Cal Poly head football coach Tim Walsh feels optimistic about the Mustangs progress as the midway point of the spring schedule approaches.
Following a brisk practice early Wednesday morning at the Upper Sports Complex, Walsh said the team is starting to grasp the intricacies of the newly-installed 3-4 defensive front.
A few different wrinkles offensively have yielded encouraging results, and Walsh likes what he’s seen from the trio of kickers competing to replace the graduated Stephen Pyle.
“I think execution wise we’re still a ways away on both sides of the ball,” said Walsh, now in his eighth year at Cal Poly. “But I think we’re making progress, and that’s really good.”
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Transitioning from a 4-3 defensive front to a 3-4 formation figures to be a work in progress in the months leading up to the Sept. 3 season opener at Nevada. As productive as the Mustang offense was last year in leading the FCS in rushing for the third consecutive season, it was clear a defensive shakeup was needed.
Among the 13 teams in the Big Sky Conference, Cal Poly ranked 11th in scoring defense (35.5 points per game), 12th in pass defense (287.4 yards per game) and 12th in sacks (16). The good news is, the Mustangs return their entire defensive line and will likely start six fifth-year seniors in the front seven.
“It’s a little bit more important that guys truly understand technique that gets them to the positions they need to get to,” Walsh said. “I think that they’re starting to see how the scheme and the technique go together.”
Smeltzer sidelined with shoulder injury
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jake Smeltzer will likely have to take in the rest of spring camp from the sidelines.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Smeltzer injured his shoulder during the Mustangs first spring practice last week. He and a defensive back landed on the shoulder awkwardly after going up for a contested pass over the middle.
Walsh said he hopes Smeltzer, who is listed as Kory Fox’s backup at one of the two wide receiver spots, will be able to participate in some practices later this month. A three-star recruit out of Tesoro High in Coto de Caza, Smeltzer is expected to be among Cal Poly’s top-three receivers in the fall.
“I don’t know if he’ll be able to play in the spring game or not from a physical standpoint,” Walsh said. “That’s disappointing, but it looked like it was even worse than that when it happened. The good news is it’s not. It’s gonna get better, and that’s the important thing.”
Scrimmage set for Saturday
The Mustangs will conclude their second week of spring practice with a scrimmage Saturday morning at the Upper Sports Complex.
Practice is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and a structured scrimmage will likely kick off around 11 a.m. Beyond that, Cal Poly will hold six more practice sessions leading up to the 1 p.m. April 30 Spring Game inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.