Thursday, December 28, 2006
1) Defensive secondary - I know most will say I am crazy for thinking this is the least of our problems but I don't feel the secondary underperformed nearly as much as we have viewed them as doing. In most of our games the defense kept the games close enough for us to win. We lost games by 7, 1, 12, 1, and 10. Yes the three games in the middle were not close but I am not going to blame it on the defense. No one stopped Hawaii from scoring this season and LSU was just too much for us to handle. For most of the season the Bulldogs defense played good enough for us to win nine of our games. Unfortunately it did not work out for the Dogs. If we plan on making a jump next season to eight or nine wins the secondary will have to force more turnovers. At the same time the corners and safeties will have to learn how to play not only the receiver but the ball at the same time. Countless times the Dogs defenders could have had interceptions if they had just turned around during the flight of the ball. With Davis and Jenkins at corner we should play much better on defense as we will also have plenty of speed in the secondary. Our LB's if healthy will be fast and able to contain any offense when running to the outside. Overall the defense will have to step up their gameplay a notch to give us a chance in every game we play.
2) Offensive Production - I am sure most of you feel like this is the number one problem the Dogs have overall. However, I feel like there is one more aspect of Bulldog football that caused more problems than our offense did. But first let's concentrate on the offensive woes of the team. Our QB had problems throwing the ball and I don't foresee that changing unless he develops a progression chart in his mind. Brandstater has to realize that there are three receivers on most plays and he does not have to force the ball to the number one option. More often than not Chastin West will be our go to guy through the air next season along with Bear Pascoe. Brandstater is going to have to see that he can dump the ball off to either Harding or Miller if everyone else is covered. At the same time Brandstater will have to try and get the ball to Moore, Crawley, and Ajirotutu in order to spread the offense out. Of course this is all going to depend on our new offensive coordinator and the type of gameplan we decide to use. Our offensive line should be quite good again and the addition of Cunningham will only make the line that much stronger. Running lanes will be there keeping the pressure on Brandstater down. If Tom can somehow find some timing with the young receivers on the field the Dogs offense should see an increase in offensive production keeping the defense off of the field for longer periods of time. Unfortunately this will not matter if the last piece of Bulldog football does not come around.
3) Special Teams - In my opinion our special teams unit is what did us in far more than any other part of the team this season. Our punting was bad, our kick return coverage stunk, and our field goal units on both offense and defense took a step back with respect to production. Stitser did not kick at the level we are used to seeing him be at, Christensen dropped far too many snaps as a holder, and Smith was not the punt returner we all remembered him to be. Because of our special teams we continually gave the opposing team's offenses a short field to play on. It is not hard to score points when you begin on the 45-50 yard line every time you touch the ball. Colorado State practically sat on our side of the field the entire game. Boise State, Hawaii, LSU, and San Jose State did the same thing. Because Malone could not do the job punting Zimmerman was forced to step in and do something he generally does not do. He is not a punter and that becaome evident this season. Our kick return coverage allowed two touchdowns this season on punts and one touchdown on a kickoff. In order for the Bulldogs to win games they will have to continually win the field position game. Go back and watch the highlights of the USC game. (They are located on the right side of this blog) You will notice how often Adam Jennings gave us great field position throughout the course of the game. It would be great field position that made it that much easier for Fresno State to put points on the board. I know Chastin West is a great player but he does not seem like a kick returner. We can only hope that Wylie and Smith can step back and return kickoffs the way we are used to seeing here at Fresno State. If we cannot fix our special teams the 2007 season will once again be a long tumultuous season filled with numerous plays we would just as soon forget.
Each of us has a differing opinion as to what is the most important aspect of the football team that needs to be repaired. As I stated I feel our special teams unit puts us in a tough position every time they take the field. If you feel differently share what you think. Regardless we have plenty of problems to fix and there may have been a few that I missed over the course of this blog.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
recruiting becomes one of the more important factors into how our future goes at Fresno State.
The two pictures on the left as most of you know are of Devan Cunningham and Matt Faulkner. These are just two of our fifteen recruits headed to Fresno State for the 2007 season and beyond. Cunningham is a great three star prospect that will have a chance to compete for an O-line position as a true Freshman. Faulkner is a Texas QB who ran the spread offense in high school and averaged over 250 yards passing per game. While these recruits sound great the challenge will be to work them into the Bulldogs offensive gameplan. Here in lays the problem with whomever the Bulldogs recruit. If a player such as Chris Carter of Fontana decides to attend Fresno State (which he says he wants to) Pat Hill will have to find a way to incorporate this player into the team's overall scheme. As we all know trying to fit Brandstater into our offense in 2006 did not work out the way Pat Hill had hoped it would. Whether it was because Brandstater did not adapt to the system or not remains to be seen. If the Bulldogs are to be a successful football team in the future Pat Hill will have to do a better job of getting these players ready for games. I have seen the Bulldogs practice countless times in the past and our offense always looks ready to explode. Unfortunately practice is not the same as a game and the Bulldogs had a problem rolling over all of that explosive offensive fire-power into the actual season.
Will the Bulldogs take a step forward in 2007 and figure out how to win again? Will Fresno State find that defensive prowess that we all remember from the early part of the decade? It seems as if the Bulldogs have made speed their number one priority in this off-season and after watching the LSU game we as fans should be able to see that their is a necessary need for speed on this team. Without Dwayne Wright the offensive gameplan will rest on the shoulders of an unproven QB and two explosive albeit young Running Backs. Pat Hill has his work cut out for him in 2007 but improvement will be relatively easy to achieve with the way the 2006 season ended. But can you truly see this team turning 2007 into a season that many of us would like to remember forever?
