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2010 Fresno State Preview
Fresno State head coach Pat Hill
Fresno State head coach Pat Hill
Posted Aug 9, 2010 2010 Preview - Fresno State Bulldogs

Fresno State Bulldogs

Preview 2010

- 2010 Fresno State Preview | 2010 Fresno State Offense
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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Pat Hill
14th year: 100-66
Returning Lettermen: 58
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Fresno State Players
1. LB Ben Jacobs, Sr.
2. DE Chris Carter, Sr.
3. OG Andrew Jackson, Sr.
4. OT Kenny Wiggins, Sr.
5. QB Ryan Colburn, Sr.
6. LB Travis Brown, Soph.
7. PK Kevin Goessling, Jr.
8. WR Jamel Hamler, Jr.
9. RB Robbie Rouse, Soph.
10. FS Lorne Bell, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Cincinnati
Sept. 11 OPEN DATE
Sept. 18 at Utah State
Sept. 25 at Ole Miss
Oct. 2 Cal Poly
Oct. 9 Hawaii
Oct. 16 NMSU
Oct. 23 at San Jose St
Nov. 6 at Louisiana Tech
Nov. 13 Nevada
Nov. 19 at Boise State
Nov. 27 Idaho
Dec. 3 Illinois

If you can’t beat ‘em, hope they go off to the Mountain West.

Even though Fresno State has hit a bit of a rut, and is long past its time as the hot new mid-major/non-BCS program, it was still a part of all the expansion speculation. Because of its geographic location and because it has been a success at a decent level, FSU was floated out there as an idea to join the Pac 10, and there’s still a good possibility of joining the Mountain West. But for the time being, this is the last go-round with the conference as is before Boise State moves on to bigger and better things. Fresno State can be jealous that it wasn’t able to achieve the same level of consistent success as the team of the blue turf, but it has one more chance to make amends.

Over the last ten NFL drafts, 20 Bulldogs have been taken while just 12 Broncos have been selected, and Fresno has had enough depth and talent to do what Boise has done, but the Bulldogs simply haven’t been good enough on defense. The athleticism and speed haven’t been a problem, and there have been more than enough good talents flowing through the program to be better, but the production hasn’t been there compared to what the Boise boys have done. The offense has been explosive, can athletically matchup man-for-man with the Broncos, and has always been productive even when the consistency hasn’t been there.

Unfortunately, at this point Fresno State has been tagged with being soft in the mid-level games while only getting up for the big games and the BCS teams, but that’s not fair; it’s not like Pat Hill’s club has given away many cheap ones since the disastrous 4-8 2006 season. The worst defeat over the last three years was a home gaffe to a mediocre Hawaii in 2008, but losing to Colorado State and Wyoming the last two years in bowl games hasn’t helped the reputation. However, with 17 starters returning and as much speed and athleticism as a Boise State team that’s going to be ranked in almost everyone’s top five, there’s a chance to do some big things before the WAC loses some weight.

Even with the loss of now-San Diego Charger, Ryan Mathews, the running game should still be terrific with a slew of speedy backs working behind a veteran and talented offensive front that returns all five starters. If everyone stays healthy, the receiving corps has the wheels and the ability to come up with big play after big play, and Ryan Colburn is a solid veteran passer who can put up big numbers with more of an emphasis on the passing game than last year.

The defense has to start getting to the quarterback on a regular basis and it has to start coming up with takeaways for the first time in a few years, but it’s a veteran group led by Chris Carter and a quick front line, Ben Jacobs and possibly the best linebacking corps in the WAC, and with speed to burn in the secondary. So know it’s up to Pat Hill to pull something out of his bag of tricks.

The pressure will be completely and totally on Boise State, and Nevada to a lesser extent, while few will believe Fresno has the ability to overcome its flakiness to put a full season together. The Bulldogs will go bowling and they’ll have some big moments, but all that really matters right now is coming up with one big performance against Boise State to show that things are changing their way while the rest of the league is simply changing.

