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College Football Preview: 25. Fresno State Bulldogs

25. Fresno State Bulldogs

New head coach Tim DeRuyter orchestrated a quick turnaround in Fresno State's first year in the Mountain West, improving from a 4-9 mark to a a 9-4 record. Their star quarterback returns along with a talented group of receivers and a great defense. Even in the improving Mountain West, Fresno should reach the conference's first ever championship game.

Backfield: It may hard to believe but quarterback Derek Carr could be even better than his brother, David, who was the first pick in the history of the Houston Texans. Derek threw for 4,104 yards and 37 touchdown passes in 2012 and is a a dark horse Heisman threat. Carr, a talented senior, has a huge arm and can make all the throws, from deep passes to short, intermediate passes. Carr has also proven that he has good pocket awareness and he is just as good of a NFL prospect as his brother. Fantastic running back Robbie Rouse is gone
Derek Carr
after rushing for 1,490 yards last year. Sophomore Marteze Waller should be the top candidate to replace Rouse after only getting 41 carries last year. He is small and quick a lot of Rouse but Rouse was a little bit more powerful. Freshman quarterback Zack Greenlee was an in-state find who is the quarterback of the future in Fresno.

Receivers: The return of sophomore Davante Adams was huge for the Bulldogs. Adams was Carr's favorite target throughout 2012, picking 102 receptions and racking up 14 touchdowns. Adams who set multiple records for a freshman is always a deep threat and has great of blend of smarts and speed. Also back is the playmaking senior Isaiah Burse who can hurt defenses in a number of ways. Burse has great hands and finds ways to seperate himself from defensive backs and he can make plays. Burse also is a force on special teams as he can help in punting and kickoff returns. Massive junior Victor Dean returns after a solid 2012 in which he had 30 receptions and 2 touchdowns. He uses his 6-6 frame to dominate defenders on jump balls and contested passes. The return of another big threat in tight end Marcel Jensen who can move the chains might help Carr and this team just as much as the return of Adams. Jensen has pretty good hands, is a quality blocker and is very durable. Freshman Delvon Hardaway, who is from LA, isn't the fastest player on the field (4.91 40-yard dash) but he just finds ways to make an impact.

Offensive Line: Part of the reason for Carr's dominance and the success of Rouse was the great offensive line. The Bulldogs should rely heavily on All-Mountain West tackle Austin Wentworth. The senior is very athletic but he isn't small; he is 6-5, 300 pounds with long arms and long legs. Also returning is another linemen with experience in junior Lars Bramer who anchors this line. Bramer who should likely start at center is a lot like Wentworth. He is pretty athletic for his position and he recognizes pass rushers well. Massive junior guard Cody Wichmann has the potential and size to be a force but experiene is an issue for him. JUCO tackle Josh Tremblay, from American River College in Sacremento will be counted on to make impact.

Defensive Line: The Bulldogs will run a 3-4 defense this year and those three possess pass rushers and run stoppers. Junior nose guard Tyeler Davison returns to fill running lanes. The 311 pound beast had 3 sacks last year but is versatile as he also proved that he can really help in the rush defense, recording 7 tackles in wins over San Diego State and New Mexico. On the end Fresno will rely on senior Andy Jennings who is incredibly quick to the ball. He has good moves and is extremely athletic which has helped him become a force over his career. On the other end spot the Bulldogs also have a very athletic senior in Nikko Motta who isn't very big but he has incredible instincts. Massive JUCO transfer Claudell Louis has proven that he can play a number of different roles. This unit combined for 11.5 sacks and it has the experience, smarts and faces some weak offensive lines in the Mountain West to increase that number. Freshman end Jaylen Ruiz might end up at either end or tackle but he has the size and strength to be a pass rusher wherever he ends up.

Linebackers: Senior linebacker Patrick Su'a returns after a solid 2012 season. The experienced talent doesn't wow you in any areas; he isn't extremely fast and isn't much of a pass rusher but he has a force during the first half of last season, picking up 38 tackles in seven games and he also had two sacks. The rest of this unit is also experienced with the return of seniors Nat Harrison and Jeremiah Toma. While Su'a made an impact early in the year last season Toma started playing fantastic to end the season. Toma has a nose for the ball and has very good range though he has some holes in his game. Harrison also has fantastic range but he struggled to make much of an impact throughout last season. Also returning is junior Donavon Lewis who has the biggest potential. Lewis is a great tackler who can hit hard and make a variety of different plays.

Secondary: Fresno may have the most talented secondary in the Mountain West even with the loss of impact defensive back Phillip Thomas. Junior Derron Smith returns to start at the free safety position after a 2012 in which he recorded 6 interceptions. Smith is quick and agile and is always a big play threat no matter what the offense throws at him. At cornerback the Bulldogs return another pick machine in junior Sean Alston who had five last year. Alston sticks to receivers and is very good at jumping routes. Alston isn't too big but he does have the size to still make an impact. The other cornerback position is also in good hands with the return of senior L.J. Jones. He can make an impact in a lot of different ways as he can force turnovers and also swat down balls. The strong safety slot should be handled by sophomore Charles Washington who has the talent to have a big year. He also forces turnovers and is a hard hitter. Yet another JUCO transfer, safety Rodney Matthews will be counted on to play a lot of snaps from the beginning.

With a very dangerous passing game the Bulldogs should be able to score a ton of points every game. Their secondary and solid pass rushers should help Fresno compete for their first Mountain West crown and possibly become a BCS buster.

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