Starting quarterback Ryan Colburn had 10 more pass attempts than backup Derek Carr had but had only…
Spring's Hot and Not-So-Hot Performers
We won't even touch upon the quarterback battle in detail. Nevertheless, it was close throughout spring with starter Ryan Colburn improving and young Derek Carr did not quite land that "knockout" needed to win the fight. The champion will always get the decision in a close fight. That was until the final spring scrimmage, where Carr clearly had the better afternoon. But with a long summer ahead before fall camp begins, speculation will continue until head coach Pat Hill puts the redshirt label on Carr as most expect him to do. As for the rest of spring, there were few surprises. Three positions clearly are in need of immediate help but only two will get juice come fall camp. Running back lacks depth but incoming true frosh Emery Schexnayder, aka E.J., and possible walk-on Tracy Slocum will immediately shore up the unit. The safety spot had only three scholarship players healthy for spring. Sophomore Terrance Dennis should be 100% by summer and incoming three-star recruits Derron Smith and Edward Dillihunt are expected to contribute immediately. However, the same can't be said about tight end. There are six tight ends on the roster but no one stood out this spring. Vince Pascoe was solid but he is not a prototypical tight end; he's more of an H-back. Their offseason is of the utmost importance. As for the winners and losers, the top performers from a year ago are not going to be on this list. You won't find Chris Carter, Devon Wylie or Andrew Jackson. For the most part, last season's starters will also be omitted. This list comprises the youngsters, veterans, redshirt players, and injured that took advantage or didn't take advantage of their opportunities this spring. The Hot List… Robbie Rouse – The diminutive back might have had the best spring of any player. As talented as he is, some questioned his work ethnic and offseason training. Many standouts that dominate competition tend to have subpar workout habits when entering the next level – call it the "JaMarcus Russell" syndrome. Rouse has dominated at every level he's played even making an impact last year playing behind NFL first round selection Ryan Mathews. But could he be productive in the offseason and improve his game? Or would he be content with his performance and ability? Clearly, Mathews being drafted by Rouse's hometown NFL team only helps him realize what can be accomplished with hard work. Mathews made a major change in his workout habits after his freshman season, and Hill says Rouse is following the same path. And it showed this spring. Rouse says he feels much stronger and faster this year. He improved his receiving and blocking skills. If he continues his hard work this summer and through his Bulldog career, he has a very good chance to be Fresno State's first consecutive three-year 1,000-yard rusher. Jermaine Thomas – The junior cornerback was a three-star recruit in 2007, turning down BCS offers from Kansas, Nebraska, and Washington State to be a Bulldog. His first three years at Fresno State were muddled with injuries and surgeries. Finally healthy, Thomas showed he is clearly one of the top athletes on defense. He moved from 5th-6th on the depth chart to the No. 2 spot this spring. Andy Jennings – Could this redshirt freshman be the best d-lineman on the team? Possibly, he clearly has the best hands. He took some first team reps throughout spring and, he should battle junior Logan Harrell in fall camp for the starting spot. A.J. Johnson – The redshirt freshman solidified his spot as the team's fourth receiver. The former high school quarterback has not played of down of football since 2007 at Bakersfield (Calif.) Highland High. After a greyshirt and redshirt seasons, he has developed into an emerging deep threat. Rashad Evans – After redshirting last season because of a nagging hamstring injury, the sophomore receiver came into spring bigger and stronger. He had a tremendous season in 2008 as a true freshman, hauling in big catches and making remarkable grabs over the middle often taking huge hits in the process. His role in the offense has increased, and Evans looked like a polished veteran this spring. Jeremiah Toma – Is he the next Marcus Riley? Maybe, but for now, the redshirt freshman linebacker is backing up Ben Jacobs at middle backer. He took some first team reps this spring and showed his versatility with the ability to plug the hole and find the ball carrier as well as cover in the open field. Against pass-happy WAC teams, Toma could see the field quite a bit. Travis Brown – The new starting strong side linebacker had a great spring. Many believe he should have started last season – well better late than never. He is arguably the team's top playmaker against the run. But don't expect him to have too many tackles, as the BUCK role in the Bulldogs' defense is to disrupt, something Brown does very well. Nat Harrison – The young redshirt freshman defensive end is barely touching his ceiling. Once he grows into his frame, there might not be a better pass rusher on the team. Blessed with great quickness and long arms, he explodes off the line. However, he is still very raw yet showed enough to move to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Carter at weak side end. L.J. Jones – He just might become the team's best cover corner before the season is over. From his feet to hips, no one on the roster is smoother in coverage. His performance in the final scrimmage was a capper to a rather impressive spring. If he continues his progress, it's almost impossible to see him not start at some point this season. For now, he sits firmly as the Bulldogs' No. 4 corner. Marcel Jensen – After sitting out 2008 with a leg injury, he entered spring 2009 as a defensive end. The coaches moved him to offensive tackle in the fall. This spring, the redshirt freshman has come into his own. With starter Bryce Harris missing some spring practice due to class, Jensen saw numerous reps with the first team at left tackle. He has the best footwork on the o-line mainly because of his basketball background. He should be a three-year starter