2009 Fresno State Bulldogs Football Preview
2008 Record: (7-6, 4-4)
2008 Bowl: New Mexico Bowl vs. Colorado State (L 35-40)
Coach: Pat Hill (64-31 at Fresno State, 92-61 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Derek Frazer and Jeff Grady
Defensive Coordinator: Randy Stewart
Other Key Returnees: DT Cornell Banks, S Lorne Bell, C Joe Bernardi, DE Chris Carter, G Devin Cunningham, CB Desia Dunn, S Moses Harris, LB Nico Herron, G Andrew Jackson, LB Kyle Knox, RB Ryan Matthews, RB Lonyae Miller, WR Marlon Moore, DT Mark Roberts
Key Losses: OT Kenny Avon, QB Tom Brandstater, CB Sharrod Davis, DE Ikenna Ike, OT Bobby Lepori, TE Bear Pascoe
Fresno State has taken a back seat in the Western Athletic Conference to Boise State over the last few years. While the Broncos continue to reload, the Bulldogs tend to ebb and flow based on experience and talent. The 2008 campaign was supposed to be a good one with an experienced quarterback like Tom Brandstater leading the way, but the Bulldogs struggled to even make a bowl game.
Fresno State's Strengths:
This time around the strength should be on the defensive side of the ball. Fresno State ranked seventh in the conference in total defense, but that should improve with nine starters returning. The front line allowed the opposition to run all over them, but a year of experience should help. Cornell Banks, Jon Monga and Mark Roberts need to do a better job of clogging up the middle. End Chris Carter started ten games as a sophomore and was second on the team in tackles and tallied four sacks. If Carter can consistently get into the backfield and the tackles can stop the run, the Bulldogs will have one of the best defenses in the conference. With linebackers like Ben Jacobs and a secondary that includes Moses Harris and Desia Dunn, the defense could be very good.
Fresno State's Weaknesses:
The offense might return seven starters and plenty of talent, but replacing Brandstater will be difficult. Ryan Colburn is the likely replacement, but can he really be the guy? If not, the Bulldogs will have a big problem with their passing attack. Receivers Seyi Ajirotutu and Chastin West are capable receivers, but tight end Bear Pascoe is gone and he was a great outlet option for Brandstater. The new quarterback will not have that luxury. If the passing attack struggles, Fresno State can move the chains thanks to a group of talented rushers. Anthony Harding, Lonyae Miller and Ryan Matthews combined for 2,240 rushing yards and 19 jaunts to the end zone. Those three will be reliable either way, but they will be much, much more effective if Colburn can at least keep things moving through the air.
The Bottom Line for the Bulldogs:
Injuries on the defensive side of the ball turned the 2008 campaign into a disappointment. That problem should be fixed in 2009 and that will turn the defense into a great unit. With a trio of running backs, the offense has the potential to be decent. And if Colburn can pick up where Brandstater left off, the Bulldogs could push Boise State for the conference championship.
By Joel Welser
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