In 2007 we have road games against Hawaii (if Brennan returns they will be a nightmare to play), Oregon, and Cincinnati. All three of these teams will be ready for the Dogs and we will have to bring our "A" game just to compete. However, recruiting has allowed all of us as fans to believe that the Dogs will be a much different team in 2007. With a secondary that now has Sharrod Davis and Damon Jenkins at corner I feel a little better about our coverage. Bell, Owens, Haynes, Harris, and Jefferson will all be roaming the secondary and one thing is for sure: This team will be much faster than the team in 2006. Remember we have also received commitments from players such as Terrance Dennis who is one of the hardest hitting secondary players in the state, and Isaiah Green. We have plenty of secondary help on the way and if Chris Carter decides on Fresno State we will be looking like a team with just as much athleticism as any team in the state in the coming years (of course aside USC who has fifty million five star recruits per year).
As long as Fresno State continues to address the needs they have this off-season the future of this team will look bright. We need one of our two QB's to come in this season and play without fear. We need either Brandstater or Colburn to step in and make a statement early in the season. Regardless of what happened in 2006 the outlook for the coming seasons is actually quite good. It almost seems as if these recruits want to come to Fresno State to help the Dogs reclaim that national name that it once held. Whatever the reasons the future will be fine. Fresno State will win ten games again sometime soon and the reason we will get better with time will come down to recruiting and the young men that want to step onto the field and wear the Green V with pride.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
1) The feel of the central valley. The green V on the back of the helmet says it all as this team is the pride of the valley. We live in an area that is often overlooked by the rest of California but for the most part our football team can play with just about anyone in this state.
2) I am thankful for the progression of this football team. Just 15 years ago there would have never been talk of a Bulldog team making any type of run to crack the top ten. Today that idea is not far fetched as the Dogs continually push the limits with respect to the "Big" teams of the nation.
3) I am thankful for the creation of the BarkBoard where we as fans can share our thoughts on the Bulldogs. People like Mario and Chris do an outstanding job of allowing all of us to say how we feel over on the BarkBoard. Sometimes we do not all agree on what the Dogs do or where the team is headed, but the BarkBoard will always allow us to say exactly how we feel.
4) I am actually thankful to Pat Hill for pushing this Bulldog team to become a national player. Every year if a team comes into Bulldog stadium and wins the major sports sites such as ESPN, CNNSI and so on will mention how great a win it was for the BCS team to come into Fresno and walk away with a win. The Bulldogs of the present are nothing like the Bulldogs of the early 1990's. While some of the early 1990 teams were successful they did not carry the national name the Dogs do today.
5) Lastly I am thankful for all of you Bulldog fans that make Bulldog nation what it is today. Yes we have some fair-weather fans out there but for the most part you die hard fans are what make Bulldog nation what it is today. It is people like Arx, Dilfer Jr, Steve Burnes, Mario, Chris, and so on that make our fan base so great (If I left a great fan out I am sorry, I do not mean to there are just so many of you). I love waking up on a Bulldog Saturday and heading out to the stadium for a fun time watching our Dogs and cheering for them. I know you die hards are the very same and there is nothing better than Bulldog football.
In the end I ask all of you who read the blog to think about what you love about Bulldog football. Maybe you love the spring practices that give us all an insight into what the season may hold or maybe you love the recruiting season that shows us the players of the future for the Dogs. Maybe you love the opening day of football season because once again we get to watch the pride of the valley play their butts off on the field. Whatever you are thankful for share it with all of us. The Bulldogs Football team has given us plenty of great memories and this is the time of the year to remember what we love about Fresno State and not what we hate.
Note - I hope to see everyone at World Sports this Friday. It will be nice to meet many of you Bulldog fans and maybe we can sit and talk about the future of this team. Go Dogs, it is going to be a fun offseason.
Friday, December 15, 2006
It wasn't long ago that Pat Hill would insist that nearly 80% of all Freshman should redshirt to give themselves time to adapt to the college football game. Oh how times have changed. A 4-8 season allowed Pat Hill to see that maybe some Freshman really are good enough to play their first season. In 2006 Jefferson, Harding, Miller, and Owens all saw playing time for Fresno State as true Freshman. Not only will this help the team in 2007 but it has shown the recruits that they can play a role in their Freshman seasons. I believe the biggest mistake a coach can make in the college level is to have the type of mindset that Freshman cannot contribute to the program right away. If Bob Stoops had this attitude Adrian Peterson would not have been the explosive running back he turned out to be in his Freshman season. To say a Freshman is not ready to play college level football is all relative and should be studied on a case by case basis. Paul Pinegar's best season may have been his Freshman year in which he was thrown into the fire due to injuries to Jeff Grady. Pinegar stepped in and did an outstanding job leading the Bulldogs to a 9-5 season with a victory over Georgia Tech in the Silicon Bowl.
Today Freshman walk into Fresno State to meet Pat Hill and realize that they have a chance to make a difference in their first season. Devon Wylie may be our kick returner next season and that had to play a role in him deciding to come to the Bulldogs. Freshman do not want to sit and watch an entire season pass them by. At the same time I do not feel like a player receives too much of an advantage on the sidelines only because there is no simulation for game experience. Sure you can practice with the team and get a feel for how your team plays but that will pale in comparison to coming into a game and playing against the likes of Oregon, USC, LSU, or a Boise State. Freshman choose to come to Fresno State because we tend to play the biggest and the best of the BCS conferences. Kids do not want to go play at a school that has no national recognition and that is not the case at Fresno State.
