I loved Tim Skipper just as much as the next Bulldog fan, but I find it weird that the former Sacramento State defensive coordinator was named the new running backs coach by Pat Hill. Skipper was hired along with former graduate assistant Derek Frazier. Frazier replaces former offensive line coach Mark Weber who left for a similar position at North Carolina.
Hill usually finds the best assistants available to fill spots vacated, but I am finding it hard to swallow his last two hires. Hill's flirtation with the NFL has really started to take a toll on the program. If Hill had left for the NFL, his assistants probably would have been left hanging. Weber and former RB coach John Settle jumped at opportunities at BCS schools. Defensive line coach Kerry Locklin missed out on becoming an assistant with the St. Louis Rams. So it is amazing that only two have left since early January.
Frazier returns to Fresno State after one season as the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Northern Arizona. Frazier spent two seasons (2003-2004) as a graduate assistant at Fresno State working with the offensive line. Frazier is a decent hire. His familiarity with the program, players, and scheme will make up for his inexperience as Division IA assistant.
Now back to Skipper, I would have love to see him as the linebacker coach. Current LB coach Tom Mason is not doing anything special with that unit. Skipper's older brother is the much beloved former Bulldog running back Kelly Skipper. With big brother's help, maybe Tim could get the basics down on becoming a great running back coach. But how will he do in 2006?
There is a lot of talent in the Bulldog backfield, but durability is a big question mark. Dwayne Wright looks to back to 100% for Spring ball, but how long will it take him to get back to football playing shape? He has been out of the game for nearly two years. Clifton Smith is not considered an every down back, but the talented junior has only one collegiate carrier. Shannon Dorsey will be a fourth-year junior but has only a handful of carries himself. There is a good chance true freshman Lonyae Miller could be the second or third back. But instead of a former 1,000 yard NFL back, Settle, tutoring him. A first year, former LB, RB coach will have the responsibility of guiding Fresno State's most prized RB recruit in the Hill era.
Hill knows what he is doing. I have my doubts about the hires, but who am I to question them. I am just concerned with such a large amount of new assistants (especially on offense), a new quarterback, a tough schedule, and some uncertainty that a 6-6 or 7-5 disappointing season could be on the horizon. After so much animosity from the 4 game losing streak that ended 2005, Bulldog fans might not be patient enought to sit through a mediocre season. Even though, the 2007 season, with seasoned assistant coaches and a veteran quarterback, should be great.
Many fans think Hill will jump ship, if the ship sinks in 2006. I still think the 2006 team should win at least 8 games, but it all depends on who the Bulldogs open the season with. An opener against Oregon on September 9 could be fatal with a road trip to an improved Washington team the following week. Fresno State needs to play a lesser team September 2 to get the kinks out, and I stress need to. Karl Benson please put New Mexico State on the schedule September 2.