Preview 2009 -
2009 CFN Fresno
2009 Fresno State
2009 Fresno State
2009 Fresno State
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What you need to know:
The offense was inconsistent throughout last year and wasn't
nearly as explosive as it should've been. There will be come
changes with new offensive coordinator Derek Frazier using a little spread
and some option to go along with the normal Bulldog attack.
There will be more deep balls with big-armed quarterbacks
Ryan Colburn and Derek Carr, David's brother, able to let it
fly, but the question will be who the starter will be. Ebahn
Feathers can do a variety of things and will be in the mix
as well. The receiving corps is fast, but it needs to prove
it can consistently crank out the big play, while the line
is big and will be great with time and with the right
starting five combination found. The strength is the running
game with the trio of Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller and
Anthony Harding as good as any in the country as long as
they can stay healthy.
Passing: Lonyae Miller (RB)
0-1, 0 yds
Rushing: Anthony Harding
147 carries, 822 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Seyi Ajirotutu
47 catches, 795 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense:
Junior RB Ryan Mathews
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman OG Matt Hunt
Best pro prospect: Junior OG Andrew Jackson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Mathews, 2) RB Lonyae
Miller, 3) WR Seyi Ajirotutu
Strength of the offense: Running back, Receiver speed
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback, Tight end
It'll be a battle for the
starting quarterback job up until the opener, but junior
Ryan Colburn has the inside track after serving as the
No. 2 option last year. The 6-3, 220-pounder didn't get to throw
any passes last year and has only seen mop-up duty throughout
his career. He's been a good practice player and he has the
skills, but he needs the playing time. While he's mobile enough
to take off from time to time, he's a bomber who'll push the
Projected Top Reserve: Ready to potentially see
time right away is Derek Carr, a true freshman
who's the little brother of Fresno State legend and No. 1
overall draft pick David Carr. He's 6-3 and 190 pounds with a
next-level arm, even if it's not his brother's. While he'll
likely need a year of seasoning and will start out no better
than the No. 2 option, he'll get plenty of chances to win the
starting gig if he stands out this summer.
Ebahn Feathers is the third option in the
equation, but he could turn out to be the biggest X factor. the
6-0, 210-pound redshirt freshman with a good arm and tremendous
mobility. With the changes being made in the offense, he'll be a
fit as a spread runner, but he can also throw, too.
Watch Out For ... everyone to see a little time. The
offense is going to have to find the right fit for the right
moment, and while it would be best if one player could step up
and be the man for a full 12 games, there might be a rotation of
Strength: Arms. Colburn and Carr can throw a grape
through a 2x4. Feathers might not have a cannon, but he's a good
passer who should be able to get the ball down the field without
Weakness: Experience. The best quarterback in the
group is Carr, and he's a true freshman. Colburn and Feathers
don't have any appreciable experience.
Outlook: Gone is long time starter, Tom
Brandstater, who was fine, but never lived up to his potential
or promise. There isn't a sure-thing starting quarterback at the
moment, but there are three good options who need time to work
through their mistakes. There's upside, with Carr a fantastic
talent who'll be the main man soon, while Colburn is the most
experienced option and Feathers is the most dangerous.
As long as he can stay
healthy, junior Ryan Mathews will be one the
nation's elite backs. Never right last year thanks to a knee
injury, the 5-11, 210-pounder ran for 606 yards and six
touchdowns, and caught eight passes for 146 yards and two
scores, before being all but out over the last six games. He
started off last year with a bang, rushing for 163 yards and
three scores in the win over Rutgers, and he tore off 166 yards
and a touchdown against UCLA. Now the former high school
quarterback, who ran for 3,396 yards and 44 touchdowns as a
senior ,has to prove he can handle the workload, after getting
knocked out for the year in 2007 with an ankle problem before
dealing with all of
last year's injury issues.
Projected Top Reserves: While Mathews is the
team's best back, senior Lonyae Miller isn't
far off. He wasn't always healthy last season, having problems
with a slew if injuries including a knee problem, but he still
ran for 812 yards and seven touchdowns averaging 6.8 yards per
carry. A physical runner at 5-11 and 215 pounds, he can also
break off the home run highlighted by a 90-yard touchdown dash.
In back-to-back weeks, he ran for 161 yards and two scores
against Hawaii and 181 yards and a touchdown against Idaho
before he started to have injury problems. With time to heal up,
he came up big against Colorado State in the bowl game with 113
yards and two scores. While he's fantastic, he has to hold on to
the ball. Fumbling is a major issue.
