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.
Note: 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.