Fresno State defensive lineman Nate Madsen earned his way onto the field as a redshirt freshman at defensive end and became a starter as a sophomore by filling the void left by Tyeler Davison at noseguard.
Madsen was one of the few bright spots on the 2015 defense in his job of learning the nose and with such little depth behind him, he played nearly every snap.
Now a similar scenario calls for Madsen to move back to defensive end. The Bulldogs added junior college transfer Malik Forrester at noseguard this spring and Patrick Belony is now ready to contribute at the nose after a redshirt year.
“They moved me back to end so they must have felt confident with those guys at nose,” Madsen said. “I think they’re learning a whole lot of new stuff. They’re learning how to play defensive line at Fresno State; it’s a big step up. I think they’re getting the hang of it and they just need to keep getting better.
“I had a big learning curve, but I got a hold of it eventually. They’ll get there, it just takes some time.”
Forrester has the advantage so far between the two.
“I think Malik Forrester has done a really nice job assimilating to what we’re trying to do,” Fresno State Head Coach Tim DeRuyter said. “He’s extremely powerful. He’s really the prototype in what we’re looking for in a nose guard. I think he’s competing real well.”
Though the Bulldogs expect to be ready at nose in 2016, it is the end positions where the staff is scrambling as they did t nose last year.
Fresno State lost its two senior ends from the 2015 squad in Todd Hunt and Claudell Louis, while the next defensive end on the depth chart, Kyle Hendrickson, is still rehabbing from an injury suffered in the season finale. Madsen’s move fills one of the defensive end spots, while Nick Kristofors currently holds the first team spot opposite to Madsen.
Madsen said the biggest transition in switching back to end is relearning the technique. The biggest carryover from the nose position for him was the physicality it took to play in the middle, he said, as well as having a better overall knowledge of the defense.
“I’m realizing that it’s not just your position, there are other positions around you,” Madsen said.
Beyond the first team, Fresno State is currently quite thin. Redshirt freshman Mason Bradley and preferred walk-on Wyatt McBee held the second team spots in the team’s first practice. Additions of junior college transfers Austin Vaimili and Elijah Piper and the return of Hendrickson should put the ‘Dogs in a more comfortable position.
There is a lot of inexperience on the defensive line, but the same can be said of the offensive line. Three new junior college transfers are all on the two-deep of the O-line. Christian Cronk has made the move to first team tackle. The new faces are giving Madsen a fresh look in spring.
“They’ve got a lot of guys I’ve never played against before,” Madsen said. “I’m just seeing how they attack and their technique. That happens throughout the season. You want to observe a guy and realize how he comes off the ball or what he does to see what you can do better.”
Of the new coordinators, Madsen added that there is a “higher energy” in the room with Lorenzo Ward stepping in on defense. In practice, the biggest thing he has noticed from Eric Kiesau’s version of the Fresno State offense is a faster tempo.