Wide receiver Rashad Evans will make his season debut in time for Fresno State’s inaugural Mountain West matchup against San Diego State (2-2) on Saturday.
Evans, a fifth-year senior, is coming off a four-game suspension after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Evans has 104 receptions for 1,007 yards and seven touchdowns in his career.
The addition of a veteran wide receiver will help take pressure off other position players, quarterback Derek Carr said.
“He’s a great player,” Carr said. “It really doesn’t let people play man on us. It doesn’t really let people roll the coverage to one guy. You have to account for all four now. With him coming back, it’s only going to help.”
Carr has thrown 92 passes for 1,063 yards and nine touchdowns four games into the season.
Evans’ return at one of the slot receiver positions bolsters a receiver corps that has had players reach more than 100 receiving yards per game on three separate occasions.
“He’s got big play-making ability,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “He’s got experience and understands our offense very, very well.
“I think any time you put a player of his caliber on the field, as a defense, you’ve got to account for him. I think that’ll help our run game and our ability to make explosive plays.”
Evans, who will play in his first competitive game on Saturday since the 2011 season, is confident that the preparations he underwent in practices will carry over in being able to contribute to the offense right away.
“I did scout team trying to help the defense out a little bit during the week,” Evans said. “I was in there with our team just running our plays and with the first team… I just wasn’t able to do it during the game. But during practice I was out there doing it just to stay in the rhythm of things so I won’t lose a step when I get back in.
“Just going out there and making plays is what we’re supposed to be doing at receiver—that is our job description.”
Fresno State (2-2), debuts in the Mountain West Saturday after losing to Tulsa on the road. DeRuyter said it was a game where the Bulldogs executed explosive plays less frequently than they did against Oregon—the team’s other loss of the season.
“We only had five explosive plays against Tulsa,” DeRuyter said. “You have to credit them with good defense. But we had 10 explosive plays against an excellent Oregon team. There were too many little things that we neglected to do that we have to get corrected.”
San Diego State’s defense— led by senior cornerback Leon McFadden—runs an unorthodox 3-3-5 base formation (three down linemen, three linebackers and five players in the secondary).
McFadden was the Mountain West preseason selection for Defensive Player of the Year. Carr was the offensive preseason selection.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with him this offseason, so I know him pretty well,” Carr said. “He deserves all the accolades he’s going to get. We messed around with each other. I told him I was going to throw it at him. It’ll be fun to play with someone of his caliber.”
The Aztecs have allowed fewer than 100 yards rushing in their past two games. Running back Robbie Rouse has 16 career 100-yard rushing games—tied for second in school history.
“We’ve got a great offensive line and a great running back. Their whole goal is to shut the run off. If we can hit some passes and hit some third downs, then that’ll open Robbie’s lanes up a little more,” Carr said.