CFN Preview 2013 - Fresno State Bulldogs
Fresno State QB Derek Carr
Fresno State QB Derek Carr
Posted May 3, 2013 2013 Preview - Fresno State Bulldogs

Fresno State Bulldogs

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Tim DeRuyter
2nd year: 9-4
Returning Lettermen: 37
Off. 18, Def. 18, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best Fresno St Players
1. QB Derek Carr, Sr.
2. WR Davante Adams, Soph.
3. S Derron Smith, Jr.
4. CB L.J. Jones, Sr.
5. DE Andy Jennings, Sr.
6. CB Sean Alston, Jr.
7. OT Austin Wentworth, Sr.
8. WR Josh Harper, Jr.
9. DT Tyeler Davison, Jr.
10. WR Isaiah Burse, Sr.
2013 Schedule
8/29 Rutgers
9/7 Cal Poly
9/14 at Colorado
9/20 Boise State
9/28 at Hawaii
10/5 at Idaho
10/19 UNLV
10/26 at San Diego State
11/2 Nevada
11/9 at Wyoming
11/23 New Mexico
11/29 at San Jose State
Pat Hill had always dreamed of Fresno State belonging among the biggest of the big boys. He scheduled big, his teams played big in the big games, and there was always the hope of turning into what Boise State eventually became. But now there's a real possibility that Tim DeRuyter could be the one to get the program over the BCS hump.

The last time the world paid attention to Fresno State is was getting destroyed by Margus Hunt and SMU in a shocking 43-10 clunker in the Hawaii Bowl. And considering the loss at Boise State, the loss at Tulsa, and the beefed up record thanks to playing a slew of awful Mountain West teams, it might be hard to think that there's another gear. If everything goes according to plan, though, this really could be the team everyone will need to pay attention to in the BCS chase.

DeRuyter is a defensive coach by nature, and he put his imprint on the team right away with an unstoppable pass rush and ball-hawking group of defensive backs that always seemed to come up with the big play. On the other side, the offense was dominant at times, leading the Mountain West in scoring and averaging 478 yards per game. Now it's time to come up with the wins over all the strong teams on the slate, win the inaugural Mountain West title game, and finally fulfill Hill's promise and goal.

To do that, the passing game needs to be every bit as good as it has the potential to be. Quarterback Derek Carr put off the NFL for one more year, and his stats and season should help his stock with breakthrough target Davante Adams returning along with unstoppable speedster Josh Harper, who was hampered by a hamstring injury throughout the second half of last season. The line is built for this offense and should be stronger in pass protection, and the running back-by-committee approach should make up for the loss of Robbie Rouse.

The pass rush will once again be among the most dangerous in America, and while there are question marks at linebacker, there are several options to make the 3-4 work. The secondary will once again be a major plus, and there's better depth and a stronger rotation across the board than there was last year.

So now it's up to DeRuyter to handle all the expectations. 9-4 wasn't good enough last year considering the way things ended, but this season, nothing short of a BCS appearance and a Mountain West title might do.

What to watch for on offense: The running back rotation. The passing game should go from phenomenal to absolutely unstoppable with receiver Josh Harper returning from injury, and the line will be fine with a little bit of time, but workhorse Robbie Rouse has to be replaced in the backfield. Marteze Waller should provide some punch with his decent size and quickness, while BYU transfer Josh Quezada has the talent to carry the load from time to time. Everyone will be focusing on the passing game, so the chances will be there for the backs to put up big numbers. They're going to have to make the most of the opportunity.

What to watch for on defense: How will the linebacker rotation work out? Patrick Su'a was on his way to a big year before getting hurt, and now he's trying to get back to his spot on the inside. Jeremiah Toma has good size and skills, but he's trying to get healthy. Donavon Lewis is a sure-thing on the outside, but there's going to be a battle between Nat Harrison and Brandon Hughes on the outside. There are speedy options, big ones and nice veterans to rely on, but the coaching staff will have to figure out how to make everything fit in the 3-4.

The team will be far better if … the kicking game doesn't fall off the map. There was only one close game last season, and Fresno State lost to Tulsa 27-26 with a missed field goal playing a big role. It's going to be a bigger concern early on this year. Garrett Swanson handled kickoffs last season and now will deal with the punting and possibly the long field goals, while Blake Dunn will get the first look at the placekicking job with true freshman Collin McGuire getting a shot. There will almost certainly be more tight games, and the special teams have to shine.

The schedule: Most of the big dates are at home, but the team will have to keep its focus after some big plane trips. The big non-conference game against Rutgers kicks things off at home, and if the team is as good as it's supposed to be, it shouldn't have a problem at Colorado a few weeks later. The national attention will come if it can pull off a home win over Boise State in late September and get to 4-0, because then, it'll likely be the favorite the rest of the way.

Playing Hawaii and Idaho on the road shouldn't be a problem, but the Bulldogs didn't exactly show up the last time they made the trip to paradise – getting blown away by SMU in the Hawaii Bowl. Nevada is a home date in early November, but going on the road to face San Diego State and San Jose State will be make-or-break moments for the West title hopes.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Derek Carr. Reports and scouts seem conflicted on exactly where Carr would've gone had he come out early. He likely would've been in the fourth round glut of decent prospects, but it didn't matter after he said early in the process that he was returning for his senior season. With the loaded receiving corps he'll get to work with, his stock might go through the roof after throwing for more than 4,000 yards and showing a strong command of the attack.

Best defensive player: Junior S Derron Smith. After coming back from injury, Smith would've been hailed as the best defensive back in the Mountain West if it wasn't for the season Phillip Thomas cranked out. Smith finished second on the team with 79 tackles and was a consistent playmaker on the ball with six picks and big returns after coming up with the play. It's his secondary now.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore S Charles Washington. All Phillip Thomas did was lead the team in tackles with four sacks, eight picks and 12 tackles for loss while scoring three touchdowns. The Fresno State secondary is loaded with talent and experience, but it's up to Washington to fill in the gaping hole left by Thomas. Good luck.

The season will be a success if … The Bulldogs win the Mountain West title. On talent, this is the best team in the conference and it might not even be close. Boise State is always going to be Boise State, and there might be some tough divisional road games, but after last year, anything less than a conference championship would be a major disappointment. But to do that, they have to win …

Key game: Oct. 26 at San Diego State. The Boise State showdown in Fresno to open up the Mountain West season might set the tone, but the Bulldogs have to win the West to get to the championship game. To do that, they'll probably have to get through San Diego State at the end of a rough stretch of three away dates in four. With Nevada to follow and a trip to San Jose State to close out the regular season, a loss to the Aztecs would be devastating for division title hopes.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Interception Return Average: Fresno State 39.8 yards on 22 picks – Opponents 17 on 8 picks
- Sacks: Fresno State 40 for 239 yards – Opponents 29 for 207 yards
- Average Passing Yards: Fresno State 325.6 – Opponents 167.2
- 2013 Fresno State Preview | 2013 Fresno State Offense
- 2013 Fresno State Defense | 2013 Fresno State Depth Chart