Tuesday, July 19, 2011
2011 Fresno State Bulldogs: Young, Talented, But Are They Ready to Win?
2010 Results: 8-5, Lost Humanitarian Bowl vs Northern Illinois
Head Coach: Pat Hill (15th season, 108-71 overall)
Home Venue: Bulldog Stadium (41,031), Fresno, CA
The Fresno State Bulldogs are coming off yet another lackluster season and a more than disappointing, not to mention lopsided, 40-17 loss in the Humanitarian Bowl to Northern Illinois.
Head coach Pat Hill enters his 15th season with what could be his most talented roster in quite some time. Not only that, but he has a young quarterback, Derek Carr, who has received the most hype as a Bulldog quarterback since his brother David wore the Bulldog red exactly 10 years ago.
With the future in the hands of the young quarterback, a young corps of receivers, and a running back named "Mighty Mouse," Fresno State is primed for a big run in the Western Athletic Conference. It was certainly made a little easier when the Boise State Broncos departed for the Mountain West.
Can the Bulldogs finally break through and hoist the conference championship trophy all by themselves for the first time in Hill's tenure or will two other conference opponents prove to be too much for Fresno State to overcome?
Derek Carr is arguably the most highly touted prospect the Bulldogs have had, at least at quarterback. He not only has the ability to stand in the pocket and deliver accurate passes to just about every corner of the field, but he also has the speed to get outside and beat you with his feet.
Next to Carr the Bulldogs will have a running back who's due to a breakout season regardless of his 1,000 yard season in 2010. Robbie Rouse, nicknamed "Mighty Mouse" by his teammates, may not be able to fill the shoes of departed star running back, Ryan Mathews, but he has the ability to become his own man and make his own mark in Bulldog folklore.
At the wide receiver position, Hill will need to fill in the hole left by the departed Jamel Hamler who surprisingly declared for the 2011 NFL Draft. The wide receivers will be led by senior Rashad Evans along with a corps of wide outs like Jalen Saunders, Davon Dunn, Isaiah Burse and highly touted sophomore, Victor Dean.
Offense wasn't the problem for the 2010 Fresno State Bulldogs, a team who averaged 30 points and almost 400 yards of total offense (371.3) per game.
When it comes to the defensive side of the ball, you need not look any further than returning senior defensive tackle, Logan Harrell, who's already been named to the Outland Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch Lists for the 2011 season.
Harrell will need to step up if he's going to replace departing star in defensive lineman, Chris Carter. His speed and presence on the defensive line could definitely be felt this upcoming season.
In 2010, the Fresno State defensive unit was giving up almost as many points (29.2) as their offense was scoring (30.0) not to mention an abysmal turnover margin (-11) making it difficult for the Bulldogs to hold anyone after an offensive score.
Hill has tried to address those issues and could have some talented players on the defensive side of the ball bringing in young linebackers Ofa Fifita and Patrick Su'a and they will have senior safety Zak Hill back after he missed the entire 2010 season with a knee injury.
Though they won't have a ton of experience overall, this Bulldog team could be much improved over last season.
In true Pat Hill fashion, the 2011 Fresno State Bulldogs will run the gauntlet with a tough schedule right off the bat.
The first two weeks of the season will see this team take on the Cal Golden Bears and then one of the best college football teams in the country, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, both of which will come on the road.
Four of the next five weeks will be back in front of the home fans at Bulldog Stadium but that doesn't mean the schedule gets any easier. Fresno State will have to deal with the Ole Miss Rebels, former WAC foe Boise State, an upstart Idaho Vandals squad in Moscow, Idaho, and a Nevada Wolfpack team trying to make sure they leave the conference with the championship firmly in hand.
Their only break may come in the third week of the season against North Dakota.
A young but talented offense will be tested right off the bat with some of the best talent from around the country.
Though the first part of their schedule looks tougher than what they'll finish with, don't forget this team has to travel to face the Hawaii Warriors in a game that's becoming a very bitter rivalry between these two teams. The Bulldogs will also have to take on a San Diego State team that is one of the more underrated teams in the country with quarterback Ryan Lindley and rising star Ronnie Hillman.
After an 8-5 finish to the 2010 season and an embarrassing loss in their bowl game, youth will take over the team and try to prove they are better than the last few seasons.
With young Derek Carr at the helm and arguably one of the more talented offenses in the conference, the Bulldogs may surprise some people this season.
But since they are young and without a lot of experience under their belt, the outlook for the 2011 Fresno State Bulldogs isn't much better than what they finished with. Their non-conference schedule is brutal and they'll be lucky to come out of the first six weeks of the season with a 3-3 record.
It will be a learning season, a season to grow and mature, but not one that will end with a bowl birth.