2011 Fresno State Preview – Offense
Fresno State RB Robbie Rouse
Fresno State RB Robbie Rouse
Posted May 30, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Fresno State Bulldog Offense

Fresno State Bulldogs

Preview 2011 - Offense

- 2011 Fresno State Preview | 2011 Fresno State Offense
- 2011 Fresno State Defense | 2011 Fresno State Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: The offense was a disappointment, averaging just 371 yards per game, but the running game was decent and there was enough pop to the passing game to get the offense vertical from time to time. It's rebuilding time at several spots, but there might be an upgrade in the overall effectiveness. If Derek Carr can live up to the hype, or come close, the Bulldogs have a franchise-maker at quarterback for the next few years. The backfield should be terrific if everyone can stay healthy, and the receiving corps might turn out to be stronger even with the loss of leading target Jamel Hamler. The line, though, is a huge question mark after failing to keep the quarterback upright throughout last year and not doing enough for the ground game against the better teams.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Isaiah Burse
1-2, 43 yds, 1 TD,
Rushing: Robbie Rouse
205 carries, 1,129 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Rashad Evans
39 catches, 424 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Derek Carr
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior C Matt Hunt
Unsung star on the rise: Junior RB Milton Knox
Best pro prospect: Carr
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carr, 2) RB Robbie Rouse, 3) WR Rashad Evans
Strength of the offense: Running Backs, Speed Receivers
Weakness of the offense: Line Depth, Pass Protection


State of the Unit: The Fresno State passing game was defense and efficient, but it wasn't a bombs away attack that Bulldog fans might be used to. Ryan Colburn was solid, but he didn't live up to his immense potential even though he completed 63% of his throws for 2,817 yards and 23 touchdowns with nine picks. He's gone, but there's tremendous talent returning and excellent upside.

School legend Davis Carr's little brother, Derek Carr got to school early and was supposed to see time right away, and he burned a redshirt year completing 10-of-14 passes for 112 yards in 2009, but he sat out last year with Colburn firmly entrenched in the job. Now the excitement is through the roof for the 6-3, 205-pound sophomore with phenomenal athleticism. He doesn't have the thunderbolt of an arm that his brother does, but he's a far better runner than the former No. 1 overall draft pick and is a dangerous all-around playmaker. The program is his for the next three seasons.

Redshirt freshman Greg Watson is a decent talent with a good arm and nice mobility, but he's only 6-0 and 190 pounds and doesn't have nearly the arm that Carr has. Even so, he's a nice option who looked good enough this spring to be fill-in if needed. He'll battle with former JUCO transfer Kelly O'Brien, a 6-7, 200-pound gunner who has a strong, accurate arm, but isn't going to drive the ball down the field like Carr can. The son of former NFL quarterback Ken O'Brien has the family history, and he has a little bit of experience throwing for 1,215 yards and 15 scores for Foothill Junior College, but he's going to be the No. 3.

Watch Out For … Carr to be special. Watch how quickly the NFL types start to drool once Carr makes one big throw on the move. He'll never be a No. 1 overall draft pick, but everything is in place to progress into a pro starter.
Strength: Carr. It seems like he has gone from being a good prospect to a strong all-around prospect and a franchise maker. There was a thought that he'd be a starter as a true freshman, but he waited his turn over the last few years and now he's ready to explode.
Weakness: Experience. As good as Carr should be, he only has 14 passes under his belt. Watson is still green and O'Brien has a little of JUCO time logged in.
Outlook: The expectations for Carr are through the roof and a bit unfair. He's going to be good, but if he can match Colburn's 2010 season, that wouldn't be bad. Eventually, though, he should be the best quarterback in the Mountain West when the Bulldogs make the move, and he might be the best passer in the WAC this year.
Unit Rating: 7

Running Backs

State of the Unit: The loss of Ryan Mathews hurt, but the Bulldogs still got decent rushing production at times averaging 151 yards per game and finishing with 19 touchdowns and averaging four yards per carry. The top runners from last season are all back, and if the offensive line can stay healthy, the ground game will be far more effective to take the heat off of Derek Carr and the passing game early on.

Junior Robbie Rouse was the best running back in college football over a midseason stretch. After struggling through an ankle injury early on, he bounced back to rip up the WAC over a four game stretch running for 150 yards and two scores against NMSU, 116 yards and two scores against San Jose State, 286 yards and a score on 43 carries against Louisiana Tech, and 217 yards and two touchdowns against Nevada. 112 carries in four games wore him down leading to rib problems late in the year. At 5-7, 190-pounder is a quick rusher with the burst to take it the distance every time he touches the ball, and he can be used as a workhorse from time to time. However, he's not built to take a pounding and would be best with 15-to-20 carries per game. A decent receiver, he caught 15 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

Rouse might be the No. 1 guy, but UCLA transfer Milton Knox showed this offseason that he's good enough to push for at least ten carries per game. He's not all that big at 5-9 and 205 pounds, but he's a physical inside rusher who attacks every carry and runs hard. He's not the flashy back that Rouse is, but he can move.

