2009 Fresno State Preview - Offense
Fresno State WR Seyi Ajirotutu
Fresno State WR Seyi Ajirotutu
Posted Jun 8, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Fresno State Bulldog Offense

Fresno State Bulldogs

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Fresno State Preview | 2009 Fresno State Offense
- 2009 Fresno State Defense | 2009 Fresno State Depth Chart
- 2008 FSU Preview | 2007 FSU Preview | 2006 FSU Preview   

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.

Returning Leaders
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 Ryan Colburn
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


Projected Starter
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 ball deep.

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 signal callers.
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 a problem.
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.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starters
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.
Rating: 8.5


Projected Starters
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 a score. 

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 fall.

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 season.
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.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
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 gaping loss.

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.

Trying to 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.
Rating: 7