Spring football is officially underway. The team practiced Monday at Bulldog Stadium for the first time under new head coach Jeff Tedford as the Bulldogs prepare for the upcoming season.
“It’s great to be out here, no doubt,” Tedford said. “To get out here and see them in action – a lot of kinks for sure. Everybody is getting used to how we practice and what our system is and things like that. But good energy, and the guys worked hard.”
The first few practices are without pads, only helmets, as the ‘Dogs familiarize themselves with the new coaching staff and the different offensive and defensive schemes.
Tedford said that no players stood out to him at practice, but that was because it was the first day.
“It’s the first day with just helmets on, so it is difficult to evaluate anything,” Tedford said. “We’ll go in and watch the tape and look at certain things and continue to improve every day. When the pads get on, it will be more like real football.”
Sophomore quarterback Chason Virgil was excited to be back on the field practicing with his teammates in front of the coaches. Along with Tedford, every other coach is in their first season with Fresno State.
“It’s been a smooth transition,” Virgil said. “I think this group of players that we have – we’ve kind of got used to seeing new faces come in and out. So we’re kind of good at adjusting, and we just really want to win bad. We know coach Tedford has won in the past, and just giving us a vision. We’re just ready to follow his plan and his leadership and just lead us to where we want to go.”
Junior wide receiver KeeSean Johnson said that the first practice started off a little faster than last year, and it is challenging with the complete coaching staff turnover.
“It’s definitely an adjustment, because you have to get to know every coach over again, and that’s always a tough thing to do when you have school and football to worry about,” Johnson said.
The offense, under the guidance of Tedford and offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, is switching from the spread, which was used under former head coach Tim DeRuyter, to the pro-style offense.
“We’ll use some of the spread concepts at times, and today we were probably in more spread than what you’d be considering pro-style,” DeBoer said. “But a lot of it is just a matter of what our personnel can do.”
Switching the offense presents a fair amount of challenges, especially when it comes to the players’ capabilities and skills on the field.
“I think we need to adapt what we do to what our guys can run,” DeBoer said. “We don’t want to make our players that we have right now have to fit a system. Let’s make our system fit the players we have.”
DeBoer said that the starting quarterback will not be named in the spring.
“It will be something we do going into the fall,” DeBoer said. “We want to narrow it down. It gives those guys that we think have a chance to be our starter the ‘one’ reps, and rotate them, but you don’t want to sell anyone short. You want to give them all the chance here early on.”
Virgil said that all four quarterbacks competing for the starting job expect to win it, and that they all need to prove themselves to the coaches, build relationships with the players and coaches and become team leaders.
Even though Virgil recently had surgery on his left shoulder, his non-throwing arm, he said he is feeling great and is almost completely healthy.
Fresno State has 15 spring practices in total. The team practices Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from now until the Spring Game on April 29. Practice is off during Spring Break.
Coming off three straight losing seasons, the ‘Dogs have a fresh start with Tedford, and have a chance to turn the program around.
“Regardless of the last three years, each year is a new year,” Johnson said. “So you’ve got to come out with a new mentality each year and just go 1-0 by the day.”