In 2007 the Bulldogs will endure the losses of a handful of seniors. Fresno State's offense will bid adeu to both Clifton Smith and Ryan Wendell. On the defensive side of the ball the Bulldogs will say goodbye to Marcus Riley (ouch), Damon Jenkins, Tyler Clutts, and Charles Tolbert. On special teams the Bulldogs say goodbye to Clint Stitser and Kyle Zimmerman. Obviously there are more seniors moving on such as Shannon Dorsey and Jesus Tapia but the players listed above are the ones that will be the most important to replace. How Fresno State goes about replacing these key players may determine what happens on the field of play in 2008. Since the offense has the least amount of work to do we will start with them.
2008 Bulldogs Offense: Key Losses: Clifton Smith and Ryan Wendell. Key returning players: Everyone else. Yes I could list the players returning but you all know who is coming back if you are a true Bulldog fan. With our entire receiving core returning Fresno State's offense should be as explosive as any team in the nation. It should also be noted that Fresno State returns three RB's who made a name for themselves on the field in 2007. While returning so many core players is important it should also be noted that our QB returns, our #1 TE threat returns, and our entire offensive line minus Wendell returns. I realize Wendell was wonderful on the offensive line but Fresno State rarely has problems with the offensive line. There is a reason this team rushes for so many yards season after season. The offensive line is the main reason that Brandstater has been sacked 23 times in 24 games over the past two seasons. Anytime an offensive line gives up less than one sack a game they are doing their job to protect the quarterback.
What to expect from the 2008 Offense: Expect the Bulldogs to plug in players such as A.J. Ellis , Tim Lang, and Devon Wylie to help shoulder the loss of Clifton Smith. While these players may not have the moves that Smith did they are young and will have time to develop on the field of play. Each of these three players bring different aspects to the field and will be able to show how talented they are in 2008. The replacement of Wendell will be much easier as Fresno State has so a plethora of offensive lineman to step in and play right away. Players such as Joe Bernandi and Devan Cunningham will be on the field often opening up holes for our three headed running attack in 2008. Expect this Bulldog team to score nearly 40 points a game during the 2008 season.
2008 Bulldogs Defense: Key Losses: Marcus Riley, Charles Tolbert and Tyler Cutts. Key Returning Players: A. J. Jefferson, Damian Owens, Ben Jacobs, Quaadir Brown, and Jon Monga. Defense is going to be the question mark of this football team in 2008. The offense will produce early and often for the Dogs so the defense is going to have to make sure that the opposing team does not hang with the high powered offense of the Dogs. Fresno State will not be able to replace Marcus Riley. He is not the kind of player you can replace in one season. Ricky Pemesa was tabbed to replace Riley and may be able to do so, but it will take much longer than one season. Ben Jacobs, Q Brown, Todd Chisom, Nico Herron, Ryan Machado, and Ryan Mckinley will all have to step up and find a way to bring the defensive intensity that Riley brought to the field. If the defense can find a way to compensate for the loss of Riley they will do fine in the long run.
What to expect from the 2008 Defense: Early on the Dogs will suffer on defense if for no other reason than team leadership. I realize we have a good amount of players returning on defense but the intensity that players such as Tolbert, Clutts, and Riley brought to the field will be hard to match. Fresno State will do it's best as they will add the Jackson brothers and Matt Akers to their defensive line. While he has not committed a player such as Valentine could single handedly sure up this defensive line. The secondary will be a step up from 2007 as both Harris and Haynes return as safeties with Jefferson and Owens at corner. Although Jenkins started for Fresno State for the greater part of his college career he never truly developed into the type of corner the Dogs had hoped he would. With Jenkins gone other players such as Davis will have a chance to make a name for himself in 2008. Fresno State will give up a lot early on but expect this defensive unit to come together and eventually learn to make plays by the middle of 2008.
2008 Special Teams Key Losses: Kyle Zimmerman and Clint Stitser. The special teams unit will now turn the reigns over to redshirt Freshman Kevin Goessling. This kid has an amazing leg and will do just fine as our field goal kicker. He is left footed which may remind many of you of Asen Asperuhov. Goessling will do his best to make us forget about Clint Stitser. As for punting Robert Malone will take over duties here. Malone was tabbed the punter a season ago only to lose his job to Zimmerman. Hopefully in 2008 Malone will mature to the point that he becomes the type of punter this program always thought he would be. Special teams may take a while to come around in the kicking game. We shall see how this plays out.
Overall the Dogs look to have a solid team on paper. At the end of 2007 the Dogs finished 30th in coaches poll. Look for Fresno State to open near the top 25. If the Dogs play strong at UCLA and K-State look for a top ten Wisconsin team to head to Fresno to face a top 20 Bulldogs team. Hopefully everyone remembers the last time a top ten team came to Fresno. If you don't it was Oregon State in 2001. This Bulldog team has the talent to do exactly what the Dogs did to Oregon State in 2001. Here is hoping that it is in the cards for the Dogs to make a run like they did in 2001. If the newcomers play to their potential 2008 will be a great season for Fresno State. All the Dogs need to remember is the only game that matters right now is their next game against UCLA.