Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fresno State's Scheduling Suprises

I have to say when I first heard about Fresno State taking on Texas A&M I was not the happiest of fans. I thought the Cincinatti game was a much better fit with respect to the players and the level we are on right now. However, I never thought 2007 would be the season to make a run in the first place so I guess playing this game is not going to be nearly as horrifying as I first thought it to be. I compare this game to the one David Carr went through when the Dogs traveled to play a decent Ohio State team in 2000 and were handled by the Buckeyes. If Fresno State cannot handle the atmosphere of the twelth man (pictured left) then that is fine, it will be an experience that will only help the Dogs in the years to come. I had originally thought that 2008 would be the year to make a run at the BCS but the schedule seems to be shaping up to be very tough to do so. With three out of four OOC games on the road against K-State, UCLA, and Toledo the Dogs are going to have to play their "A" game every week. Not to mention their lone home OOC game will be against the Badgers of Wisconsin.

I am not going to be negative about these two games. I feel like Fresno State will not win the game at A&M however I do feel that they will gain vauable experience as a young team. By playing this game it is going to help the Dogs go on the road in 2008 and handle the crowd pressure that they have not experienced lately. Yes in 2005 they went to USC and last year they went to LSU but the LSU game was over before it started and the USC game was as much a home game as any other game has been for the Dogs. You have to continue to give the admimistration credit for scheduling games with large tier schools year after year. My only question overall is: Are we ever going to be able to acquire the status of a team who garners a one for one deal? We are going to play both of these games without a return trip from either team which bothers me. I feel like the least UCLA could do is give us a 2 for 1 by filling their 2008 OOC for them. Sometimes the price you have to pay as a mid-major is just not worth all of the problems you end up with.

In the end Fresno State will continue to schedule teams that are of BCS caliber. As long as Pat Hill is our coach we will play the toughest schedule in the WAC. I just hope that Hill does not fron-load the schedule again because if he does the Dogs are going to be worn out by the time WAC play starts and we all know what that means: two losses to teams the Dogs should beat.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Recruiting Winds of Change

Teenagers change their mind. If one thing is for certain it is that teenagers don't always realize what they truly want to do until the last minute. While one choice may look more lucrative than another, the situation may change as time passes. Schools such as Fresno State may receive verbal commitments from recruits only to have the recruit retract their statement at a later date. Many may wonder why a recruit would possibly do something of this sort and honestly can you blame a young man? When recruiting reaches the final weeks schools such as Washington, USC, and UCLA may lose out on a recruit they counted on acquiring. When this happens it leads these BCS tier schools to search elsewhere for a quick replacement. A school such as Fresno State is liable to take a hit more so than any other mid-major school in the nation because of the level of recruits the Bulldogs continually get. Schools like Fresno State have to worry that another program such as Washington will swoop in and take a recruit right from under their noses.

Last weekend Tyrone Duncan changed his commitment to Washington when they offered. The reason he committed to Fresno State in the first place was because of the fact he did not believe that Washington would offer him. While verbal commitments are nice to have they are not binding. A recruit does not have to hold on to his word because he has given nothing more than a verbal. The recruit has not signed a piece of paper or done anything else to say he must end up at the school he has verbally committed to. In a way you cannot blame a young man for doing so, the more offers that come in the harder it becomes to make a decision. If you are 18 years old and have committed to a school such as Fresno State what would you do if USC came calling two days before signing day? USC is a national program that has more prestige than most colleges in the nation today. USC continually finishes in the top five and is able to recruit anyone they sought after. Take the case of Christian Tupoa. Tupoa is currently being recruited by many colleges such as Fresno State, USC, Oregon State, BYU, and Miami. While he may become an impact player at a school such as Fresno State he will not receive the type of education and exposure he may receive at a school such as USC. Generally all Pete Carroll has to do to land a recruit is say the following line "We are USC". Fresno State has to try and sell their program to many recruits because the Dogs do not have the exposure, the tradition, nor the location that a school like a USC does. (disclaimer: I realize USC is actually in the middle of the ghetto, but you don't have to travel far to find the beaches and such)

In the end verbal commitments are not set in stone. There will never be a verbal commitment that will hold suit if the recruit does not want it to. At the same time there is no telling what a recruit will end up doing in the long run. Fresno State has not had good luck with their famed four star recruits such as Ricky Miller, James Paulk, and Vincent Mays. The recruits that seem to have faired the best for Fresno State are those that come in with two stars. Two star recruits can play college football but are generally under the radar recruits. Richard Marshall was a two star recruit. Bear Pascoe was a two star recruit. David Carr was a two star recruit. Logan Mankins and Garrett McKintyre were walk-ons. Do not get caught up on the stars a player has been given, that is not a telling stat of how good a player will truly be. Instead look at a players potential and how he may fit into the system of the school he chooses. Players such as Ryan Mathews (if he qualifies) will fit into the Bulldogs system well. For anyone who has watched his highlights, Matt Faulkner looks to be a perfect fit for the Bulldogs QB system. He has a strong arm over the middle and seems to have both patients and accuracy. Faulkner has the height and will find the meat as the Dogs will make sure to get him into the training room. Just remember one thing: Recruits and their rankings are all based on potential. Potential will always remain until the player comes through and turns that potential into results. We can only hope that the recruits that remain in the Fresno State system will perform at they level they are capable of. If this happens the Bulldogs football future will be just fine and those recruits we will have lost will not matter when all is said and done.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Has It Been That Long...

My contract to blog with AOL is done. They have chosen to go in a different direction. Translation: AOL no longer sees employing a blogger of a 4-8 non-BCS team that can not throw the football. Anyways my weekday workload has also cut down and is running smooth. Now I will be able to get back to blogging on the No. 1 Fresno State Football Blog.

My last post was back on Dec. 1 about the same time I stopped posting on AOL. Covering recruiting on has taken up a good amount, but I can't believe it has been almost two months since my last post.

NSC has done a tremendous job posting, but I hope to blog at least two-three times a week, if not more.

I have read the readers comments about improving the blog and I will do my best to add whatever you guys want to read. Player interviews will be tough because we would have to go through the SI office to do things the "right-way". But we'll see what we can do.

As far as recruiting, it will not be hard-hitting, breaking news. That stuff stays on's Doghouse forum, but the FSFB can still cover it well. NSC does a good job covering the recruits and I will add my tidbits. But the FSFB will still be the one-stop place for original analysis and opinion with links to every spot on the net with Bulldog info (that we can find). Drop us a line to share a link!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Hire Worth Discussing: Jeff Grady

During the 2006 Fresno State Football season it became quite clear that our offense was lacking more than we are used to seeing. Whether it was the QB or the receivers someone was not doing their job while on the field. The Bulldogs experienced far too many three and outs and did very little to move the ball throughout the course of the game. While the Bulldogs have not hired an offensive coordinator to take over for Steve Hagen (who wasn't very good anyway) a hire has been made that I feel will impact Fresno State down the line. The hire I am speaking of is that of Jeff Grady. Many people who read the blog complain that I am far too negative with my point of views on this team and where they are headed. If you feel I am negative sit back and relax, this is going to be one of the more positive blogs I write during the off-season.

Jeff Grady endured a tumultuous career while at Fresno State. Many people remember him for being a failure on the field, but do remember he was injured often in his career. He was not nearly as bad a QB as many have made him out to be. In his first game he led the Bulldogs to a near upset of Wisconsin at Camp Randall as the Bulldogs lost 23-21 while losing their star WR Bernard Berrian in the process. Throughout the rest of 2002 Grady battled injury but helped the Bulldogs to a 9-5 record. Yes, Paul Pinegar was forced to take over during the season but Grady can never be accused of not giving his all while on the field. He had his share of bad games but Grady should be remembered for the fight and resolve he showed in games such as Oregon State where he led the Dogs downfield to win the game in the final seconds. However, this is not what will make Jeff Grady a great QB coach. Instead his mind is what is going to make Grady the type of coach we need here at Fresno State.

