stumbled to a 3-9 finish last season, the worst in head coach Tim DeRuyter's four seasons. The offense ranked near the bottom of the nation in every major category, while the defense wasn't much better. The Bulldogs hope for better things, but significant coaching turnover and a relatively inexperienced roster could lead to even more growing pains in 2016.
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Previewing Fresno State’s Offense for 2016
Coming off a season in which Fresno State ranked 122nd in the country in total offense and 107th in scoring, a housecleaning was in order. Coach Tim DeRuyter swept in a new coordinator (Eric Kiesau) and four new position coaches. All that change also brought a new philosophy. Instead of being an up-tempo spread team that picks run or pass based on how the defense lines up, the Bulldogs want to impose their will in certain situations. “If it’s third-and-1 and we decide to run, I don’t care if they put 11 guys in the box,” DeRuyter says. “We’re going to find a way to get it done.”
After starting four quarterbacks a year ago for all the usual reasons (injuries, ineffectiveness, suspension), Fresno State is desperate for some stability behind center. Chason Virgil, who sustained a broken clavicle in his first career start against Utah, will enter fall camp as the frontrunner. Still, the coaches want to see more from a couple new arrivals, including freshman Quentin Davis and Cal graduate transfer Zach Kline.
Receiver is the deepest and most established position group with Jamire Jordan, KeeSean Johnson and Da’Mari Scott all back. There’s also the added hope that Aaron Peck can finally put everything together after missing last season with a foot injury. With seven career TD catches, tight end Chad Olsen needs to be utilized more outside the red zone.
Kiesau wants to run more, but the jury’s out on who’ll be doing the running — 220-pound Dontel James got most of the spring carries — or whether a revamped line with three new starters and not a ton of size will be up to the task.
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Previewing Fresno State’s Defense for 2016
The Bulldogs finished 118th in points allowed and 102nd in total defense. But instead of making wholesale changes, DeRuyter brought in SEC veteran Lorenzo Ward to run his beloved 3-4, demoted longtime colleague Nick Toth to inside linebackers coach and kept everything else pretty much the same. Fresno State didn’t have to pay much to get Ward, who is still owed $750,000 by his former employer (South Carolina).
After years as a glaring weakness, cornerback is suddenly a strength. Tyquwan Glass recorded the most tackles of any Bulldogs corner in five years (62) to go with a team-high four interceptions. Glass and Daquawn Brown, a Washington State transfer who impressed at practice while sitting out, could emerge as one of the MW’s better duos. There’s also good depth with experience, both at corner and safety.
Things aren’t as rosy up front. Fresno State got blown off the ball by multiple MW opponents a year ago, a reason the coaches recruited two 310-pound junior college nose tackles (Malik Forrester and Patrick Belony). Their arrival also allows Nate Madsen to slide back to his more natural position of defensive end. With Jeff Camilli and Nela Otukolo, the Bulldogs are solid at inside linebacker. The graduation of leading tackler/sacker/personality Ejiro Ederaine leaves a big hole, though James Bailey, a hybrid outside backer/safety, looks like a budding star.
Previewing Fresno State’s Specialists for 2016
After four years of the same punter and long-snapper, first-year players will handle both roles. That’ll make first-year special teams coordinator Dave Ungerer a little nervous. Kody Kroening and Jimmy Camacho, who split the placekicking and kickoff roles, provide more stability.
After a 20–6 record with two MW titles in Years 1 and 2, DeRuyter’s 9–17 combined record in Years 3 and 4 represents a significant decline. The revamped coaching staff is reason enough for Fresno State not to go 3–9 again. At the same time, the lack of talent and experience at QB sets 6–6 as a likely ceiling. The overriding question: Will that be good enough for DeRuyter to get Year 6?