Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Team Improvement - Wide Receivers

Wide Receiver Seyi Arijotutu

Heading into the 2006 season Fresno State looked to have possibly it's best group of veteran receivers ever to step onto the football field. Unfortunately the talent the Bulldogs possessed at the Wide Receiver position did not develop the way Fresno State had hoped it would. Joe Fernandez would be the only Senior Wide Receiver still playing by the time Fresno State reached it's game with San Jose to end the season. Both Paul Williams and Jaron Fairman sat out a good portion of 2006 due to injury leaving the Dogs with little experience at the Wide Receiver position. Although the Dogs lost these Seniors they were able to insert Freshman who developed a feel for what the college game was like. Receivers such as Chastin West, Jason Crawley, and Seyi Ajirotutu were able to step in and find some playing time along the way. With the additions of possibly two new receivers the Dogs may have a chance to once again possess a high powered passing game with more than one option to go to with the game on the line.

Having three young receivers such as those mentioned above will only help the Dogs as each of these receivers are Sophomores going into 2007. Seyi Ajirotutu looks to have the talent to take over games such as Bernard Berrian and Paul Williams both did during their Junior seasons. Ajirotutu is tall, athletic, fast, and has great hands. If he plays physical there will be no ball he cannot get his hands on. Jason Crawley showed in 2006 that he has great hands and can bring in those balls that most receivers would have trouble getting one hand on. But the most impressive of the three young receivers in 2006 had to be Chastin West. Although West does not possess blazing speed he was able to show that he could make the catch when the team needed him to most. He also did the best job of creating something out of nothing whether it was a short five yard route or an end around where West would be counted on to gain yards on the outside. These three receivers give the Bulldogs the opportunity to throw the ball with success once again. We all know that will depend on if Brandstater can get the ball to the receivers without problems, but these receivers need to run more efficient routes and step their game up when needed. While these receivers provide a strong foundation for the Dogs, two new possible additions may be what pushes Fresno State over the top.

The Bulldogs will welcome in Devon Wylie who probably will see time as a Wide Receiver due to his amazing speed and outstanding hands. Wylie will be used much in the same manner that Adam Jennings was: First and foremost he will be a kick returner but he is far too special to not have in the game from time to time making big plays for the Dogs. While Wylie will be a welcome addition to the offense the possible addition of Zeb White could help the Dogs create havoc at the WR position. White stands at 6'1" and weighs 180 pounds. He comes in with a 4.4 40 time meaning he has the kind of speed you want to see at WR. He currently plays for Fresno City College and would step into the spotlight at Fresno State as one of the go to receivers being that he would be in his Junior season. While it may be true that Fresno State has three returning receivers, they are all still relatively young and some experience at the position can only help when all is said and done. While White has not signed with the Dogs the possibility is there and if Fresno State can add him to the team they will head into 2007 with five WR's who can get
the job done for them.

In order for 2007 to be a successful season Fresno State will have to find a way to develop the passing game once again. While it is true that a great deal of the passing game will lay on the shoulders of the QB the Wide Receivers will have to do their part as well. Whether it is running the correct routes, making the big catch, or blocking for the RB's, Fresno State will count on the WR's far more than they did in 2006. With the youth in this group there may be some growing pains, but overall the 2007 WR's will have a much more productive year than those in 2006.

Tomorrow I will discuss the TE position and the Kicking game with respect to the offense. The day after I will talk about the Offensive Line and that will be it for the offensive side of the ball.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Team Improvement - Running Backs

Fresno State RB Anthony Harding

When most people think of Fresno State they think of a school that generally produces NFL type QB's because of the pro style offense that is used. From Trent Dilfer to Billy Volek to David Carr the Bulldogs have produced three QB's who have made a name for themselves in the NFL in a span of just ten seasons (Although Carr is still doing his best to get on track for a pathetic Texans franchise). What most people don't realize is that Fresno State's number one strength may be the running game. Quick, name the last time Fresno State did not have a 1,000 yard rusher during the course of a season? Most Fresno State fans know in order to answer this question you have to travel back to the pre David Carr years. Fresno State has produced one great Running Back after another en route to where they stand today: With three RB's who can break away on any given play.

During 2006 Fresno State may have enjoyed their single greatest rushing season in team history. Maybe statistically it was not the greatest rushing season, but when considering how poorly the passing game was executed the Bulldogs running game was quite amazing. Although every single team knew the Dogs could not throw the ball Dwayne Wright was still able to run for over 1400 yards averaging over five yards a carry. Both Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding (pictured above) were also seen on the field showing glimpses of what they will be giving Fresno State for the next three seasons. Each of these RB's contributed as well as they filled in nicely for Wright when he needed a breather. Miller rushed for 287 yards and an average of 5.3 yards a carry while Harding was able to churn out 141 yards with an average of 4.7 yards a carry in limited time. Although these two did not play a majority of the time they were given an opportunity to get a feel for the game as Freshman and one would expect these two to thrive in Fresno State's pro style offense in 2007.

Many of us remember the one-two punch we had in 2004 with Bryson Sumlin and Wendell Mathis nearly eclipsing 1000 yards a piece by the end of the season. 2007 should give us something very similar to that situation as Miller seems to be the kind of RB who can run over anyone en route to gaining his five yards a carry. Harding on the other hand is a RB who is explosive and once he hits the hole defenders will have a tough time catching him as he has the speed to outrun anyone on the field at any given time. To say that the Bulldogs are set up nicely in the running game would be the understatement of the year. While these two RB's will be the primary guys during 2007 one would expect to see Ryan Mathews of Bakersfield on the field as a true Freshman. Mathews may be used as a third down back or as a receiver out of the backfield in his first season with the Bulldogs. Mathews led the nation in rushing during his senior season in high school and would have been more highly touted had his grades been a bit higher. We as Fresno State fans should be thankful that Mathews loves the Bulldogs so much. He will be a star by the time he leaves Fresno due to his size, speed, and amazing ability to find the hole and burst through it.