If Pat Hill continues to change the way he handles incoming Freshman he will see a spike in the type of players that begin to find interest in the Bulldogs. We may not get the five star recruits that the USC's of the world get but instead we will get the three stars that will play with their all every time they step onto the field. We will continue to get players like Joe Fernandez (pictured above) who may be little known outside of the central valley but will make a big impact when he is given a chance as a Freshman. 2006 was hard to handle but in the end it may have been a roadmap to success with respect to the future. Freshman can make a difference and Pat Hill is allowing them to do so for the first time in his ten year coaching career for Fresno State.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Terrance Dennis - As a safety he had 115 tackles his junior season. From all accounts he is one of the hardest hitting high school safeties across the nation. He runs a 4.4-.5 40 meaning he has a mass amount of speed that will only help on defense. Dennis will have an opportunity to help the defense from the day he arrives at Fresno State.
Sharrod Davis - A corner who runs a 4.4 40 is never a bad facet to have on defense. Davis brings this amount of speed to the Bulldogs with JUCO experience. We know the secondary needed help and with the addition of Davis the Bulldogs secondary is going to be rather fast next season. If Haynes, Harris, Jefferson, and Jenkins all see playing time along with Davis it will be fun to watch this young group of players gel together throughout the 2007 season. Davis also stands at 6'0" so he will not be the most undersized corner out there.
Phillip Thomas - Thomas runs a 4.5 40 and is versatile on offense. He can either play RB, WR, or defense as a secondary player. He recorded 80 tackles and six sacks his junior year and will only get better with playing time.
Devon Wylie - Wylie comes in as a player that may remind us all of Adam Jennings. While he is not the tallest (Just as Jennings wasn't) he is fast and is a kick returner. Wylie may be able to provide us the advantage in the kick returning game we missed having this past season. He is a WR who has enormous athletic ability and as I stated before will help us immensely in the special teams facet of the game.
Matt Lindsey - Tall and athletic Lindsey will have to compete with the many Sophomore WR's on this team for playing time. However, Lindsey has very good body control and tends to put himself in great position to catch every ball thrown his way. He will be a great addition to the Bulldogs and may remind many of you of Keith Poole who chose Arizona State and ended up on the New Orleans Saints in the NFL.
Devan Cunningham - An enormous offensive lineman who is going to compete for a starting spot as soon as he arrives. He stands at 6'5" weighing in at 310 pounds. He is a strong physical football player and will be one of the better signees for the Bulldogs with respect to the 2007 recruiting class. Ranked as the #7 offensive lineman in the state of California and will only help the QB protection to become even stronger over the next few years.
Matt Faulkner/Nick Anderson - Faulkner is a tall QB out of Texas that will come into Fresno State hoping to make a name for himself. He has the size and ran a spread offense in high school meaning he knows how to throw the ball. In nine games he threw for 2300 yards and 20 td's during his senior season. He may be the next generation QB for the Bulldogs as the QB position should be wide open for competition heading into 2008.
Anderson comes into Fresno State as an unknown from El Dorado Hills. Very little is known about him as he had a shoulder strain his senior season and missed playing time. He committed in lieu of Sean Norton departing the program. He is a smart QB and may be the kind of QB that surprises everyone with his play during his time at Fresno State.
Bryson Hodges - Will have a tough time getting snaps this season as I would guess him to redshirt with such great depth at the running back position. Unless Hodges is move to another position he will not become a factor in the Fresno State offense until our two promising sophomores move on.
Austin Raphael - at 6'2" 215 pounds Raphael still somehow runs a 4.7 4o meaning he may be an asset to this team with some development. It is hard to find speed at the LB position and with a little more bulk Raphael may be able to break into the LB corp for Fresno State and contribute to the defense rather quickly.
Overall the Bulldogs offseason has gone well up to this point. We have plenty of time to land more recruits but I have to say I am rather pleased with those that have committed so far. The Bulldogs have many holes to fill and these players will only help to make 2007 a bit easier to transition into. Of course we need good QB play but I feel like the speed issue is being addressed well and we will see what happens with respect to the defensive line in the next two months of recruiting.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
In your opinion as fans what do you think we need to go after with respect to recruiting?
Obviously both of our kickers will return, but do you feel that it is important to go find another field goal kicker now instead of waiting for Stitser to move on? At the same time we have two new QB's coming into the system but I ask again do you feel like that is enough for the Dogs right now? As I always say it's great to hear from those huge Bulldog fans because you tend to have the clearest outlook on the team from the outside. Let's see what most people feel like the Dogs should concentrate on with respect to our recruits for 2007. Remember let us all know what you think the Dogs need to become a better team. Where should the Dogs concentrate on to be competitive once again?
Monday, December 11, 2006
Quarterback - Barring any unforeseen circumstances Brandstater will be the starter in 2007 due to the departure of Norton (although that really wouldn't have mattered, Brandstater would have been the starter regardless). As I have stated many times Brandstater has so much work to do to become a better QB that it is pointless for me to go over it. Backup Ryan Colburn has been in the system for two years now but has not received any playing time on the field and has been the scout team QB meaning he runs the opposing team's offense in practice. Recruiting wise Matt Faulkner will be coming in from Texas as a two star recruit. He looks to have good size and armstrength, but the verdict on him becoming the next great Bulldog QB will be left up to him and his game preparation. Fresno State should look to land one more QB in the off-season in order to build for the future. Putting one kid in position to run the team is not the way to go. Instead find two, let them compete and let the best one take over the job. That will better prepare the QB for game time situations as opposed to being handed the job as Brandstater was. We all see how that turned out.
