In the beginning of the season, they called his number when the situation arose. If No. 15 Fresno State’s defense needed to pressure the quarterback, in came sophomore Ejiro Ederaine at outside linebacker.
His role has grown beyond going in the game for situational plays. Ederaine, who leads the Bulldogs with five sacks, has started the last three games at outside linebacker.
After spending the offseason fighting with Nat Harrison for that outside spot – which heated up as Ederaine showed more and more of his pass rush skills – he earned the starting nod against Hawaii on the road.
Fresno State leads the Mountain West Conference with 22 sacks.
“It really comes down to production,” Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said.
“He was coming off the bench. We were splitting reps and he was being more productive. We talk to our guys all the time you earn your reps, so make your reps count.
“Don’t count your reps, make them count – and Ejiro clearly was productive getting more and more comfortable in our system. And if he can continue to be productive, he’ll continue to be a starter.”
Ederaine’s sack against UNLV in the Bulldogs’ 38-14 win Saturday came in the first quarter – the play after Charles Washington blitzed Rebels quarterback Caleb Herring from the secondary to force a six-yard loss.
Defensive end Andy Jennings took on a double team from the right tackle and guard, leaving room for Ederaine to intrude. UNLV center Robert Waterman caught the blitz, but it was too late. At that point, Ederaine had the leverage.
“I’d say that was a team sack,” Ederaine said. “I know I got the credit, but I told Andy on the sidelines, ‘I appreciate it. That sack was all you pretty much.’ It’s always fun.”
“… The real reason why I got the sack was because Andy was a beast and he took the guard and the tackle.”
In a game in which Fresno State snapped an 18-game streak of forcing at least one turnover, the Bulldogs’ pass rush was key.
There were no forced fumbles and no interceptions against the Rebels. But there were forced throws and several punts for the UNLV offense.
Ederaine and the defensive front kept the pressure on Herring, who completed 27 of 42 passes with none of his throws going for more than 17 yards.
Wide receivers didn’t have enough time to complete deep routes and Herring did not have enough time in the pocket to throw it to them.
A solid pass rush “helps the whole defense because it helps the secondary toward actually limiting their [an opponent’s] playbook,” Ederaine said.
Ederaine has focused on crafting other aspects of his game – such as dropping into coverage as opposed to attacking the frontlines – to become more than a pass rush specialist.
“I know my pass rushing skills are showing up a little bit,” Ederaine said, “but when the opportunity comes, I feel like my other skills are going to come to light too.”