While these three RB's will help to provide a strong nucleus in the running game, the Dogs also reeled in Bryson Hodges who is a short but strong RB who does not go down upon first contact. Hodges may red shirt this season, but look for him to make a name for himself in the years to come. Devon Wylie may be used in the backfield from time to time as well due to his amazing speed. In the end Fresno State has all the tools in the backfield to give opposing teams fits. With Harding, Miller, Mathews, and Wylie seeing playing time this season the Dogs will either be able to outrun their opponent or run them over depending on who they choose to put in the game. What we used to call our QB university is now changing as the Dogs look to have three RB's who can play on the NFL level one day. These RB's will be one of the many reasons that Fresno State will improve on their 4-8 record during the 2007 season. Regardless of what happens these young men will be at Fresno State creating highlight reels for the next three years, something most of us Dogs fans have absolutely no problems with.

Monday I will cover the Wide Receiver improvements that are needed for the Bulldogs to be a successful team. We have a handful of returning receivers who are only in their second seasons which means someone will have to step up to get the job done. We will see which one I feel has the best chance of doing

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Team Improvement - The QB Position

2007 will rest on the shoulders of Brandstater

Now that I have finished giving my grades for all of the incoming recruits I will shift my focus for the next week or so. Each day for the next week (aside Saturday and Sunday) I will take one area of Fresno State football and write about what the keys to success are for that respective position. At the same time I will also write about what needs to be done better than last season in order to have a successful 2007 season. Since our most glaring need for improvement is the QB position I will cover this spot first. I realize that many of us know what needs to be done here, but I feel there are a few positives that have come about during the off-season that will help the Bulldogs to find more consistent play out of one of the most important positions on the football field.

In 2006 Tom Brandstater failed to live up to the expectations that Bulldog fans placed upon him. We heard the hype about his rocket arm and outstanding size. We believed he would be the guy to come in and make us forget all of the last minute interceptions that Paul Pinegar threw to end the 2005 season. The season started off well as Brandstater played within himself and led the Bulldogs to an opening day win over Nevada. Although Brandstater finished 16-24 for 124 yards he played within the game and did exactly what was needed to get the win. The second week of the season also seemed like a success as Brandstater took many ferocious hits only to come back and lead the Dogs on numerous drives giving them a chance to win the game against Oregon. If Jaron Fairman doesn't drop a third and ten pass over the middle the Dogs very well could have driven down the field and sent the game into overtime (It was not Fairman's fault we lost, just one of the many mistakes made in this game). From this game on the season began to quickly unravel. The Bulldogs would lose to Washington, Colorado State, Utah State, Hawaii, LSU, and Boise State before their next victory. The QB play during this stretch was hardly something to write home about. Brandstater never looked comfortable in the game and missed receiver after receiver regardless of how much time he was given to throw. However, the time to dwell on the 2006 season has passed as 2007 is in the near future. With spring practice starting in just over a month the focus should now be on what Brandstater can do to make the QB position effective once again.

First and foremost the one aspect of QB play Brandstater that seems to be missing is field vision. While the kid has an amazingly strong arm it does him absolutely no good if he cannot identify what is going on in front of him. I believe that the coaching staff said 95% of the time Brandstater checks off to the correct audible play. My only question is how many of those audibles are passing plays? Brandstater seems to lack the confidence to throw the ball and if he does not learn how to deal with the pressure 2007 will be another nightmare. Brandstater must learn that it is alright to make mistakes from time to time, but he has to learn from them. For example, against San Jose State Brandstater threw a deep ball to Joe Fernandez that was intercepted. When watching the replay it is clear Brandstater should have thrown that ball to the corner of the end zone instead of floating it over the middle. These are the types of lessons that should teach Tom during the 2007 season. He should see single coverage on the outside and know exactly what to do about it. Defenses will watch tape of Brandstater and give him plenty of room to throw. The Bulldogs Offensive Line will protect for Tom regardless of how many men are being blitzed play after play. At the same time Brandstater will have plenty of help from his RB's as he has at least three different young men in the backfield that can break away at any given time.

2007 will not be a year that Brandstater will receiver another free pass on. He has now been in the system for three full years and should know exactly what to do in every situation. There is not a play or situation Brandstater has not seen and with a full year of college experience behind him nothing should surprise him in 2007. If Brandstater walks up to the line and sees eight men in the box he should smile. He should know that means his receivers will be running all over the field man to man leaving plenty of room for Tom to complete the pass. Teams will give Brandstater this opportunity as most know the strength of this team is the run. The most important thing is confidence with respect to the QB position. Tom seemed to lack confidence in 2006 and will need to realize he has all the parts around him to make 2007 a success. Unlike 2006 Tom will not have to many opportunities to screw up this season. The coaching staff is high on Ryan Colburn and will give him a chance to play if Tom cannot carry the load. One season of learning can be understood from time to time but two seasons of it will not be allowed. If Brandstater can keep the negative thoughts out of his head, play with confidence, and realize his team will help him out in the end the season will be a success.

I did not mention Jeff Grady in this article, but do remember he will be there to show Brandstater the way. Grady was one of the more intelligent QB's in State history and would have done just fine had he not been hurt his entire career. This will only help Brandstater to calm down even more throughout 2007. Tomorrow I will cover the RB's and what we can expect from that position in 2007.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Fresno State Defensive Recruiting Grades

Fresno State Recruit Ken Borg

If anything became apparent during the 2006 season at Fresno State it was the Bulldogs did not possess the speed on defense to compete in games against teams such as Hawaii, Boise State, or LSU. More often than not the Bulldogs defensive secondary could be seen chasing a RB, WR, or TE down the field due to the lack of speed on defense. Although Marcus McCauley came into the season as one of the more highly touted CB's at Fresno State he would deal with so much pressure that it eventually took its toll on the young man. McCauley was counted on to do far too much during the 2006 season and in the end could not compensate for all of the inexperience in the secondary. While Josh Shirley could hit he always seemed to arrive one second too late. We all know the story of Vincent Mays and how he did not pan out. Elgin Simmons never seemed to grasp the corner position like the Dogs had hoped. The only bright spot in the secondary came with Damon Jenkins, but even that took over half a season to develop. The Fresno State coaching staff realized that their LB's were far too slow, their secondary did not react with the tenacity they had shown in the past, and their Defensive Line did not put pressure on the QB like the Dogs have been known to do. The 2007 recruiting class was put together to spell the Bulldogs of each and every one of these problems. Let's see how the coaching staff went about fixing these problems with respect to who they brought in to do so.

