2012 Fresno State Preview
Fresno State QB Derek Carr & RB Robbie Rouse
Fresno State QB Derek Carr & RB Robbie Rouse
Posted Jul 31, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Fresno State Bulldogs

Fresno State Bulldogs

Preview 2012

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Tim DeRuyter
1st year
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 17, Def. 17, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Fresno St Players
1. RB Robbie Rouse, Sr.
2. QB Derek Carr, Jr.
3. LB Travis Brown, Sr.
4. DT Anthony Williams, Sr.
5. SS Phillip Thomas, Sr.
6. CB L.J. Jones, Jr.
7. DT Tyeler Davison, Soph.
8. WR Josh Harper, Soph.
9. LB Jeremiah Toma, Jr.
10. DE Tristan Okpalaugo, Sr.

Unit Rankings
QB - 8
RB - 7.5
WR - 6.5
OL - 6
DL - 5.5
LB - 5.5
DB - 5.5
ST - 5
2012 Schedule
Sep. 1 Weber State
Sep. 8 at Oregon
Sep. 15 Colorado
Sep. 22 at Tulsa
Sep. 29 San Diego State
Oct. 6 at Colorado State
Oct. 13 at Boise State
Oct. 20 Wyoming
Oct. 27 at New Mexico
Nov. 3 Hawaii
Nov. 10 at Nevada
Nov. 24 Air Force
This could be just the tweak needed to make Fresno State into a tough out again.

It has been a while since the Bulldogs threw a scare into the big boys on a regular basis, even with a few wins over BCS teams here and there, but it isn't like the program has fallen off the map. Pat Hill did an amazing job over his 14 years, and while last season was a wildly disappointing 4-9 campaign, there's no need for new head man Tim DeRuyter to do a major rebuilding job.

Last year's team was disastrous on defense thanks to a slew of injuries in the secondary and without any takeaways – coming up with a mere nine – and that's where DeRuyter should step in and help right away after creating an ultra-aggressive D at Texas A&M.

Headed up by offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, DeRuyter is also planning on bringing the Aggie offense over to Fresno, getting even more out of the passing game and cranking up the production a bit more. A little bit of new blood and new ideas might be enough to change things around for a team that lost four of its last five games by a touchdown or less.

Quarterback Derek Carr is getting a hard look by the NFL types with good size and a top arm, and while he might not be his brother, David, he has the talent to be a great fit for the new spread offense and the ramped up passing game. Robbie Rouse might be the nation's best running back you've never heard of, and he should be strong working behind a decent line that should be terrific in pass protection.

The defense that was so lousy last season will work first and foremost on stuffing the run with a few excellent tackles anchoring the 3-4 and a good-looking starting back eight that should be more consistent and more productive. Can DeRuyter crank the aggression up and get more big plays out of the veterans? That might turn out to be the key to the season.

It will be a battle to find the right placekicker, the coverage teams have to be far stronger and Andrew Shapiro could use more pop on his punts, but the special teams shouldn't be too bad with Isaiah Burse a nice returner to count on.

Will it be enough to make Fresno State the new monster in the Mountain West?

When Boise State takes off next year, there will be a void for a program to step up and be the new bright, shining star, and DeRuyter is the one who appears to be the right coach at the right time for the right program. He was a good get for Fresno State, and he should show why in a hurry.

What You Need To Know …

Offense: Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm has lots of great pieces to work with from an offense that was excellent, but wasn't able to make up for the problems on defense. Quarterback Derek Carr should be among the Mountain West's top offensive stars and a great leader for the new spread attack helped by Robbie Rouse, a big-time back coming off a 1,549-yard, 13 touchdown season. The big line is strong on the outside with both starting tackles returning and a veteran center in Richard Helepiko to lead the way. However, there should be plenty of movement to find the right combination. Top target Jalen Saunders transferred and Devon Wylie is gone, but there are plenty of good options for the four-wide system. There are plenty of speedsters and enough experience to get by with Rashad Evans and Josh Evans good enough to put up big numbers.

Defense: The defense was miserable getting ripped apart for 436 yards and 35 points per game, and worse yet, it couldn't come up with any big plays tying for a nation-low with just nine takeaways. The run defense was bad and the pass defense worse giving rookie defensive coordinator Nick Toth a lot of work to do. There should be a good rotation in the middle up front in the 3-4 with Anthony Williams and Tyeler Davison big bodies to stuff things up. There needs to be more of a pass rush hoping for all-star Travis Brown to do even more at one outside linebacker spot. With end Tristan Okpalaugo moving to a hybrid linebacker, the corps is loaded with veterans. The secondary should be night-and-day better with the return of two key safeties. Free safety Derron Smith is back after suffering a broken arm, while strong safety Phillip Thomas should be one of the team's leading tacklers and an all-star now that he's back from a broken leg.

