Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Position Breakdown 2010: Fullbacks

Returning: Austin Raphael, Dylan Cruz, Ibe Nduka

Newcomers: Tim House
Lost: Reynard Camp

Austin Raphael: Offense likely won't be sans Raphael
Jr, 6'2", 225
Jamestown (Sonora HS)

It remains to be seen how Fresno State plans to use its fullbacks this season, but all signs point to not much in the passing game. No one on the depth chart has a single career reception, including Austin Raphael, who was converted from linebacker before last season and is the only player with game experience. Raphael doesn't have the pulverizing build of recent stud fullbacks Reynard Camp, Nathan Adams and Roshon Vercher, but the Bulldogs' offense is built more around speedy, shifty athletes who can spread the field nowadays. Raphael received essentially all first-team reps in fall camp.

DaCo on Raphael: Raphael is one of several fullbacks, who, because of Fresno State's evolving style of offense, will likely have a minimal role. Raphael's biggest potential for impact is as a mismatch in the flats against linebackers, because he does possess decent speed and skill with the ball. However, for those mismatches to come into play, he'll also have to establish himself as a valued run blocker.

FSDogs1 on Raphael: Despite his 0 career catches, Raphael is capable of being a last-read target for Ryan Colburn. But what will really determine how good he'll be at the position is how his impact blocking comes along. One thing is for sure -- he's improved from last season.

Dylan Cruz: All aboard the Cruz ship
R-Fr, 5'11", 225
Fontana (Redlands East Valley HS)

For now, Dylan Cruz is a young walk-on nobody knows about. But don't count on that being the case for long. He redshirted last season and has the prototypical power fullback build. Couple that with tailback-like footwork and a linebacker's explosiveness, and you've got a heck of a fullback prospect. That's what Cruz is. Fresno State has a history of turning walk-ons into difference makers at the position (Reynard Camp, Nathan Adams, Stephen Spach) and Cruz just might be the next in line. That said, if Austin Raphael remains the starter, and the Bulldogs don't plan for the fullback to be a big part of the offense, Raphael may be the only one to dress, given Fresno State's tight end position flexibility.

DaCo on Cruz: Simply put, Cruz is a tremendous athlete. Watching his reps in practice, it's easy to earmark him as the guy with the impressive physique and the agility of a running back. His potential as a bulldozer type is very much unproven though, even in his practice time. Still, Cruz is a hybrid-type player at the position, and is a legitimate prospect at fullback.

FSDogs1 on Cruz: Sign me up for the Dylan Cruz fan club. I've seen enough talent during his practice reps to be sold on his potential, but came away from fall camp wishing he would have been given more of a shot at a starting role.

Ibe Nduka: One guy you don't want to Nduk' it out with
R-Fr, 6'0", 220
Etiwanda (Etiwanda HS)

Though he's not yet up to par with the others competing for playing time, Ibe Nduka might have the most upside -- the most room to blossom. He was converted from defensive end during his redshirt season and has the powerful, compact frame, but doesn't yet hit the gaps with the same tenacity you'd want out of a starter.

DaCo on Nduka: The first day I saw Nduka, I muttered aloud that his build fit the fullback mold perfectly. One spring later, I had to figure out something else to mutter. Nduka is built powerfully and strong, pretty much ideal for a full-time battering ram. He's very much raw at the position, and hasn't quite grasped his new role (as a blocker) quite as quickly as hoped, though he still might be the best at it of this group.

FSDogs1 on Nduka: He's an intriguing prospect because of his build alone, but right now it's tough to tell how bad he wants to excel at the position.

Tim House: House finding a home at fullback
Fr, 6'3", 240
Oakdale (Oakdale HS)

Like Dylan Cruz, walk-on true freshman Tim House has tailback-type footwork and might be the fastest in the group. He's also the biggest. House's high school film shows he has running ability, which could evolve into a role for him down the road -- but not this season.

DaCo on House: The deeper you dig into this position, the more you realize the bodies and potential at fullback are there. House clearly brings a rare ability to run the ball effectively with power, but he has extremely limited experience sacrificing his body for the guy behind him. If House develops the confidence to steal this job down the road, he can offer great value to the offense.

FSDogs1 on House: Two years from now, the 'Dogs could be stocked at fullback with Tim House and Dylan Cruz. They are both under-the-radar prospects who could be strong suits later on.
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