Aztecs football notebook: DE Garret Fountain expected back from elbow injury before season opener

5-7 minutes 8/8/2023
Two weeks into preseason camp, San Diego State has a handful of football players nursing nicks and bruises, strains and sprains.
The most notable — and unspecified — injury is to starting defensive end Garret Fountain, who watched Monday’s practice while wearing a right elbow brace.
Fountain had a sling on his right arm while watching Saturday’s scrimmage, so being able to move his arm around was a sign of progress.
Required to observe rather than participate, Fountain seemed filled with nervous energy as he followed his defensive line mates from drill to drill.
At one juncture, during a rushing drill, Fountain watched from a few yards down the line and several times got in a three-point stance and practiced firing off with the snap.
“He’s progressing good,” SDSU coach Brady Hoke said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
When asked for details, Hoke said, “I’m not allowed to talk about injuries.”
However, Hoke said he expected Fountain to be ready for the Aug. 26 season opener against Ohio.
Fountain is a senior who has received countless reps through the years, so missing practice time is not as critical as it would be for a younger player.
If there is an upside to his absence, it is the opportunity it presents for others.
“We’ve got some new faces, obviously,” Hoke said. “It will give them a chance to get a couple more reps. The thing you miss is Garret’s leadership and his consistency. But I know he’s ready to play.”
Redshirt freshman Ryan Henderson started in place of Fountain at Saturday’s scrimmage.
Ryan Henderson has got ability,” Hoke said. “I like him.”
Others who have been sidelined include running back Sheldon Canley II and wide receivers Jelani Whitmore, Derek Smith and Baylin Brooks, who do rehab exercises off to the side while their teammates practice.
When it was noted that linebackers Kyron White and Zyrus Fiaseu were absent from practice, Hoke repeated: “I’m not allowed to talk about injuries.”
He did say White and Fiaseu had medical issues and both are still with the team.
Getting physical
After reviewing Saturday’s scrimmage, Hoke said he was impressed with the team’s physical play.
“I was very happy on both sides of the ball with that,” he said, adding, “Offense, we can’t give the ball back (on turnovers). We did that (four interceptions, three fumbles). ... We’ve got to clean that up, but overall I thought execution was pretty good.
“Are we ready to play the game? No, but we’re getting there.”
On defense, the play of the secondary stood out, including that of three new safeties — freshman Marcus Ratcliffe (Cathedral Catholic High School), junior transfer JD Coffey III (Texas) and senior transfer Deshawn McCuin (TCU).
“Ratcliffe is a guy who shows up at the football a bunch,” Hoke said. “I think Coffey and McCuin will both help us as we go forward.”
Hoke expects starting spots on both sides of the ball to be won during scrimmages at Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday and Aug. 16.
“Wednesday will be 10 days before the game and we should have things more settled down by then,” Hoke said.
Blake impresses
Sophomore running back Martin Blake is one of those players who could quickly develop into a fan favorite.
Blake is a 5-foot-6, 205-pound walk-on from Las Vegas’ Canyon Springs High School — the same school that produced NCAA career rushing leader DJ Pumphrey — who is a bull in short-yardage situations, has a knack for beating defenders around the corner and turning upfield and also catching passes out of the backfield.
Blake turned a short reception Saturday into a 55-yard gain, the offense’s longest play of the afternoon.
It has not gone unnoticed.
“Martin is a guy I really like,” Hoke said. “He’s dependable in everything that we do.
“If we need to sweep the locker room out, he will be the first one (to volunteer). He’s an unbelievable kid. I’m really glad he’s on our team, and he’s really showing abilities that I don’t know if we thought he had. He’s done a nice job.”
It is a crowded running backs room with the likes of senior starter Kenan Christon, junior Jaylon Armstead and sophomore Cam Davis, along with redshirt freshmen Lucky Sutton and Sheldon Canley II. Blake is the only walk-on among the six players.
Blake rushed nine times a year ago, getting the ball in mop-up time. Has he earned some more meaningful carries?
“I think so,” said Hoke, who praised Blake’s football IQ. “I don’t mind it being crowded. We’ve just got to make sure of certain plays for certain guys.”
Williams to sit out
The Aztecs had hoped wide receiver Raphael Williams Jr., a junior transfer from Western Carolina, would be eligible to play this season, but it appears unlikely.
“I don’t think so,” Hoke said. “It’s too bad.”
The NCAA allows players to be immediately eligible as first-time transfers from one four-year school to another, but they must sit out a year after additional transfers.
This is Williams’ second transfer. He would have required a hardship approval to be immediately eligible.

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