What many people don't realize is that Fresno State has a good history with Graduate Advisors/Assistants. Lane Kiffin filled the same position from 1997-1998 at Fresno State and today was hired by the Oakland Raiders. Although the Raiders job may not be the highest profile job it is quite amazing that a man from Fresno State now is the head coach for the Raiders at the ripe age of 31. Kiffin made a name for himself as the offensive mastermind behind USC's offense (a job he shared with Steve Sarkisian). Today he is looked at as an innovative coach that has the ability to change a program around. Jeff Grady has the opportunity to do exactly what Kiffin did. Grady will be the QB coach in 2007. Grady is a young man who has to have a goal of becoming more than just a QB coach with respect to his coaching career. Grady was always said to understand Fresno State's offensive system far better than anyone else that played during his tenure at Fresno State. While Grady did not have the most athletic ability or the strongest arm, his football i.q. was said to be far and above anyone else he shared the football field with. If this is true Grady should be able to shed some light on the QB position to players such as Brandstater and Colburn. What people need to realize is you do not have to have an outstanding background with respect to playing college football in order to be a great coach. Lane Kiffin was not the most decorated of college football players. Joe Paterno was never an accomplished college football player but the success he has had at Penn State is one very few can question.

Jeff Grady will be stepping into a very unique situation with respect to Fresno State. Yesterday I was asked if Fresno State would actually hire an offensive coordinator or if Pat Hill would call the plays this season. While I feel that Hill will hire an O.C. I do not believe it will make much difference with respect to play calling. However, if Grady can show that the QB position is greatly improved going into 2007 Hill may have thoughts of turning Grady into a O.C. Even if Hill decides that the O.C. spot is not for Grady there is little chance the rest of the nation will ignore what Grady does at Fresno State. I am quite sure he will help the QB's in the Bulldogs offensive system understand the game far better than ever before. With a coach dedicated to bringing QB's along the Bulldogs QB play should improve vastly over 2007. Jeff Grady will be a great coach at Fresno State. I know many did not like him during his playing years, but he is young, brings a freshness to the offense that is needed, and has a football i.q. that will only help the Bulldogs in the long run. Enjoy Jeff Grady because he could be another offensive gem that the Bulldogs eventually let get away.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Bulldog Recruiting Update

This past week will go down as one of the better recruiting weeks the Bulldogs may have ever experienced. Over the past week the Dogs have received commitments from Tim Lang, Ryan Mathews, Tyrone Duncan, Zak Hill, and Porter Hill. Porter Hill, Duncan, and Mathews have all been given as high as a three star rating depending on what recruiting company you choose to follow. Each of these players bring their talent to Bulldog stadium. I have to say that I am excited to get two players on the defensive line who have size like both Porter Hill and Tyrone Duncan do. Duncan comes in as a 6'2" 300 pound defensive tackle. He brings immediate size and strength to a Bulldogs defensive line lacking just that. At the same time three star prospect Porter Hill stands at 6'3" 265 and also is a defensive tackle. These two young men will come into Fresno State hoping to compete for playing time right off the bat. They both have the skill and tools to make an impact as soon as they arrive at Fresno State.

With all due respect to the other four prospects that committed to Fresno State this past week I am more excited about Ryan Mathews than any of the other four. I realize he needs to get his grades up but this man led the nation in rushing. I don't care if he played against subpar competition, rushing for 3,300 yards in a season is something that is done very rarely. If you have not seen Mathews in action he is one of the more explosive backs to head to Fresno State. He has the size and the speed to make the biggest impact of all of these men in the long run. If Mathews were to redshirt this season he would be a Freshman during Harding and Miller's junior year. Our RB core seems to be set for many years to come. That is why it is so impressive that the Bulldogs were able to shore up their defense with the other recruits this weekend.

However, Tim Lang cannot be left out. Tim Lang may get a shot to compete for QB (in 2008) as he is explosive running the ball and has a great arm while on the move. He is definition of an athlete as you can place him at many different positions and he will find a way to succeed. Lang also is another athlete that will have to find a way to get his grades up, but if he does then he as well as Mathews are going to add to an already sterling recruiting class for Pat Hill and the Dogs. Sometimes teams have down years and have to rebuild. Sometimes Pat Hill has to go out and completely reload his team. The 2007 recruiting class is allowing Hill to bring in players who may be able to make an immediate impact with respect to the football program. The 2007 recruiting class has to be looked at as one of the better recruiting classes Hill has been able to put together up to this point in his career and to think I have not even mentioned his son Zak yet.

Zak Hill suffered an injury during the first half of a second round playoff game against Sanger High. However, Zak will be ready to play when the 2007 season begins. He is fast, tackles well, and brings a presence to the defense that will be sorely missed at Clovis West. Fresno State will be glad to have this young man in the program two years from now as he has the mind and the body to compete on the college football field. Overall the Fresno State recruiting class has moved up a few spots according to all rankings. The rankings with respect to Scout and Rivals now are as follows:

Fresno State (t-67) Boise State (69) Rivals Ranking
Boise State (57) Fresno State (63) Scout Rankings

Overall the Dogs have moved up many spots in the recruiting rankings in the past week as they have had three different three stars commit. We may have lost out on Kenny Rowe but I have to say I am happy with the way the recruiting has gone. The Dogs look to have a promising class coming in which will only make for a positive future here at Fresno State. Tomorrow I will be blogging on the role of Jeff Grady as our QB coach. I do not see this as bad a hire as many Dogs fans do. In fact tomorrow I will point out why this is a great addition for the Bulldogs offense.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Is the Job Getting Done?

I know you are not accustomed to checking out the Bulldog Blog and seeing a picture of a girl on the site, but today's blog is not going to have much to do with football. Instead today I want to ask the readers what they think about the Bulldog football blog and how it has been since the off-season began for Fresno State a month and a half ago (By the way the picture on the left is of Kristen Bell who stars in Veronica Mars, yes she is the hottie of my lifetime).

I have tried to cover every angle of our football team since I began writing for the blog six months ago. My first post was my prediction of the way the WAC would finish. I had Boise right as I said they would go 12-0 but as for the rest of the teams I was as far off as any guy could possibly be. However, in the end I write to inform the readers about what is going on with respect to the Bulldog football world. For the most part the readers already know about everything I publish because the barkboard does a great job of getting all the news updated. I offer a different point of view for the most part though because I am straight forward and do not try to sidestep any of the issues that the Bulldogs go through yearly. I am very forward and just think sometimes being harsh is the only way to handle your favorite teams.

In the end what I wanted to know from the readers is: Where can I improve to make the blog experience even better for everyone? I realize at times I can be negative but I look at it as a realistic point of view. I think sometimes realism comes across as negativity and that is how I am seen. Do know I love the Bulldogs and will always be there to support them. I say I won't buy season tickets if this or that happens but the truth is there is very little that can keep me from being at the stadium on Bulldog Saturday. If I can make the blog something everyone enjoys reading then I feel like I am doing a good job overall. So today's blog comes down to one question for everyone that reads this:

What can I do to make the blog even more enjoyable for all of the readers?

Thanks for all the reading you guys have done. I try to update the blog daily but at times things get busy. Just know throughout the off-season I will be writing far more than I won't. Take care everyone and have a great weekend. I will be in Sacramento but will be back writing away on Monday. I appreciate everyone's opinion on what you think of the blog.