Offensive Line - The Offensive line will lose Denman who played outstanding throughout the course of 2006. Kyle Young will also depart, but may not be as missed as we once thought he would be. The Offensive line seemed to pick up the slack after Young was dismissed from the team with four games remaining in the season. On a positive note the offensive line will be back and ready to go in 2007. Bobby Lepori, Pierce Masse, Adam McDowell, Richard Pacheco, and Cole Popovich all return for an offensive line that opened monster holes for Dwayne Wright to run through. Since most of the returning lineman will be in their junior years it is not a necessity to find lineman this off-season. This may be one of the few positions Fresno State will have to do very little work to improve going into 2007. As long as the coaching can find a strong replacement at center the Bulldogs offense should continue churning out rushing yard after rushing yard.
Running Backs - Fresno State looks to be in very good hands as Anthony Harding and Lonyae Miller will return for their sophomore years. Although Dwayne Wright is departing the Bulldogs will have two capable running backs to help carry the load. Lonyae Miller is both fast and strong as he can outrun the defense and run them over at the same time. Anthony Harding is one of the faster running backs the Bulldogs have ever had. One of these two will have to step up and win this position in 2007. A RB by committee would be great but we all know coach Hill likes to have a go to guy. My guess is as good as yours on who will be the top RB on this team in 2007. Recruiting wise a RB will not be of major concern as the Dogs seem to be set at this position. Don't forget Clifton Smith if he is 100% will be able to stand in as their third down RB for passing situations. Before injury Smith was very effective out of the backfield and we can only hope Smith can return to his electric ways in 2007.
Wide Receivers/Tight End - 2006 gave us a look into the future with so many young receivers on the field. With Crawley, West, Ciconne, Moore, and Pascoe the Dogs should be set in the receiver area for many years to come. However, the Dogs have recruited receivers to come into the program in 2007. Matt Lindsey and Devon Wylie will be coming into Fresno as WR's. Both WR's have also been used as Kick returners and may be the next Adam Jennings for the Fresno State Bulldogs. Chastin West was used as the kickoff returner in 2006 but I did not feel he created a positive with respect to the kick return game. The Bulldogs need to allow West to concentrate on receiving because he is going to be a great receiver with the more time that passes. Do not forget that the Bulldogs have bear Pascoe at Tight End. Pascoe had a breakout season as the go to guy for the Bulldogs passing offense. He has great hands and the Bulldogs finally figured out that throwing to a 6'5" TE will only end up being a great thing. The Dogs look to be set in both of these positions for the next two seasons.
Fullbacks - Roshon Vercher is gone. This is going to hurt Fresno State as Vercher was a great offensive lead blocker for every RB that followed. Isaac Kinter looks to be the next FB for Fresno State and showed he has good hands out of the backfield. Kinter can catch and seems to be able to pick up the blocking slack that Vercher will leave behind. Fresno State should look to find another Fullback this off-season as having one strong FB has been a problem for the Dogs. In 2005 Vercher went down to injury and the lack of a strong replacement at FB hurt the Dogs for the remainder of the 2005 season. In order to make sure this does not happen again the Bulldogs should concentrate on finding a new FB for the system.
Overall the offense in a strong QB away from being extremely potent. The Dogs have the Offensive line, Running Backs, Tight End, and Wide Receivers to put up enough points to win most of their games. However, if the QB play does not improve Fresno State's offense will end up in the tank just as it did in 2006.
Friday, December 08, 2006
We have plenty of returning secondary players but our first recruit should have a chance to step in and make an impact right away. Sharrod Davis should be able to step in and play corner right away as he is a JUCO transfer. He actually played for Oregon his freshman season but left towards the end of the year. As far as the other corner position goes we will still have Damon Jenkins who did a great job during the second half of the season. Although he gave up the TD in the play pictured above, his coverage was sound as he seemed to improve with every game that passed. With both safeties leaving the Bulldogs will turn to young talent to take care of the deep passing. Whether the defense goes with Harris, Haynes, Bell, Owens, or Jefferson we should be fine with respect to the safety spot. One thing we will have more of in 2007 than we had in 2006 is team speed. The recruiting trail seems to be taking the Dogs down the route of searching for speed, and we will not be outplayed like we were at LSU with respect to defense in 2007.
Linebacker play is going to be key if the Bulldogs want to slow down the running game of opposing offenses. Riley should be 100% next season and we can only hope that Q. Brown gets through camp without injury. If these two can come through for the Dogs they will have a great starting point at LB. Trevor Shamblee's injury will take all of the offseason to heal, but if he can find a way to come back strong in 2007 these three LB's will give us a good group to hold down the run. Nico Herron and Robert Schenck will warrant time at the LB position and will contribute to stopping the run as well. The Dogs will recruit LB's but will be looking for speedy ones as opposed to generally large LB's. It is hard to find a LB who wants to commit to Fresno State that has both size and speed. Because LB's tend to be such an important position on defense these speedy LB's with size tend to be taken by the Pac-10 schools. However, Fresno State is in good hands with their LB corp for next season and should be fine with respect to the running game.
