#76 Fresno State Football Preview

Fresno State Bulldogs

Overall Rank: #76
#2 WAC

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2010 Record: (8-5, 5-3)
2010 Bowl: Humanitarian Bowl vs. Northern Illinois (L 17-40)
Coach: Pat Hill (108-71 at Fresno State, 108-71 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Grady
Defensive Coordinator: Randy Stewart

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Robbie Rouse, RB, 1,129 yards
Passing: Isaiah Burse, WR, 43 yards
Receiving: Jalen Saunders, WR, 462 yards
Tackles: Travis Brown, LB, 79
Sacks: Logan Harrell, DT, 10.5
Interceptions: Phillip Thomas, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: WR Rashad Evans, K Kevin Goessling, CB Isaiah Green, OT Bryce Harris, LB Kyle Knox, P Andrew Shapiro

Key Losses: DT Cornell Banks, S Lorne Bell, C Joe Bernardi, DE Chris Carter, QB Ryan Colburn, G Devon Cunningham, CB Desia Dunn, WR Jamel Hamler, G Andrew Jackson, LB Ben Jacobs, DE Chris Lewis, TE Vince Pasco, OT Kenny Wiggins

Coach Pat Hill has hinted that he plans to open up the Fresno State offense a little bit this year, but do not expect major changes. With Robbie Rouse in the backfield, this is still a team that should pound the ball and have a pretty balanced offense. Rouse rushed for 1,129 yards and eight scores last season and the Bulldogs will continue to run their offense through the junior tailback.

The defense is hoping to change a little bit too by adding a little more speed. Again, this is a transition that will take time. A year ago this group ranked ninth in the nation in sacks, but the loss of Chris Carter will put a lot of pressure on the entire defense. Logan Harrell is an absolute stud in the middle of the line, but he needs help from the new ends if Fresno State hopes to have any luck tallying that many sacks again this season. Harrell is the only returning starter on the line, but Nat Harrison, Matt Akers and Donahvaughn Pritchett should benefit from having Harrell on the line. The star of the linebackers is Travis Brown. As a freshman last season Brown lived up to his hype and tallied 79 tackles. He will team up with fellow returning starter Kyle Knox and likely new starter Jeremiah Toma to form a pretty good group of linebackers. The secondary needs to find a couple new corners, but there are experienced options in Isaiah Green and Jermaine Thomas and some younger talent who could step into a starting role. While the corner situation sorts itself out, safeties Derron Smith and Phillip Thomas will hold down the secondary.

The Bulldogs will have to break in a new quarterback after Ryan Colburn threw for 2,817 yards and 23 touchdowns a year ago. However, there is no question who the new signal caller will be this year. Derek Carr has a great arm and is certainly capable of having a great season despite the sophomore’s lack of experience. However, being named Carr and going to Fresno State brings a lot of pressure. He is already being considered better than his older brother, David, who was the first overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft. How is that for pressure? Speaking of pressure, the younger Carr will feel it on the field as well. Offensive tackle Bryce Harris is a superb lineman, but he is the only starter returning. And this was not a particularly effective line to begin with, so finding the right pieces to fit around Harris will be a challenge for Coach Hill and company. If Carr does not get any time to throw the ball down field, his great arm strength will be neutralized.

The Bottom Line:
However, if the line does do a half way decent job, Carr will find himself with a lot of weapons to work with. Even without Jamel Hamler, last year’s most productive receiver, Fresno State has a ton of quality receivers. Speedster Jalen Saunders had a superb freshman season and will be the beneficiary of Carr’s strong arm. Rashad Evans is the most experienced of the receivers, but he will be pushed for playing time by players like Devon Wylie, who can give Saunders a run for his money as the fastest player on the team, and former California commit Josh Harper. Add A.J. Johnson and Isaiah Burse to the mix and FSU does not lack quality receivers. If the offensive line can come together and Carr is half as good as most expect, this Fresno State team can go out of the WAC in style with their first conference title since 1999.

Projected Bowl: Humanitarian Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 150.62 (65th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 220.00 (61, 6)
Total Offense: 370.62 (70, 6)
Scoring Offense: 29.00 (48, 4)
Rushing Defense: 158.46 (66, 4)
Pass Defense: 208.77 (45, 2)
Total Defense: 367.23 (59, 4)
Scoring Defense: 30.00 (83, 5)
Turnover Margin: -.85 (110, 9)
Sacks: 2.85 (9, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.77 (101, 7)

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