The past two seasons have been a tumultuous time for Tom Brandstater. In 2006 he was booed more often than he was cheered. In 2006 he led the Fresno State Bulldogs to their worst record since 1996. Brandstater's stat line was less than stellar in 2006 as he completed 54% of his passes for 1490 yards with 13 td's and 14 int's. The future looked dim for the Bulldogs signal caller. The fans in Fresno did not want to see Brandstater take another snap after his horrendous start. However, Pat Hill stuck with Brandstater throughout 2006. While Tom's 2006 season was not one to write home about the chance to erase all of those memories would come at the start of the 2007 season. Whether fans feel like Tom has moved past 2006 is left up to their perception of the QB position at Fresno State and how they view success. I feel Tom has been very successful in 2007 and to show why I feel this way I am going to use the junior seasons of two of the best Bulldog QB's in our recent history: Bill Volek and David Carr.
Everyone remembers David Carr and Bill Volek as outstanding QB's in the Fresno State football system. Carr threw 46 td's his senior season compared to only nine int's. Volek threw 30 td's his senior season compared to only 3 int's, which today is still the most efficient college football season in history. But what most fans tend to forget is what these two players did their junior seasons. Below are three stat lines without the players names. Can you tell me who is who:
216 for 349 for 2,729 yards 62% completion rate 27 td's
151 for 261 for 1,973 yards 58% completion rate 10 td's
155 for 259 for 1,851 yards 60% completion rate 12 td's
Each of the above stat lines represent Tom Brandstater, Bill Volek, and David Carr's junior seasons. If you could not tell by now the top line is David Carr, the second line is Bill Volek, and the third line is Tom Brandstater. Tom is doing much better with respect to these other two QB's than many have come to perceive on the BarkBoard. Not only is he having a much better year than Volek did his junior year, but if Tom were to continue to play how he has the past two games he would end up with close to 20 td's, and 2500 yards passing on the season. In other words maybe Brandstater is not nearly as bad as many have made him out to be. Playing QB in college is a tough job. Many don't realize how hard it is to become the focal point of an offense. I am not making excuses as to why Brandstater's sophomore season went horribly wrong but instead am trying to get people to understand that he is headed in the right direction. In today's' era we expect a QB to step in and do the job right from the first snap. Honestly this is as unreal an expectation as one could have of a QB. Most college QB's do not step in and perform the way Tim Tebow has at Florida. Instead struggles are common for new QB's. Sometimes the QB cycle follows a different path as a QB has a solid first season and struggles his second year (See Jared Zabranski).
Brandstater has dealt with various situations since he took over at QB for the Bulldogs. I have to admit that I was one who wanted to see him replaced last season, but I failed to realize that Tom was not the only problem with our team last season. I wanted to put the blame on the guy who throws the ball without looking elsewhere. The fact of the matter is last season our receivers underachieved, our defense was atrocious, our offensive coordinator was lost, and our team as a whole was bad. To blame one man for the entire season is wrong and I am as guilty of that as the next Bulldog fan. Earlier this year Matt James wrote an article in which he apologized for the chastising of Brandstater in 2006. I did not go to the extremes James did but I do feel I should recant many of the things I said about Tom. He has played hard every game he has stepped on the field and he deserves some credit for the improvement of the team this season. Would any Bulldog fans have imagined being down to TAMU and Hawaii big only to come back and make it a game with our passing offense? To me that shows that Brandstater has improved far more than we give him credit for. He has finally began to look for receiver options two and three in the offense and can make the dump off throw underneath far better than he ever has.
However, I do see a problem with our offense headed into our final two games of the season and I am going to trust that our offensive coordinator will take care of it. The Bulldogs offense heavily relies on the run which is fine. The problem is that we sometimes fall in love with the run so much that we forget our QB can throw the ball. I fully expect J-Mac to throw the ball much earlier next game as Kansas State is susceptible to the passing game. I do not see Brandstater throwing for 300 yards, but he does not need to do so to win games. Brandstater needs to continue to be efficient in this offense in 2007 in order to lead the Dogs to victories. I am sure Tom has learned quite a bit in his two years as a starter. There is no reason to think that 2008 won't bring Tom his best season yet. After all both David Carr and Bill Volek had average junior years only to explode their senior season. Why can't Tommy do the very same? I believe and think he will and I hope that by now the rest of the Fresno State faithful have begun to realize the improvements Tom has made on the field. If you haven't then please take off your blinders because if you don't you are going to miss some good QB play in the next year.