Fresno State assistant coach Pete Germano is a jack of all trades. Handling the special teams, defensive line, and Valley recruiting, Germano does a little bit of everything and he does it well. Unsatisfied with last year's results, Germano has pushed the Bulldogs' special teams guys even harder this year. FSBulldogs.com caught up with Germano as the Bulldogs opened the 2013 fall camp.
For Germano, special teams begins with having your best players on the field. One of those players, Isaiah Burse, will probably be expected to have a greater role in 2013.
"He's not only a critical component in our offense, but he is also a guy who embraces both roles as a kick returner/punt returner," Germano said. "I know this - from a return standpoint, he's the only guy on our team right now that's done it. He didn't have a lot of experience last year, he covered kicks for Rashad [Evans]. So he's gotten some light punts. Right now, I feel like we might have a few more kick returners than we do punt returners, but the time is still out there. So with his ability, and he's embraced it, IB's gotta be a guy you gotta have the ball in his hands. Now, are we going to ask too much of him? I don't know yet.
"Meanwhile, we gotta develop and find some other guys. You know, Davante Adams and Greg Watson, the only reason why they're not catching punts is they were working on holds. Greg Watson and Davante Adams are gonna start catching some punts. We're going to work with our group, see where we're at with that, and develop a depth chart."
While Germano is still filling out the depth-chart for the returners, the list for kicking duties appears to have a bit more clarity.
"Well, we haven't really done much punting yet, but I have a pretty good idea that Garrett's [Swanson] gonna do a good job for us," Germano said. "We've done a lot of the fundies [fundamentals] and starting tomorrow we're really gonna put the kickers under the gun with a live rush. Colin McGuire - at this point, with what I've seen so far, and without blowing him up - he's always what we thought he would be. He's got a strong leg, he's a good technician, we put him on scholarship for a reason, and I don't see how that, after two days, is going to change. But we really, really haven't put any of those guys under the gun yet.
"The punter is going to be put under the gun, and we're gonna put them under the gun, and we got some guys we're going to challenge with who is going to do the kickoffs. Garrett did it last year, but he might be our number one punter, and that's a lot to ask on a leg. So we're going to try to feel our way through it. We could have three different guys doing it. We might have two guys doing it, depending on how it all shapes out."
One aspect of Bulldog football the fans have grown particularly fond of over the years has been the kicking game. The Bulldogs have done well recruiting kickers, usually finding a kicker with a range longer than most teams have. Germano feels that having such an advantage is particularly important for the Bulldogs.
"It's absolutely huge," Germano said. "The range of our field goals last year wasn't where it needed to be. We feel like the range is going to be more this year and that gives you more opportunities to get three points. You just don't have to hold your breath when PAT's are 99%-100%. You don't have to hold your breath on some of that stuff. Even though Andrew Shapiro brought unique dynamics to our punting game last year because he could roll out left and right, I think Garrett's got a strong enough leg.
"It's a field position game and we have to impact that special teams-wise. Every play on special teams is impacting what I call 'hidden yardage.' The higher you can kick it and the longer you can kick it, the better off you're going to be. And you know what? The other thing for our special teams, overall - six points is six points. You get it or you give it up, but it's six points. So it's nothing to take lightly. That's why some of our really, really, really good players are going to be involved with special teams".
If Germano has an ideal range in mind, he isn't giving it up. But Bulldog fans can rest easy knowing that Germano is shooting for the stars because he feels it's within reach.
"Well, the low end is more than what we had last year," Germano said while laughing. "Obviously we kept 'Q' [Quentin Breshears] in his range. He was 80% because of his range. But to have a kid that can kid a 50-yarder? Come on now. Anybody would take that. I don't know if we've discussed it, but when we get into the first game, Coach Schramm, Coach DeRuyter, and myself are gonna be able - we're gonna know where he's best from; What has, if there is a hash, that he prefers; What's his distance, so Scramm knows where he needs to get the ball to guarantee himself three.
"That's what camp's about. That's when I start moving the ball around in front of the team, backing them and moving the hashes, making note, and finding out what his range would be. What you want for the range of a kicker is what he can get 80% of the time. He can make eight-of-ten from 48. Now, again, maybe the kid has the leg to try 50, but he's not 80% from that -- at least you know you got a chance to make it."
Finally, we couldn't let Germano call it a day without first asking him about being the Bulldogs' primary recruiter in the Valley. Not only does Germano like recruiting the Valley, he feels it's essential and that he's earned the right to take the Valley, jokingly, of course.
"I enjoy recruiting the Valley," Germano said. "I almost feel like I'm back in Ohio, recruiting Ohio, even though the Valley is just one part of California. If there's a player in the Valley and you really want him, you should have a great chance to get him because we're the Valley's school.
"So it is about relationships. It's about developing a relationship with the coach. It's about putting your face in that program so the freshmen/sophomore always counts on and sees a guy wearing Fresno State coming in and recruiting. And that they come to our camps and everything is positive about it. It's all about the big picture in terms of recruiting. I enjoy recruiting the area. I'm also a little older and I get a little impatient with the traffic. So, I give the younger guys San Francisco and Los Angeles, and I'll take the back-roads any day."
Germano might be taking the back-roads of Fresno, but he's clearly driving Fresno State exactly where they need to be.
Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates on the fast approaching Fresno State football season.
Josh Webb is a special contributor to FSBulldogs.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @BulldogsTwist.