The combination of juniors Michael Harris and A.J. Ellis will work into the rotation once they're both healthy. The 5-11, 200-pound Harris is one of the bigger options, but he's not a power back. The type of player who can crank out yards in chunks, averaging 9.73 yards per carry in his final year of high school, he has seen a little bit of time running for 101 yards and two scores last year, but he was banged up in spring ball, as was the 5-11, 180-pound Ellis, who might have the best jets of a fast group. He finished second on the team with 281 yards and three touchdowns with 165 of his yards and two scores coming against Utah State. Injured during the year, he didn't get back into the mix until late running for 99 yards against Idaho and Illinois, and he'll be a part of the equation this season as long as he's healthy.

Watch Out For … Knox. The former UCLA Bruin got his feet wet in the Pac-10 with 134 yards in 2009, and now he should be a major factor for the Bulldogs. A Parade All-American, he ran for 2,210 yards and 39 touchdowns in his senior year in high school and was a top recruit for UCLA. He's ready to make an impact.
Strength: Speed. Knox can run, Rouse is a home run hitter, and Ellis can fly. Yards per carry won't be a problem as long as the backs can get into a little bit of space. Fresno State has become a bit of a running back factory, and this group should show it.
Weakness: Health. Harris and Ellis were already banged up this offseason and Rouse couldn't stay healthy last year. If and when everyone is right, this will be a dangerous backfield that can tear off yards in chunks. It'll be a shock if there aren't health problems.
Outlook: There will be times when the running game explodes and blows out mediocre teams. There should be a steady stream of fast runners with four good backs to rotate, and all will tear off yards in chunks. The backs should combine for over 2,500 yards, with Rouse coming up with a 1,500-yard campaign if he can stay healthy.
Unit Rating: 7


State of the Unit: The receiving corps loses Jamel Hamler and his team-leading 54 catches for 812 yards and six touchdowns, but it gets back the rest of the key targets and enough promising young players to expect the passing attack to shine. There's speed, depth, and upside.

With Hamler gone, junior Rashad Evans will likely become the team's No. 1 target after finishing second on the team with 39 catches for 424 yards and four scores. At 5-11 and 190 pounds he's not huge, but he's quick enough to be the team's top punt returner and is a weapon with the deep speed to come up with the big play. He only averaged 10.9 yards per catch, but he has the upside to hit the home run from anywhere on the field. 6-0, 185-pound sophomore A.J. Johnson spent his high school career as a quarterback but quickly switched over to wideout and finished fourth on the team with 20 catches for 241 yards and a score. He's quick and get deep when needed.

Sophomore Jalen Saunders came in as a true freshman and produced with a team-leading 1,435 all-purpose yards catching 30 passes for 462 yards and three scores, averaging a team-leading 15.4 yards per catch, while averaging a tremendous 23.1 yards per kickoff return. At 5-9 and 160 pounds, he's small, but he's fluid, quick, and can make the big play highlighted by a 78-yard score against Illinois. He'll combine at one spot with 5-11, 195-pound senior J.J. Stallworth, who has seen a little time with two catches for 23 yards, and 6-2, 190-pound redshirt freshman Josh Harper, who blew off a slew of current Pac-12 schools to come to Fresno State. He's big, fast, and talented enough to eventually become a No. 1.

5-9, 170-pound Devon Wylie hasn't come up with the career expected considering his talent and athleticism, but he gets one more chance after missing most of last year with a foot injury. This was coming off a nagging hamstring problem that hounded him throughout 2009, but when he's right, he has some of the best wheels on the team with the speed to let the quarterbacks air it out. After rocking in practices over the years, he has to show he can do it on a regular basis on gameday. He'll be backed up by the multi-talented Isaiah Burse, a 5-9, 185-pound quick target who worked in the Hound formation running 16 times for 71 yards and a score, catching 13 passes for 190 yards and two scores, and completing one of two passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. Not originally a receiver, he's a jack-of-all-trades who's getting used to being a regular receiver.

Taking over the tight end job from Vince Pascoe, who blocked a bit and only caught five passes for 50 yards, will be the senior Ryan Skidmore, a big receiver who should be a far more dangerous target than Pascoe. The 6-5, 240-pounder didn't do anything last year, but has the hands and speed to get deep, while sophomore Ryan Boschma moves over from the defensive side and should be a blocker. The walk-on is physical and had a tremendous spring, proving that he's by far the best blocking option.

