Aug. 8, 2012 By Jason Clay
By Jason Clay
FRESNO, Calif. - You don't see many sophomores in college football that are team captains.
However, for Fresno State middle linebacker Jeremiah Toma, that was his role during the 2011 season.
Toma's responsibility with that team was clearly defined at the end of the season when his teammates voted him the most inspirational player.
As Toma and the rest of the Bulldogs head into 2012, a lot has changed since last fall. A new coaching staff, a new defensive scheme, even a new conference. The one thing Toma doesn't want to see change is him inspiring his teammates.
"Right now I'm more focused on getting this team in a bond that is closer than ever before," Toma said Wednesday after the first of two practices scheduled for the day. "I want our team to be stronger than anything."
As the Bulldogs work through the heat during training camp, Toma expects to lead by example and make sure everyone around him is getting better day after day.
"I always look at myself saying if my attitude isn't good today, it is going to affect 100 other guys," Toma explained. "If I come out today with the right attitude, positive and excited to go, the person next to me is going to be like `you know what, I'm excited to go. My leader is ready, I got to be ready.'
"My role on this team is so vital now and I take it personal. I really do."
With Fresno State's new 3-4 defense, the middle linebackers serve as sort of the quarterback of the defense, calling out the plays and alignments.
"Jeremiah is kind of a guiding force," defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. "He's got a high football IQ to begin with, he understands the game."
Toma says that although there was a learning curve in the new defense, he is very comfortable in it now.
"No way was it easy to go from the 4-3 to the 3-4," Toma said. "It was tough to learn this defense and run with it and be comfortable in it. There are a lot of different schemes, a lot of different jobs that we have, but it all relates into the same idea and I love it a lot. Now I'm comfortable. Now I'm able to just play."
That right there is his favorite part of the new defense, how it allows the players to use their athleticism.
"I feel like I have a lot of help around me," Toma said. "I feel free to make plays and free to run and cover and do different things that I wasn't able to do last year."
Toth praised Toma for being a great person, his consistency on the field and for being a terrific teammate.
"He's a great character kid, he cares about this place," Toth said. "He puts on that V and it means something to him. Anybody that is at the center of their defense, and that's what their persona is, that's who they are and they are that way all the time, it doesn't get any better than that.
"Everything you are looking for in a football player, he's got."
Away from football, Toma enjoys spending time with his wife, Mere. The couple has been married for one year now.
On the field, Toma just wants to win and he says Bulldogs fans will enjoy watching the team this year.
"They can look forward to seeing us fly around, getting turnovers and just having fun out there," he said. "I feel so good about our defense right now and our team in general."
"Discover Fresno State Football" - Fresno State season tickets are now on sale for as low as $140, less than $24 per game, through the Bulldog Ticket Office, online at GoBulldogs.com and can be purchased over the phone at 559-278-DOGS. Remember to vote every day for Fresno State at www.ESPN.com/CollegeColorsDay and wear your Bulldog red on Aug. 31 for College Colors Day.
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