Defensive Line:
Fresno State will have Jason Shirley, Jon Monga, Tyler Clutts, Mike Stuart, Chris Lewis, and Jason Roberts returning. In addition the Bulldogs were able to recruit Ken Borg (pictured above) who shows an explosive speed off the end that the Bulldogs did not have this past season. Bryce Harris was also brought in as he showed the ability to play both offensive and defensive line. Porter Hill is listed as a Defensive Tackle and by now we all know the promise that this young man has. He may have the opportunity to make some noise during his freshman season. Overall Fresno State has the depth at Defensive Line to cause problems for the opposing team's QB all season. Whether these young players develop or not will depend on the veterans and the leadership they can provide throughout the course of the season.
Overall Grade: B

With Qaadir Brown, Trevor Shamblee (pending injury), Marcus Riley, Robert Schenck, and Nico Herron all returning the Bulldogs LB corp. looks to be in tact and ready to go. However, Fresno State was able to bring in Chris Carter from Kaiser, Ca. Carter is one of the top prospects in the 2007 Fresno State recruiting class and will add both power and speed to the LB corp. Austin Raphael was also brought in as a true LB. Raphael was one of the first commits of the 2007 class. He did suffer an injury during his senior season and will more than likely red shirt his freshman season barring injuries. Overall the Bulldogs seem to have the LB's to compete with anyone in the nation this upcoming season. The addition of Carter will only strengthen the Dogs defense that much more. Although the addition of Carter is a great one because the Dogs brought in so little at the LB position their grade will not truly reflect where the team stands with respect to the LB position.
Overall Grade: B-

Damon Jenkins, Marvin Haynes, A.J. Jefferson, and Moses Harris will all return to the Bulldogs secondary with plenty of experience after being on the field for almost the entire 2006 season. Lorne Bell will be inserted into the lineup as well for his freshman season after sitting out 2006 to red shirt. With these five secondary players on the field Fresno State’s defense should do well, but the recruiting additions are what truly make 2007 something to look forward to. This is the one position the coaches seemed to concentrated on with respect to recruiting. Sharrod Davis will come into Fresno as one of two starting corners. Remember had Davis been able to transfer to a PAC-10 school he would have. Instead he is at Fresno State and will spell the Bulldogs at the corner opposite Jenkins. The Bulldogs welcome numerous db's and safeties that are blessed with speed. Terrance Dennis, Isaiah Green, Tim Lang, Jevon Stallworth, and Jermaine Thomas all run 40 times in the range of 4.5 or less. Zak Hill will also be coming in as he is a shutdown corner that tackles better than most. Players such as Philip Thomas may also be utilized on defense because of his athletic ability. Overall Fresno State solved their speed problem and can only hope these players develop throughout the course of the 2007 season. Overall Grade: A

The defensive unit as a whole will have to find a way to put pressure on the QB to make 2007 a successful season. If the QB for opposing teams is given 5 seconds to throw it will not matter how good the coverage is, someone will be open. The Dogs have the size, speed, and ability to shut down teams such as Boise State but they will have to learn to play together as a team before that can happen. 2007's recruiting class is definitely solid and will give us as Fresno State fans plenty to cheer about in the near future.

Overall Defensive Grade: B+

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fresno State Offensive Recruiting Grades

Fresno State Recruit Ryan Mathews

Rivals gave Fresno State's recruiting class an A. The Fresno Bee thought the Bulldogs recruiting class warranted a B+. However, the Fresno State Football Blog is the only source that takes into account what you as readers think of our recruiting class. Although Rivals is a reputable source for recruiting information, they do not consider what we as a city think of the recruits that we have brought into the program for the next four years. I realize that our opinions do not mean much when it comes to how these players perform on the field for Fresno State but we as true fans know what this team needed coming into 2007. We as true Fresno State fans know exactly what can help this team reach that level that we had become used to between the years of 2001-2005. Instead of grading the recruiting as a whole I am going to look at each position and give a grade with respect to what I know Fresno State needed to improve their team for the future.

Quarterback: The Bulldogs signed two players during the recruiting season that in time could help to solidify the QB position. The first is Matt Faulkner out of Texas. Faulkner comes from a similar system to Fresno State and looks to have all the skills that the Bulldogs covet in a QB. He is tall, has a strong arm, is patient in the pocket and can check down with respect to receivers. Tim Lang is the opposite of what we would expect at QB. He is speedy and can thrill you with the run or the throw. While Lang is an athlete chances are he will not be a QB during his time at State. Overall Grade: B-

Running Backs: Fresno State did not have a glaring need at RB with two returning RB's who will carry the load in 2007. However, they did acquire two very strong RB's in the 2007 recruiting class. Ryan Mathews led the nation in rushing as he compiled over 3300 yards and Bryson Hodges is a smaller version of Marice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville. Both will heavily contribute to Fresno State in the coming years with Mathews having a shot of making a difference right away. Overall Grade: A