Note - Monday I will do a recruiting update as we have added some very good players to the program over the past few days. If players like Tim Lang, Ryan Mathews, and Zak Hill don't get your spirits up then I don't know what will. We just landed the nations leading rusher, you have to be happy about that.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Goals For 2007

After a 4-8 season setting goals for the 2007 season should be rather easy. Fresno State will not have to do much more to improve the team as a whole. The Bulldogs will be hard pressed to perform even worse on offense, defense, and special teams. With so many returning offensive players the Bulldogs should have very little problems scoring more than 23 points per game. However, if the passing game does not pick up the pace from 2006 this team once again will be mired in an ugly season with no one to blame but themselves. With that being said there are many goals for 2007 the Bulldogs should embark upon, some of which are in their control while others aren't. Without further adieu here are the goals I have in mind for the 2007 Fresno State football team:

1) Improve Offensive Efficiency - The Bulldogs offense averaged 150 yards passing per game. Anyone who actually watched the games this past season realizes most of these passes were on screens or dump-offs to the running back. Brandstater needs to learn to get vertical with the ball. He also needs to learn that the Bulldogs have plenty more receivers on their team aside one Bear Pascoe. I realize Pascoe probably has the best hands on the team but going into 2007 Brandstater is going to have to work Moore, West, both RB's, Crawley, and Ajirotutu into the offense. If we cannot figure out a way to get the ball to these offensive threats 2007 may look exactly like 2006 with respect to the offensive game plan.

2) Better Secondary Play - The secondary of Fresno State in 2006 was almost embarrassing. Ok who am I kidding, the secondary at times was horrific for the bulldogs. If you were to go back and watch game tape from every game the Dogs played you would count at least ten times where a corner or safety just had to turn around to intercept the ball. Unfortunately the defensive coordinator apparently forgot to teach the secondary that you are allowed to turn around when the ball is headed their way. Defensive prowess is something the Dogs will need to find once again if they are to be successful with respect to stopping the other teams offense.

3) Compete in Every Game on the Schedule - Yes this includes the road game at Hawaii where Colt Brennan will be returning for his senior season (I guess he read the blog yesterday huh?) Against teams like Hawaii if you are going to get beat have a good game plan. Go into the game and absolutely drill Brennan even if he is going to beat you down field. Make sure Brennan is laying on his back after every pass play. Playing on the island is no easy task, but if the Dogs can follow the game plan they used in 2005 beating the Warriors is possible.

4) Improve on Special Teams - The Special teams unit had been the strong point for Fresno State yearly as they had a knack for fielding great kick returners and an outstanding kick blocking team. The 2006 season saw the Dogs take a step back with respect to this arena as the special teams units cost the Dogs two games early in the season (Washington and Oregon). If Fresno State can find a good kick returner to give them better field position the chances of the Dogs winning more games in 2007 may not be so far fetched. Field position is everything and without a good kick returner the Dogs will suffer.

5) Stay Healthy - Unfortunately this is the one arena Fresno State has no control over. However over the past few years injuries have killed the Dogs. In 2004 They lost Dwayne Wright, in 2005 Marcus Riley and Clifton Smith were both lost for the season. 2006 was going fine until Q. Brown and Trevor Shamblee were lost. The Dogs need to hope that they don't lose an important role player for the first time in three years. Fresno State does not have the depth that the BCS schools do and if the Dogs lose a key player they no longer will be able to compete the way they would like to. Unfortunately that is the one thing mid-major schools always suffer with: depth. But if the Dogs can avoid the big injury they should be fine.

6) Last but not least....Hit Somebody - The Dogs need a return to the days where they punished players for catching the ball. A Kendall Edwards or Richard Marshall needs to emerge out of the players coming in for Fresno State. If the Dogs can find that one player who can lay a hit maybe he can spark the rest of the team just as these other players I mentioned did in the past. A playmaker on defense is sorely missing and Fresno State needs to try and fill the void in one way or another.

I am sure there are many more goals for 2007. I know that there is no way that I covered everything the Dogs need to do to make 2007 a success. However, I feel like these are good points that Fresno State should try and improve. If they can an eight win season may be possible once again. If the Dogs do not begin to improve in any of these areas we will be looking at another 4-5 win season from Fresno State with no telling where this team is headed in the future.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Leaving Early for the Draft....When is the Right Time to Go?

Every year the NFL draft is filled with Juniors who surpass their senior season for a chance to play at the top. Some players are absolutely ready for the jump to the NFL and are able to make a difference in their first season. Other players leave before they are ready and their career's in the NFL never seem to get on track. 2007 is shaping up to be another great draft as many underclassmen have already decided that the NFL is their goal. These young men do not feel that their senior seasons will help them in any way possible. However making this decision is tough to say the least. For some this decision turns out to be the best decision ever made while others often wish they would have just stayed for one more season. To better understand the difficulties with respect to making a decision like this we should take a look at a few players that are close to home.

During the 2006 season Paul Williams took a step back with respect to progress on the college level. While it is true he has the physical prospects to be an NFL force he did not show this during his senior year. If Williams had left after his junior year he would have been drafted much higher than he will this season. Marcus McCauley is going through the same process right now. His junior year bordered on phenomenal. He is still touted as a great prospect at the corner position but it is obvious that his status has taken a hit because he returned for his senior season. There is a lot to be said about being loyal to your school and the football program. Many juniors honor their college by coming back because that college took a chance on them and offered them a scholarship when many others wouldn't. However, if this is going to diminish your chances of making more money on the big stage the right choice might be to forego your senior season. That is of course unless you are Colt Brennan.

Colt Brennan declared two days ago that he is going to enter the NFL draft. While I can see why he believes he is ready I do not think this is the right choice. Colt Brennan is an outstanding college QB. He makes the throws when he has to and stands in there and takes a hit more often than not because Hawaii runs the run and shoot leaving the QB open for punishment. What people don't often realize is Colt Brennan's offense is one of short passing routes. Very rarely does Brennan throw the ball downfield. Instead Hawaii's offense is based upon the eight to ten yard route over the middle. In the NFL only one offense operates under this same system and that is Houston. Although they do not operate with the run and shoot Houston does not throw the ball downfield either. At the same time Brennan is in a gimmick offense in the college game. He plays in a system where nearly every single QB is successful regardless of how talented they truly are. Chang was a decent QB but there is no way a guy like Chang has the NCAA career passing yardage record for another team. In fact Chang would not have started had he played for many other college football teams. If Brennan were to stay for his senior year he would be coming back to a very strong Hawaii team. The Bows get both Fresno and Boise at home this season and could possibly win the WAC. At the same time Brennan will be a Heisman candidate coming off of what he did in 2006. If he shows that he can sustain the big numbers he did in 06' his draft stock will skyrocket. Right now Brennan is too small and has had one good season in the Hawaii offense. The NFL knows about Hawaii's system and is apprehensive to draft a QB who has gone through Hawaii and rightfully so. Here is a list of the early entries through today:

Jon Abbate Wake Forest
Jamaal Anderson Arkansas
Jon Beason Miami
Ahmad Bradshaw Marshall
Alan Branch Michigan
Colt Brennan Hawaii
Michael Bush Louisville
C.J. Gaddis Clemson
Ted Ginn Jr. Ohio State
Anthony Gonzalez Ohio State
Chris Henry Arizona
Chris Houston Arkansas
Brandon Jackson Nebraska
Dwayne Jarrett USC
Calvin Johnson Georgia Tech
Charles Johnson Georgia
Rory Johnson Mississippi
Marshawn Lynch California
Robert Meachem Tennessee
Zach Miller Arizona State
Jarvis Moss Florida
Reggie Nelson Florida
Greg Olsen Miami
Adrian Peterson Oklahoma
Antonio Pittman Ohio State
Maurice Price Charleston Southern
Darrelle Revis Pittsburgh
Sidney Rice South Carolina
JaMarcus Russell LSU
Ryan Smith Florida
Luke Smith-Anderson Idaho
Lawrence Timmons Florida State
Darius Walker Notre Dame
Danny Ware Georgia
Dwayne Wright Fresno State
Eric Wright UNLV

After looking over this list you can see there are plenty of players who could benefit from returning their senior season. At the same time you can see there are players who look to be absolutely ready to play in the NFL. Ted Ginn Jr. Has averaged four catches a game over his career. He looks to be a player with all of the potential but has very little stats to back it up. Ginn may be a player who could benefit from having a monster senior year. However, since he is projected to go high there is virtually no reason for him to return.

