If you missed the end of recent San José State University football practices, then you did not see fifth-year senior Dasheon Frierson and graduate student Forrest Hightower spending time on the field with freshmen Khalil Rashaad-Brown, Andre Chachere and Maurice McKnight. The Spartan veterans probably spent 20 minutes of their own time helping the newcomers pick up on the tricks of the trade they will need this season.
"We want to make sure our young players are learning a lot so they can come in and play a lot. That sets the tone for when they come in next year for them to teach next year's freshmen," says Frierson, who set a single-game school record with five passes defensed in the 2013 win at Hawaii.
To third-year defensive back Jimmy Pruitt, that's one more sign the San José State defense expects to be more effective and productive in 2014. For Pruitt, he is returning to a cornerback role after starting at a safety position a year ago. When the 6-foot- junior from San Diego was in the same shoes as McKnight, Rashaad-Brown and Chachere two year ago, Pruitt blossomed into a solid player during the Spartans' 11-2 win-loss record in 2012.
"From last year, we've come a long way. We had a lot of young dudes playing on defense last year. This year, we're coming together and working harder. We're playing better together as a group and as a unit," says Pruitt, who has 15 starts in his first two seasons. He believes the one season at safety helped him understand better everybody's role defensively.
"We're rallying to the ball. Coach GRob (Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson) is making sure we rally to the ball on every play. I think is going to be a special year. We're bonding more and we're laughing more. We're having fun out here at practice."
McKnight, Rashaad-Brown, Chachere, David Williams and Drew Mount are five freshmen that began preseason camp as defensive back hopefuls. Lately, Delshawn Mitchell, another freshman from Wilcox High in Santa Clara, joined the mix.
"From all the years I've been here, this is one of the nicest secondaries we've had. In previous years, we've had no depth. We'd start camp with five or six and end up with three because of injuries. So (in practice), we would go one group, two group and three group, same corners and same safeties. Everybody would be playing both positions. It would get tiring," Pruitt describes about past pre-seasons.
"We're going to be good all around. We have a lot of weapons. So, when one person gets tired, we're not afraid to put the next person in. He can do the same as the first guy."
You can see the fruits of their labor, Saturday, August 16, starting at 4:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium when the team holds its second and final preseason scrimmage as part of the annual Spartan FanFest. Following the scrimmage, players and Coach Caragher will be available for autographs and pictures. There is no admission charge. Free parking is available in the 7th Street Park & Ride Lot. The mezzanine concession stand on the west side will be open.