2010 Fresno State Preview – Offense

Posted Aug 9, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Fresno State Bulldog Offense

Fresno State Bulldogs

Preview 2010 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: The offense that was so focused around the talents of Ryan Mathews and the running game will balance out a bit. There's still speed and talent in the backfield, led by Robbie Rouse, and while the ground game won't crank out close to 3,000 yards like last year, it should be effective working behind a great offensive front with five starters returning. The receiving corps loses some key targets, but there's more than enough returning speed and deep ability to hit plenty of home runs with improving senior QB Ryan Colburn bombing away.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ryan Colburn
181-298, 2,459 yds, 19 TD, 11 INT
Rushing: Robbie Rouse
82 carries, 479 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Jamel Hamler
37 catches, 503 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Ryan Colburn
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore RB Robbie Rouse
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Rashad Evans
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Andrew Jackson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jackson, 2) OT Kenny Wiggins, 3) Colburn
Strength of the offense: Line, Speed
Weakness of the offense: Running Back Experience, Turnovers


Projected Starter: Junior Ryan Colburn might be the most talented Fresno State quarterback ever, but the 6-3, 220-pounder is big, pushes the ball down the field, and has just enough mobility to get by, running for 171 yards and two scores. He completed 61% of his throws for 2,459 yards and 19 touchdowns, but he threw 11 interceptions that always seemed to come at the worst times possible, at least early on. After throwing seven picks in the first four games, he gave it away just four more times the rest of the way and didn't throw more than two interceptions in any game after the loss to Boise State in Week Three. He'll have to be more consistent to secure the No. 1 job, but with his experience and his improvement, he'll be tough to knock off.

Projected Top Reserves: Fresno State legend David Carr's little brother, Derek Carr , came to school early and was supposed to see time right away, and he did, burning his redshirt year to complete 10-of-14 passes for 112 yards in mop-up duty. At 6-3 and 190 pounds he's a tall, thin passer with a live arm, but it's nowhere near as good as his brother's. He still needs time and seasoning, but he's a talent who could quickly grow into the starter if he can be more consistent in practices.

Coming in and hoping to push hard for a starting job right away is Kelly O'Brien, a top JUCO transfer who has all the tools and ability to bomb away. However, he needs polish and will get time to keep on improving his mechanics. At 6-6 and 210 pounds, he's a big passer with a strong, accurate gun and a little bit of experience throwing for 1,215 yards and 15 scores for Foothill Junior College. The son of former NFL quarterback, Ken O'Brien, he has the family history.

Watch Out For … more from the passing game. Last year it was extremely easy to hand the ball off to Ryan Mathews and let the ground game do all the work, but now the Bulldogs will need to do more through the air with an offense that should balance out a bit.
Strength: Talented tall bombers. If you're not 6-3 and 190 pounds or more, please apply elsewhere. Colburn, Carr, and O'Brien can all put the ball down the field utilizing the talented and speedy receiving corps.
Weakness: The hope for someone other than Carr to step up into the No. 2 role. Carr burned his redshirt season and saw time in five games, but he still can take a year off and have three remaining. In a perfect world, Colburn is great, Carr redshirts to be the starter next year, and someone else proves reliable enough to take over the No. 2 job. O'Brien, your table is ready.
Outlook: As long as Colburn can keep the interceptions to a minimum and if he can continue to keep the chains moving on third downs, he could blossom into the star of the attack and he could come up with a huge season. Carr is a great talent who might redshirt, but he's ready to produce whenever he wants to step in. With O'Brien and redshirt freshman Tyler Stirewalt waiting in the wings, there are options, but this if Colburn's show.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: There's no chance for sophomore Robbie Rouse to come close to replacing the talent or the production of 1,808 yards and 19 touchdowns from Ryan Mathews, but he's a nice player who came up with a fantastic true freshman season as the team's No. 2 rusher. Only 5-7 and 185 pounds, he doesn't have much in the way of power, but he's a quick runner who averaged 5.8 yards per run with 479 yards and four touchdowns. He showed he could handle the load with 21 carries for 75 yards against Louisiana Tech, and he was just good enough this offseason to keep everyone from not panicking over the loss of Mathews.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore A.J. Ellis got a little bit of time running just twice for seven yards, but he'll be a big part of the rotation this year. The 5-11, 180-pound speedster has tremendous jets and tear off big runs from anywhere on the field, but he's not going to be a workhorse and he likely won't get more than ten carries per game. He could be used as a receiver to get his speed and athleticism on the move.

