LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Robbie Rouse #8 of the Fresno State Bulldogs tries to avoid Lavonte David #4 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game at Memorial Stadium September 10, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Fresno State started its fall camp on Friday, August 3. This is the first Fall camp in over 15 years that a certain Fu Manchu mustache will not be sighted at. Having jettisoned Pat Hill at the end of last season after a national-TV loss to San Diego State where the Bulldogs blew a 21-0 lead , Fresno State now has a new coach in former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter and nearly an entirely new coaching staff. With the new coaching staff inevitably come a lot of questions, and here are a few of them.
1. Who's going to back up starting QB Derek Carr?
The Bulldogs have one of (if not the top) QBs in the MWC in Carr, a junior who threw for over 3500 yards and 26 TDs last year, running in another three. Behind him, however, there is little experience, a cause for some concern.Of the three other quarterbacks on the roster, only one has seen the field. Sophomore Greg Watson (5-10, 211 pounds) and redshirt freshman Marcus McDade (6-3, 214) are competing for the backup job, which DeRuyter has said will go to the one who takes care of the ball better in camp. While McDade appears to have a higher ceiling than Watson, he is still rather raw. Incoming freshman Myles Carr (6-2, 213) is not expected to compete for the job.
2. Can DeRuyter put some swagger back in the defense?
Fresno State's defense last year was, quite plainly, an atrocity. The Bulldogs gave up 35.2 points per game (106th in the FBS), and 405.8 total yards per game (100th), and only forced nine turnovers. The absolute low point came in a game against New Mexico state, where the Aggies, who had never before beaten Fresno State, put up 48 points. DeRuyter comes in with a good resume, having improved the defenses markedly at every team he's coached at (Ohio, Nevada, Air Force and Texas A&M). To help him in this, he gets starting FS Phillip Thomas (Considered by many to be the best pro prospect on the team this year) and SS Derron Smith back from injuries, and defensive ends Anthony Williams and Nikko Motta back from suspensions and academic ineligibility respectively. Also returning are starters L.J. Jones (CB), Travis Brown (LB), Jeremiah Toma (ILB), and OLB Tristan Okpaulago, who is moving from DE in the new scheme. Bringing us to....
3. Can the team adjust to the new schemes?
Coming with DeRuyter are OC Dave Schramm and DC Nick Toth. Both are implementing new schemes. The offense is moving from Pat Hill's NFL-type Prostyle offense to an up-tempo spread offense, similar to what one might see Oregon running. During the spring, it was evident that the offensive line was not in nearly good enough shape to handle it. Word has it that the starters have dropped 100lbs as a unit over the summer, and OL coach Cameron Norcross has expressed his approval at their conditioning since then. On defense, the Bulldogs institute a 3-4 defense that has resulted in a bit of shuffling, resulting in a couple D-linemen moving to LB and FS Cristin Wilson shifting to SS. The defense has so far been adjusting rather well, and DeRuyter has instituted a goal of forcing 30 turnovers this year.
4. Who's going to replace Kevin Goessling as kicker?
Fresno State's all time leading scorer, Kevin Goessling, graduated last year. Goessling was rather erratic at times, at one point missing three field goals in one game. A good, solid kicker is extremely important (I'm looking at you, BSU). Fresno State has a three-star commit in kicker Collin McGuire from Texas, but he is a 2013 recruit and will not arrive until next season. Three kickers on the roster have a shot at the job: Redshirt freshman Quentin Breshears, junior Blake Dunn, and walk-on Garrett Swanson. Interestingly enough, senior punter Andrew Shapiro was listed as handling kickoffs on the preseason depth chart.
5. Can any freshmen or JC transfers get siginificant reps and playing time?
Fresno state signed 17 players to LOIs last year, with 8 additional players walking on this fall. Two, CB Jerry Smith and LB Tui Unga, were lost to the NCAA clearinghouse My favorite overall recruit, RB Marteze Waller from Georgia (I struggle to not make Ryan Mathews comparisons, as the situations resulting in their signings are virtually identical) will find it hard to get on the field, as the depth Fresno State has at RB is significant and it is the strongest overall position on the team; backing up Robbie Rouse are a 4-star transfer from UCLA in senior Milton Knox and redshirt freshman Dillon Root, who is rumored to have 4.3 40 speed. Incoming JC OG transfers James Leau and Mike Saenz have perhaps the best shot, as they are already listed as 2nd-string on the preseason depth chart. 6-3, 215 pound incoming WR Aaron Peck has reportedly gotten some reps with the #1 offense. Incoming LB Brandon Hughes does appear to have made a strong impression on DC Toth, though.
A final note: Coach DeRuyter has closed the practices to the fans and the media. It appears that Robert Kuwada of the Fresno Bee is the only one allowed in. There is a rumor going around that the enterprising frat boys in the houses near the stadium are selling seating space on their roofs to the press for $100 a day. Some serious beer money there.