Wide Receivers: Fresno State has a group of returning WR's meaning that the need for more did not concern the coaching staff. With Moore, Crawley, Ajirotutu, and West returning the Bulldogs have plenty of experience at the WR position. The 2007 recruiting class will add Matt Lindsay and Devon Wylie to the receiving corp. Lindsay however will be recovering from an injury he endured during basketball. Overall the Bulldogs did not need much with the WR position and unless they plan on using Devon Wylie at receiver often they did very little to improve this area. Overall Grade: D

Offensive Line: Fresno State's Offensive Line tends to be the one common link that keeps this offense potent regardless of how the QB's play. In 2007 the Bulldogs were able to bring in Devan Cunningham, Porter Hill, Eric Sproal, and Kyle Ranier. Each of these men have the size to play right from day one with Cunningham having the chance to become a starter as a true Freshman. Although the Bulldogs did not need to replace their line they did a fine job in finding a young nucleus that will keep the offensive line in tact for years to come. Overall Grade: A

Special Teams: Devon Wylie may be the most explosive player in the 2007 recruiting class. The Bulldogs do not have a strong kick returner and chances are Wylie will have every chance to earn this job during his first year at Fresno State. At the same time Bulldogs were able to land Kevin Goessling as the next heir apparent to Clint Stitser. Goessling comes in as a three star recruit who will more than likely redshirt and take over the kicking duties in 2008 when Stitser moves on. Overall our special teams needs someone to ignite them once again as this unit regressed in 2006. Wylie is the type of player who can add instant fire to a kick returning game that suffered in 2006. Overall Grade: A-

Fresno State's Offensive additions will only help the Dogs to become much stronger in the coming years. Tomorrow I will give my grades with respect to defensive players who are coming into the program. Overall offensively the Dogs seemed to fill most of the holes they needed to make sure they could better compete in 2007. Most of the additions to this team will be seen on defense and that is where Fresno State may have a chance to make the biggest improvement. As a whole the offensive recruits that were brought in are exactly what the Bulldogs needed with respect to speed and play making ability (Devon Wylie, Ryan Mathews). From here on we can only wait and see if these players develop the way we all hope they will.

Offensive Overall Grade: B

Friday, February 09, 2007

Does This Recruiting Class Excite You?

Time Out Looking on During Fresno-Utah State

Let's be honest here, we have all been Bulldog fans for as long as we can remember. Anyone who spends time reading this blog has devoted countless hours to talking, watching, and following the Fresno State Bulldogs. With all that has happened over the past year the Fresno State Football program needed something exciting to pump life back into it. The Bulldog football program needed something from either Pat Hill or the fans in order for us to once again believe that we have the talent to compete with the BCS schools of the world. Pat Hill came through for the Bulldogs program by recruiting exactly what we needed in order to become a complete team again. Not only did Hill address the number one need (that of speed), but he also brought in countless defensive, offensive, and all around athletes that will make this Fresno State team one to reckon with in the upcoming seasons.

The key here as fans is to expect improvement but not all at one time. Do not go into 2007 expecting these players to run the table and take us to a BCS level game. Instead expect modest improvement to the tune of a three or four game win increase. Acquiring players such as Devon Wylie and Devan Cunningham will only make the Bulldogs stronger as time passes on. We know Pat Hill has changed his philosophy on Freshman as he allows them to have a much more active role with respect to the team than he ever has before. With that being said the direction Fresno State is headed even has a pessimistic person like me excited about the years to come.

If you cannot find a way to be excited about this Fresno State recruiting class you should feel to see if you actually have a pulse. Even fans who have gone through hell with this team know these players are exactly the type that will help to make Bulldog football a strong tradition once again. On signing day one thing we should have all noticed was how adamant each of these players were about playing for Fresno State. While it's true we did not land a four star recruit instead we landed plenty of two and three stars that will make a difference when they are given the chance to because they want to be here in Fresno playing for the Green V. 2007 is going to be a new beginning for Fresno State. It's ok to queston if the Dogs can break free of this pattern with respect to losing games they should not. Just understand that eventually the tides will turn and Fresno State will be the team to beat in the WAC once again.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fresno State's Rock: The Offensive Line

Over the years as a Fresno State Bulldog fan I have encountered many conversations about the strengths and the weaknesses of this team. Since I became a large scale follower of the Bulldogs in the late 1990's (I have always been a fan but did not devote my time to the team until this period) there have been many problems this team has endured. At times the QB position has been a mess (Grady although talented was injury prone and we all know about Brandstater's struggles). There have been instances where the WR's have not done their job. We have seen the safeties struggle as well as the corners and LB's from time to time. However, one theme always seem to hold true with Fresno State: We will have a talented and productive Offensive Line. You have to look no further than the past three seasons to understand how dominant the Bulldogs Offensive Line has truly been.

In 2004 Fresno State lost one of the Better RB's ever to set foot in the program in Dwayne Wright. Although this did affect the team in the long run the Dogs were able to insert both Bryson Sumlin and Wendell Mathis as they both nearly rushed for 1000 yards on the season. In 2005 Mathis broke the 1000 yard mark that he flirted with in 2004. In 2006 the Offensive Line may have done it's best job to date. Brandstater offered little with respect to a passing game as our receivers struggled to get open and Brandstater had a tough time getting the ball to them. Opposing teams were able to line up nine men in the box on every play because they knew the Bulldogs would have to run the ball. Instead of wilting Fresno State's Offensive Line stepped up to the challenge in a major way. In 2006 Dwayne Wright, Lonyae Miller, and Anthony Harding rushed for 1890 yards total with an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Dwayne Wright led the way for the Bulldogs with 1462 yards rushing although everyone knew the team had to run the ball to be effective. Wright also set the Bulldogs single game rushing record as he ran for 295 yards at Louisiana Tech. Not to be left behind in the shadows would be the fact that this Offensive Line only allowed Brandstater to be sacked twelve times in the ten games he played. With that being said it would seem that the Offensive Line would have to regress in one way or another. If you were to believe that you would be dead wrong. In 2007 this Offensive Line due to both recruiting and returning players will be even stronger than in 2006.