The Defensive Line will be an area of concern if a few of the Bulldogs cannot step up in 2007. players like Chris Lewis are going to have to gain size and speed to help the QB pursuit that the Bulldogs lacked in the first half of 2006. Tyler Clutts will return for his senior season but is an undersized DE. Lewis will have a chance to compete for the opposite DE position. Jason Shirley will return to be the monster run stopper in the middle of the field. Shirley came on strong towards the end of the season and could be found in the backfield on almost every play. If players such as Michael Stuart come around the Bulldogs defensive line may be able to hold down most running attacks while being able to put pressure on the QB. Ikenna Ike came on strong during the 2006 season and should continue to become a better D-Line player as long as he gets more experience. Mark Roberts will also have to step in and show that he is ready to play big time college football for the Fresno State Bulldogs. Overall if there is one area of need recruiting wise it will be in the defensive line area. The Bulldogs defensive line did not lose much but the players they did lose will hurt. Leonard was a huge run stopper in the middle and will be sorely missed. At the same time Marlon Briscoe played well and we will need to find a DE to pick up the slack.
The 2007 defense cannot be worse than the 2006 defense. The secondary will be much more experienced than we may think. With Harris, Haynes, and Jefferson all getting playing experience 2007 will shape up to be a pretty decent defensive season. Our first area of concern on defense should be the D-line, but I have a feeling the Bulldogs will put all of their efforts into finding team speed because of losses to Hawaii and LSU. The Dogs believe that team speed is what killed them. Look for the Fresno State to go for both speed and size on the line. These are definitely the two biggest needs on defense.
Question - With respect to defense what do you fans feel is the most important need in the offseason? I feel like team speed and size on the defensive line should be our focus. What about everyone else?
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Because this newspaper has reported Hill as being interested he either needs to clear up the confusion right away by saying he has no interest in going anywhere or admit that he would not mind talking to other schools about opportunities. It is in a sense funny that Boeh would completely grant Hill the opportunity to speak with other schools if he feels the desire to do so. To me that says that Boeh is not worried about losing Hill as the coach, something I have to say I agree with at this time. Hill has been a great man to Fresno State for a long time now. Unfortunately I do not feel that he is operating in the same manner that he did when he first arrived. Hill was loved by all of Fresno for making us a big time program, one that could play with the BCS schools and beat them often. Today we do not view Hill as the same man but instead view him as a man who seems confused and lacks confidence in himself as the coach of the Bulldogs football team. He puts very little trust in his team assistants and seems to feel that he is the only one who can coach this team successfully. Last night Kelly Carr said Hill needs to hire an O.C. and let him run with the position. I completely agree with Carr. If Pat Hill were to show support for an O.C. and let him venture out with his own system fans may begin to believe that Pat Hill can change. However, the chances of Hill allowing an O.C. to run his own system are about as good as the odds that the Royals will win the World Series in 2007.
My question is do we want Pat Hill to be interested in coaching elsewhere? When fans complain about this Bulldog team are we complaining about the coaching aside Hill or is Hill the reason we complain? Do you fans think we need to replace Hagen, Brown, Simons, and so on? Or do you instead feel that if Hill is replaced and the rest of the coaches remain we will be fine? Let me know what you think, this should make for interesting responses.
Note - I was on the barkboard the other day reading some posts and I have to say ChrisDog's are quite funny. There may be times where they aren't 100% right on, but for the most part he is hilarious and really comes through with what he has to say. Thanks for the posts Chris, definitely fun to read.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
While Hagen leaving will not hurt the team the exit of Norton is going to affect this team tremendously. Pat has no one to fall back on now if Brandstater continues to struggle. Brandstater will be our starter (and 10,000 less people will be in the stands for each game unless the team Norton transfers to comes to town) but the pressure on him will not decrease. This is not going to make Brandstater's job any easier. Instead if he does not get the job done we will struggle through another losing season. Fan support will continue to dwindle and any hopes of ESPN having interest in putting the Dogs on television will all but disappear. Fresno State may very well become one of those horrific WAC automatic wins for other schools. All the work Pat Hill will have done to get the Dogs into the national spotlight will have been ruined because of his support of a QB who cannot do what is needed to win games at the college level. I do not have the answer to why Pat is so adamant about starting Brandstater. When Norton announced he was leaving Pat stated "I still think Sean is a good QB". When asked about Brandstater Hill stated "I think with time and work Tom could be a good QB". In other words the QB that is good is leaving and the one that needs all the work in the world to become good is staying. How much sense does that make? Yesterday on ESPN 1430 Brandstater stated that he is going to study the playbook well this off-season so he can be more effective next season. My question is what have you been doing for the past three years? have you noticed maybe you should open the book up and see where it takes you? Colburn took the same route as Brandstater as he grey-shirted then red-shirted his first two years at State. He will be in his third year in the program and there is no possible way he could be as bad as Brandstater has been. But do you think Pat is going to give Colburn a true shot?
The title of this blog "A Concerning Exit" refers to Norton leaving. This one situation will create more problems for the Bulldogs in 2007 than Pat Hill wants to admit. Hill calling plays is not the answer and never will be. We all knew he was doing this anyhow, but now he may be our offensive coordinator. While you are at it Pat why don't you fire Brown, Simons, and Baxter and coach the entire team yourself. That way you don't have to worry about what people think of your football team anymore. You will know everything falls back on you and there is no blame you will be able to put out there to take it away from you. This team faltering is Pat Hill's fault and I am tired of listening to people who are trying to protect a coach who used to be a strength at this university. Times have changed and Pat's mentality is not the right mindset for the Dogs right now. Hill ran Norton out of town and if that doesn't piss you off then nothing will. In that sense I can almost understand those who support Pat. Just understand this football team will not be successful for many years to come as long as Hill continues to worry about everything except his football team.