As I stated earlier the NFL draft is a guessing game. Matt Leinart returned for his senior year and dropped to #10 in the draft. Had he come out as a Junior he would have been the #1 pick. Leinart lost millions by returning to school, but was given the opportunity to win another championship. As you can also see Dwayne Wright is on the early entry list. While he could return for a senior year it makes no sense for him to do so. Wright has made himself into a late first day pick and will be looked at as a power back much like Duckett was in the NFL. Many of these players may not be ready to play in the NFL and we will find that out during the 2007 NFL season. However, it is their right to choose to play in the NFL and if players like Brennan make the jump they will have a tough time adapting to a much faster and stronger league.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Recruiting in the WAC

Last week a reader of the blog asked me to do an article on why Boise's recruiting has surpassed Fresno State. Although I didn't
completely agree with this view I decided I would do some research and see if this were indeed true. The 2007 Bulldog recruiting class is shaping up to be one of the better recruiting classes of the Pat Hill era although Scout doesn't seem to think so. However one thing every college football fan must remember is that recruits cannot be truly rated until they step onto the college football field. The stars that are given to recruits are based upon potential. Did David Carr look like a two star prospect to anyone in the nation during his senior season? Did Bernard Berrian look like a two star prospect out of little known Atwater during his tenure at Fresno State? Although Jared Zabranski wasn't the most accomplished Boise QB did he look like a walk-on to anyone during the Fiesta Bowl game against Oklahoma? With that being said the 2007 Recruiting rankings per go as follows for the WAC (Scout rankings are in parenthesis):

1) Boise State (55)
2) Fresno State (75)
3) Nevada (87)
4) San Jose State (90)
5) Louisiana Tech (102)
6) NMSU (105)
7) Hawaii (107)
8) Idaho (112)
9) Utah State (114)

As you can see Boise State leads the 2007 recruiting race. You have to remember the ride the Broncos just embarked upon. A trip to the Fiesta Bowl while being a part of the national picture for the first time will bring many more recruits to your program. If you do not believe that is the reason that Boise is finding far more recruits now than they ever have before take a look back at the 2002 Scout recruiting class (yes the class following the David Carr ride we took in 2001). In 2002 Fresno State led the WAC in recruiting. In fact over the past five seasons here is where the recruiting rankings ended up with respect to Fresno State and Boise State:

2002: Fresno State (52) Boise State (75)
2003: Fresno State (64) Boise State (73)
2004: Boise State (72) Fresno State (110)
2005: Boise State (73) Fresno State (92)
2006: Boise State (78) Fresno State (96)
Overall Average: Boise State 74 Fresno State 83

The recruiting rankings over the past five years show that Boise never truly trailed the Bulldogs by much aside the 2002 recruiting class. As I stated earlier the Bulldogs had an outstanding 2001 season which very well may have been the number one reason for the strong class the Bulldogs brought in. In fact I would even argue that the most important reason for recruiting success is winning. If teams such as the Bulldogs or Broncos have successful seasons and are put on the national stage recruits will come calling. However, if either of these teams have a set of down seasons the recruiting classes will be heavily affected. Prior to 2001 Boise State had not made a name for themselves due to their conference affiliation. Their 2001 win over a highly ranked Fresno State team pushed the Broncos into a meteoric rise that eventually put the Broncos in a BCS game. However, because the Broncos were a member of the Big West their recruiting prior to 2002 heavily suffered. Fresno State had much of the same problem prior to 2001 due to their mediocre play. Prior to 2001 the Bulldogs flirted with the .500 mark for seven seasons. To say that it is hard to recruit when the football team is not having success on the football field is an understatement. If a school such as Fresno State is not receiving any national attention in turn they will have problems recruiting. Fortunately for both Fresno and Boise this is not a problem they have to deal with any longer.

There are many reasons for recruiting success across the nation. Schools such as Florida and USC will always be near the top with respect to recruiting classes due to their location, history, facilities, and tradition. Fresno State and Boise State have to recruit far more than a school like USC. USC can point to their national championships and exposure and a recruit will automatically fall in love with the program while the Broncos and Bulldogs instead have to sell the goals of their program to recruits. Do the two WAC schools come out on top from time to time? Well of course there will be recruits who would rather attend the smaller schools because they know their chances of playing increase heavily. At the same time Fresno State has been known as a school that puts players into the NFL. With that type of reputation the Bulldogs should continue to get solid recruits throughout the years. Boise State sells a system of togetherness where the sum of the parts equals an outstanding whole. These two schools may take a different approach to recruiting but over the years the classes they have brought in are virtually the same. Boise State seems to have Fresno State's number on the football field, but with these classes being so close together that trend will not continue forever. Eventually all good things come to an end and Boise's dominance in this series will come to an end in the near future if for no other reason than the fact that the recruits are so equal. As I stated before recruiting is a nightmare. You never truly know how a player will perform until he steps on the football field. With that being said the only way to truly judge the 2007 recruiting classes of both Boise and Fresno is to wait until the 2007 football season starts. We will then have an idea just how good these players coming into their respective systems truly are.

Note: Tomorrow I would like to do a piece on players leaving early for the draft. I think Colt Brennan is making a mistake and will cover why I believe that. I only hope he rethinks his decision and changes his mind before the deadline.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Bulldog Way

They always keep your interest. Each year there is a team that makes a run only to break our hearts in the end. They always make us believe that they are capable of far more than they truly are. They are the Fresno State Bulldogs. Whether it is the men's or women's basketball team's, the football team, the softball team, or the baseball team at the end of the year you will be left with that same empty feeling that the Bulldogs often give you when they lose. The problem isn't that Fresno State loses. Instead the problem is that they make us believe they are capable of far more than they truly are. How many Bulldog fans thought the Dogs had a shot at beating Hawaii at the Stan-Sherriff Center last night? I know I did but only because of the success the Dogs had to begin the year. How many Bulldog fans thought the Bulldog football team would make some noise in the WAC last year? (and I mean in a positive manner) I know I did not have the same expectations as most but I felt the Dogs could win 7-8 games and play in a decent bowl game. How many of you followed the baseball team last year after their two streaks of 15 wins in a row or more? I know I did because I thought maybe this team could get over the super regional hump that they have been stuck in since well forever. How many of you followed the Lady Dogs basketball team last year going into the WAC tourney only to watch them lose their first game? I know I did.