Although Fresno State lost Kyle Young (who seemed to hold on every big play during the season) and Chris Denman they will return in 2007 with a strong line once again. Bobby Lepori, Pierce Masse, Adam McDowell, James Meeks, Richard Pacheco, Cole Popovich, and Ryan Wendell all return. Recruiting wise Fresno State will be welcoming in Devan Cunningham (6'6" 315 pounds), Leslie Cooper (6'4", 260 pounds), Porter Hill (6'4", 275 pounds) Eric Sproal (pictured above, 6'4", 280 pounds), and Kyle Rainer (6'5", 265 pounds). One thing you will notice is most of these incoming players are considerably bigger than Fresno State is used to landing out of high school. Three of these men are big enough to play right from the start. Cunningham will have a chance to step in and contribute as a Freshman as will many of the incoming class of 2007.

As Fresno State fans we have endured hard times throughout the years with respect to this team. As I stated earlier there have been breakdowns in many aspects of Bulldog football that have been quite hard for us as fans to understand. Sometimes this team mentally breaks down leaving us all wondering what will happen next. Other times one facet of the team will break down in a game pushing us to a loss. However, the one rock on this team has always been the Offensive Line. 2007 will offer us a glimpse of what we should become accustom to for at least the next four years. These Offensive Lineman we have brought in with respect to the 2007 recruiting class will serve as a strong foundation for the future of the Bulldogs team. As long as we have size and skill on the line we will continue to churn out yards carry after carry making it that much easier on the QB to do his job.

Note: Last night's party at World Sports went well. There were a few more people present than the time before and I expect that there will be even more at the Spring game as that game will be on a weekend and actual football will be played. Thanks to those who showed up and let's continue to push for growth with respect to Bulldog nation.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fresno State's Defensive Gems

As we all recall the Fresno State Bulldogs defense in 2006 lacked many components needed to be successful. The most glaring need for Fresno State was that of speed. While players like McCauley ran relatively quick forty times he was forced to do far too much on his own which led to numerous breakdowns in coverage. If Fresno State can hold on to the recruits that are supposed to sign today the defense in the next two years will see a vast improvement with respect to both speed and talent. Fresno State had to address the issue of talent on the defensive side of the ball and it looks like they have done everything in their power to make this happen. With the addition of players such as Jermaine Thomas, Chris Carter, Tim Lang, and Sharrod Davis the Bulldogs defense should be much more athletic and that much faster in the end. Although he was not a recruit from the 2007 class Lorne Bell should be able to step in this upcoming season and make a name for himself as well.

Chris Carter will be a welcome addition to the Bulldogs LB corp. Although he is only 6'0" he runs relatively fast with a 4.8 40 time and will definitely put on ten to fifteen pounds before all is said and done. Carter attended Kaiser high school out of Fontana and was being recruited by the likes of Oregon State, Colorado State, Washington, and Nevada. To say this kid was desired by many schools would be an understatement. In 2005 Carte recorded 89 tackles and 11 sacks as a Junior. Carter's is one of the Bulldogs three star recruits and looks to have a chance to make a name for himself as soon as he arrives at Fresno State.

Sharrod Davis will come into Fresno State as a Junior looking to turn himself into an NFL prospect at corner. Fresno State has a knack for developing corners and Davis looks to be the next great one in line for the Bulldogs defense. Davis runs a 4.4 forty and stands at 6'0" weighing in at 180. In other words Davis is your prototypical corner. He has speed, he is not too heavy but definitely the right size to be able to run with just about anyone in the nation. Since Davis has two years of college football experience he will be expected to step in and start. Davis will also be expected to be a defensive leader on the field. Although this is his first season as a Bulldog Davis will be one of the more experienced corners on the field.

Jermaine Thomas looks to be another speedy secondary player that the Bulldogs have landed in their 2007 class. Thomas stands at 5'11 and runs a 4.5 forty while weighing 175 pounds. Thomas will more than likely put on size and eventually will make a large scale impact on the defensive side of the ball. At the same time Tim Lang may end up in the secondary as a corner or safety due to the fact that he is one of the better athletes the Dogs were able to find. Lang has speed and can play receiver, QB, and RB as well as defensive secondary. Look for Fresno State to try and turn Lang into a defensive player during his time as a Bulldog.

Lorne Bell is a 2006 class recruit who will play in 2007. Bell will shore up the defensive side of the ball and will be seen on the field with Davis, Harris, Haynes, and Jenkins. Bell may only stand at 5'10" but he is near 200 pounds and runs a 4.6 40 time. Bell will be in the defensive secondary for the Bulldogs and without a doubt will help to turn Fresno State into a defensive power once again. Bell sat out 2006 and will come into 2007 as a Freshman with plenty of talent. By the time his four seasons are up at Fresno State he will have a shot to become an NFL talent just as every secondary player at State seems to end up.

Overall Fresno State has addressed the need for speed with respect to their recruits. 2007 will be a year of change as the Bulldogs have realized the 2006 squad was not fast enough to compete with many of the teams they faced. The Bulldogs lacked the speed and overall talent in 2006, but 2007 and on will be much different. Pat Hill has put together a wonderful recruiting class and has once again made the future here at Fresno State something we all look forward to.

Note: Tomorrow I will cover both Devan Cunningham and Porter Hill, our Lineman that will make this team that much better in the years to come. By the way it looks like Pete Carroll and USC made a run at Ryan Mathews, good thing the kid wants to be a Bulldog isn't it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Devon Wylie - Fresno State's Version of the Flash

As 2007 bids adieu to a player commonly referred to as Batman it also welcomes in Fresno State's version of the flash. Anyone who has watched the recruiting videos of Devon Wylie knows exactly why Wylie would be called the Flash . If you have not had the opportunity to see the elusiveness of Wylie take a few minutes out of your day and access youtube.com to watch his high school video highlights. In 2006 Fresno State more often than not struggled with field position as the Bulldogs outstanding kick returner Adam Jennings moved on to the NFL. While at Fresno State Jennings was one of the most electrifying players ever to step in Bulldog stadium. Jennings played with no fear and had no desire to fair catch anything kicked to him. Jennings had the uncanny ability to run backwards ten yards and turn the mess he created into a fifty yard gain. Losing Paul Pinegar turned out to be a big blow to the Fresno State offense. However, losing Adam Jennings may have been the dagger to the heart for the offense of Fresno State.

