'Dogs football team breaking in with the reserves

Fresno State believes it has a good football team coming back next season.

Players think so. Coaches, too.

A lot of Red Wavers haven't been this excited about an offseason since the stretch leading up to the 2005 campaign.

And with Fresno State returning the majority of a team that went 9-4, including 15 starters, there's little reason to think otherwise.

But it's also why Fresno State spent the bulk of its scrimmage Saturday giving repetitions to its lesser-known players.

Coach Pat Hill knows who he can count on among his veteran players. He just isn't sure what to think of the backups, or the backups of backups.

"Our veteran guys, I think they're playing pretty well, but it takes all 11 guys to do it all right," Hill said. "We've got so many veteran guys sprinkled in with over 20 guys who've played only seven days [of Fresno State practice].

"We're not going to slow down our veterans for them. And sometimes we have some mistakes out there."

Of the 2 1/2 hours Fresno State practiced, about 40 minutes were devoted to scrimmaging.

Quarterback Tom Brandstater took much of the scrimmage off in favor of second and third-stringers Ryan Colburn and Matt Faulkner.

Fresno State rotated its running backs, though there was little dropoff from Ryan Mathews to Lonyae Miller to Anthony Harding.

Jamaal Rashad, who has spent the past two years sidelined with injuries and will be considered a junior next season, also has been working at running back. It's unclear what role he could be used in.

Mathews, who led the Bulldogs in rushing as a true freshman last season, looks like the favorite to start. Mathews' first touch led to a 16-yard touchdown and he ran over a defensive back before reaching the end zone.

A crowd of about 200 that watched along the berm of the practice field wowed in chorus.

Many seemed impressed after receiver Jason Crawley flattened cornerback Damion Owens on a run block. Then, Crawley slowly lifted both arms and screamed in celebration.

Crawley, who appears to be taking over Clifton Smith's role as the team's flamboyant, outspoken player, spent the entire practice with a feather latched to the top of his helmet.

"Whoever has the feather has the juice," Crawley said. "We're having fun out there, and seeing the crowd kind of got the energy going. The fans here were awesome.

"And you know, a lot of us like to please the crowd, put on a show when we can in the realm of doing what we got to do."

Fresno State has spent the first two weeks working on its base formations, schemes and plays. The Bulldogs will begin incorporating their substitution packages, such as third-down and goal-line situations, next week.

"It's a lot of teaching right now, oversaturation," Hill said. "Hopefully some of it will really stick and carry through the summer. Then in the fall, hopefully it's just a lot of recall."

Also ...

* Defensive tackle Cornell Banks has gained 35 pounds since last season, with his 6-foot-3 frame now carrying 300 pounds.

"It's a good 35 pounds," Banks said. "It feels good. I feel strong."

* Kevin Goessling, the Bulldogs' lone kicker on scholarship, showed some distance in making four of five field goals from 40 yards.

* Fresno State no longer will allow video footage of any of the scrimmages or practice to be shot by fans.

* Manoa Pouono, a former Fresno State graduate assistant and starter on the offensive line, was hired as the offensive line coach at Humboldt State.

Pouono, often called Noah, assisted with the Bulldogs the past two years and played from 2003-04.