Fresno State is always competitive in ever sport they have at the university. Truth is Fresno State is actually one of the better WAC schools out there with respect to athletics. We have the largest athletic budget and are able to bring in the best all around athletes for many of the sports the WAC entertains. Our baseball recruiting usually places in the top 25 in the nation as does the baseball team by the end of the season. The football team usually makes noise across the nation with a big upset of a team they have no business beating. The softball team usually maintains a top 15 rank the entire season and qualifies for a regional yearly. The basketball team is currently on the rise hoping to capture the glory that Tark was able to bring the Bulldogs basketball program (followed by scandal of course). The problem is regardless of how good Fresno State is at each of these sports, they never quite make it all the way. They always take us to the edge and never make it past that spot. They get the fans involved and make us believe that they are going to be a player in whatever sport it is that they are succeeding at only to fall to the opponent in the end. Each of the sports I have mentioned earlier have examples of how they have toyed with Bulldog fans and their supportive hearts throughout the years.

Bulldog Football: We all know the story here. In 2001 the Dogs start out 6-0 and rise to the #8 spot in the nation only to fall to Boise and Hawaii in back to back weeks. Fresno fans had dreams of a national championship but instead the Dogs end up in the Silicon Valley Classic game losing to a 6-5 Michigan State team. 2004 gave us a similar story as the Dogs began the year 3-0 moving up to #17 in the nation. After their 3-0 start the Dogs promptly dropped their next three games and fans quickly were reminded of 2001. 2005 had the Dogs starting 8-1 and taking on the mighty Trojans of Troy. Although the Dogs played outstanding against USC they would lose their last four games to finish the season at 8-5. That is enough heart break for a football fan alone. However it doesn't stop there, Bulldog fans have plenty of sports that have left fans with heartache.

Mens basketball: Oh the Bulldogs basketball team, how they kill us as fans. Does anyone remember the Tark days? Each year the Dogs would win 20 games only to get passed on for the NCAA tourney. When they finally were selected they played their worst game of the year and lost to Wisconsin handily. The year after it finally seemed like the Dogs were poised to make a run. Instead they lost in the second round to Michigan State. The following season Fresno State moved all the way up to #14 in the rankings only to see their season fall apart with a loss in the NIT to Temple. And to think I am not even mentioning the Dominick Young and Chris Herren years.

Womens Basketball: Womens basketball has actually spared us for the most part as they have not been great until the past few years. However with that being said 2005 probably caused as much heartache as any season for Lady Dogs fans. The Bulldogs had rolled into the WAC tourney tied with La. Tech only to drop their first game and miss out on a NCAA tourney bid. If the Dogs had won their first game and found their way into the WAC tourney final they most certainly would have qualified for the NCAA tourney for the first time. But remember, this is a Fresno State team after all.

Mens Baseball: it is quite possible that the mens baseball team has left more Dogs fans wondering what happened than any team ever at Fresno State. Mens baseball has been the one constant over the past twenty years that always seems to compete regardless of the talent level. Most remember the years of Bobby Jones where the Dogs marched into the College World Series only to lose to Florida State 2-1 to be eliminated. Countless times the Dogs have qualified for a regional only to lose to a team they should have beaten. There is no telling what the future holds for Fresno State Baseball but more heartache is sure to come.

Womens Softball: I saved women's softball for last because they are the one team that actually did not leave Bulldog fans out in the cold. In 1998 the Womens softball team won the national championship, the only one I believe in the history of Fresno State. This championship came as a surprise as the Bulldogs made a name for themselves by qualifying for the college world series year after year only to lose. Although the Dogs have continued to qualify for the regionals and world series since 1998 they have yet to accomplish what the 1998 team did. The 1998 team will go down in history as one of the only teams at Fresno State to finish the job.

Overall being a Fresno State fan is more difficult than most think. Each year we have a team make a run that leads us to believe they are going to do something more than they are truly capable of. The sad truth is we should all know better by now. These are the Fresno State Bulldogs, the team that will give you hope for most of the season only to break your hearts in the end.

Note: I think the one thing I forgot to mention is that I love Fresno State sports and I was not saying that the Bulldogs are failures. Instead I find it ironic that we always seem to get bitten in the end and a school like Boise seems to have all of the luck. I wish I knew the reasons for this but sometimes it is good to be lucky in college sports, but remember one thing: Boise may be a good football team but we have the better overall athletic programs at Fresno State.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Boise Blue New Years Before Fresno Red

As we all know Boise State beat us to a New Years day BCS bowl. We also know that Boise pulled the upset by beating Oklahoma 43-42 on a heart stopping Statue of Liberty play that surprised everyone including the Sooners. While Boise was pulling the upset of the year in Glendale, Arizona everyone back in Fresno had to be wondering "How did Boise possibly achieve the goal that Fresno had set for themselves before Boise had ever been a part of the WAC?" The answer to that question can be found if you travel back eleven years to when Boise State became a division 1A school for the first time in their history.

Boise State spent seventeen years as a Div 1AA school. After success as a Div 1AA school Boise made the jump to division 1A in 1996. Their first year went as expected as the Broncos went 2-10 (growing pains are common when jumping divisions in college football). 1997 and 1998 told the same story as the Broncos did not win as much as they would have liked to. However, making the jump to Div. 1A is the toughest thing for a small school to do. Although Boise was not on the national championship stage they had gone from two wins in 96 to six wins in 98 for their first winning season in Div. 1A. This would be the last time Boise State flirted with the .500 mark. In 1999 the Broncos won the Big West by going 10-3 and as a bonus won the Humanitarian bowl over Louisville. 2000 seemed to have the same script as the Broncos once again won the Big West and the Humanitarian bowl, this time over UTEP. In 2001 Dan Hawkins took over the coaching duties and Boise joined the WAC. Boise finished 8-4 and added an upset for the ages to their resume as they went into Fresno, Ca. and defeated the #8 Bulldogs 35-30. This was the beginning of the Boise State rise to prominence.

Boise State's goal wasn't to get to a BCS game first. Boise State followed the natural rise to stardom. They joined Div. 1A and then moved on to the WAC after four years. From there they set the goal of winning the WAC first and have accomplished that goal five years in a row. Boise's continuity has been amazing throughout this stretch. Their offense has been unstoppable and has not changed one bit due to the creativity of Chris Petersen. At the same time Boise has had no turnover with respect to their athletic director. As I mentioned earlier their continuity is the one aspect I point to that has kept this football team on the rise. Fresno State has gone through three athletic directors during Pat Hill's tenure. Bulldog athletics has also had to suffer through the turmoil caused by the basketball scandals that took place during the Jerry Tarkanian era. Many would say that has nothing to do with football, but losing an AD time after time only makes it that much harder with respect to the goals that are set by the team and their coach. What if the AD does not agree with the coach? What if the AD thinks the coaches goals are unrealistic? Boise State never had to deal with this and that is one of the many reasons they played in a BCS game this season and the Bulldogs didn't.

Another aspect that Boise State has tackled well is that of scheduling. Yes they do not schedule like the Bulldogs do, but the Broncos knew that if they scheduled like the Dogs they would not have a chance to play in a BCS game. The Bulldogs put it all on the line. Unfortunately this attitude will only cause problems with fans. If the Dogs schedule big name opponents the fans love it because they like the Dogs playing the USC's and LSU's of the college football world. But what happens when the Dogs get ripped into by an LSU? No longer are the fans happy that we scheduled that game against such a high profile team. Boise State realized that if they continue to schedule teams they can compete with every week they will have a chance to run the table and be allowed into the big games at the end of the season. The Broncos scheduled to fit their team and where they were headed with respect to their goals. They did not get ahead of their selves and let everything happen naturally. This is where Fresno State went wrong.