Watch Out For … Harper. He might be third on the depth chart coming out of spring ball, but that will quickly change. He has the size, the smooth route-running ability, and the upside to be the team's most dangerous target. The special skills are there to be dangerous with a little bit of time and work.
Strength: Deep speed. Fresno State always has targets who can make big plays, and with a bomber with a great arm in QB Derek Carr under center, the speedsters will shine. The passing game should be able to push the ball down the field on a regular basis.
Weakness: Tight end. Bear Pascoe was a key target a few years ago, but his brother Vince couldn't do much last year and Skidmore is still a question mark. The potential is there, but he has to show he can be a factor early on.
Outlook: Hamler won't be missed. The Bulldogs have enough talented targets and enough speed and depth to use several different players to spread the ball around. The deep balls will be flying with Carr under center, and the potential is there for this to be one of the WAC's best receiving corps if Evans, Saunders, or Wylie can become a go-to receiver on key plays.
Unit Rating: 7

Offensive Line

State of the Unit: Former starting quarterback Ryan Colburn wasn't immobile, but he wasn't exactly Cam Newton when it came to running the ball. Even so, the offensive line was a disaster in pass protection allowing 36 sacks on the year. It did a nice job for the running game, but consistency was an issue. Considering all five starters returned, the season was a disappointment. This year, the starting five should be solid in time, but depth is going to play a big issue.

The key to the line is the return of senior left tackle Bryce Harris, who had the unenviable task of replacing Bobby Lepori last year. The 6-6, 305-pounder started every game, and while he struggled as a pass protector, he wasn't the problem. With good strength and decent athleticism, he moves well and should be stronger against most speed rushers. The understudy, and possible starter next year, is 6-6, 280-pound redshirt freshman Andrew Gustafson, a good athlete who beefed up close to 20 pounds over the last year.

Taking over for Devon Cunningham at left guard is 6-2, 320-pound junior Matt Hunt, a decent reserve with anchor potential. He has the size and the bulk to be a strong, nasty run blocker who has been great in practices over the last few years and filled in at right guard late last season. Now he's ready for the full-time job. The backup is 6-5, 300-pound Trevor Richter, who has nice size and has hit the weights hard, but he has yet to see the field.

The spotlight will be on center Richard Helepiko, and not just because he has to take over for mainstay Joe Bernardi in the middle. The Bulldogs are extremely thin at center, and the 6-2, 305-pound junior is by far the best and most talented option to quarterback the front five. 6-5, 280-pound Lars Bramer has good upside and moves well, but there's a drop-off from Helepiko.

The other position in question is right guard, where 6-3, 320-pound Leslie Cooper is back as the main man after working in and out of the starting lineup. While he can play center if needed, he's a tough, pounding guard with great size and good upside. The senior needs to be a rock with the depth at guard an issue. Former Nebraska lineman Quinton Toailoa came to Fresno State as a defensive tackle but will try to provide a little bit of depth at guard. At 6-4 and 300 pounds he has the size, but he has to show he can handle himself at his new spot.

Right tackle should be set with 6-5, 305-pound sophomore Austin Wentworth ready to take over for 13-game starter Kenny Wiggins. Wentworth saw time in eight games and proved to be tough and physical as a run blocker. Can he pass protect? The jury is still out, but he has the talent to grow into a steady rock on the outside for the next three years.

Watch Out For … Hunt. The size is there and he has just enough experience to be ready to rock as the anchor at left guard. He's a tough, strong, talented blocker who's good enough to work the running game behind with Harris helping the cause at tackle.
Strength: Size. This is a big, bulky, Big Ten-caliber line, at least size-wise, with the starting five averaging around 6-3 and 310 pounds. Pushing around the weaker defensive fronts won't be a problem.
Weakness: Pass protection. The line got worn out by anyone with a speed rusher who could turn the corner, and while Derek Carr has the mobility to get out of jams, he'll need more time than Ryan Colburn got last year. Depth is also going to be a concern with uh-oh time coming if injuries strike at center and right guard.
Outlook: The Fresno line was a disappointment last year considering all the returning talent. By comparison, not much will be expected out of this group with so much turnover and so many new starters, but everything will be fine as long as there's not a rash of injuries. The Bulldogs will run block without a problem, but the tackles have to be quicker. Last year's like was experienced and athletic, but this year's group will be tough and bulky. It might be more effective, too.
Unit Rating: 6

- 2011 Fresno State Preview | 2011 Fresno State Offense
- 2011 Fresno State Defense | 2011 Fresno State Depth Chart
- Fresno State Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006