The most disappointing group on the Fresno State Bulldogs during the 2006 season was their offense. Well truthfully that statement is only half true. The offensive line and running game came through for the Dogs as Brandstater only endured six sacks during his ten starts. At the same time the Bulldogs offensive line allowed the Dogs to average over 180 yards rushing per game. This ended up being a positive aspect to the Dogs offense because their passing game was nothing to write home about. Brandstater averaged 135 yards passing per game, a rate that would be terrible even for the bottom feeders in the WAC. In order for 2007 to be any better the offense will start and end with Brandstater. But the Bulldogs will be losing the one man that made their offense work this season: Dwayne Wright. In order for the Dogs to rebound on offense each player will have to take their game and step it up.
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.