The parallels between Devon Wylie and Adam Jennings are remarkable. They both attended the same high school. Both men possess the same body size and speed. Both men play the same position and provide a chance at scoring everytime the ball is in their hands. Devon Wylie stands at 5'9", Jennings stands at 5'10. Wylie runs a 4.35-4.4 forty time, Jennings runs a 4.3. Wylie weighs 175 pounds, Jennings weighs in at 170. The biggest difference Between these two players is their skin color, something that should not make one bit of a difference in today's world. Wylie was recruited by both Wyoming and Oregon State but decided his home would be here in Fresno. He has been told that he has the opportunity to make a difference for this team right from the start, something Pat Hill does not allow often with Freshman. Wylie however possesses a speed and quickness that is hard to ignore.

In 2006 Fresno State often started from their own 20 yard line. Trevor Shamblee and Chastin West were featured as kick returners for the Bulldogs. While neither were particularly fast Jennings departure left Fresno State with a void at kick/punt returner. When the opposing offense did not kick the ball into the end zone it would rarely be returned to the 20 yard line forcing the Bulldogs to go at least 60 yards to attempt a field goal. In 2005 many remember Jennings' returns in the USC game as what helped the Bulldogs put up such an amazing fight. Twice jennings fielded the ball inside his ten only to return it to USC territory. Jennings constantly gave Fresno State great field position making it that much easier for the Bulldogs to get in the end zone. Regardless of how good your offense is, scoring from 40 yards out is much easier than scoring from 80 yards out. Wylie will have the opportunity to give the Bulldogs a returner who once again can make a difference on the field of play. Expect Wylie to be on the field in September against Sac State for the first kickoff of the year. While 2006 offered little to be excited about, 2007 is bringing much more excitement not only with the new recruits but with this Bulldogs team as a whole. Devon Wylie will have a chance to make a difference for this Fresno State Football team and most would be foolish to think he won't accomplish just that in his time here in Fresno.

Note: Tomorrow is signing day and I hope some of you can make it out to World Sports with us at 3pm. We will be checking out the videos of our new recruits and talking Bulldog football with 1550 sports radio. Tomorrow's blog will discuss the difference Sharrod Davis and Chris Carter can make on the Bulldogs defense.

Monday, February 05, 2007

24 and Counting....

Here is the list of the 24 verbal Bulldog commits. The positions listed is their projected spot at the next level, not neccessarily their position in high school. This list in detail can be read here at Barkboard.com. Now how many of these kids will likely see action as freshmen.

The All-Important Legend :
Bold - Solid Contributor - could start one or more games.
* - Contributor - could play as a true but not necessarily be on the two-deep.
Red - Redshirt
Gray - Grayshirt

QB Matt Faulkner (Marcus HS) Flower Mound, TX 6-3/185/4.65
QB Nick Anderson (Oak Ridge HS) El Dorado Hills, CA 6-3/200
RB Ryan Mathews (West HS) Bakersfield, CA 6-0/195
RB Bryson Hodges (Golden Valley HS) Bakersfield, CA 5-9/200
WR/KR Devon Wylie (Granite Bay HS) Granite Bay, CA 5-10/185/4.40
WR Matt Lindsey (Clovis HS) Clovis, CA 6-2/180
TE Ryan Skidmore (East Bakersfield HS) Bakersfield, CA 6-5/225*
OG Eric Sproal (El Dorado HS) Placentia, CA 6-5/285
OT Bryce Harris (Tulare Union HS) Tulare, CA 6-6/240
LT Devan Cunningham (Grant Union HS) Sacramento, CA 6-6/310/5.55
DT Porter Hill (Compton HS) Compton, CA 6-4/280/4.90*
DE Kenneth Borg (Los Alamitos HS) Los Alamitos, CA 6-3/235
DE Kyle Smith (St. Bernard HS) Playa Del Rey, CA 6-1/220
DE Chris Carter (Henry J. Kaiser HS) Fontana, CA 6-2.5/215/4.70
LB Austin Raphael (Sonora HS) Sonora, CA 6-2/230
SS Zak Hill (Clovis West HS) Fresno, CA 6-2/185
S Terrance Dennis (Diamond Ranch HS) Pomona, CA 6-1/180/4.47*

S Phillip Thomas (Bakersfield HS) Bakersfield, CA 6-1/187*
CB Jevon Stallworth (Grant Union HS) Sacramento, CA 5-11/165
CB Sharrod Davis (Grossmont JC) El Cajon, CA 5-11/185
CB Jermaine Thomas (Duarte HS) Duarte, CA 5-11/170/4.43
DB Isaiah Green (Polytechnic HS) Long Beach, CA 5-10/180
QB/WR/DB Tim Lang (Grant Union HS) Sacramento, CA 6-0/190
K Kevin Goessling (Servite) Anaheim, CA 6-0/190/5.38

Faulkner Provides Hope at QB Position

Fresno State fans have become accustomed to QB's who throw the ball with extreme efficiency. With QB's such as Trent Dilfer, Billy Volek, David Carr, and Paul Pinegar can you blame Bulldog fans for expecting the best out of their QB? Each of these QB's did an outstanding job of keeping the Bulldogs in games the rest of the nation thought the Bulldogs had no chance to win. In 2006 the Bulldogs QB position took a step back as Tom Brandstater did not perform at the level that Fresno State Bulldog fans have become accustomed to. Far too often Brandstater looked lost on the field of play. It was almost as if Brandstater had never studied what to do when the #1 option on the field wasn't available. Time and time again Brandstater threw into double coverage forcing balls that should have never been thrown. In 2007 Brandstater will once again be the starter for the Bulldogs, but his leash is going to be much shorter than what Pat Hill gave him during the 2006 season. His immediate backup will be Ryan Colburn, a QB from Central Valley Christian who played Div. 5 football during his high school years. While Colburn is a strong physical specimen of a football player he has never experienced high octane football as Div. 5 football in California tends to be far slower than any other level of football. While faith in the QB situation at Fresno State is dwindling as the seasons pass on there is reason to once again believe that the QB problems of the past will remain in the past. The reason for this rests in the right arm of a QB from Flower Mound, Texas.