Senior Anthony Harding isn't the team's best
back, but he stepped up when needed and led the team with 822
yards and six touchdowns averaging 5.6 yards per carry. When he
got the opportunity, he produced with 157 yards and a score
against Hawaii and 120 yards and a touchdown against Colorado
State. He'll be the third man in the rotation, but he'll be
great in the rotation.
When the offense goes to a fullback
it'll be up to veteran Reynard Camp
to step in and block after missing all of last year
hurt. He isn't going to see any carries, and he's
rarely going to get a pass thrown his way, but he's
a serious blocker. He's a huge hitter who's an
unsung star for the ground game. At 5-11 and 270
pounds, he's a former linebacker who has to keep his
weight in check.
About to step in and shine will be redshirt freshman
A.J. Ellis, a top recruit from last
year who has the jets to be a gamebreaker.
While he might not be a workhorse, the 5-10,
175-pounder is tough for his size and can be used a
bit as a specialist to give Mathews and the rest a
break. He needs to develop into a receiver to make a
big impact right away.
Watch Out For ...2,500 yards.
The Bulldogs have three backs capable of running for
1,000 yards if they can stay healthy, and while
that's not going to happen, the ground attack should
be able to crank out well over 2,500 yards after
running for 2,370 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Strength: Talent. If any one of the three top
options became the main man, he'd be a sure-thing
All-WAC star and a lock for 1,500 yards. Mathews is
a special runner, while Miller and Mathews would
start for almost anyone in the WAC.
Weakness: Healthy. Mathews can't be counted on for
a full season while Miller was never right last
year. It's asking a lot for this group to be 100%
for the entire campaign.
Outlook: This is the strength of the team, and if
everyone could stay healthy for a full season, this
could be the nation's best stable of backs. There's
quickness, speed, power, and experience. The health
problems aren't even that big an issue considering
all the talent in the backfield. The coaching staff
will be counting on this group to carry the team
until the quarterback issues are settled.
The Bulldogs get their top
target back in Seyi Ajirotutu, a
6-3, 210-pound senior who averaged 16.9 yards per
grab on 47 catches for 795 yards with five
touchdowns. While four of his scores came in
back-to-back games, catching two against both
Louisiana Tech and Nevada, he was consistent
considering he's a deep threat. While he's not a
blazer, he's able to make the big play and he's a
proven, willing blocker for the running game.
The No. 2 option will be Chastin West
after catching 18 passes for 214 yards and
a score. Even though he was a regular starter, he
was all but non-existent half of the season and he
only caught two or more passes in four games. At 6-1
and 215 pounds, he has good size and the experience
to be counted on when needed. He missed all of 2007
with a knee injury, but he's 100% again and now he
should be at his best.
One of the biggest holes to fill on the entire team
is at tight end where Bear Pascoe caught 40 passes
for 400 yards and four touchdowns, while also being
a devastating blocker. Trying to step in will be
Vince Pascoe, Bear's cousin. The
6-0, 230-pound walk-on is more of a fullback than a
tight end, and while he's a good blocker, he also
has nice hands catching four passes for 33 yards and
Projected Top Reserves: More often than not, the
offense will go to three-wide sets with
Marlon Moore filling a role. The team's No.
2 wide receiver of last year caught 23 passes for
258 yards and a touchdown, and now he appears to be
primed to do more after missing almost half of last
year. At 6-1 and 185 pounds he has good size and
gamebreaking 4.3 speed. Now he has to use it to make
more big plays, and he has to stay healthy.
5-9, 170-pound junior Devon Wylie
has tremendous speed,
he's just a hair faster than Moore, and he could be
the team's breakout performer. He didn't make too
many big plays last season, but he caught 22 passes
for 269 yards and two touchdowns and looked
fantastic in practices. The new quarterbacks have
liked airing it out and letting Wylie run under it.
Sophomore Ryan Skidmore is a
good-looking receiving tight end who caught three
passes for 17 yards and a touchdown in his limited
time last year. Now he has to become a better
blocker and he needs technique work on his receiving
skills. He might not be polished, but he'll be the
best tight end option the team has going into the
6-1, 190-pound sophomore Jamel Hamler has
some of the best hands on the team and is fearless
at making plays on the inside. He was one of the
team's most improved players this spring after
redshirting last year. A scout team star, he has the
speed, size, and potential to be a gamebreaker now
that he'll get his shot in the spotlight. He'll see
plenty of time in three-wide sets.
