The Stars Up Front on the Defensive Line

Aug. 14, 2013

By Jason Clay

Post-Practice Interviews
Head Coach Tim DeRuyter
Defensive Coordinator Nick Toth
FRESNO, Calif. - The Fresno State football team passed the halfway point of fall camp with practice No. 15 on Wednesday morning.

In the second year running the offensive and defensive schemes under head coach Tim DeRuyter, the two position groups that have shined the most are the wide outs and defensive line.

For defensive line coach Pete Germano, this camp is definitely more defined than it was a year ago.

"It's been a joy right now, kids have been working hard and are eager to get on the field and get better," Germano said.

Not that it wasn't that case last year, but during last fall's camp the coaching staff was still in the transition moving the team from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. There were a number of players that were recruited to fit the old system and were unsure of how they would fit in the new scheme run by defensive coordinator Nick Toth.

Last season the depth on the defensive line was in question, but after a successful first year, a season in which the Bulldogs led the Mountain West and ranked ninth nationally in sacks, the defensive line has been the premier group standing out in practices.

"We've got guys that can dual-role, play two different positions, and there is good leadership there," Germano said of his unit. "The kids that we've brought in allowed us to rotate kids at different times during the practice to protect kids, but also get them ready."

Up front, the Bulldogs return their three starters from last season in ends Nikko Motta and Andy Jennings along with nose guard Tyeler Davison. Davison, a junior, is the star of the group, and Germano has like how the seniors Motta and Jennings have mentored the others.

"Motta, Andy Jennings and Ben Letcher have been really, really vocal and involved with helping the young kids learn the defense," Germano said.

Davison was a first-team All-Mountain West selection a year ago when he had 43 tackles and 7.0 tackles for a loss. Jennings was a second-team honoree and he led the team with 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Motta had 29 tackles on the year, starting the last seven games and the level of his play got better and better as the year went on.

Behind those three, the competition for playing time has led to the development of a number of players. Defensive ends Todd Hunt and Ben Letcher, who both saw ample action last season, will still be in the rotation this year. Maurice Poyadue, a nose guard, has emerged into a role where he has earned himself playing time. Then newcomer Ioane Sagapolu is also in the mix at nose guard.

"We should be if not the best, one of the best in the Mountain West," Germano said about the defensive line. "We return an all-conference first-teamer at nose guard. Andy Jennings was a second-teamer last year and really should have been a first-teamer if he didn't miss the games that he missed, and Nikko Motta is back, so all three are back, plus the depth.

"Hunt has had a great camp. Maurice Poyadue has had a great camp. We brought in Ioane Sagapolu from Fresno City, plus Ben Letcher. We've got depth and guys that have played in games where the reps are meaningful."

The Bulldogs' front will be tested right from the get-go against Rutgers in the season opener on Aug. 29. In 2012, the Scarlet Knights ranked eighth nationally by only allowing 11 total sacks on the season.

During Wednesday's practice, the Bulldogs started to get into their game plan for Rutgers for the first time, spending a couple of the team periods working against scout teams.

Fresno State will practice once again on Thursday and Friday mornings before holding its second scrimmage Friday night from 7-9 p.m. That scrimmage in Bulldog Stadium is open to the public and it will mirror the first one of fall camp, as mainly the twos, threes and fours will get the majority of the reps as the coaching staff continues to build depth across the board.

"Discover Fresno State Football" - 2013 Fresno State football season tickets are now on sale and can be ordered online at or over the phone at 559-278-DOGS (3647). The official home of the Fresno State Bulldogs is 940 AM ESPN Radio.



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