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March 16, 2013

Saturday Practice Insider

Offensive line coach Cameron Norcross has had his hands full this spring, playing with different lineups on the offensive line due to injuries and performance.

As of Saturday morning the guys getting first team reps were Austin Wentworth at left tackle, Bo Bonnheim at left guard, Lars Bramer at center, Cody Wichmann at right guard and Justin Northern at right tackle.

Twelve practices into the spring Norcross has seen progress, but isn't quite satisfied with his group.

"I am never happy. I am really not," Norcosss said after Saturday's practice. "We have one tackle out (Alex Fifita) who was a starter for us at the end of last year. But the other kid (Northern) has been playing really well and he was bumped up to the first string anyway. He has a lot of ability and was a freshman last year.

"He is going to be a real solid player but is definitely not where he needs to be yet. But that is the great thing, we have three more practices in the spring and 29 more in the fall to get him there."

The Bulldogs have also had some setbacks at the center position this spring.

"Our backup center is out so we had to move some things around," Norcross said. "It is what it is, that is what D-1 football is about. When your number is called you move into that position and go."

Norcorss has also been working with two junior college transfers this spring in Patrick Kim and Josh Tremblay.

"Patrick Kim got hurt before our last scrimmage, he got a stinger, and it was a pretty bad stinger. We will see where he is at the rest of the spring. But he was coming along and he has a chance to contribute greatly next fall.

"Josh Tremblay, we need to put some weight on him, but he is athletic, he runs, he's got good hip snap and he is the kind of lineman I look for. He's not a 330 pound guy, right now he is about 275 and by the end of the summer he should be 295. Then he will be exactly what we are looking for, slender, athletic and can move.

"Right now he is kind of swimming a little bit but he will be just fine."

Ball Security

One of the more interesting aspects of Fresno State practices are the ball security drills. Players on both offense and defense run what head coach Tim DeRuyter calls "unique" drills to help players hold onto and strip the ball.

The position group with the most unique drills are the running backs with coach Joe Wade

"We are going to simulate guys getting hit and trying to protect the football," DeRuyter said. "We have specific coaching points that coach Wade drills on those guys about locking, loading and finishing. We run drills to emphasize those things."

Some drills have the running backs running around cones and over bags holding onto a football as the coaching staff swings pads at them or reaches in to try and pop the football lose. Others have a players run with a football in hand that is tethered to a trailing player that chasing them and trying to force a fumble.

"It is all part of ball security and making our guys conscious of people constantly trying to take the football. We have to take care of it when we have it. And vice versa our defense is constantly trying to strip that ball out.

"We are working both sides of it and if you look at our turnover margin last year, we were one of the top in the country and that's why you win football games."

Dog Bones

  • Quarterback Derek Carr was the first position player to enter Bulldog Stadium early Saturday morning and he was one of the last to leave.

  • The team did extensive punt blocking drills using volleyballs instead of footballs. DeRuyter said that you get a more consistent bounce, it doesn't wear out the punter's leg and they are not as hard so you don't break the fingers of the guys trying to block the punt.

  • Ken Rivera, commissioner of officials for the Mountain West Conference, addressed the Fresno State football team after practice. He talked about the new rules like targeting, ejections, and blocking below the waist. All in attempt to let the players know what is legal and what will cause the officials to throw a flag.

  • For the third straight practice the offense did sideline to sideline sprints after practice. After experiencing a few "loafs" during Monday's scrimmage the whole offense was forced to run to show that there has to be maximum effort from every player on every play. It shows the whole offense what is expected of them as a group.

  • Right tackle Alex Fifita pulled his hamstring. Norcross said it was nothing big but it might keep him out the rest of spring.

  • No one-on-one drills or Bulldog Drills during the individual portion of Saturday's practice. But the team did some drills pitting offensive skill guys against defenders in a close quarters. The offense would catch a quick swing pass and try to get by the defenders with all the players cheering them on.

  • The team sang happy birthday to defensive back Jamal Ellis after practice.

  • A couple of players stayed after practice to roll up and down the field. Usually the result of basic disciplinary issues like missing a meeting.

    Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates on 2013 Fresno State spring football. You can follow us on Twitter at @FresnoDogs.


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