Question - Why do you think Pat is so adamant about starting Brandstater? Why did Pat do everything in his power to keep Norton off of the field? I have my own thoughts but what does everyone who reads the Blog think?
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I feel like Fresno State let an opportunity get away with Sean. At the same time I have no respect for our coach, absolutely none. I am tired of defending a man who has caused more havoc in 2006 than most coaches do in a lifetime. We have had a complete breakdown with respect to this team and if there is anyone that does not feel like Pat Hill is at the forefront of all of this they are wearing blinders. Do all of you really feel like the Young situation was just Young failing and that's all there was to it? Do all of you feel like the reason our seniors played so badly was truly because they were looking towards the NFL? Let me offer an alternate view for you. McCauley, Young, and Williams all could have gone pro after the 2005 season (which in turn might have been a good thing when looking back at the situation). I am quite sure Pat Hill did all he could to keep them at Fresno State for their senior seasons. After all three agreed to stay they had to watch Pat Hill flirt with leaving to the NFL. How would that make you feel as a player? Your coach does all he can to keep you in Fresno because of your so called commitment to the program only to turn around and inquire about leaving himself. Fresno State's situation is spinning further and further out of control with each day that passes. The Norton situation was just one of many that 2006 endured, none of which are pleasant in any way.
However, I am writing this blog to say goodbye to a kid I think will prosper wherever he ends up. Sean Norton has the drive to be a great football player. Sean Norton has the skill and intangibles to become a college QB everyone will remember down the line. Although he will be relegated to playing at a Div. 1AA school if he wants to play right away, Norton should do well wherever he decides to go. As a Fresno State fan I want this team to win but I cannot support many of the decisions Pat Hill made in 2006. I almost feel as if he is in this for himself now and does not care about anyone else including those who give their all for the Bulldogs program. Norton is a class act regardless of how you look at the situation. He never complained and handled the situation as best as a young QB in college could. Yesterday when he was interviewed he did not throw the Bulldog program under the bus but instead stay composed and gave an honest evaluation of what happened. I am sure he had to bite his tongue during that interview but he did the best possible thing he could. Others schools he inquires about going to will see this team first attitude and give this guy a chance without a doubt. Thank you for the effort, time, and attitude you gave to Fresno State Sean. Many of us will miss the opportunity to watch you play college football for Fresno State. I wish you the very best wherever you head and I know you will succeed wherever you may end up.
Where does this leave the Fresno State football program in 2007? Is Tom Brandstater going to be our QB for another season? As of right now it looks as if he is the best option we have. In other words we will not win more than four-six games in 2007. Pat Hill made an interesting comment about the QB position in the Fresno bee today. Hill stated "I don't think you can develop a quarterback as quickly as everyone wants." Most people do not realize that Brandstater has been in the program for three years now. Yes this was his first year as the starter but he redshirted and was the backup for his Freshman season. If he is not ready now will he ever truly be? How long does Pat Hill feel it should take for the QB position to develop, five years? The Fresno Bee goes on to talk about what needs to be fixed in order for this team to improve in 2007. Personally I do not feel this is a one year project. I feel this team will be down for the next three-four seasons. As long as we continue to count on a QB who cannot make the reads, execute the throws, and lead this team to victories we will end up with far more losses than most of us can stomach. I realize many of you do not agree with me but I solely blame the head coach for this team falling apart. Pat Hill is in charge of this team and it is his job to make sure this team never divides. It is Pat's job to make sure the best man is on the field. It is Pat's job to play those who give us a chance to win every week. Pat has not done this and if there is anyone who disagrees, well as I said earlier take off your damn blinders and open your eyes to what is truly going on at Fresno State.
Monday, December 04, 2006
To answer this question let's take a look at how the players on the team have to adapt to the Bulldogs system of football. We have used primarily the same offense since Pat Hill took over as coach. Aside 2001 when David Carr was given the chance to throw all the time we have been a run first team. Tom Brandstater knew coming into the season that Dwayne Wright would take an enormous amount of pressure off of him by running the ball effectively. Brandstater still was not able to adapt to his role as a secondary player who would have to step up from time to time. With respect to the QB position I do not feel like we expected too much, but instead I feel like we expected out of Brandstater exactly what the Bulldog offense did: For him to step up from time to time and make a play to win the game. There is no reason to cover the RB position, Dwayne Wright did the school proud and came through in every possible way in 2006. WR's in the Bulldogs offense are expected to block primarily and make catches when needed. We are not a throwing offense per se so in turn the receivers do less than most receivers in the WAC have to. With that being said, the 2006 receiving corps underachieved horribly. Fernandez dropped numerous passes and Williams could not play for half the season. The Dogs lost Fairman to injury and were forced to play Freshman upon Freshman. We all know the defense was horrendous for the entire first half of the season. The second half of the season provided us with some positives as the Dogs defense began to come around and actually finished third in the WAC in sacks.