5-11, 200-pound Michael Harris is the biggest of the top running back options, but he's hardly a power back. 11 of his 12 carries came in the 51-0 opening day blowout over UC Davis, and his only other carry came against San Jose State for no yards. The type of player who can crank out plays in chunks, he averaged 9.73 yards per carry in his final year of high school. While he was good this offseason, he wasn't fantastic and he still needs to show he can be a special back if he gets the ball on a regular basis.

When the Bulldogs use a fullback, they need junior Austin Raphael to be a big blocker in place of Reynard Camp. At 6-2 and 230 pounds, he's a decent-sized back who, like Camp, started out his career as a linebacker and a special teamer making four tackles last year, but he has the athleticism to be used occasionally as a receiver.

Watch Out For … Rouse. The talent is undeniable and the ability is there for the scatback to come up with huge numbers, but the light has to go on. Fair or not, he has the reputation for not exactly having the motor going at full throttle all the time, and he needs to want to be the main man for the ground attack.
Strength: Young potential. Fresno State has become a factory for talented backs, and this year's backfield isn't any exception. Remember, as good as Mathews was, there was a knock that he couldn't stay healthy and couldn't be a workhorse, and he turned out to be more than just okay. There are knocks on this group, but there's a whole bunch to like.
Weakness: Ryan Mathews. There might be talent in the backfield, but Mathews was special running for 1,808 yards and 19 touchdowns as an elite home run hitter. Yeah, Rose, Harris and Ellis are going to be good, but they have to prove they can keep it all going for a ground game that came up with an impressive 2,976 yards and 30 scores.
Outlook: The chances will be there for someone to step up and explode. With all five starters returning from a strong offensive front, a nice quarterback to take the heat off, and a coaching staff that knows how to generate rushing production, any back worth his salt would be licking his chops at the opportunity. Can Rouse be the man to step up and make it happen? Harris and Ellis are good enough to produce whenever they're on the field.
Unit Rating: 7


Projected Starters: The receiving corps might lose three of the top four receivers, but junior Jamel Hamler finished last year as the No. 2 target catching 37 passes for 503 yards and five touchdowns with four of his scores coming in the final four games. At 6-2 and 205 pounds he has the size, some of the best hands on the team, and isn't afraid to make the tough catches. The tools are all there to be special, and now he has to grow into the go-to target on the outside.

Banged up throughout the year, senior Devon Wylie wasn't always productive catching 17 passes for 259 yards and four touchdowns in his disappointing campaign, but he was terrific against Wisconsin catching five passes for 114 yards and a score. He never quite got right with a nagging hamstring problem, but he's back and healthy with some of the best wheels on the team. The quarterbacks love to let it fly and let him run under it … in practices. Now he has to stay healthy and produce when the lights are on.

Sophomore Rashad Evans had a big first year catching 21 passes for 232 yards while averaging 13.2 yards per punt return and 21.6 yards per kickoff return, but he sat out all of 2009 with a hamstring problem. The 5-11, 190-pound weapon looked the part this offseason making things happen across the middle of the field while also showcasing some tremendous deep speed.

Senior Vince Pascoe needed to fill the gaping hole at tight end left by his cousin, Bear Pascoe, and he was fine catching six passes for 52 yards, but he was hardly a factor. At 6-0 and 230 pounds, he's built like a fullback and isn't a true tight end playing out of a more natural position, but he's a good blocker and is by far the team's best option. A walk-on, he's limited, but he works hard.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 180-pound redshirt freshman A.J. Johnson is still polishing up after spending his high school career as a quarterback. He's quick, gets deep, and showed good enough skills this offseason to become a major factor in a rotation with Jamel Hamler and in four-wide sets.

True freshman Davon Dunn did a little of everything in high school, and now he's being expected to be a part of the receiver rotation with 5-11, 175-pound size and the playmaking ability to hit a home run every time he touches the ball. He could've played almost anywhere in the Pac 10, but Fresno got him as a do-it-all prospect.

