For the first time in 15 years, Pat Hill will not coach the Bulldogs in their opener on Saturday. Former Air Force & Nevada Defensive coordinator (And Air Force grad) Tim DeRuyter will be coaching, Pat Hill having been ejected at the end of last year's 4-9 campaign for the Bulldogs. He brings an entirely new coaching staff and new schemes on both sides of the ball as he leads the team into their new conference. To start the year this year, the Bulldogs get play Big Sky team Weber State. Fresno State is 3-0 against Weber State all-time, winning the last meeting in 2005 by a score of 55-17.
Weber State returns 14 starters this year, including. The Wildcats finished 5-7, 5-3 in conference play, not exactly a spectacular campaign. In addition, they have a new head coach, Jody Sears, their third in the past year; original replacement John L. Smith bolted for Arkansas without ever coaching the Wildcats in a game when that job opened up. Weber State returns 14 starters this year, 11 of which are first-team, second-team, or honorable Mention all-conference picks. The Wildcats have all-conference honorable mention QB Mike Hoke (6-2, 235), who passed for over 300 yards and 2 TDs in the Wildcats' loss against Wyoming last year. Hoke took rather good care of the ball; only 4 picks against 19 TDs. Hoke also apparently had a separated shoulder most of the year, but had shoulder surgery in the offseason and is now 100%. Weber State's starting RB, C.J. Tuckett ran for 664 yards and 10 TDs at 7.9 YPC. Also returning are honorable mention LB Anthony Morales and safeties Willie Okwuonu and Tony Epperson. The Wildcats averaged 31.5 points and 415 yards of offense per game, while allowing 32.2 points and 439 yards per game.
Fresno State returns 15 starters from a 4-9 2011 campaign that resulted in the canning of longtime coach Pat Hill. The Bulldogs are led by preseason All-MWC picks QB Derek Carr, RB Robbie Rouse, and ILB Travis Brown (Brown has been moved to ILB, though he did start at OLB last year). Carr, a 6-3, 215 pound junior, set a sophomore record at Fresno State by passing for 3544 yards and 29 TDs last year, good for 15th in the FBS, also the third-most in school history, while Rouse ran for 1549 yards (7th in the FBS). Carr has an arsenal of talented receivers to throw to: Rashad Evans (Sr, 5-9, 187), Josh Harper (So, 6-1, 182), Isaiah Burse (Jr, 6-0, 179), and the aforementioned Rouse all had 30 or more receptions last year, which leaves Fresno State tied for the most returning players to do so in the FBS. Joining them are redshirt freshman Davante Adams (6-2, 200) who is expected to be the #1 receiver this year and reportedly has a 42" vertical, and big 6-7 sophomore Victor Dean. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs get back SS Phillip Thomas (SR) (A likely high draft pick) and FS Derron Smith (So) from injuries, and starting NG Anthony Williams (Sr) and DE Nikko Motta (Jr) from suspension and academic ineligibility respectively. The two returning DL are crucial, as depth is thin for the Bulldogs in that area, though the LB corps is rather strong depth-wise.
Fresno State is likely to air it out in this game. The Bulldogs have a spectacular quarterback and a plethora of good receivers for him to toss it to, and they move to a pass-happy spread offense to boot. On defense, the returning players, new scheme and improved coaching will make things look far different from last year. Weber State gave a solid Wyoming team a good deal of trouble, and Fresno State themselves had a bit of a scare against FCS North Dakota. However, all indications are this Fresno State team is going to be rather different than last year, and in any case the Bulldogs have not lost to an FCS team in my lifetime. As decent as some of Weber State's stats are, they came against mainly FCS teams. Prediction-wise, look for Fresno State to jump out to an early lead, and run it up a bit before getting their backups some game-time experience. Fresno State 48, Weber State 21.