This past week the Fresno State football players began eight weeks of individual practices in which coaches will not be present. During individual workouts QB’s and Receivers work on their timing and route running in order to prepare for the 2008 football season. These eight weeks have become far more important to the Bulldogs than they have to most other teams as Fresno State generally opens with a murderous schedule. In 2008 the Bulldogs season begins as follows:
Sept. 1st - @ Rutgers
Sept. 13th – Wisconsin
Sept. 20th - @ Toledo
Sept. 27th - @ UCLA
Once again Fresno State will have their work cut out for them in September as the Dogs opening month is one of the more challenging in the nation. If Fresno State can find a way to run off victories in each of the above mentioned games they will more than likely be ranked somewhere in the middle of the top twenty-five. In order to accomplish such a feat Fresno State will have to get the most out of their practices up until their first game of the season at Rutgers. The past few seasons Fresno State fans have had high expectations for the football program run by Pat Hill. But in 2008 should Bulldog fans once again expect the Dogs to make some noise nationally before WAC plays begins? The simple answer is absolutely.
Fresno State returns a majority of their offensive starter’s aside Clifton Smith and Ryan Wendell who both have moved on to the NFL. However, Bear Pascoe returns. Tom Brandstater returns. Ryan Mathews returns as does Marlon Moore, Chastin West, Seyi Ajirotutu, Devin Wylie, Jamal Hamler, Lonyae Miller, Anthony Harding the entire offensive line (if healthy), and newcomers such as Rashad Evans, A.J. Ellis, and Ebahn Feathers. This quite possibly has the making to be one of the most explosive units in Fresno State history. If the Bulldog’s offense can continue to gel together as we have seen during spring ball look for the offense to average well over thirty points a game. Last season J-Mac’s offense averaged 33 points a game. If this returning unit can punch one more TD in per game you will be looking at a team that averages forty points a game. If that is the case this will be a very hard Bulldogs team to beat. While the offense looks to be in great shape what can expect from our defense early on in 2008?
Defensively our first team defensive line will create havoc for most opposing teams. Players such as Jon Monga, Chris Carter, Wilson Ramos, and Cornell Banks will all demand attention on the defensive line. The Bulldogs secondary will be experienced with Moses Harris and Marvin Haynes at safety. One corner spot will be occupied by the speedy A.J. Jefferson who may be ready to depart for the NFL at season’s end. The other corner spot is up for grabs but players such as Sharrod Davis and Damion Owens should fill the voice left by Damon Jenkins who also made the jump to the NFL. The one position defensively Bulldog fans should worry about is Linebacker. Although Ben Jacobs, Nico Herron, and Quaadir Brown look to be a solid unit there is very little depth with respect to the unit. Fresno State will have two additions to help bolster the LB core in Damion Whittington and Ricky Pemasa, but both of these players will be coming in as freshman. If the starters do not do their job on defense then the Dogs will give up large amounts of yards and will be involved in games where scoring is happening far more than we as Bulldog fans would like it to be.
Fresno State’s special teams units look to be solid although the Dogs will be starting two kickers with relatively little experience. Robert Malone will take over punting duties. If he continues to punt the way he has in Spring ball Fresno State will have very little to worry about. At the same time Kevin Goessling will take over for Clint Stitser as the placekicker. Goessling has an accurate leg and should be expected to get the job done from forty yards and in. However, if the Dogs have to venture past forty yards this freshman will have his work cut out for him. Kick returning is in great hands with A.J. Jefferson. Fresno State has very little to worry about when it comes to the special teams units. John Baxter generally has these players prepared for every situation possible.
What does this all mean? It means that Fresno State football in 2008 will have a shot at an amazing season. The men’s baseball team just qualified for the College World Series. The women’s softball team missed a super regional by one questionable call. The women’s basketball team qualified for their first NCAA tournament ever. Fresno State won the WAC commissioner’s cup. Overall it has been an amazing year of sports here at Fresno State. Now it’s the football team’s turn to step up and show the nation how truly good they are in 2008. Here is exactly what you can expect from Fresno State in 2008: A team that will fight until the end week to week with a desire to win at all costs and a drive to show the nation just how good this Bulldogs team is as a whole.