Practice Report: Special Teams Depth Plays Key Role

Aug. 19, 2014

By: Matt Burkholder

Post-Practice Interviews
Head Coach Tim DeRuyter

FRESNO, Calif. - Tuesday marked the 20th practice of fall camp for the Fresno State football team since reporting to camp on Aug. 1. The team began their second day of USC prep, and special teams has been an area of focus not lost, as each day has started with kick and punt drills before entering offensive and defensive work.

It cannot be denied that the Bulldogs will miss its all-time all-purpose yardage leader, Isaiah Burse, who amassed 5,873 yards during his time as a Bulldog. Although, this season, special teams coach Pete Germano is excited about the depth of the kick and punt returning units with Curtis Riley, Da'Mari Scott, Derron Smith and LeKendrick Williams all showing that they are more than capable to fill those shoes.

"We got three legitimate punt returners back there," Germano said, "and I think our kick returners are going to be special too. I really feel good about those kind of guys, the returners, the kickers and the snappers. I think we're in much better shape than a year ago with that. Even though Isaiah was so good, we have depth this year."

Already recognized as a special team's ace this preseason was junior punter Garrett Swanson. On July 22, Swanson was voted the Mountain West all-preseason team punter.

"Garrett has picked up where he left off," Germano said. "He's booming the ball for the most part and done a great job kicking off. Our snapping situation is really good with Dylan Detwiler, and Kody Kroening is a dual guy that can punt and kick."

Also added to the arsenal this week was place kicker, Collin McGuire, after missing the first two weeks of practice. As a true freshman he connected for 11-of-16 field goals, with a long of 47 yards, and hit 71-of-74 PAT attempts.

"Obviously having Colin back, that's an awesome feeling," said Germano. "When you're with him kicking, there's a certain sound that comes off his leg, that pop, that you don't hear with the other guys sometimes. He's got a strong leg, it's fresh, and the ball is coming off it well."

With the first day of school on Thursday quickly approaching, the final weekday morning practice will used as the last scrimmage of camp on Wednesday before practice shifts back to the afternoons on Friday.

"It won't be a live scrimmage," said head coach Tim DeRuyter. "We may have one or two live periods, but we'll go through all our situations starting with putting on our game gear, our rollout, where we practice for pregame, all those situations. We got a bunch of new guys that haven't done it before, so we got to get through all that, then some game-like situations."

The mock scrimmage will be a time to introduce game-like situations that are not necessarily practiced everyday - substituting from going offense to punt, moving the defense off the field to bring on the punt return unit, situations that occur in games that are not always touched on during camp.

"We've got into our USC game plan, but we're still doing some situational work along with it," DeRuyter said about what the team is doing this week. "We're going to get more and more laser-like focused on USC, and not doing the whole season stuff when they return Friday."

Derron Smith and Josh Harper elected team captains

On Friday, Aug. 15, DeRuyter made the announcement via Twitter that seniors Derron Smith and Josh Harper had been elected team captains.

"I think the fact that both of them we're elected by their teammates is a testament to the fact that they have been doing that already," DeRuyter said Tuesday about the announcement. "Derron was voted as a captain last year, and so he kept that same mentality. It's new for Josh, being a senior, being a guy that's been very, very productive for us. Guys look to him for the leadership example. I think he's doing a nice job stepping up to that."

"It's an honor to be named by your peers," said Smith, "but we got to keep doing what we've been doing."

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