior safety is arguably on of the most talented players on the Bulldogs’ roster. His loss is huge in a secondary that doesn’t return another player that started more than eight games last season.
Coach Pat Hill compared Thomas’s injury to Andrew Jackson’s injury early last season, but more severe. Thomas broke his leg, specifically his fibula, along with a high ankle sprain.
“He broke his leg,” said Hill, “It was a non-contact injury. We were running option drill and the quarterback made a hard cut inside and when Phillip overran it and made a plant to come back it just snapped on him.
“He snapped a bone in his leg, and a high ankle sprain. He’s going to be out from 8-to-12 weeks, maybe the entire season. He’s in surgery [Thursday].”
The Bulldogs do not have much experience behind Thomas. Cris Wilson got second team reps in fall camp behind Thomas, and the Bulldogs have Terrance Dennis and Zak Hill that played with the second team as well. Redshirt freshman Sean Alston and true freshman Charles Washington could also be called on with the lack of depth. Hill says Wilson gets the call to start Saturday.
“Cristin Wilson was backing him up all camp,” said Hill, “So Cristin Wilson will start the game along with Derron Smith… We’ve got guys that have got to step up.”
Coach Hill says Wilson has improved in camp.
“Wilson’s coming along great. He’s gotten all the second team reps through camp at that position. He’s the guy we’re calling on to pick up the flag and move forward.”
With Thomas out, the secondary takes a tough hit. The team’s best cover corner Jermaine Thomas also is still not at 100% but will suit up and is expected to play. The depleted secondary has Isaiah Green and L.J. Jones starting at corner with J.B. Dock and Davon Dunn backing them up. Smith and Wilson start at safety with Hill and Dennis as reserves.
Jermaine Thomas and Zak Hill suffered season-ending injuries last year. The two players have spent the off-season rehabbing and their status was questionable early in camp.
“They’ll both be suiting up and playing,” said Hill. “They’re coming along well. Those are hard injuries to come off of and both of those kids are doing well.
“We’re going to be fine. Everybody’s just pulling for him to be healthy and come out of this surgery good… the team’s discussed it… everybody’s on the same page. We’ve got to move on… we’re not changing the game plan; we’re not changing anything we’re doing. We’ve just got to put new pieces in to the puzzle.”
“We’ve got four safeties now and we’ll be rotating them through.”
Phillip Thomas greyshirted and redshirted his first two seasons at Fresno State. In 2012, Thomas would be a sixth year senior and would not be able to apply for a medical hardship until after that season.
Bulldogs Finalize Preparations for Cal
The Fresno State Bulldogs are just two days away from the opening showdown with Cal. Coach Pat Hill says he likes the teams mindset headed into the game.
“The team’s mood is really good,” says Hill. The concentration is good. They just want to get going. Most of it now is just film study… walkthroughs, get their legs under them, and get ready to go.”
Despite coming off a 5-7 season last year, Cal returns a good amount of talent and is favored going into the match-up. Coach Hill discussed the situation.
“Cal’s got a good defensive football team; they’ve got great talent on offense. They’re coming off a down year… Whenever you’re playing a team coming off a down year you’re playing against a team that’s got its back against the wall. It’s going to be a heck of a battle and our kids are ready for it.”
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