Pat Hill and the Bulldogs dreamt of a BCS championship game, but they skipped the steps to get there. In order to win the championship you have to win the WAC and the Bulldogs never made that a priority. They continually front loaded their schedule only to see their team tire out when the conference games came about. With that being said there is nothing wrong with aiming to win it all. However, when you skip the intermediate steps that get you there you will trip up along the way. You cannot skip the steps in the middle and get to the top. In a business you do not become the CEO of a corporation when you feel like it. You have to make your way up the chain and serve your time in positions that may not be so desirable. But if you do your time eventually everything will fall into place. College football is a business that is run the same exact way. If you sit back and do your time eventually everything is going to fall into place. Fresno State has a chance now to do what Boise did. If the Bulldogs can make strides in 2007 they will have a chance to make a run in both 2008 and 2009. The Bulldogs have to realize that the goal is not to go undefeated in 2007. The goal in 2007 is to grow together as a team and learn that the future is bright if they can come together. Boise State realized this in 2001 and it took them to an undefeated season and a BCS game only five years later. The Bulldogs should not be in a hurry to achieve greatness, the opportunity will present itself in the near future. Instead the Bulldogs should be patient and realize that if they play the game correctly they to can be the CEO's of their business one day.

Note: The Bulldogs basketball team takes on Hawaii tonight at 9pm. Check out MB's blog on the right hand side of the Bulldog blog located under Fresno State links. He does a good job pointing out what needs to be done tonight to win the game.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Motivation.....The Difference Between Winning and Losing

There is a distinct difference between being a coach in the NFL and being a coach at the college football level. Yes the talent plays on a whole new level in the NFL but this difference between the two levels of football goes much deeper than talent. NFL players know the game. NFL players do not need motivation to play. Most NFL players have been around the block five to ten times and already know the grinds of the NFL football season. A coach can try and give a "Win one for the gipper" speech but the truth is many NFL players are either going to give their all or they aren't. College kids are a different breed of football player. Many college kids have just turned eighteen and are still very impressionable. A coach showing that he believes in the team and believes they can win every game they play makes a big difference in the college game. If you question this look no further than Pete Carroll of USC. There is no better motivational coach in the college game. Yes Carroll has the single best recruits in the nation year after year but he has a tough job that many of us don't realize. Carroll has to preach to these stars to play together. Carroll has to make these kids believe that the team as a whole is far more important than any one player. This may not sound like a hard job, but when all you are dealing with are the best players from every high school in the country it becomes just that. Reggie Bush in high school was the standout every one talked about. Matt Leinart walked that same path during his high school days. In college Carroll made these two believe that if they played together the end result would be far more satisfying than any individual awards these two might achieve on their own.

If you still have doubts on motivation and the role it plays in college football take a look at Fresno State. Pat Hill arrived in 1997 as our head coach and he brought the message that he wanted to make Bulldog football into a national player. The players began to believe in Hill's message. Fast forward to 2001 when Fresno State finally reached what Hill had been preaching for the three years before the dream 2001 season. The players bought into what Pat Hill said and they achieved at the beginning of the 2001 season what Hill had said was possible. Today the message has become tired. Today the players hear the same thing every year and become tired of it. Today Pat Hill's message is not as much motivational as it annoying. However it doesn't have to be this way with Pat Hill and the Bulldogs. His message needs to change with the players and the direction the program is headed. Hill needs to realize that he cannot continue to spit out the same exact thing year after year. Every season does not present the same challenges with respect to the players you have in the system and what is on the line. 2001 offered a chance at something bigger and better. 2004 offered the same exact chance. 2002-2003 did not offer this chance because the talent level at Fresno State was not there. Pat Hill needs to realize that maybe 2007 is not the kind of season where you aim for it all. Instead your motivational message should be to play hard and let everything fall into place. With a few breaks here and there you do not know what can happen. On any given Saturday one team can defeat another in college football (or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for that matter). Over the past ten years we have seen Pat Hill's message begin to mean less and less. In order for him to take control of this team once again he has to figure out a new message to convey to his players.

I began this blog with Pete Carroll because he has found a way to keep his team at the top of the college game every year regardless of what has happened. I understand his recruits are top of the line but without great coaching it does not matter how good your players are. Boise State does not have top of the line players but Petersen gets the most out of them because he knows how to motivate his players. Petersen has figured out a way to keep his players striving for the ultimate goal of winning the big game one day. In his career at Boise Petersen has witnessed two undefeated seasons (Although the first ended with a loss to Louisville). As long as Petersen understands what these kids need he will always be a great coach to the Broncos and their program. I believe Pat Hill can be a great coach again for the Bulldogs but he has to realize things cannot remain the same forever. His insistence on running the same exact offense without changing anything will not work in today's world. Yes in the NFL the same system can work for many years, but college is forever changing. In the 1990's the option offense was all the rave, but where is it now? Pat needs to motivate the Bulldogs and his players need to trust in him once again. The players need to believe that Pat's best interest is getting the best out of each and every one on the Bulldogs football team. If Pat can find a way to motivate the Dogs again we will see a vast improvement out of the team. 2008 should be a year to make a run, but if Pat cannot motivate these men 2008 will just be another lost season just as the past two seem to have been.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Anatomy of an Upset.......Is a Playoff Now Needed?

It begins with two teams. One team is heavily favored over the other. One team expects to win while the other team hopes to keep the game within striking distance. One team is the national giant that never loses the big game, the other team wins but not nearly at the level of the favorite. As the game approaches The favorite becomes even more confident. They know they are favored for a reason and there is very little the other team can do to stop them. The favorite believes it is their destiny to win the game. As the game begins the favorite makes a mistake to fall behind. However this does not phase the favorite. They know they can afford to mess up from time to time because in the end they will still come out victorious. As the first quarter moves along the score does not change. The underdog has kept the game within seven and begins to build confidence. The favorite continues to try and blow the game open but something isn't working today. The underdog is not allowing the favorite to control the game.

As the second quarter ends the favorite clings to a three point lead. Although they haven't played their best game the favorite knows they are going to win. They played a bad first half but that is why there is a second half. Regardless of how bad they played they are still winning the game by three. Things will calm down in the second half and the favorite will take over and run the underdog into the ground. The underdog realizes that they may have a chance to win this game. Their coach has preached that the favorite is a better team but anything is possible. The coach has told the players that if they keep the game close for three quarters the fourth quarter can provide the type of ending they will never forget. Although the players know the other team is more athletic and should win, they still believe they have a chance.

The third quarter begins and the favorite makes another mistake. The underdog now has taken a four point lead halfway through the quarter. The stadium begins to realize they are going to see something special. As the third quarter winds down the excitement builds in the underdog's stadium. Their team is now winning a game they have no business being in. The players are giving their all to upset the favorite. The players now believe they can win the game, knowing that all they have to do is player better for one quarter. As time ticks away in the fourth quarter the underdog shows more fire than they have the entire year. They hit as hard as the other team and are covering the players like they know the routes themselves. Nothing is going to stop them from winning this game. With four minutes left the favorite scores to take a three point lead. The crowd is deflated as their team hung in there for so long but may still lose. However, the players realize this is exactly what they wanted: To go into the fourth quarter with a chance to win. The underdog puts together a drive worth remembering as they get inside the ten with twenty seconds left in the game. On the final play of the game the QB rolls out and hits the WR to win the game. The fans storm the field as their team has done the unthinkable. How can you not love college football?

