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.