At Fresno State we have become accustomed to 8-9 wins a season. We as fans have been told that the Bulldogs goal is to reach the BCS. We only have these hopes and dreams because that is exactly what the coach of the football team has sold to us. Pat Hill's goals are the reason Bulldog fans have high expectations. Are we wrong for it? No because that is the message that our very own hometown coach is giving us each week with respect to the Dogs. Do we expect too much out of Fresno State? Overall at this time in the programs history our expectations may be too much for the Dogs but it should not be this way. Fresno State has as much talent as anyone in the WAC. They have the players to win every week. Pat Hill has led us to believe we are a top tier mid-major in the college football world. Hill has made many of us believe that there is that chance to do what Boise State did this year. Unfortunately if Pat Hill does not change who he is (and I don't foresee this happening) we will have no chance to achieve BCS dreams. Remember we have to climb the mountain to reach the top. The first stop should be the WAC title. That is what we should desire as fans right now. Once we accomplish that then let's move onto something bigger and better. Until the WAC title belongs to Fresno BCS dreams should be put to bed which is exactly where the BCS belongs with respect to Fresno State: in a distant dream.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
San Jose State - 24
Fresno State -14
The offense put together one scoring drive yesterday of which ended in a Dwayne Wright TD. Fresno State's defense scored the other TD on a fumble recovery by Goodwin. This game provided what is exactly wrong with Fresno State: If they cannot run the ball over and over again they have no chance to come away with a win. In Fresno State's four wins this season Dwayne Wright has averaged 24 carries for 177 yards. Yesterday Dwayne Wright earned his yards the hard way as he carried the ball 23 times for 106 yards, but the offense needed another spark. Tom Brandstater could not provide that spark. Brandstater finished 21 for 37 with four int's and no TD's. However it seems as if the coaches for this team are going to do everything possible to stand behind Brandstater. After the game Hagen stated "I think he is doing a good job back there". I do not understand for the life of me how Hagen could possibly make a statement such as this. Let's recap what this season has given the Fresno State Bulldogs:
1) A 4-8 Record
2) A loss to the San Jose State Spartans for the first time since 1990
3) Utah State's only win in a 1-11 season
4) 0-4 Record out of conference
5) A QB that finishes with 1490 yards passing, 13 td's and 14 int's who does not improve once throughout the entire season.
6) A special teams unit that completely fell apart and allowed punt returns and a kick return for a touchdown while muffing more than one extra point attempt.
Somehow with all of this our coaching still sounds positive about the way the season ended. I have been a Fresno State Bulldog fan for a long time. I have bought season tickets to Bulldogs games for the past five season regardless of how good I thought the team would be. If Pat Hill names Tom Brandstater the starter next season my string of five years in a row will end. I love Fresno State but I have no desire to watch this man play football anymore. He has no pocket presence, no field vision, cannot spot an open receiver regardless of how many seconds he is given to throw the ball, and continually throws the ball into double coverage. You can blame the receivers for the routes they are running, you can blame the offensive line for the lack of the time Brandstater has, you can even blame the playcalling for the lack of creativity it brings about. The one thing you cannot ignore however is Brandstater's lack of development throughout a season in which he was given countless chances to take hold of the starting position. He may have been injured after the Oregon game but how could that possibly effect his game against San Jose State? Is Pat Hill going to say we put him in tough positions again and he did a good job when all is said and done with? Is a tough position when his defense makes a great play to get the offense the ball then Brandstater throws into triple coverage over the middle in San Jose's end zone? Is a tough position sitting behind Dwayne Wright who runs for 295 yards and forces the defense to worry about the run play after play?
Tom Brandstater was never put in a tough position this entire season for many reasons. First and foremost Dwayne Wright did everything to make Brandstater's job easy. The only time Brandstater would have had a tough time Pat Hill protected him by allowing Sean Norton to play against the great teams on our schedule. I have never seen a coach wo is so adamant about starting a man who cannot play the position. Last week Clifton Smith fumbled a punt and was pulled for Joe Fernandez. When the receivers or RB's are not doing the job they are yanked from the game without a second thought. However, when Brandstater makes mistakes he is continually thrown back out onto the field. Pat Hill's football philosophy is not only confusing but also seems to be unfair to the players on the Bulldogs football team. When you pull one player for not doing the job you need to be the same way with the entire team. You cannot tell me there are no players on that team who despise Pat Hill for the way he handled the QB position this season.
In the end this is all old news. Brandstater could not guide this team to a win at San Jose. I now count three games the Bulldogs win with Sean Norton starting: Utah State, Washington, and San Jose State. This team has so much to fix over the off-season and it all starts with the QB position. In the off-season we will have four QB's (If Norton doesn't find somewhere else to play) vying for the QB position. In the spring of 2007 if Pat Hill comes out and says "Tommy is our starting QB" he will lose 10,000 season ticket holders that day. I know many of you may feel like I am turning my back on the program but that is not the case at all. I just cannot stomach the play of this QB anymore. Brandstater is not a Div. 1A QB an never will be. Some QB's have it and some don't. Tom just doesn't have it and if Pat Hill cannot see that then this team will be abysmal in 2007 once again.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
I first started following Bulldog football religiously in 1985. My first game was the 1982 Cal Bowl and subsequently went to all the home games in 1983 and 1984, but it was the success of 1985 that kept my attention, after all I was just in grammar school. As well, my uncle had a bunch of old Bulldog programs, pics, tickets and etc -- kept in his old room at my grandma's house -- which I found while digging for his stash of Playboys.
Despite paying little attention before 85, I do remember watching the post game interviews of 1984 game vs. SJSU at Spartan Stadium on TV. The 'Dogs had started the season 6-1 and lost 18-17 to the Spartans, which started a five game losing streak to close out 1984. The 1985 season is arguably the greatest in Fresno State history but SJSU was just 2-8-1 on the season and didn't pose a challenge, losing 37-17. However, 1986 Sports Illustrated Game of the Year, forever changed the FS-SJSU series.