Boise State played the underdog role only one week ago. They believed they could play with Oklahoma and showed the nation that on January 1st they were the better team. It does not matter who was better during the season, all that matters is who played better on this one day of football. last night Florida was the better team and thoroughly outplayed Ohio State. Is Florida better than LSU or USC? We will never know because of the lack of a playoff in college football. However, I rescind my thoughts only one week ago. I feel in order for college football to truly capture the nation they need to institute a playoff. The picture above is a bracket of a playoff that would have taken place years back. I have to say I would much rather see a champion crowned on the field. Michigan had one loss. Florida had one loss. Ohio State had one loss. Wisconsin had one loss. Louisville had one loss. Boise State went undefeated. USC and LSU had two losses. Who would not want to see these teams play in a playoff this year? Throw in a Cinderella in Rutgers and we have excitement all over the nation for college football. As Fresno State fans we want a return to the winning team we have become so accustomed to seeing every year. Wouldn't it be great if the Bulldogs found a way to win again and their reward would be a chance at the national championship?

Florida yesterday shocked many people across the nation. The one thing you should take from the championship is you never know who is going to win in the college ranks anymore. The schools share a level of equality that has never been present before. Without an eight team playoff we will never know if a team such as Boise State could play better on one day than Florida. Yes Florida is a great team and they may very well win in a playoff but we will never know until it occurs. College football is sitting on a goldmine in a playoff and not taking advantage of it. One day a playoff will be instituted, it is inevitable. When the BCS contract ends in 2010 a playoff will begin. A true champion will be rewarded and finally college football fans will truly be able to claim their team is number one.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Desire to Win

The game of college football at times rests on the desire a team has to win a game. One may think that every team that steps on the football field has a desire to win, but the truth is over half of the teams that step out on a college football field don't believe they are going to win the game. Yes the coach can pump his team up and make them believe but the players have to believe in their hearts that they can win the game. Fresno State during the post USC game era has seemed to have lost that desire to win the games they play in. The reasons this desire seems to have disappeared are suspect as there really is no one area that can be pointed to as the cause of this lost desire. So what has changed since the loss to USC? Why is Fresno State a combined 4-12 since that historical game at the coliseum against the Trojans?

First and foremost Fresno State's underdog status seems to have disappeared. Since 2001 Fresno State had been known as the small school that could. They would take on bigger programs and continually knock them off, sometimes in very impressive fashion. However I want to point out that the media made many of these wins out to be much more than they truly were. Yes the win at Colorado was impressive due to their #9 ranking at the end of the season but both wins against Oregon State and Wisconsin ended up being far less impressive than first thought. Beating a team like UCLA during their decline really doesn't count for much and the Washington and K-State wins were heavily aided by two teams that finished a combined 5-18 during the 2004 season. The Bulldogs in the end should still take credit for winning many of these games as they were forced to do it on the road in hostile environments. Many times the Dogs would challenge solid teams such as Wisconsin in 2002 and Oregon three years in a row. Each of these games went down to the wire because the Dogs had the desire to fight throughout the entire game.

A second reason the Dogs seem to have lost some of their luster is the loss of a difference maker. I feel like this is the most important reason as to why the Dogs have fallen apart over the past season. As much as I hate to say this losing Richard Marshall affected this team far more than I ever thought it would. Although Marshall gambled quite often he would make up for it by making tremendous hits that would change the course of the game. Having a player such as Marshall on defense made the entire secondary better. McCauley played on top of the world in 2005 and Marshall can be credited with that because McCauley knew he had help out there. Marshall was a leader on defense in the same was that McKintyre was on the defensive line. McKintyre brought fire to the defensive line and would fight every single snap to get to the QB. Every team needs a playmaker who can change the course of a game with one gamble and Marshall was that man for Fresno State.

The 2006 season saw a return to mediocracy for the Bulldogs. In order for the Dogs to once again make a difference in the college football world they are going to have to realize that once again they are the underdogs. The Dogs are going to have to feel like no one respects them. The Dogs are going to have to find that one player who becomes a team leader. Whether it is Riley, Jenkins, or one of the Freshman someone needs to be able to make a difference on the team. Kendall Edwards did not always make the best decisions on the football field but he hit harder than anyone on the Bulldogs. Fans and players saw the effort Edwards put out there and the rest of the Bulldogs followed suit. The 2007 squad is looking to be much faster than the 2006 version. If the Bulldogs can use their speed and make plays they will have a chance to beat anyone they have on their schedule. However, the fire needs to return to this team. Our offense needs to execute and our defense needs to hit again. We need to be able to watch a game and say "God he knocked the crap out of the guy". I cannot recall one time this season where I watched the Dogs and thought "What a hit." If Fresno can find that fire again they may be able to figure our how to win close games and come away with a much more respectable record than 2006. If not 2007 may be a repeat of the year many of us would soon forget.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Nightmare Known as Recruiting

Imagine yourself making a decision you are 100% sure about. The decision is such a no brainer that you don't have to think twice about it. At first everything looks promising but as time passes you begin to notice that maybe you made a mistake. Eventually you realize that this decision you were so sure about turned out to be the exact opposite and somehow affects your future. Welcome to the world of recruiting. Every year Pat Hill and his staff must step out into the world and find new football players for the Fresno State Football Program. Sometimes Hill and his staff find diamonds in the rough that work out in a way the coaching staff could have never imagined. Other times four star recruits who look promising never truly develop. Over the past ten years Pat Hill has done a decent job of bringing in players that fit his under the radar mold. To better understand the inconsistencies of the recruiting world let's take a look at the past four years with respect to the recruits Pat Hill has brought in.

2004) 2004 was not one of Hill's stronger recruiting classes as all recruits were ranked as 2 stars. A total of 14 recruits committed to Fresno State. Unfortunately these recruits were not looked at as recruits who could come in and make any type of impact according to Remember a two star recruit is nice but they are looked at as recruits who may play one day but will not do much more than that. While the 2004 recruiting class did not look impressive when first viewed let's dive into this class a little bit more. Kenny Avon, Pierce Masse, Adam McDowell, Ryan McKinley, Jon Monga, Bear Pascoe, and Ryan Wendell all came from the 2004 class. While these men were all ranked 2 stars they have made a huge impact at Fresno State as each of these men play a majority of every game the Bulldogs take the field to play. Bear Pascoe may be one of our best receivers and the Linemen mentioned here led the Bulldogs to an average of less than one sack per game in 2006. Not to shabby for a bunch of underachieving two stars.

2005) The 2005 class (19 recruits total) was highlighted by four star James Paulk who we still have heard nothing from. Lawrence Hood was signed as a three star and has done nothing for Fresno State. Isaac Kinter and Joe Bernardi (both three stars) have contributed to the Bulldogs but not in a way that we will remember forever. On the other hand Seji Ajirotutu, Moses Harris, Marvin Haynes, Marlin Moore, and Chastin West are all two stars who have begun to show their promise for the Bulldogs. Many Bulldog fans feel much more comfortable with Harris and Haynes in the secondary than they did with Shirley and Mays (who was a four star recruit himself). Overall the 2005 class has not lived up to it's hype, but is coming on strong to say the least.

2006) Once again 19 recruits highlighted the 2006 recruiting class. A small group of these players were found on the field during the 2006 season. Anthony Harding and Lonyae Miller have shown their three star status to be right on. They give the Bulldogs a future with respect to the running game which is something the Bulldogs generally do well. A.J. Jefferson did a good job of covering as a true Freshman but spent most of his time on the kick return team. Look for Jefferson to warrant more playing time as his career progresses. the 2006 class has a long ways to go due to the fact that many of these players have not taken the field yet for the Dogs. Look for Lorne Bell to start next year as he has both the speed and ability to make a name for himself. Nico Herron and Damion Owens may also contribute on the defensive side of the ball. The 2006 class on paper looks outstanding but there is still much to be proved by this group of young men.

