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June 23, 2013
Pre-season hype can be a risky proposition. On the one hand, your program receives far more attention than usual. On the other hand, it also means that you're going to be expected to have a great season and anything less simply won't do.
The 2013 Fresno State Bulldogs find themselves faced with such a situation after their performance last year and the talent they have returning to the field this year. One of those talented players that will be returning for the 2013 campaign is sophomore wide receiver Davante Adams.
After captivating Mountain West audiences with his dazzling display of speed and ability to create plays in open space, Adams will no longer be able to fly under the radar during games. The 2012 Mountain West Freshman of the Year racked up 1,312 yards on 102 receptions and a staggering 14 touchdowns last year. Adams had a touchdown catch in all but three of Fresno State's games last season.
That's only half of Adams' story, though. After only having 3 touchdowns in the Bulldogs' first five games, Adams went on an absolute tear, hauling in a touchdown catch in every, single one of the Bulldogs' final seven regular season games and adding one more in the Hawaii Bowl. You might say that Adams found his stride as the season progressed.
This year will be much different. This year teams will be keyed in on Adams and he couldn't be more ready for the challenge.
"I'm not really worried about all the expectations because I know what I'm capable of," Adams told FSBulldogs. "I know the type of work that I can put in on the field and off. So I'm just gonna go out there and do all the little things that add up to what's gonna happen on the field. People ask me about the 'sophomore slump' and all this stuff and it doesn't really mean much to me because it's not like guys are out there falling on the ground and I'm running into the endzone. I'm putting in work and I'm gonna continue to show my progress and produce on the field for my teammates and coaches."
But that's not the only role that Adams has embraced this past off-season. Adams says that he is taking on more of a leadership role and believes that it is his duty to lead by example.
"Mainly just making sure I go out there and lead by example," Adams said of how he has grown as a mentor. "You know, it's easy to tell a guy what to do over and over. To tell him to make the times when we're doing summer running. To tell him to be at meetings on time. But if they see an older guy -- well, in my case I'm getting older now - is practicing what they preach, going out there making their times, they're lifting hard, and they're going hard in the classroom as well, then it's much easier to follow the guy when you see he's actually doing what he's saying."
Despite his young age, Adams continues to prove himself as one of the team's veteran leaders and he isn't afraid to challenge the younger players to be great either.
"I've just been telling them, make sure - obviously they're backing up guys like Phillip Thomas, Robbie Rouse, and guys like that. Guys that can really change a game themselves. So, make sure that they are putting in the work that they've seen the guys that are older than them have put in, plus some so they can be better. They don't ever want to say, 'Okay, that guy's a legend. I can't ever do better than he did.' You want to always push yourself and just be the best that you can be so you can go out there and show people. Then you can be that nice guy that people are talking about."
Being the nice guy is okay sometimes, but Adams has decided to pull a page from Bruce Banner's playbook and plans to unleash his angry side far more often in 2013.
"Yeah. I think the physicality [of my game]," Adams said when asked what he'd like to improve upon from last year. "Last year I played between 200-pounds and 205-pounds. I am up to about 212-pounds now, trying to show off that physicality. I want to throw guys around a little bit more and just play angrier. A couple of my family members and different people tell me that they saw that angry part of me come out on the field later in the season, or at times. But I need to show that -- every, single play in every, single game - that I have that fire inside of me and that I really love football enough to go out there and just play hard the whole game."
Just how much angrier can Adams play? Well, if Adams expectations for himself are any indication, opposing defenses are going to have their hands beyond full.
"I haven't really put much thought into it," Adams said. "Besides, I know that I had like 14 touchdowns last year. I'm looking to hopefully get 20 this year. A lot of the games, I played half the game or take the times where it didn't work out and it should have. I feel like people say it's is a lot [of touchdowns], but I feel like I could have done a hell of a lot better than that. I'm not really worried about all the stats and that stuff. I'll let all that stuff take care of itself. I just want to see my team go out there and ball."
But in order for the Bulldogs to ball, each man is going to have to do their part. Some of the younger players are going to have to step up and take on bigger roles for the Bulldogs to have any hope of repeating as Mountain West champions. Adams isn't the only one embracing the grind and wasn't shy about acknowledging some of the guys who have answered the call to leadership.
"I'll say that, in the wideout position, I'd definitely say Isaiah Burse has put in a lot of work," Adams said. "He's been busting his tail the whole time. He's been working the running, the lifting, and making sure that he's been on the younger guys, as well. He's out there. He's working hard and it is showing. And people will definitely look up to him when they see that, like I said earlier, somebody's out there doing what they're telling you to do. They say, 'okay, if he tells you to make your time, you're gonna want to make your time.' Because Burce is coming in 3-4 seconds before his time, each and every time. So, I say Burse is one of them.
"Then, we're still waiting on some more leadership out of the backfield," Adams added. "Guys are stepping up. We got guys like Malique Micenheimer, who's gonna come in and be a different kind of back for us and could definitely fare well in our offense. So, we're hoping that he's gonna do something good for us."
As for any defenses that might be thinking of doubling down on Adams or giving their defensives backs some help over the top, Adams says the Bulldogs have a plan for that, as well.
"Well, for the most part, honestly, no," Adams said when asked if he thinks defenses will try that approach. "Because the way we look at it, other teams shouldn't think I'm any more of a threat than he [Burse] is because this guy's been here. He knows what he's doing. He has a resume himself. People know what he can do, so if they wanna double, triple-cover me, go ahead. You got other dudes who are capable of being All-Americans, as well. So I'm not worried about it. We're a unit and if they want to go ahead and triple, double cover him, obviously I'm out there too.
"You could still throw it to me if they use the double, triple-covers, too," Adams said with a laugh. "I don't mind that, either. But, I'm trying to get on SportsCenter's Top 10."
Jokes aside, the Bulldogs know how special this season can be. Despite all of that, they're taking absolutely nothing for granted this year and Adams is helping to lead that mentality.
"When we see our schedule, we know that we can go out there and we're capable of winning every game on our schedule," Adams said. "I'm not making guarantees or anything like that, but I just know what we're capable of doing as a ball club and the fire we're carrying into next season, having lost that bowl game in the way that we did. We just know that we're a whole new team, a better team. We're just gonna go out there and keep playing hard and playing Bulldog football. Everybody has a new swagger about them, and they're just ready to put the work in or show the work we've been putting in."
But the new season isn't the only thing that has Adams extremely excited. The long-awaited debut of the new uniforms might have Adams more excited than anyone else currently associated with the team.
"Oh, I'm crazy excited for this," Adams said about the new uniforms debuting this season. "I'm bit on look good, play good. So, if we go out there, we're looking nice, if they do everything, like you said when you were talking to Nikko [Motta] about it - if they do a black thing right, I might not take the thing off. I've been waiting for this. There was a myth about it my true-freshman year and I was kind of jealous that I wasn't playing yet. So, if that's gonna come out looking nice, I mean, yeah, we can kill 'em with that."
Adams will probably be killing a lot more than fashion shows in 2013. With the work that he and the Bulldog receiving corps have been putting in, defensive backfields might be pushing up daisies before halftime.
Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates as the Fresno State Bulldogs get ready for fall camp.
Josh Webb is a special contributor to FSBulldogs.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @BulldogsTwist.
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