What to watch for on offense: A bit more balance. The Bulldogs ran it 55 times last season and threw it just 321 times. With no Ryan Mathews, the offense will rely a bit more on Ryan Colburn and the passing game while using more of a rotation for the ground attack. There’s so much speed and upside at receiver, and the pass protection should be so strong, that there should be more firepower through the air.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. The defensive front has the potential to do more with Chris Carter leading an active group, but it’s the linebacking corps that should star. Ben Jacobs has the potential to be the WAC Defensive Player of the Year, but his stats aren’t going to be quite as strong because he’s not going to have to do as much as past years with the return of Chris Lewis on one side and the expected emergence of Travis Brown on the other. This will be a more active group and should come up with more big plays.

The team will be far better if … it wins the turnover battle. The Bulldogs have to start generating more pressure into the backfield, finishing second-to-last in the nation in sacks, and they have to force more takeaways. This is way too athletic and way too active a group to only come up with eight interceptions and seven fumble recoveries, and if it can start to do more, that could be the difference in at least two games. The offense had some fumbling problems and Ryan Colburn threw too many picks early on, and it could stand to tighten up.

The schedule: As always, there are some interesting non-conference games as the Bulldogs will take their cut at home in the opener against Cincinnati and closing out with a home date against Illinois. With Cal Poly coming to Fresno, that means the only non-conference road date is at Ole Miss. Unfortunately, the Boise State game is on the blue turf, but that’s the only road game in the final four getting Nevada and Idaho at home. There’s a nice three game home stretch in the middle of the season with Cal Poly, Hawaii, and New Mexico State on the slate to come up with a good run.

Best offensive player: Senior OT Kenny Wiggins … or senior OG Andrew Jackson. The Bulldogs have an all-star right side of the line protecting Ryan Colburn’s blindside, and Wiggins could end up being the star right tackle at 6-7 and 310 pounds with just enough quickness to be a solid pass protector. However, even at his size and with his talent, he’s likely to be a late round draft pick, at best. The 6-5, 295-pound Jackson could be taken around the fourth round as a right tackle or a zone blocking guard in the right scheme.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Ben Jacobs. The defense needs Chris Carter and more of the linemen to star, and it would be nice if a corner grew into a superstar, but this is Ben Jacobs’ defense. While he’s not huge at 6-3 and 225 pounds, he has tremendous range, is a peerless tackler, and has done a little bit of everything for the defensive front seven over the last few years. He’s as tough as they come and he has the potential to be the WAC’s defensive player of the year.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DT Logan Harrell. The 6-2, 25-pounder is a nice-looking talent with the athleticism and burst to be a threat into the backfield from the interior and the toughness to hold up against the run. For a defense that finished 111th in the nation against the run and 119th in sacks, Harrell has to provide a boost to the interior next to Cornell Banks, and if he’s a star, the ends could do far more.

The season will be a success if … Fresno State wins the WAC title. No, the Bulldogs aren’t as good as Boise State, but everything breaks their way with Nevada, Hawaii, and Idaho at home and with enough talent on both sides of the ball to win at least seven games and be a lock for a bowl no matter what happens against the Broncos … but, it’s time to beat the Broncos. The goal has to be to beat the big dog and finally, finally get an outright WAC title under Pat Hill.

Key game: Nov. 19 at Boise State. 2009: 51-34. 2008: 61-10. 2007: 34-21. 2006: 45-21. That’s what Boise State did against the Bulldogs over the last four games after the 27-7 Fresno win in 2005. The season, and possibly the Pat Hill era, will likely come down to this game.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Average Yard Per Carry: Opponents 6.0 – Fresno State 5.4
- Fumbles: Fresno State 20 (lost 14) – Opponents 21 (lost 7)
- Third Down Conversions: Fresno State 77-of-174 (44%) – Opponents 66-of-166 (40%)

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