2007) 2007 has given us a total of 16 recruits all verbally to this point. It is possible that some of these young men may change their mind before signing day (February 7th). If the class remains in tact look for the three stars to make an impact right away. Sharrod Davis, Chris Carter, and Devan Cunningham all have the opportunity to make an impact as soon as they sign with the Bulldogs. Devon Wylie will have a chance to give us a kick return game we have long missed since Jennings left. Overall the 2007 class is looking to be one of the better ones the Bulldogs have ever brought in, or is it?

In the end recruiting is hit or miss. Yes our big three stars coming in look as promising as the any recruits the Dogs have ever signed. Remember though that players like Clifton Smith, Vincent Mays, and Ricky Miller were all supposed to shine in the Bulldogs system. Smith has been hurt virtually his entire Bulldog career, Mays never truly developed, and Miller was never heard of even though he came in as a four star recruit. Whether the 2007 season is successful or not will depend on the type of difference makers that Pat Hill can find. Even so if Hill brings in a handful of prized recruits the Dogs are still in a sense playing Russian Roulette as there is no way of knowing if these players are truly ready to play college football. I guess this is just another reason we all love college football so much: you never know what will happen next.

Friday, January 05, 2007

What's in an Offensive Coordinator?

As everyone knows we are without an offensive coordinator with the departure of Steve Hagen to North Carolina (who seems to horde all of our coordinators for some reason). However the question I want to pose to all Bulldog fans is will it really matter if we hire someone outstanding as our offensive coordinator? Let's take a look back at the past three offensive coordinators under Pat Hill. The first memorable coordinator was Andy Ludwig who is pictured to the left with Mike Bellotti. Ludwig had the opportunity to coach David Carr and was given relatively free reign to run the offense. This would also be the last time Fresno State had any type of an open offense that featured both the passing and running games as a viable offensive option. Ludwig served as coordinator from 1998-2001. Ludwig would move on to Oregon where he would run the Ducks offense into the ground.

Fresno State countered losing Ludwig by hiring the New Orleans Saints QB coach Frank Cignetti. Cignetti took over an offense without David Carr but still had Bernard Berrian. Unfortunately this also seems to be the time where Pat Hill began to take over the offense. It would be here where the run first mentality was born. Fresno State would win at least eight games in each season that Cignetti ran the offense. However the offense entered into it's so called "Vanilla" phase where it currently sits today. Mike Price of UTEP after defeating the Bulldogs 24-21 in 2004 called the offense as predictable as any offense he had seen up to that point in his career. As Bulldog fans we all know that Price was not that far off base to make a statement such as this. With the amount of talent the Bulldogs put on the field year after year a three game losing streak should never occur and it continually happened during the tenure of Cignetti. Cignetti's term as offensive coordinator would lead to the run-run-pass offense that Fresno State currently operates under today.

Although Cignetti's offense was termed vanilla it still prospered for the most part at Fresno State. In 2004 Fresno State scored over fifty points in four straight games tying an NCAA scoring record. At the same time the Bulldogs finished 9-3 and ranked in the top 25. In 2005 the Bulldogs started 8-1 and took the Trojans down to the wire in a 50-42 loss. Unfortunately win number eight would be the Bulldogs last win with Cignetti as their offensive coordinator. He would depart for North Carolina in the offseason beginning the tenure of Steve Hagen. Hagen only lasted one season with the Bulldogs as he led an anemic offense to a disappointing 4-8 record. Hagen's offense lacked creativity and would feature a run first, run second, and run third mindset. Teams would stack nine men in the box yet the Bulldogs would continue to run. Hagen also departed Fresno State to take over the offensive coordinator duties at North Carolina. So where does this leave the Bulldogs with respect to the new coordinator duties?

In this blogger's opinion it does not matter who Hill hires as our coordinator, our offense will look the exact same as it has the past four seasons. Hill has repeatedly tried to dumb down the offense so the players can understand it better. While I can say I am not the biggest fan of trick plays, there is no way Boise or Hawaii's offense has ever been dumbed down. In order for Fresno State to compete in the WAC in the future Hill will have to hire a coordinator and give him the offensive duties with near free reign as he did with Ludwig. Whether that happens or not will remain to be seen as this coordinator search has taken far longer than anyone could have imagined. You have to figure Hill will go for an NFL guy as he always seems to value the NFL tough man attitude. Unfortunately college football is about gimmick offenses and finding your niche as an offense together. Hawaii is successful because they have the players to execute their offense. Boise State is successful for the very same reasons. Even Nevada has an offense with their own flavor to it. Fresno State must find an identity on offense because the pro style does not work in college football. Regardless I have a feeling our next offensive coordinator is already at Fresno State and has been for the past ten years. I just hope he opens up the offense some because if he doesn't the 2007 team has no Dwayne Wright to fall back on.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Does a Boise Win Equal a Playoff?

Monday night we all watched Boise State dominate Oklahoma for three quarters only to have to pull out a victory in overtime 43-42. First and foremost let me tell you my view of this game. Boise State should have won this game easily. This game should not have come down to trick plays for the Broncos. This game should have been put away in the third quarter but wasn't. However, I am not going to take away what the Broncos did. In the end they won against a top ten football team on the national stage. Boise finally came through and beat a team while everyone in the nation watched. However I want to address a point I have been hearing since this game was put to bed. Since Boise State finished 13-0 I have heard numerous reasons why their should be a playoff. I today will construct that playoff for you just to show that a playoff will never work in college football (at least not in today's game). Just so everyone knows I advocate a playoff because I feel that is the single best way to crown a true champion, but the problem is the voters and computers will never allow a playoff to be fair. I will use an 8 team format with the seedings from the BCS because that is most likely what kind of playoff format would be approved. The seedings will go as follows:

1) Ohio State
2) Florida
3) Michigan
4) LSU
5) USC
6) Louisville
7) Wisconsin
8) Boise State

Right away most of you should notice a problem with these rankings. If there were a playoff Boise State would open with the #1 team in the nation Ohio State and the game would probable take place at the HorseShoe. There is just no way the Broncos win a game there. However, Say the Broncos somehow do shock the world they then are awarded a game at either LSU or USC. Once again can anyone see the Broncos beating either the Trojans or Tigers in their respective stadiums? Well let's just say Boise somehow pulls off that shocker and reaches the national championship game. This game would be at a neutral site with the Broncos facing either Michigan or Florida. I could see Boise beating either of these two teams in the first round, but after two grueling games against Ohio State and either LSU or USC I just don't think our mid-major partner would have enough left in the tank to win the game.

In the end the voters are not going to allow a playoff to work. There is no way the Broncos are an eight seed in a playoff this year but can you conceivably see the Broncos being ranked any higher at the end of the season? You may try and use the Utah argument but remember the Utes were ranked #5 when chosen for the BCS. The Utes would still be required to play two road games to win the championship. If the voters could see a mid-major as an equal to the major BCS conferences a playoff would be the right way to go. However, if we had a playoff today Boise State's amazing win over Oklahoma would have been nothing more than a first round win giving them a chance to play an even better team in the second round. Do we really want something like that to happen? Do you feel like Fresno State could beat three top ten teams (two of them on the road) to win the national championship? I am sorry but I do not want to see that happen anytime soon. Until there is an equal between all conferences a playoff will never be fair and should not be used.

By the way I have noticed much love on the barkboard for the way Boise State played against Oklahoma on Monday. I have a question for every Bulldog fan out there. If Fresno State had beaten Oklahoma the same way Boise did would we rejoice or instead would we complain about the terrible fourth quarter our team put together? I would guess the second of the two choices to be correct. So why is it that we give Boise so much props for a win like this but knock the Bulldogs if they do the same type of thing? Just a question for anyone who reads the blog. Let me know what you think.