Yesterday's blog on Pat Hill and his flirting with other jobs across the nation with respect to college football received a complaint due to the fact that all we seem to be talking about is Pat Hill anymore. Today I will use the rest of this blog to cover defensive recruiting and will not mention Hill's name anymore (for the rest of this blog, not forever). As you can see the picture to the left is Damon Jenkins who was beaten on this fourth and two play for a TD in the third quarter after the refs gave San Jose a chance to change their decision on whether to take a running into the kicker penalty or let it go. (Is that even allowed?) The reason I picked this picture for the recruiting blog is we need some definite help in our secondary. Since McCauley is leaving (although he ended up doing far less than I thought he would in his senior season) we will have to replace him at corner. Losing Simmons will not hurt much, he never seemed to grasp the corner lifestyle in college. Shirley came on strong in his senior year and will be missed. However Mays did not pan out the way we all had hoped he would. Something interesting I did not realize about Mays is he was our second Sacramento player of the year on the Fresno State football team. Both Sacramento players did not turn out to be nearly as good as we had hoped them to be. Can you guess who the other Sacramento MVP was? If you said Nate Ray you are correct.
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?