Friday, March 17, 2006

Fontenot Headed to Europe: Did He Get a Raw Deal as a 'Dog?

Therrian Fontenot was one of my favorite Bulldogs. I always felt he got a raw deal at Fresno State. The fact that he made an NFL roster as undrafted free agent made me think how in the hell did this guy ride the bench for 4 years? He was a member of the Green Bay Packers practice squad for the first 16 weeks of the season in 2005, but did play in season finale against Seattle. Fontenot will be in uniform this weekend, as a member of the Rhein Fire, when NFL Europe officially kicks off it 14th season.

Fontenot had incredible speed. I believe he is the only player Hill has been able to recruit with sub 4.4 speed. He was recruited as a tailback but sat out 2000 as a non-qualifier. He made his debut in 2001 against Colorado and was back up to Paris Gaines all year. He got hurt in the 2002 preseason, after he was slated to battle for starting tailback position. Fontenot was never really able to adjust to being a college tailback. He relied too much on his speed, instead of his blockers. Rodney Davis and Bryson Sumlin established themselves as the go-to running backs in 2002 and the signing of JC standout Dwayne Wright all but signaled the end for Fontenot to get significant playing time in 2003.

I always felt Fontenot could have been the "Clifton Smith" of 2003 and 2004. He was quick, extremely fast and could play the H-back/slot position, but instead he was switched to cornerback. The 2002 secondary was young and got beat repeatedly all year. The 2003 season looked better with the return of Kendell Edwards and Fontenot making the switch to defense. But, Fontenot could never shake the injury bug, but more importantly he could not beat out hotshot redshirt freshmen Richard Marshall and Marcus McCauley. At the time I thought Fontenot got a raw deal, but after seeing M & M develop into potential NFL first round picks, I guess I was mistaken.

As fans we tend to second guess coaching decisions, especially during slumps and disappointing seasons, but we must support whatever decision coaches make. Pat Hill is either loved or hated, there are few far between, but the fact remains his program is well-respected nationally both on a college and pro level. I make this statement this spring because Bulldog fans were really down about last years 4 game losing streak, and many expect major changes this year.

For instance, the linebacking corps was abysmal the final four games, mainly due to the fact Marcus Riley got injured against USC and was lost for the season. Bulldog fans expect rFr. Isaac Kinter and the incoming fall recruits to make a big splash and have a shot to start. If it doesn't happen it is not because Hill has beef against anyone or he doesn't feel freshman should be given a shot. I have, more often than not, blasted the coaching for losses and I will continue to do so because Hill has stated that he is responsible.

The better team wins and five times last year, Fresno State was not the better team for whatever reason. It is all about execution and coaching. The offensive coaching staff has gotten an overhaul, but not by choice. I still think defensively the coaching staff is lacking, per se, but I will not make any more assumptions until September 1 against Nevada.


gofsudogs2006 said...

You know it's funny you bring up a raw deal with respect to rb's such as Fontenot. The reason i say this is because I felt like Sumlin received a raw deal this past season. I know he fumbled in the La. Tech game but let's be honest here: He was a great runner and had both power and speed. I could not for the life of me understand why Hill or Cignetti (or whoever the hell it was) put Rivera in there in the past couple of games as the backup over Sumlin. Sumlin had proven he could run the year prior with over a thousand yards rushing while splitting time with Mathis. Now I don't have a problem with Mathis being the #1 but come on now Sumlin was screwed with respect to playing time much as it seems that Fontenot was as well. Just my opinion, anyone else have one about this?

BdogPrideValleyWide said...

well, i too think that sumlin should have seen atleast some playing time against usc and i dont get why our coach(es) were so insistant on having "an every down back" i think that mathis and sumlin ran with all they had on every carry and it was a good idea to have them spell eachother. im not saying mathis was at all tired or that it would've made a difference but i think it would've been a good idea to give sumlin the ball too as he and mathis had different running styles. that difference in running styles could've amounted to some missed tackles by usc and/or by the rest of the teams we finished out the year with as it did in 04 when we used em both. if it aint know the rest.

mdg said...

In 2004 Wright was the guy, Sumlin was the back up and Mathis was battling for the 3rd spot on the depth chart. When Wright went down, Sumlin and Mathis shared the tailback spot quite well. Each brought something different to the table.

In 2005 Cignetti knew he was going to have 2 seasoned tbs, a 3rd in Clifton Smith and possibly a 4th in Wright if he played. It was pretty obvious when Smith went down against Oregon the offense was tailored to fit him and his versatility. Cignetti set the offense to have one power back and a h-back/slot back in certain formations. When Smith was out Jennings and Williams filled his spot instead of another back in the slot back spot. Rivera came in to spell in shot gun and passing situations, a spot Smith was probably going to play. Cignetti relied on these schemes all year, and failed to incorporate Sumlin and Mathis together. It can be done, look what Borges did with Brown and Williams at Auburn. But when Vercher went down, why not line Sumlin up at FB, instead of him sitting on the bench.

If Smith would not have been lost the offense would have had a totally different look. But the bottom line is Sumlin should have had as much carries as Mathis, both were quality backs.