Posted: 11:00 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, 2013
Fresno State returns eight of 11 starters from a 2012 defense that made huge strides from the previous year in almost every category, and finished in the top 40 in almost every category. However, somewhat surprisingly, not all of them are currently first on the depth chart.
Defensive Line: Coaches have been raving about the defensive line during camp. First-team All-Mountain West junior nose guard Tyeler Davison (6-2, 304) is back, as are senior defensive ends Andy Jennings (2nd team all-MWC, 6-2, 275) and Nikko Motta (6-2, 279) Expect to see Davison get more reps at DE this year; Sophomore NG Maurice Poyadue (6-3, 280) has come on strong in fall camp and the Bulldogs now have a third option in FCC transfer Ioane Sagapolu (6-0, 301)., JC transfer Claudell Louis (6-4, 284), sophomore Todd Hunt (6-3, 261), and senior Ben Letcher (6-2, 243) are among the backup options.
Inside Linebackers: The LB corps seems to be the deepest group on the team. Seniors Jeremiah Toma (6-0, 235) and Patrick Su'a (6-1, 239) both started at MLB beside departed senior Travis Brown at different points during the 2012 season.; both were injured along the way. However, Toma and Su'a were passed up in the spring by junior Karl Mickelson (6-0, 229) and sophomore Kyrie Wilson (6-2, 228), both of whom have had strong camps and look poised to hold onto those spots, though the 'Dogs tend to rotate linebackers to keep them fresh. Not far behind is true freshman Jeff Camilli (6-3, 254), who is pushing for significant playing time.
Outside Linebackers: Gone are Tristan Okpalaugo and Shawn Plummer, who split time at one of the OLB slots last year. Senior Nat Harrison (6-2, 233) and returning starter junior Donavon Lewis (6-2, 239) are the likely starters at the outside linebacker spots heading into the season. Ejiro Ederaine (6-3, 220) looks to get playing time, and redshirt Freshman Brandon Hughes (6-3, 212) looks completely different than a year ago, having put on nearly 30 pounds in his redshirt year. Jamaal Rose (6-2, 222) and true freshman Stephen Van Hook (6-1, 230) may get some time as well.
Cornerbacks: One of the big storylines of the Bulldogs' fall camp has been the emergence of Fullerton transfer Curtis Riley, who signed only a few days before camp started. The 6-0, 190 pound Riley has surprised even the coaching staff, essentially solidifying the starting spot opposite returning starter and honorable mention All-MWC senior LJ Jones (5-10, 201). Junior Sean Alston was expected to be that starter prior to an injury suffered in spring camp and will sit out the season. Behind Riley and Jones are speedy sophomore Shannon Edwards (5-11, 190), and redshirt freshman Jamal Ellis (5-11, 170. Arizona transfer Bryan Harper (6-0, 170) might sneak in there if he gets a hardship waiver to play this year, but that's up in the air.
Safeties: The safety position is solid and yet has questions. First-team all-MWC free safety Derron Smith (5-11, 200), who picked off 6 passes in 2012, returns, but the bulldogs must replace All-American strong safety Phillip Thomas. The most likely candidate is sophomore Charles Washington, who at 5-11 and 200 lbs is quite possibly the fastest player on the team. The Bulldogs' safety depth took a hit today, with news that JC tranfer Donnell Vercher left the team. Vercher was expected to back up Washington at SS this year. With that news, JC transfer Rodney Mathews (6-0, 208) moves over to free safety to back up Smith, while redshirt freshman Dalen Jones (6-0, 192) fills in at SS behind Washington.