Jim Sweeney had been cultivating JUCO talent in and around California to help build his rising program. The 1986 team had great JUCO's like Stephan Baker, Gene Taylor, James Williams, Jethro Franklin and Michael Stewart among others. But three JUCO's Sweeney didn't offer still haunt Bulldog fans to this day, QB Mike Perez, WR Guy Liggins and WR Lafo Malaulu.
The SJSU coach at the time, Claude Gilbert, was just as aggressive as Sweeney about JUCO's. Guy Liggins was one of the best college football receivers in the history of the game. Unfortunately, Liggins had a hear murmur that cut his pro career short and he died at the young age of 31. I still have nightmares of No. 83 streaking past the Bulldog secondary in his record breaking game of 86. He was part of the 1986 recruiting class, along with Perez.
Perez played JC ball right here Valley, at Taft. But was a complete under the radar guy! Fresno State made it through 1986 with an injured Kevin Sweeney at quarterback, but struggled in 1987 until Dave Telford emerged in mid-season. I can't help but think how good the 'Dogs could have been, if Sweeney would have signed Perez in 86. I really can't blame Sweeney, from what I am told, Perez's coach at Taft had to call in a favor to Gilbert at SJSU. Perez was an absolute stud in his two years at SJSU. The Perez-Liggins connection never lost to Fresno State, won consecutive PCAA titles and played in two Cal Bowls as the conference representative.
Need I bring up Lafo Malaulu's name again.
1986 game had more ups and downs than a Pat Hill news-conference. After the Bulldogs erased a 24-0 deficit to take a commanding 41-31 lead, the game seemed over when Jr. Bulldog safety Rod Webster intercepted Perez late in the fourth quarter. However, a freak injury inhibited Webster's return yardage and in turn changed the outcome of the game per se.
Webster, I believe, pulled a rib -- regardless it was some type of rib injury -- on his way to end zone. The pain was intense he had to completely stop and stumble out of bounds untouched. The 'Dogs failed to put the game away on its possession and we all know the rest! SJSU scores two touchdowns with just over two minutes left in the game. Perez shakes off Franklin's sack attempt and hits Malaulu's for the game winner with :18 left to play.
That game made the FS-SJSU rivalry the most intense and hated series in Bulldog football history. The winner of the game from 85-91 won the conference title and played in the Cal Bowl. At the time, I never thought the series would die. But it did, and aside from a few games early this decade, the FS-SJSU rivalry has had little flavor since the late 80's and early 90's.
SJSU fans still have hatred towards Bulldog fans, but for most Bulldog fans it is almost hard to "hate" San Hoser, when you can't help but feel sorry for them. I can't stand the Donks, and I don't have much love for the 'Bows, but a cocky bunch of San Hoser fans are still the most fun to hate.
I can't speak for the Fresno State-San Diego State rivalry of the 60's and 70's. Although it was renewed in 1992 -- when FS joined the WAC -- it didn't have the luster, in my opinion, because BYU ruled the WAC. It will take some good years for the SJSU-FS rivalry to pick up steam again, but this year is the most anticipated game between two, despite Fresno State's lack of success in 2006.
San Jose would love nothing more than to send Fresno State into the off-season with its worst record since 1978. And it seems for the first time since 1991, Fresno wants to desperately to beat San Jose State. SJSU Head Coach Dick Tomey doesn't have too many years left in him to coach, and unless Hill makes some changes he might not be around long enough to see the rivalry evolve once again. Hopefully, one school or another doesn't fall off the radar, and I really do mean that. A loss to San Hoser, will erase the three wins against against the WAC's St. Mary's Schools of the Poor, the Bulldogs work so hard to achieve.
In order for the changes Hill made post Boise to have any justification, the 'Dogs need to win and leave little doubt. A blow-out would be nice, but as long as San Jose doesn't pull a NMSU or LA Tech mistake late in the game to give the 'Dogs the game, I'll be happy with a close win. Granted SJSU has beaten just one team with a winning record, which happens to be IAA Cal Poly, the Spartans are still -4.5 favorites. Outside of the Utah State debacle, the Bulldogs have proven they can handle the WAC's doormats. The win over Nevada, gives the 'Dogs the edge in terms of WAC "quality" wins and beating San Jose State would "prove" Fresno State is the third best team in the WAC. It seems to be the one thing Hill can accomplish each and every, and that is finishing among the top three teams in one of the weakest conferences in college football.
Over the 2006 Fresno State football season we have seen plenty go wrong for this Bulldog team. Lately we have been lucky enough to see this team somewhat turn their season around (albeit against terrible teams). Today I only propose one question to anyone who reads this blog. Please give me your insight so we can discuss this through you readers as well. Believe me I enjoy giving every one of you readers my thoughts on the Bulldog season and what I have thought of the coaching and the players. However, I think Fresno State's failure this season is something that we all have an opinion on. So here is my question for every Bulldog fan out there that desperately wants to see this team improve:
"What do we need to do to fix this team?"
I know there are many problems within the Bulldogs football team but I wonder what you as fans think needs to be fixed in order to turn Fresno State back into the squad that challenged every team on their schedule regardless of who they played. I am sure many of us are confused and maybe we can come to some kind of concensus on the Bulldogs team and where they need to improve before we embark on the 2007 season. At the same time I guess there is one other question i would like to ask as well.
"What is already working and needs no improvement at all?"
I look forward to anyone who wants to respond and let me know what they think about the 2006 season and what we can do to make 2007 better.