The Fresno State Bulldogs officially ushered in a new year by participating in their first day of spring practice on Monday.
Spring practice, or spring ball, is the best chance for all players, new and returning, to prove they deserve a spot on the team.
Junior cornerback Sean Alston is one of many players looking to make a good impression on the coaching staff this spring.
"It was a little sloppy on the first day back," Alston said about the first official practice since the Hawaii Bowl.
The 5-10, 192-pound cornerback became a pleasant surprise for the Bulldogs last year by starting all twelve games. He ranked fifth on the team with 46 tackles while also picking off three passes.
Alston's contributions in the defensive backfield helped the Bulldogs set a team record in interceptions with 20, which tied for the fourth most in the FBS last year. In addition, the Bulldogs' secondary ranked sixth in pass efficiency defense at 100.02, tied for fourth in pass defense by allowing only 163.42 yards per game in the air and ranked seventh nationally in opponent completion percentage at .516.
Despite these impressive numbers from last year, Alston knows the Bulldogs have a huge hole to fill in the secondary with the departure of All-American Phillip Thomas to the NFL.
"We've got two safeties in there, Rodney [Matthews] and Charles [Washington]. They're our top two right now," Alston said. "Whoever's out there making the most plays, that's who we want out there."
Even though the Bulldogs have the daunting task of replacing Thomas, Alston feels the secondary can maintain its level of excellence-perhaps, even better than last year. He said the secondary is going to build on what they did last year, so fans can expect more fumbles, interceptions and big plays.
If the Bulldogs' secondary is going to maintain its excellence, Alston will have to be one of those players to step up his play.
And starting spring ball off on the right foot is where it's going to happen.
Alston views spring ball not merely as a chance to hone his skills, but to become an impact starter and playmaker.
"I feel like I had a pretty good season last year," Alston said. "I just want to continue to help this team out and build on my success."
Alston counts NFL stars Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets and Champ Bailey of the Denver Broncos as two players whom he models his play after. He said he watches video of these two ball hawks to improve on his style of play and technique.
"I definitely pride myself on technique," Alston said.
As Alston continues to improve his play, he and his fellow defensive mates are also getting adjusted to some new coaches. In particular, David Brown, hired to coach the secondary.
Alston seems comfortable with his new coach, and he thinks the defense will benefit from his knowledge.
"I like Coach Brown. He's a good coach," Alston said. "We're getting a feel for him."
If spring really is the beginning of bigger and better things for Alston and the Bulldogs, then Fresno State fans should have a lot to cheer for in 2013.
For Alston, the steps he's taking this spring are just baby steps to the next level.
"A college football player's dream is to get to the NFL," Alston said. "As long as I keep doing my job, hopefully that dream comes true."
Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates on 2013 Fresno State spring football. You can follow us on Twitter at @FresnoDogs.