starting in 2011. Donnie Pritchett – With 2009 starter Kenny Borg out of football with a career-ending injury, Pritchett moved up the depth chart this spring at strong side defensive end. He didn't disappoint. He is still behind senior Chris Lewis, but he should plenty of snaps come September 4. Phillip Thomas – He took hold of the starting strong safety position and immediately became the main cog in the secondary. He's the top playmaker defensively, and arguably the best safety the ‘Dogs have had since James Sanders in 2004. The Not So-Hot… Michael Harris – We believed the sophomore back had all the tools to solidify himself as the team's most complete back this spring. We're not saying he didn't have a solid spring; actually, he had a good spring. But we're saying he just didn't have a great one that turned heads. But the competition is far from over. A great summer coupled with a great fall camp could still make him a game one starter come September 4. The Tight Ends – For the sake of argument, Vince Pascoe is not a tight end but a very good H-back asked to play tight end, which he does rather well. But for the other five tight ends on the roster, they need to step up their game. Junior Ryan Skidmore has the size. He has improved his blocking – his weakness in previous seasons – but he didn't do enough to unseat Pascoe as the No. 1 TE. Sophomore David Gory is coming off a knee injury that caused him to redshirt in 2009. We'll see how he does in fall camp. Sophomore Kulitapa Taumoepeau falls into Pascoe's H-back category to an extent. Sophomore Michael Butler is improving, but if Skidmore can't crack the starting lineup, Butler is at best third in this group. The one ray of sunshine comes from walk-on redshirt freshman Ryan Bouchma. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound converted defensive end evoked a few images of the former Bulldog tight end Bear Pascoe during one scrimmage, and it wasn't because Bouchma wears Pascoe's old jersey No. 85. But he is still raw and is not even close to becoming a full-time starter. In any case, new tight end coach Pete Alamar has his work cut out come fall camp. Zak Hill – The junior safety took first team reps during spring practice when the defense lined up in the 4-2-5 defense. But it was by default. With only three scholarship safeties healthy for spring, FS used all three when in the 4-2-5 look. Hill is a great asset on special teams, and he can contribute at safety. But he has proven to be a liability in pass coverage. His cover skills didn't seem much better this spring. While he is decent in run support, Coach Hill recruited cover safeties in the 2010 class to shore up the defense when it faces spread teams. Incoming safeties Dillihunt and Smith should be given every opportunity to unseat Hill in the rotation. Mark Roberts – The senior defensive tackle had so much promise coming out of Modesto High in 2006. The former all-state standout was compared to former Bulldog Jason Stewart by Coach Hill. This spring, heading into his final season, he was regulated at times to third team reps often behind underclassmen. The d-line was arguably the weakest link on the defense last season, and Roberts is arguably the most experienced defensive tackle with the ability to play both nose and the 3-technique. Nonetheless, he is has slowly fallen from a starter in his sophomore season to just another body on the line. Damion Whittington – The redshirt freshman linebacker was a highly touted prep player heading into his senior season at Norco (Calif.) High School. He never received the BCS offers as expected, but Fresno State signing him was still a mini recruiting coup. After sitting out 2008 and redshirting in 2009, spring 2010 should've been Whittington's coming out party. Now, he didn't have a bad spring, but he took reps with the third team defense. A backer with his size, speed, and athleticism shouldn't get lost in the shuffle. Trevor Richter – The 2008 offensive line class is the building block of the future, and Richter was arguably the top prospect in that class. He didn't have a bad spring, but with Harris sitting much of practice, Richter should've been in position to gain some first team reps. Austin Raphael – The former linebacker moved to H-back/TE last season and then to fullback this spring. The junior is arguably the most talented player at the position. In spite of that, the Bulldog pro-style offense elected to start a third receiver in place of the fullback for most of spring. The Watch List… A.J. Ellis – Can the sophomore running back improve on his spring and become a vital part of the offense in 2010? Matt Lindsey & Jevon Stallworth – With young, talented receivers arriving this fall, these two wideouts need to build upon their spring performance. Richard Helepiko – The sophomore o-lineman is now the team's No. 2 center. But he struggled a bit this spring after moving to his new position from guard. Can he continue to improve be able to start if, God forbid, Joe Bernardi goes down with (another) injury? Ibe Nduka – The redshirt freshman started his career last fall at strong side linebacker. This spring he moved to his natural position – defensive end. However, at under 6-feet, Nduka was moved from end to fullback mid-spring. He played fullback in high school and resembles former Bulldog Roshon Vercher. Justin Webber – The redshirt freshman walk-on has found a home at safety after initially playing running back. In the absence of injured Terrence Dennis, Webber received second team reps throughout spring. Despite not having prototypical size, he has emerged as fierce hitter with decent cover skills. It will be interesting to see where he fits in come fall camp. J.B. Dock and Erik Brown – The redshirt freshmen cornerback duo made good strides this spring. But can they unseat any veterans come fall camp? You can now follow BarkBoard.com via Twitter. Discuss in BarkBoard.com Forums. If you have not by now, subscribe to BarkBoard.com. Click HERE to get access to the members-only content from BB.C and the nation-wide Scout.com network. ©Copyright 2010, BarkBoard.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.
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