Watch Out For … Evans. If there's a silver lining in his loss last year to a hamstring injury, it's that he hit the weights and got stronger. He was more polished this offseason and could quickly become a go-to target for the next three years.
Strength: Speed and upside. Lose a few fast receivers; replace them with a few new ones. Fresno State is never at a shortage for quick targets, and this year's group, as long as everyone's hamstrings are fine, this will be one of the fastest receiving corps in the WAC and getting deep won't be a problem after averaging 13.5 yards per catch.
Weakness: Tight end. This has been a problem over the last few years for an offense that usually likes to rely on a safety valve. Pascoe is a tough veteran who'll try hard, but he's not a dangerous target.
Outlook: As always, Fresno State is loaded with dangerous receiving prospects with depth, speed, and upside. There might not be a ton of experience among the backups, but the upside is limitless and the deep plays should keep on coming.
Unit Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: All five starters return up front led by center Joe Bernardi , one of the team's toughest players. The 6-2, 280-pounder was banged up throughout last year but still managed to keep coming back before finally having to succumb to a knee problem. When he's on the field, he's a physical banger and a terrific leader for the ground attack, and he's the type of leader who has become a perfect quarterback for the veteran front.

This might be Bernadi's line, but right guard Andrew Jackson might be the team's best blocker. The 6-2, 280-pound veteran earned First Team All-WAC honors after being the main reason Ryan Mathews and the ground game went ballistic. Very athletic for his size, he moves extremely well and does a great job of getting to the second level. Smart, earning Academic All-American honors, he doesn't make a mistake or miss an assignment, and he's tough as nails returning from a back injury to produce at a high level throughout last year.

Senior Devon Cunningham started every game at left guard and has been an emerging force for the front over the last few years. Just athletic enough to work at tackle if needed, the 6-6, 350-pounder has an interesting mix of skills despite being too big even for his tall frame. No one pushes him around.

Junior Bryce Harris has the unenviable task of replacing Bobby Lepori at left tackle, and he did an admirable job growing into a solid pass protector while showing the upside to potentially be an all-star. He's not a finished product and is still emerging as a consistent blocker, but he did a nice job on the outside using his 6-6, 295-pound frame to keep speed rushers at bay. He'll be an all-star before his career is up.

Working on the right side to protect QB Ryan Colburn's blind side will once again be senior Kenny Wiggins , a 6-7, 310-pound pass blocker who earned Second Team All-WAC mention after initially being considered a likely backup going into the season. He's a tall, tough blocker who can play either side of the O line, but he quickly became reliable in pass protection showed the ability to bury defenders on a regular basis.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Matt Hunt has the potential to be an anchor, but he needs time. Assuming injuries don't hit the line, Hunt will be a bigger factor next year when he steps into one of the guard spots. But for now he's a solid 6-2, 315-pound reserve who has been fantastic in practices and was even considered a possible starter last season before others emerged.

6-4, 305-pound junior Leslie Cooper saw time in every game and was the team's best backup. Tough and one of the line's stronger players, he could step in at either guard spot at any time and produce. He'll play behind Andrew Jackson at right guard offering more size to the equation.

Watch Out For … Bernardi. If he stays healthy and can last the entire year, he might be the best center in the WAC. The line is going to be strong anyway, but he'll keep everyone in line and will keep the mistakes to a minimum.
Strength: Experience. All five starters return from a line that paved the way to the nation's eighth-ranked rushing attack and was solid in pass protection. The scary part for the rest of the WAC is that this group is only scratching the surface on is talent, even though four starters are seniors.
Weakness: The backups. The good: four of the five returning starters played every game last year. The bad: four of the five returning starters played every game last year. The backups simply haven't been given real live action to develop, and with four seniors up front, several untested players need time to be ready for next year.
Outlook: Boise State might have the WAC's best offensive line, but Fresno's front five comes a really, really close second. The Bulldogs are loaded with experience up front with Wiggins and Jackson certain all-stars and Bernardi a possible all-conference star if he can stay healthy. This isn't a bulky group, but it has good size and can move.
Unit Rating: 7.5

- 2010 Fresno State Preview | 2010 Fresno State Offense
- 2010 Fresno State Defense | 2010 Fresno State Depth Chart
- Fresno State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006