Matt Faulkner stands at 6'3" while weighing in at a lengthy 190 pounds. While that may be a little undersized for a college QB Fresno State will do all they can to add some size to Matt's frame. No one in the Bulldog program or fan base would be surprised if Faulkner comes in weighing 200-205 pounds by his sophomore season (or his actual Freshman season as he will more than likely redshirt his Freshman year). At first glance you would not view Faulkner as the type of QB who could step in and make noise right from the start. After all he has only played high school football to this point and will need plenty of time to adjust to the college game. However, under Fresno State's system Faulkner may have a chance to gain controls as a starter during his Sophomore season, even with Brandstater playing the next two seasons. Anyone who has watched Faulkner's recruiting videos can see his strengths right away. Fresno State runs a pro style offense which is based on timing routes that tend to become open due to the use of play action in the backfield. Faulkner's offense in Flower Mound was run predominantly in the same exact fashion. Faulkner's tapes show that he can stay in the pocket even when pressure is coming and make the throw. Faulkner seems to possess an absolute cannon as throwing the ball fifty yards downfield seems to be nothing more than an afterthought for the young man. At the same time he seems to have an uncanny ability to be quite accurate when he throws deep, something a receiver such as Devon Wylie may be able to turn into a luxury at Fresno State in the coming years.

Faulkner will not see playing time in 2007 and it is quite possible he will not see any during the 2008 season. However it is obvious this kid has the talent and skills needed to compete at the college football level. He can make the throw over the middle, something that is absolutely required in the college game today. At the same time Faulkner can move if he has to and seems to be accurate on the run as well. His stats at Flower Mound are not gaudy but do remember they also seem to have run a pro style offense. Faulkner did average close to 240 yards passing per game in high school which is rather lofty for a high school QB. With the Bulldogs recent struggles at QB fans have often wondered if the QB situation would ever return to the years of Carr and Dilfer, QB's who could make the throw with the game on the line. Faulkner gives us hope that one day Fresno State will be able to win a game by both ground and air, something they simply could not do in 2006.

Note: Since this is letter of intent week I will be devoting my blogs to those recruits who may be able to come in and make a difference right from the start. Tomorrow I will write about Devon Wylie, Fresno State's next Adam Jennings and then some.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Signing Day!

FSFB readers you are, as well, invited to the World Sports Cafe for the BarkBoard.com Signing Day Party! Wednesday Feb. 7 from 3-6 p.m. next to the media room near the bar.

Come one, come all, let's celebrate the 2007 recruiting class and talk some Bulldog football.

The Offensively Challenged Bulldogs

With signing day only five days away I began to think about the Bulldogs and where they are headed offensively. I know that the Dogs are not nearly as potent on offense as they have been in the past, but the question that reamins in my head is do the Dogs have enough talent on offense to become an explosive team once again? I believe without a doubt that the answer is yes. Unfortunately putting trust into a QB that faltered game after game this past season is going to be very hard for many Fresno State fans to do. The fact that Brandstater more than likely will be our starter should not shy fans away from attending home games this upcoming season. Fresno State may have had a terrible 2006 season but that does not exactly reflect how 2007 will be. Part of our offensive problem this past season had to do with team chemistry and continuity. As you can see above the picture I put at the top is of Fairman running while Fernandez is blocking. Fairman was lost for the season relatively early and Fernandez and Williams fought injuries all year. It is easy to forget that this team had very little to count on from week to week with respect to team continuity.

While I know it seems hard to believe that the Dogs can once again become a potent play-making offense I am going to try to prove to everyone that reads the blog that this is possible. First of all our Offensive Line is going to be strong once again. With most of our line returning from 2006 the Dogs should be set to open up large holes on the offensive side. If Harding and Miller can break through the line remember one aspect both of these men bring that Dwayne Wright didn't necessarily have: Downfield speed. Once Harding or Miller gets past the secondary there is no one that will be able to catch these young men. While Wright was outstanding at breaking tackles he more often than not would get caught from behind downfield because he would run out of steam. Brandstater has more help in the backfield than many of the QB's that have come through Fresno State and he needs to realize he just has to relax to get the job done. With Crawley, Moore, West, Ajirotutu, and maybe even Wiley at receiver Brandstater's options are going to be plentiful. At the same time Kinter has proven he can catch at fullback and we all know Pascoe is one of the more sure handed receivers on this football team.

While the weapons around Brandstater seem to be as strong as ever the offense still lays in Brandstater's hands. This is the number one reason most people are suspect about how well the Bulldogs will play in 2007. Brandstater has the physical tools to be a prototypical QB at the NFL level. The problem is his mind is far behind his body. His mind is not allowing him to develop at the pace he should and that is why Jeff Grady could play a vital role with respect to Brandstater's development. Grady is the know all QB coach who was able to master the Bulldogs playbook in less than one season. Grady is a tough kid who knows what it takes to get the job done and will do everything in his power to make sure that Brandstater is ready for 2007. With games at Texas A&M in week 2 and at Oregon in week 3 Brandstater needs to develop some sort of continuity with the offense in the opening week of the season against Sac State.

