Will Fresno State be Defensively Challenged in 08?
Throughout the summer fans of Fresno State continued to realize that 2008 may be a special year not only for the players but for the fans of the Fresno State Bulldogs. With 16 returning starters Fresno State has the experience to make a serious run at the BCS. The offense will be explosive in 2008 as every starter returns aside Ryan Wendell. Replacing Wendell will be tough but Fresno State has always been known for its outstanding offensive line and 2008 should be no different. While the offensive side of the ball looks great the defensive side is left with nothing but questions. Can Fresno State replace WAC defensive player of the year Marcus Riley? Will Fresno State be able to create more takeaways en route to one win after another? Will the defensive line have enough depth to cause problems for opposing team’s offenses? The problem is there is no sure answer to any of these questions. I will do my best to answer each of these questions as I sat through practice today and have a bit better idea as to how good our defense truly will be.
To begin let’s address the defensive line. Fresno State finished second in the WAC with 36 sacks this past season. Look for that total to increase this season. Ikenna Ike and Wilson Ramos are going to give offensive lineman fits as defensive ends. Cornell Banks has both the speed and side to put pressure on the offensive backfield. Chris Lewis will do a great job coming in with the second team to provide pressure from the defensive end position. Bryce Harris looks to be a mountain of a man and should do well with the second team as well. Chase McEntee and Anthony Williams (who looks gigantic) will come in and provide depth right from day one. With all of this talent there should be no worries as to how much pressure our defensive line will cause. If you noticed I haven’t even mentioned the one player that I feel will cause the most havoc on the defensive line: Jon Monga. Monga will be the leader of this defensive line. Look for Monga to have an outstanding season as both a run stopper and momentum killer as well. I realize that many of you worry that our LB’s are going to have a problem stopping the run due to the loss of Marcus Riley. Let’s see how the LB’s break down this season.
Our top three linebackers will be Ben Jacobs, Nico Herron, and more than likely Chris Carter (who has not played the position in two years). Quaadir Brown will be at fall camp but he may not be able to go due to personal issues. We can only hope that Brown finds his way back to football because he is definitely needed on defense. With that being said our first team LB’s are solid. Carter may be stepping into the LB role again but do remember that was his position in high school. He will adapt to the LB role much faster than any other newcomer may have. Damion Whittington will be in fall camp this week providing much needed depth. Kyle Knox, Austin Raphael, and Sean Plummer will provide depth at this position as well. LB is definitely the weakest of any area for the Bulldogs. On the positive side the secondary will be deep and provide the LB’s with the help they need to get through the season.
The secondary will have little problems improving on their paltry takeaway totals from 2007. With A.J. Jefferson, Damion Owens, and Sharrod Davis at corner the Bulldogs should be able to cover man to man and press often. Marvin Haynes and Moses Harris will provide safety help as they have the ability to run with anyone in the nation. Backing up Harris and Haynes will be Zak Hill and Jake Jorde. Both of these men also have the ability to lock down the secondary with their cover skills. It will be because of the secondary that this defense is able to gamble and blitz much more this season than ever before. Look for the Bulldogs secondary to go to press coverage in order to give the safeties and corners time to blitz the QB. If the defensive front four combined with one or two CB’s or safeties blitz there will be very few teams who can stop Fresno State.
The Bulldogs defense is not nearly as worrisome as many have made them out to be. The first and second teams are strong and have the experience to make plays. Fresno State’s offense will provide the defense a large margin for error as the offense should average anywhere between 35-42 points per game. Fresno State’s defense will be fine and they will find a way to hold the other team just enough to give the offense a chance to win every game on the schedule.