The Fresno State defensive line is slowly falling behind the rest of the team. Usually, the defense has the edge over the offense in spring but the offensive line has had its way with the defensive line so far this spring.
DL Coach Kerry Locklin is one of the best DL coaches on the West Coast. However, he may have his toughest coaching assignment ahead of him.
Charles Tolbert and Jon Monga have been taking first team reps together, mostly in pass defense. Last spring it was the same, when Tolbert would start ahead of Jason Shirley or Louis Leonard.
In drills few are as polished as Tolbert, but at only 5-11 270 lbs, he hardly looks like a DIA defensive tackle. Shirley is a great run-stopper, while Monga is good against the pass. But outside of the three the talent and experience quickly drops.
Wilson Ramos and Cornell Banks struggle with technique during drills. Mark Roberts is having the best spring among the young tackles, but he is still far from becoming a dominant player. And Banks did have to alter some of his drills, probably due to a minor injury.
If the unit remains healthy and continue to work out during the summer, it should be fine by the start of fall camp. But right now, the unit is easily the weakest on the defense.
Ikenna Ike will sit out the rest of spring with an injury. His injury impacts the entire defensive line. He is listed as a defensive end but can play tackle in passing downs. And Ike is easily the ‘Dogs best pass rusher.
Tyler Clutts has one defensive end spot locked down but the other spot is being manned by Jason Roberts. Roberts is a step slower compared to last season, but is bigger and looks focused on becoming the starter.
Roberts did sit out a few drills and Michael Stuart took his place with the first team. Chris Lewis still has not had a breakout practice. He is quick and athletic but looks a bit out of sync during drills. Lewis took some second team reps backing up Clutts during drills before he left practice early.
Tom Brandstater and Ryan Colburn did not begin practice with the greatest play. But the signal callers did get back on track during 11 on 11 drills.
Brandstater’s game has taken a step back since the start of last week. His arm strength is still tremendous but his accuracy is not quite as good as Colburn’s right now. Brandstater continually overthrew receivers on mid-range routes, especially near the goal line.
Colburn is improving each and every practice. He reads the field well and hits his receivers on the numbers. However, Colburn does not have quite the zip Brandstater does on the quick out and screen passes.
Anthony Harding was not visible at practice. Jamal Rashad took a lot of reps with the first and second team offense. Clifton Smith continues to amaze. His receiving skills are improved and he is extremely dangerous in the open field after the catch. However, he sometimes trips over the “invisible line”.
Bear Pascoe dropped a few balls but all of those throws were high and behind him. Jesus Tapia and Cameron Harris are stepping up their game. Drew Lubinsky and Isaac Kinter are sitting out and Tapia and Harris are taking advantage.
Harris has remarkable hands for a converted lineman. He is rarely thrown the ball but when called upon, he catches everything.
Jason Crawley had one of his better practices. In man coverage he is almost impossible to cover because of his leaping ability.
Shannon Dorsey was at practice but was not dressed out in half pads.
Smith, Chastin West and Marlon Moore looked impressive in different ways in punt return drills.
Smith jukes and cuts his way past defenders. West, while not as elusive as Smith, was equally as impressive finding daylight. Moore is just fast; once he finds a crease he is gone.
Clint Stitser was back at practice Monday. He was near perfect on all his field goal attempts. More impressively were his kickoffs. He constantly booted the ball 70 to 80 yards and they often landed over the fence in the ponding basin.
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