By Jason Clay
By Jason Clay
|Head Coach Tim DeRuyter
|Junior QB Brian Burrell
|Senior QB Brandon Connette
It was an energetic first session, albeit in helmets only as the Bulldogs work through the NCAA-mandated five-day acclimatization period. Fresno State will be in helmets for the first two practices, then helmets and shoulder pads for another two before going in full pads for practice No. 5 on Wednesday.
"It was your typical first day of fall camp, a lot of enthusiasm but a little sloppy," head coach Tim DeRuyter said. "I like the leadership from our older guys, we're making progress but we got a long way to go.
"Again, I just like our overall energy. I think guys came out with the right attitude."
For the players, this is a day they've been waiting for since the end of last season.
"We've been excited [for this day] all summer," Mountain West Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Derron Smith said. "That last bowl game definitely left a bad taste in our mouth, so we were ready to come back and work, especially on the defensive side. We know we got a lot of guys returning, that we struggled at times last year, so we were ready to come back out here and do what we did today. Have a lot of fun, create turnovers, get stops -- it's hard to get stops when you don't have pads on, but I think we had a very good practice to start."
Saturday's practice was more of one setting the tone for how camp will run than finding immediate answers. The Bulldogs want to make sure they are practicing right, coming out with a lot of energy and working on continually executing at a high level. The coaching staff knows that it will take some time until the team is further along in camp when they playmakers start to establish themselves out on the field.
"I like how athletic we are," DeRuyter said. "The receivers, we got some guys that can really run. I think some of the new linebackers that we got in, and in the secondary, are guys with length that can run. I'm impressed by that, but as far as making football plays we're just out here in pajamas right now so it is hard to tell."
There will be many storylines to follow throughout camp, the most popular of which is who taking over as the team's new starting quarterback.
"It's a good first day, we have a lot to learn and we will come out tomorrow and be better," said sophomore Brian Burrell, who enters camp atop the depth chart at quarterback. "We as an offensive unit had worked really hard this summer, all the quarterbacks have been getting together watching film with the receivers, with the tight ends and running backs... It's good, we've seen some improvement from spring to right now."
One of the newcomers to the quarterback group is Duke transfer Brandon Connette. He played in 39 career games at Duke in a similar offense, but he will be looking to get comfortable running and directing the Bulldogs' offense as he competes with the other quarterbacks for the starting spot.
"The main difference is just the playbook, it's a little bit different because the past four years I've been in a playbook that I was familiar with," Connette said. "Starting a camp over with a playbook that I've only had two months in, it's new, I feel comfortable with the playbook, it's just I got to be able to react a little bit faster on the field. It's got to become second nature."
Saturday's practice was one out in the Fresno heat, with temperatures already reaching 100 degrees by the end of the session. For the players who have been working out all summer in the heat, that was nothing new to them.
"With [strength and condition coach Joey Boese] in the summertime, man we put in so much work and I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life," Smith said. "I know a lot guys feel the same way. We're at our peak strength levels, now all it is, is maintaining it through camp. If we do that we'll go into our first game at the top of our game."
The Bulldogs will be back at it again on Sunday morning for the second practice of fall camp.
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