Wide receiver Namani Parker (#87) runs with the ball as wide receiver Justin Allen (#13) blocks defensive back Ka’Lonn Milton (#27) on Saturday, April 29, during the spring game at Bulldog Stadium. (Christian Ortuno/The Collegian)

Defense shines in spring game

Fresno State head football coach Jeff Tedford’s first round of practices ended Saturday with the spring game in front of thousands.

After 15 practices, the Bulldogs are on the right track, Tedford said. Staying healthy as a team along with competition between the offense and defense were definitive takeaways.

“A lot of progress in spring ball, I’m really pleased with it,” Tedford said.  “We came out injury free, which is great. You always have your fingers crossed on the last day to stay healthy, and we did that. I was really pleased today, actually. The offense got the better of it last [Saturday], and the defense rose to the occasion this week. It was really competitive and nice to see.”

The ‘Dogs took part in a series of scenarios aimed at improving timing, accuracy and fundamentals. For the offense and defense, the presumptive starters and backups took part.

The day was dominated by the defense which collected six sacks and forced two turnovers. Veteran defensive back Tank Kelly flashed his ability to get to the quarterback from the defensive backfield, while teammate Andrew Wright forced a big interception, something the ‘Dogs lacked all last season.

The ‘Dogs’ defensive line showed promise after multiple defensive stops. Led by Nathan Madsen, Patrick Belony and Justin Green, the ‘Dogs tenacious line stopped the run on multiple occasions while also applying pressure on the quarterback.

Although the defense flashed its potential throughout the afternoon, newly appointed defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer said improvement is the most important takeaway.

“I am happy with where we’re at, but not satisfied at all,” Steinauer said. “We have a long ways to go, but we are so much closer than we were when we started.”

Steinauer said he wants his defense to consistently make timely plays, as well as force turnovers when the offense is backed up.

Offensively, the ‘Dogs operated mostly in the shotgun formation, giving a hint as to what Tedford plans for the team in the fall. Incumbent quarterback Chason Virgil showed why he’ll likely get the job next season with a good showing. Backups Jorge Reyna and Christian Rossi also participated, but the amount of reps favored Virgil.

Reyna completed consecutive passes and orchestrated two goal-line scores with the second offense, but he has an outside chance to become the ‘Dogs’ starter next season.

Virgil, on the other hand, ran with the first team and completed six of his first seven passes, two to Da’Mari Scott and a fourth-down throw to KeeSean Johnson that brought almost all of the 2,500 fans in attendance to their feet.

Although the offense struggled at times, offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said the adversity is a learning opportunity.

“You want some give-and-take on both sides of the ball,” DeBoer said. “I thought there was a lot of plays that we made. We got out of our own territory, we did well with that. When you’re deep in your own territory, that’s a big deal to get a first down, and we’ve done that consistently.”

DeBoer said there is a fine line when the offense is moving the ball and catching passes barely inbounds as opposed to catching the ball an inch or two out of bounds.

The ‘Dogs wrapped up their spring program, and while the players get some much-needed vacation, the coaching staff heads off on the recruiting trail.

The team returns in June for a strength and conditioning program for current ‘Dogs and future ones, as well.