In 2007 The Dogs will line up against Oregon, A&M, K-State, Boise, and Hawaii. In 2008 the Dogs will take on the two WAC schools again and will also play Wisconsin, Kansas State, Toledo, and UCLA. Fresno State needs to make strides in 2007 if they hope to be on the national scene in 2008. If the Dogs lose to A&M and Oregon in 2007 so be it. These games can serve as a learning experience for many young men who have never traveled to such hostile football environments. Fresno State may be stepping into two of the loudest stadiums in the nation when speaking of A&M and Oregon. In the end the offense will be fine if Brandstater can figure out he has all the tools inside of himself and around him to be great. He just has to trust his skill and his players and the offense will begin to click again. All we can hope is that Brandstater believes in himself half as much as Pat Hill does. If Brandstater shows this confidence there is that chance that Fresno State will finish 2007 on a positive note giving us a great 2008 to look forward to.

A&M for Cincy, Smart or Stupid?

Texas A&M is one of the most storied college football programs in America. Cincinnati is just a few years removed from being just another "mid-major". Texas A&M has Kyle Field, home to the 12th Man and a crowd of 82,000 plus. Cincy has aging Nippert Stadium that on average will see between 12-15,000 fans.

With those comparisons why not play at A&M, not too mention a loss to the Aggies does not seem so bad compared to losing at Cincinnati. I am not saying Fresno State is going to lose, but after a 4-8 season the prospects of winning are not what many would expect compared to other seasons. I would have to say playing at Texas A&M would be the smartest thing Pat Hill has done thus far in 2007.

The Aggies are not the juggernaut they have been in the past. They certainly don't posses the speed say an LSU does. But they still are capable of wiping the floor with Tom Brandstater and the rest of the Bulldogs. But with improved quarterback play, the right team attitude and good coaching, FS can still play with anyone in the country.

Dare I give an early prediction? No! There are still too many question marks that won't be answered until after spring practice and fall camp.

Brandstater has to back up his 6-5 frame with smart decisions and better throws. The young running backs need to step up and fill the hole left by Dwayne Wright. The new WR coach has to "coach" the receivers. The program has not had a "true" receiver coach since Henry Ellard helped out earlier this decade.

Need I mention the secondary? This might be the smartest reason to play A&M; the Aggies lack a dynamic passing game. And don't necessary attack the edges or the sidelines. Their basically the same team as the Bulldogs. But the Aggies have bigger and better athletes and usually employ a mobile quarterback.

It's a game the Fresno State players should rally around and a team they can beat if they bring their A game.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Recruiting Battle

We have reached the final week of recruiting and it looks as if Fresno State is sitting at 22 recruits for the time being. While we lost out on Duncan that does not take away from the talent that the rest of this class may be able to provide. Last year the Bulldogs lacked in speed far more than any other area on the field. In 2007 the Bulldogs will possess far more speed than they did in 2006. Sharrod Davis, Terrence Dennis, Ryan Mathews, and Devon Wylie all run 4.5 40's or less. Fresno State seems to have addressed the one area they truly needed help in. At the same time players such as Wylie look to have that playmaking ability that the Bulldogs have sorely missed over the past season. Adam Jennings was far more important to this team than many of us realized as the kick return game was non-existant in 2006. As I have said before I have nothing against Chastin West who is a good player for the Dogs, but he is not a kick returner. Hopefully Clifton Smith can figure out that he is not the star he thinks he is right now and will work much harder than he has in the past. If a healthy and fit Clifton Smith is joined by Devon Wylie with respect to the kick return game opposing teams are going to have to decide whether they want to take a chance by kicking to one of these two men or instead kick the ball out of bounds (option 2 might be best if these two are healthy and ready to go).

As usual we picked up two more offensive line recruits. Aside Running Back (where we landed the nations leading rusher) Offensive Line seems to be one area where there is very little to worry about year after year. We have a strong offensive lineman corp returning and I would venture to say that both Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding are going to benefit for the blocking that our line tends to have. Both of these RB's have speed that we have not seen since Wendell Mathis. At QB we have Matt Faulkner who is likely to move right into the third string spot but will more than likely redshirt his Freshman season and put on size to better equip him for the college game. If you watch Faulkner's videos you will notice many aspects of his game that has to make you think he has a chance to be a great QB one day: Faulkner throws the ball well over the middle. He also sits back and waits for his receivers to run their routes. For a young man he looks to be poised and patient, two aspects of QB that are very hard to teach. Faulkner if he can learn the playbook will one day start at Fresno State, and it may be sooner than we may think.

Overall I know the rankings have Boise ahead of us by about five spots when it comes to Rivals.com. I also know that Scout.com has them about fifteen spots ahead of the Bulldogs. However, Boise has 25 commits while the Bulldogs still have 2-3 more that they can land. The difference between the two schools with respect to recruiting is much closer than you might think. Boise went to a BCS game and the Bulldogs are still right there with them with respect to recruiting, that has to tell you something about the perception of this football program. Fresno State is a known school today and many players realize that we will go into battle over the next two seasons with schools such as Texas A&M, Kansas State (2), Oregon, UCLA, and Wisconsin, Not to mention the Dogs will take on both Boise and Hawaii with both being a top 25 program. If you are looking to attend a mid-major school that can make some noise on the national picture there really are only two choices anymore: Fresno State and Boise State (ok I forgot TCU and BYU). The 2007 recruiting class for the Dogs will go down as one with more potential than any other recruting class in Bulldogs history. All we can do is hope that these players turn our dreams into a reality on the football field.

Note: I realize that the Boise recruit at QB is four stars but he is in a system in Washington just as Colt Brennan is in Hawaii. I am not saying he does not have talent, four stars have plenty of talent. However, do not judge our QB recruits and Boise's until they step on the field and begin to perform. Four stars means nothing if you can't perform on the college football field, just ask Ricky Miller and James Paulk.