Fresno State Bulldogs

Injuries at cornerback stack up, creating a ‘next man up’ mentality for ‘Dogs

Jaron Bryant has been his consistent self at cornerback, again proving to be a solid pair with fellow senior Juju Hughes at strong safety. But the cornerback spot opposite Bryant has been a revolving door so far due to injuries.

First up was Chris Gaston, entered the season as the starter. He played against USC in Week 1, but suffered an injury. He was healthy enough to play against Minnesota the following week, but he didn’t last long.

Freshman Deshawn Ruffin replaced Gaston and finished out the game. He made his first career start against Sacramento State last week, but he couldn’t finish the game.

In came Randy Jordan, another true freshman. With Gaston out for the time being, and with Ruffin’s availability up in the air, it looks like it’s up to Jordan, a Tulare native, to lock down that corner spot.

“It’s a next man up mentality,” defensive coordinator Bert Watts said. “Everybody’s got to prepare every week like they’re going to be the starter. When it happens, then they’re ready. I think as long as the guys are continuing to have that mindset, whether it’s corner or any other position, that we’ll be ready to go.”

If Gaston and Ruffin’s injuries linger, Jordan could be the guy moving forward into Mountain West play following the New Mexico State game.

Playing so early on in his career, Jordan credits Bryant, Hughes and free safety Wylan Free for bringing him along in his short time in the program.

“They communicate good, so they make sure all the young DBs know what they’re doing – the young corners stepping up,” Jordan said.

After the Sacramento State game, in which the secondary played well outside of allowing a couple big plays, Bryant said the turnover at cornerback won’t be a problem.

“I’m not worried at all,” Bryant said. “We rotate in practice, so everybody has repetition. With the repetition that we get, everybody becomes comfortable on the field. And when you’re out there on the field, we just communicate so it makes it easier for our freshmen.”

The New Mexico State game Saturday will give Jordan, and the rest of the secondary, a taste of what the opposition in the Mountain West should be like. Although the Aggies aren’t in the Mountain West, quarterback Josh Adkins has improved week-to-week and had a good game against New Mexico.

He’s not at the same level as some of the quarterbacks in the Mountain West, but he’s not too far off.

“The quarterback I think has really grown, when you watch his stuff from last year compared to this year,” Watts said. “I think he’s grown as a quarterback to where he’s seeing better and getting the ball off in a more timely manner.”

Adkins threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns against New Mexico and is completing 64.4 percent of his passes on the season.

The Bulldogs rank in the bottom half in the nation in pass defense and rank sixth in the Mountain West.

The best quarterbacks ahead on the schedule are Colorado State’s Collin Hill, Utah State’s Jordan Love, San Jose State’s Josh Love and Hawaii’s Cole McDonald.

And there’s Boise State’s freshman standout Hank Bachmeier lying in wait in a potential Mountain West Championship matchup at the end of the season.

With Jordan gaining early experience – along with the eventual returns of Gaston and Ruffin – the secondary should be prepared for the top-tier Mountain West quarterbacks the ‘Dogs will face later in the season. 

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.