2014 Fresno State Preview: What You Must Know
Fresno State WR Josh Harper
Fresno State WR Josh Harper
Posted May 19, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Fresno State (Getty Images)

2014 Fresno State Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Fresno State Preview 
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer

What You Need To Know About The Offense: Even if the offense isn't No. 3 in the nation again, enough experience returns to be effective. There's no way the O can crank up 7,100 passing yards again, and it's asking a lot to put up over 43 points per game without QB Derek Carr and leading receivers Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse, but don't expect the Bulldog attack to close up shop. The line that was so fantastic in pass protection should be among the Mountain West's best, but it might have to tailor its focus a bit with top rushers Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller back to add a bit more balance. Josh Harper will rise up to be among the nation's most productive receivers, but he'll need more help around him and a quarterback to get him the ball. Duke transfer Brandon Connette and 2013 Bulldog backup Brian Burrell will be the main options, but no one's expecting Carr's numbers.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: A problem last year in shootouts, experience has to translate into production with a great-looking front seven for the 3-4 alignment and ball-hawking safety Derron Smith back to lead a veteran secondary. The pass rush was great last year, but the defensive backfield didn't get the job done allowing 283 yards per game. Ejiro Ederaine on the outside and Karl Mickelsen inside are the foundation of a terrific-looking linebacking corps, while the front three should be excellent if Maurice Poyadue can hold up on the nose so all-star tackle Tyeler Davison can stay at end.

Players You Need To Know

1. S Derron Smith, Sr.
The hope was that he'd live up to the preseason billing after making 79 tackles with six interceptions in 2012. He was even better than expected tying for second on the team with 87 tackles with four sacks, eight tackles for loss and a MW-leading seven interceptions. The 5-11, 200-pound veteran could've left early for the NFL and been a top 50 pick, but he's back to be the leader and star of a veteran secondary that has the experience and potential to be far better. The former high school quarterback is always in the right position and always one step ahead of the play, and now with his reputation, he has to be accounted for on every passing down.

2. WR Josh Harper, Sr.
Is he ready to be a No. 1 target? Absolutely. At 6-1 and 184 pounds he's a good-sized receiver with great hands and excellent speed. Coming back from a hamstring problem that limited him in 2012, he suffered a core injury late in the year that kept him out of the mix against Utah State and USC. Before getting banged up, he caught a 27-yard touchdown pass against San Jose State to finish with 79 grabs for 1,011 yards and 13 scores. While he might have finished third on the team in receptions, when he was on, he was unstoppable catching 17 passes for 253 yards and two scores against Nevada, 14 for 94 yard and two touchdowns against Rutgers and ten for 161 yards and three touchdowns against New Mexico. Now he has to be more consistent and he has to stay healthy.

3. DE Tyeler Davison, Sr.
Part 3-4, three-technique defensive end, part nose guard, he plays wherever needed. The 6-2, 304-pound veteran spent last year anchoring the 3-4 making 41 tackles with two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss, and now he'll move over to the end. A two-time All-Mountain West honoree, he's a disruptive force no matter where he plays with a good first step and nice anchor strength, he'll be a tackle at the next level with enough quickness to get past his lack of height.

4. LB Ejiro Ederaine, Jr.
After not doing much as a freshman, the 6-3, 220-pound outside linebacker was supposed to be part of the rotation and battle for steady playing time. Instead, he turned into a key starter late in September and never let the job go, finishing with 63 tackles with a team-leading ten sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss as a devastating speed rusher flying in from the outside. Most of his sack production came early in the year, failing to get one in the final three games, but he made up for it by making plenty of stops, coming up with 11 – along with two sacks – against San Diego State and ten against San Jose State on the way to Second-Team All-Mountain West honors.

5. OG Cody Wichmann, Sr.
The line did a fantastic job in pass protection last season, and it was the 6-6, 311-pound Wichmann who was the key to the ground game at right guard. A veteran who knows exactly what he's doing, he's just athletic enough to move to right tackle if needed, but he's too good for the ground game in the interior, and too reliable, to move.

6. LB Karl Mickelsen, Sr.
It was his job to take over the inside spot last year, and he came through tough against the run with a team-leading 97 tackles with 16 against Boise State and 14 against San Jose State. He's not huge for the middle at just 6-0 and 229 pounds, and he doesn't get into the backfield, but he's active and solid against the run and packs a good punch.

7. QB Brian Burrell, Jr.
While he's going to have to fight for the starting job, the former JUCO transfer brings something to the equation the other options don't – size. The 6-5, 219-pound junior overcame a broken collarbone at Bakersfield College to throw for 2,555 yards and 27 scores and seven interceptions, but last season he didn't see too much action with Derek Carr getting in most of the work. In his limited action he completed 7-of-12 passes for 51 yards and ran for a score, but he's more than ready to step in for Carr and run the attack.

8. P Garrett Swanson, Jr.
The former kickoff specialist turned into a whale of a punter with a great leg and booming ability earning honorable mention All-Mountain West honors averaging 43.1 yards per kick with 14 put inside the 20. With the ability to bail the team out of any jam, he can air it out when needed while also doing a fantastic job of working with the strong punt coverage team.

9. QB Brandon Connette, Sr.
Welcome to the fun. Connette saw a little bit of starting time at Duke as mostly a running option, taking off for 101 yards against Pitt and finishing the season with 337 yards on the ground and 14 touchdowns, weaving his way for four scores against Miami. Mostly a runner with 31 career touchdowns, he's also a decent passer, hitting 62% of his throws last year with 13 touchdowns - four of his six picks came against Pitt. At 6-2 and 225 pounds he's well built, smart, and can move, with the savvy and experience to push for the starting job right away – he graduated from Duke with a degree in economics.

10. RB Josh Quezada, Sr.
The former BYU Cougar will be part of a rotation with Marteze Waller after leading the team with 807 yards and six touchdowns. The biggest difference between the two backs is Quezada's ability to catch the ball, finishing fourth on the team with 51 grabs for 390 yards and a score. Very quick with 5-11, 225-pound size, he doesn't have the moves or upside of Waller, but he can carry the load.

- 2014 Fresno State Preview