Watch Out For ... Hamler. While he's the No. 5
receiver in the equation coming out of spring ball,
that will quickly change after the way he was
playing throughout the offseason. He has too many
skills to keep on the sideline.
Strength: Deep threats. Ajirotutu might be the
slowest of the top deep options and he averaged 16.9
yards per catch. Moore, Wylie, and Hamler can
flat-out fly. The team averaged 12.1 yards per catch
last year and should up that by at least a yard this
Weakness: Tight end. Pascoe isn't the other Pascoe
and Skidmore has a bad habit of trying to catch the
ball with his shoulder, sternum, and everything else
except his hands. The new quarterbacks need a safety
valve, and they don't quite have a sure-thing yet.
Outlook: The receiving corps has the potential to
blow up if the quarterbacks start bombing away.
There's good experience, nice upside among the
backups, and lots of home-run hitting ability.
Consistency will be an issue, but the opportunity
for big plays will be there considering all the
attention that'll be paid to the running game.
There's a lot of shifting going on up
front, but one of the few sure things staying put will be Joe
Bernardi, a 6-2, 290-pound junior who took over the starting
job in the second game of the year and never let it go. He had problems
with a knee injury suffered two years ago, but he was fine as the year
went on and regained his form as a top run blocker. Very physical, he'll
be a key part of the run-blocking puzzle as long as he can stay healthy.
Junior Andrew Jackson spent last year starting
every game at right guard, and while he'll get a look on the left side,
he'll return to his job on the right. At 6-5 and 295 pounds he has good
size and excellent athleticism, but he has to come back healthy after
missing time this offseason with a back injury. There's some concern
that he might have to undergo surgery, and if he's out, that would be a
Junior Devon Cunningham will get a
shot at right tackle after spending most of last year at left guard. The
results have been mixed for the 6-6, 350-pounder as he tries to replace
Kenny Avon. He's a bit too big and could handle dropping five or 20
pounds. While he got better as the offseason progressed, he still needs
to be more consistent as a tackle.
With Cunningham moving, at
least for now, 6-2, 315-pound freshman Matt Hunt will
get the first look at left guard. He got to campus early and played like
a potential star from day one this spring. He's hardly a finished
product and he needs a lot of time and plenty of reps, but he was good
enough to be given a long look for the starting job.
replace Bobby Lepori at left tackle will be Bryce Harris,
a 6-6, 295-pound sophomore who has excellent feet, good athleticism, and
the potential to shine with a little bit of time. While he wasn't
perfect throughout the spring sessions, he was good enough to have a
lock on the job. He'll be given time to work through his mistakes.
Projected Top Reserves: Fighting for a spot at
right tackle is Kenny Wiggins, and he'll take over if
Devan Cunningham ends up moving back inside. Wiggins is a tall, strong
6-7 and 310 pounds with surprising quickness for his size. The junior
could be tried out at left tackle if he doesn't emerge as the main
option on the right side.
6-2, 285-pound senior Richard
Pacheco is one of the team's most valuable backups with the
ability to play at any of the three inside positions. He's best suited
for center, where he started in the 2008 openers, but he'll mostly play
guard with Bernardi firmly entrenched in the middle. He'll start out on
the right side for now, but he'll move around where needed.
Watch Out For ... a lot of movement. Fresno State
always tries to put the top five linemen on the field no matter what the
position, and the depth chart is hardly set in stone. Depending on
injuries, and the play of Cunningham at right tackle, the lineup will
change several different ways early on.
Strength: Size. This is a massive line that has
huge players all across the board. Everyone is around 6-5 and 300 pounds
with Cunningham around 350 depending on what he had for breakfast. Not
only big, this group can move, too.
Weakness: The combination. Cunningham has to prove he can
protect the blind side of left-handed quarterback Ryan Colburn and
Jackson has to show that his back is healthy. It might take a little
while before this group will be a tight, cohesive unit.
Outlook: Fresno State's O lines are almost always
terrific. Last year's line was a brick wall, and if everyone is healthy
and if the tackles can come through, this year's line should be just as
good, if not better by the end of the year. the interior will be a rock,
as long as Jackson's back is fine, while Cunningham will be good if he
stays at right tackle, even if he has a few problems with speed rushers.
The young, large reserves are promising, but they need time.