COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2011 PRESEASON TOP 25
Mountain West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Tim DeRuyter , First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Dave Schramm | DEF. COORDINATOR: Nick Toth
New era for Fresno State football begins as new head coach Tim DeRuyter leads Bulldogs into the Mountain West Conference.
It might come as a shock, for both fans and opponents, to see Fresno State line up with four receivers on 1st-and-10. New coach Tim DeRuyter scrapped the pro-style set the Bulldogs have used for decades and hired coordinator Dave Schramm to install a no-huddle spread. Now it’s up to the old personnel to make the new plan come together.
In theory, Derek Carr should flourish in the new system. Carr threw for 3,544 yards and 26 TDs in his first season as the starter, living up to the family name. The Bulldogs should again be a dangerous downfield passing team thanks to Carr’s strong arm and a deep receiving corps. That group, however, will not include Jalen Saunders, who averaged 21.3 yards per catch last year and scored 13 TDs. Saunders announced after spring practice that he intended to transfer. His departure means more opportunities for guys like Rashad Evans, Josh Harper, Davante Adams and Victor Dean.
The running game also returns intact, although Robbie Rouse will no longer have a fullback clearing the way except in short-yardage and goal line situations. Rouse’s 329 attempts last season were a school record. For a guy who’s all of 5'7" and 185 pounds, that’s quite a pounding. Four starters return on the line, including the center and both tackles. Austin Wentworth’s switch from right to left tackle will be crucial in pass protection.
Fresno State will look vastly different on defense as well as it transitions from a 4-3 to the 3-4 that DeRuyter employed at Texas A&M and Air Force. He and coordinator Nick Toth spent much of spring practice figuring out where the pieces fit. It’s not an ideal situation, but the Bulldogs were in dire need of a fresh approach after surrendering 35.2 points per game last season (106th in the nation) and 435.9 yards (100th).
Outside linebacker Travis Brown, an All-WAC pick, missed spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery and was forced to learn the new scheme from the sidelines. He’s expected to be 100 percent in August. Strong safety Phillip Thomas was back at full speed in the spring after missing all of last season with a broken leg.
The line has been reshuffled to the point where none of the three projected first-teamers has ever started a college game. Anthony Williams caught the new coaching staff’s attention right away even though the 6'2", 300-pounder never did much for the previous regime.
This area is, in a word, unsettled. Punter Andrew Shapiro is pretty much the only check mark in the proven commodity column. The Bulldogs will be auditioning walk-on kickers during preseason camp, and things are equally fuzzy in the return game.
For 15 years, Pat Hill and his Fu Manchu moustache were synonymous with Fresno State. But last year’s 4–9 mark, on top of years of dwindling attendance, forced AD Thomas Boeh’s hand. Thus the Bulldogs begin their first season in the Mountain West Conference with a clean slate.
With Carr and Rouse, the Bulldogs boast two of the elite offensive players in the league. This should be a good offense, provided the players get comfortable with the new system. Based on a rough spring practice, it’s not down pat yet. The defense, too, should be improved, based on DeRuyter’s track record.
Boise State is clearly the class of the MWC. Fresno State is among a group of teams seeking to be the best of the rest.