What to watch for on offense: The maturation of the passing game. It's not like Fresno State needs to do more through the air finishing 31st in the nation in passing efficiency and averaging 273 yards per game with Carr throwing 26 touchdown passes with nine picks. He can do even more. The loss of Saunders and Wylie are gone, but the next three top targets are back not including an excellent outlet in Rouse to rely on. The new offense will rely on Rouse to rip off big runs on a regular basis, but the potential is there for Carr to go from good to WOW if he can catch on to the reads and the timing right away. Both starting tackles are back to help keep him upright, and speed and athleticism isn't a problem in the receiving corps.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. Last year, Texas A&M led the nation in sacks averaging close to four per games and finished third in tackles for loss averaging eight per outing. In 2009, Fresno State had the second-worst pass rush in the nation but wasn't bad at coming up with tackles for loss. Even so, the goal was to start hitting the quarterback again, and the D did finishing ninth in the nation in sacks and 35th in tackles for loss. Last year the production wasn't there on a consistent basis, and while the pass rush wasn't bad, it wasn't exactly dominant. The goal for new defensive coordinator Nick Toth will be to crank out lots and lots of big hits and be more disruptive. There isn't a Von Miller or Sean Porter to rely on as a terror into the backfield, but Tristan Okpalaugo and Travis Brown can move.

The team will be far better if … the defense can start forcing a few turnovers. The Bulldogs recovered a pathetic four fumbles. They forced 17, but they came up with those four spread out throughout the season with just one in the final six games. The interceptions didn't come, either, with a mere two over the final 11 games after coming up with three in the first two games. That means that from the North Dakota on, Fresno State came u with five takeaways over the final 11 games.

The schedule: Welcome to the Mountain West. Do the Bulldogs get a break? No, they miss UNLV from the league schedule. However, they should be able to handle themselves at home against San Diego State, Air Force, and Hawaii. Forget about winning the league title with trips to Ball State and Nevada, but going to Colorado State and New Mexico isn't bad. It's Fresno State, so there are games against the big names going to Oregon and getting Colorado.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Robbie Rouse. He made a big splash two years ago with a phenomenal four-game stretch tearing off 769 yards and seven scores. Last year he managed to stay healthy for the entire season and was a workhorse tearing off 1,549 yards and 13 scores on 329 carries while catching 32 passes for 228 yards and a score. At 5-7 and 185 pounds he's a smallish, quick back who's a mortal lock to become the school's all-time leading rusher needing just 317 yards – it's not insane to think he could get that against Weber State if he was fed the ball enough. There are plenty of good players on both sides of the ball, but Rouse is the star of the show.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Travis Brown. A tackling machine, Brown followed up a 79 tackle season with a team-leading 85 stops with three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 235 pounds he has good size and is an active all-around playmaker who could become a more effective pass rusher and should put up even bigger numbers if he can come back 100% from a shoulder problem. A peerless tackler, he led his California state title team with 165 stops in his final season.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DT Anthony Williams and sophomore DT Tyeler Davison. The call has gone out from DeRuyter from Day One to be far stronger and far better against the run. There are several new goals for the defense that was so bad last year, but the biggest one will be to stuff things up on the inside and that's where Williams and Davison come into play. The 6-2, 300-pound Williams was suspended last season and made 16 stops two years ago. He's back and ready to be the anchor on the nose, but the coaches are raving about the talent and potential of the 6-2, 305-pound Davison, who made 16 stops last season and has the raw tools needed to be an all-star sooner than later. For a run defense that gave up 167 yards per game, these two should make a huge difference.

The season will be a success if … Fresno State finishes second in the Mountain West. It might be a big leap up in production after such an ugly 4-9 season, but no one in the conference is more athletic and no one has as many high-end skill players to work around. The Bulldogs won't beat Boise State on the blue turf, but they should be good enough to give Nevada a run, even in Reno, while rolling through the rest of the conference. At the very least, going bowling has to be a given and finishing third behind the Broncos and Wolf Pack will be a must.

Key game: Sept. 29 vs. San Diego State. The Bulldogs are going to have problems at Boise State and at Nevada, so they have to hold serve against the decent Mountain West teams on the home slate against Air Force, Hawaii and San Diego State. In a run of three road games in four weeks, with dates at Colorado State and Boise State to follow, beating San Diego State in the Mountain West opener could be a must win. The Aztecs won 35-28 at the end of the 2011 season.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Turnovers: Fresno State 23 – Opponents 9
- Time of Possession: Fresno State 32:05 – Opponents 27:55
- Third Down Conversions: Opponents 85-of-196 (43%) – Opponents 67-of-179 (37%)
- 2012 Fresno State Depth Chart
- Fresno State Previews 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006