Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Skill Positions

There is no contest here. Fresno State has a plethora of talented skill position players, but Tulsa counters with two great ones, WR-KR Ashlan Davis and TE Garrett Mills. The injury bug has hit the Bulldogs hard at fullback. Starter Roshon Vercher is out for the game and it remains to be seen how Fresno State will deal with his absence. Pat Hill could implement a two-back set with Wendell Mathis and Bryson Sumlin both lining up in the backfield. Hill could continue to use undersized Matt Rivera as the fullback, something he loves to do. There is the possibility redshirt freshman Kyle Richard could take the load at fullback. Richard is young and inexperienced, but is a bull of a blocker. The Bulldogs could scratch the run first gameplan and lead with the pass and take advantage of their speed and size on the outside.

Tulsa uses a two tight end offense and Mills is the cornerstone of their successful scheme. Mills set an NCAA record for receiving yards for a TE this year and was a two-time all-WAC TE in 2003-04. Fresno State does not have an answer for Mills with their current scheme. Last year, Virginia TE Heath Miller had a field day against the Bulldogs in the MPC Computers Bowl. Mills is as talented as Miller, but a better receiver. Aiding the cause is the Bulldogs' injuries at the linebacking unit. Their best LB Marcus Riley is out and backup LB Ahijah Lane has not played at 100% since October. Current starter Emanuel Sanchez' lack of speed and poor run tackling has been exposed by USC, Nevada and Louisiana Tech. Besides Mills, the Golden Hurricane lack any real playmakers. Davis is the second leading receiver, but is more of a threat as a kick returner, where he has returned 6 kicks for touchdowns in his two years at Tulsa. The run game is done by committee, but Uril Parrish has emerged as the best of the bunch.

Vercher's absence might hurt Fresno State more than many think. Paul Pinegar can win this game with his arm and his receivers, if the run game falters. Tulsa's scheme is perfect for exploiting the weakness of the Bulldog defense, but if Mills can be contained, game over. Fresno State's offensive skill position talent is too great to overlook.

No comments: