Most Fresno State spring practices start with the players warming up, then it’s stretching and finally they break into no contact punt return and 11 on 11 drills. After the initial drills the players break into various position, unit and team drills before concluding with 11 on 11 action.
Coach Pat Hill was vocal early on after the ‘Dogs started Monday’s practice sluggish.
Coach Hill’s displeasure could be heard throughout the practice facility after the team concluding its final no contact 11 on 11 drill. It was not a good way to start practice.
Last Monday’s practice was also a bit sluggish. The players practice four days straight, Friday-Monday, in this year’s spring practice schedule. And for many of the players, it is their first spring. Regardless, the intensity was not as electric as it has been other days.
Tom Brandstater and Ryan Colburn were two of the culprits for Monday’s sluggish start. Neither quarterback was on target early on. For the most part, it was a subpar practice for Brandstater and Colburn.
Brandstater had an impressive scrimmage Saturday, but he couldn’t find his touch Monday. A chunk of his passes were under-thrown, behind his receiver or just poorly thrown. In 7 on 7 drills, Lorne Bell intercepted a pass Brandstater should not have made.
The ball was overthrown by more than a few yards and the receiver had no shot at the ball. Bell still had to make a play to come away with the interception but overall it was evident Brandstater just was having an off day.
Colburn did not fare much better. Monday’s practice would not have been so bad if it was say spring practice #2 or 3, not practice #11. Colburn had been improving each practice but his progression has stabilized since last week.
When one of the quarterbacks has an off day the other usually steps up and has a solid practice. But Colburn could not take advantage of Brandstater’s shortfalls. Ironically, one quarterback did have a good practice.
Walk on third-string quarterback Matt Christian does not pass the ball as much as Colburn or Brandstater. He does get his share of reps, but his arm strength and accuracy rarely compare to the two above him.
Every ‘Dog has its day, and Christian’s long ball was the best it has been all spring. There was no defender or pressure in the WR-QB drill, but he was still throwing his best by far this spring.
Anthony Harding was practicing for the first time since the first week of spring. He looked good but seemed a step slow, not sure if it was a precaution or hesitation? Either way, it was nice to see #22 taking some reps at running back.
Raynard Camp is a load at fullback. It is almost comical to see the 250 lb plus back line up as a receiver in certain formations. But he has good hands and is very agile for his size.
Chastin West has been overlooked per se this spring. He was last spring’s breakout performer and followed it up with a solid freshmen year, leading the team in receiving.
West is not only having another solid spring but is becoming a leader on offense. He caught the ball well Monday, adjusting to the ball nicely.
Jason Crawley is amazing after the catch. The quick screen to the wide receiver was rarely used last season for a lot of reasons. One was a lack of healthy experienced receivers.
Crawley looks very similar to Paul Williams catching the ball behind the line of scrimmage. He almost always makes the first defender miss and quickly gets to the sideline for big gains.
For much of spring practice it is a shock to see Bear Pascoe drop a pass but he dropped a few Monday. But it didn’t take away from his overall performance. He put in another solid day.
The starting five looks very solid thus far in spring. It does not look like any of starting jobs will be changing this spring.
Bobby Lepori is firmly in place at LT, as is Kenny Avon at RT. Ryan Wendell has faced the toughest test, keeping talented redshirt freshman Joe Bernardi from taking his job. But it looks like Wendell will stay at center and Adam McDowell and Cole Popovich will continue to start at right and left guard, respectively.
Richard Pacheco has made some progression. Last week the sophomore was third string center but Monday he was taking reps with the second team offensive line at RG, previously occupied by Pierce Masse.
Chris Piligian also got reps with the second team offense. He was playing LT, previously occupied by James Meeks. Not sure if Masse or Meeks were injured or just bumped from the second team.
Michael Stuart did not practice Monday and BarkBoard.com did not get an update on his injury. But with Ikenna Ike sitting out spring and Taylor Smith not completely healthy, only two Bulldog defensive ends were available for 11 on 11 drills after Chris Lewis left practice early for class.
Defensive tackle Wilson Ramos rotated at DE to give Jason Roberts and Tyler Clutts a breather. Ramos, at times, has lined up at DE this spring. He moved to DT from DE last fall.
If Ramos moves back to end, it will leave only five tackles on the depth chart, Jason Shirley, Jon Monga, Charles Tolbert, Mark Roberts and Cornell Banks, the latter two just redshirt freshmen. Despite the shortfalls in depth, the defensive line as a unit has fared well this spring.
However, unless the line can get healthy and stay healthy, it is still a major concern.
Ahijah Lane sat out Monday’s practice for an unknown reason. He did not look injured. In his place Ryan McKinley took all the reps at MLB with the first team defense.
Ryan Machado was slated to start at WLB last season until Ahijah Lane was moved to the weak side. Machado will likely not beat out Marcus Riley at WLB this spring or fall but should see plenty of action in passing downs. He is solid in 11 on 11 drills and has a nose for the ball.
Todd Chisom has emerged and probably has had the biggest improvement from a year ago. Last spring Chisom was nowhere to be found on the depth chart. This spring, the sophomore is backing up Quaadir Brown at SLB. He will likely lose his job once Trevor Shamblee is healthy, but it does not take away from the great spring Chisom has had thus far.
Damon Jenkins practiced with the first team Monday despite sitting out much of the last week with what looks like an undisclosed injury.
Moses Harris has not done anything to lose his job this spring at strong safety. But Lorne Bell has done just about everything this spring to take it. Bell recorded an interception on a poorly thrown Brandstater pass. It is at least his second this spring.
Clint Stitser was on target once again Monday. In field goal drills, he was nearly perfect on every kick, which was not the case at Saturday’s scrimmage. On the flip side, A.J. Jefferson blocked a field goal during drills. He quickly rounded the outside corner for the easy block.
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