Loyal Red Wavers, as many of you know, we have shifted to a microblogging strategy to spread Fresno State news and interact with fans. Please follow us @BulldogBornBred For now, we will no longer be updating this blog with content. Thanks to you all for making our Twitter efforts so successful. We love the interaction we have with you all on Twitter, which is why we've decided it's more beneficial to focus efforts there than on this blog. GO 'DOGS!!! #BulldogBornBulldogBred
Friday, October 5, 2012
Sunday, September 11, 2011
For Fresno State standards in recent years, this was an 'A' performance. But for sophomore Derek Carr, in just his second career start, it's clear he's capable of much more fine tuning. Carr was 20 of 41 for 254 yards and a touchdown in the loss. But most impressive, Carr seemed to will his team forward, even after the Bulldogs lost the lead for the first time during the third quarter. Carr's first quarter TD scamper, where he leaped over a nebraska defender near the sideline and reached out in mid air to get the ball over the goal line inside the pylon, was No. 2 on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays. Fresno State fans should appreciate the cool, calm, collected Carr when he steps to the line reading defenses and when he drops back or rolls out to pass. It's a true joy to see, especially from an inexperienced QB.
Running Backs: A
One of the most surprising tidbits of the young season is the amount of carries junior Robbie Rouse is getting. Rouse was the undoubted incumbent starter at the position, but there's such talented backups, who all shared in first-team reps during camp, that we expected to see more touches from them. ucla transfer Milton Knox is yet to get a carry. And A.J. Ellis has just one on the year. But a quick look at the stat sheet explains why. Against nebraska, Rouse had 36 carries for 169 yards (4.7 per carry). He didn't have a single carry for negative yardage. And he caught 3 passes for 28 yards. Against a nebraska defense considered one of the nation's best. Rouse's 36 carries were the most against nebraska since Ricky Williams in 1998.
Quite a bit of improvement for the receivers from the season opener to now. But there's still a ways to go. The hot reads aren't coming as smoothly as they should, something that'll have to be done if the Bulldogs truly are going to go from good to great. Isaiah Burse has had a rough first two games -- definitely isn't playing like himself. This group has a lot of big play ability. We saw the special 26-yard TD catch in double coverage to redshirt freshman Josh Harper, and the 55-yard toss to sophomore A.J. Johnson, but are still waiting for Jalen Saunders to get going. Rashad Evans showed off the hands and provided the security blanket with 6 catches for 63 yards.
Offensive Line: A
It was downright painful to listen to some of the local media the past week as they gave blame to the offensive line for the cal loss. While the line came up short, most media members were way off in their assessments, failing to recognize the strength of the run blocking. This week it was made painstakingly obvious. With starting center Richard Helepiko out with injury, and another key lineman going down at the start of the game in left guard Matt Hunt, Trevor Richter stepped in for his first career action and didn't skip a beat. Richter even pancaked one of the vaunted nebraska blackshirts on a key drive. Right tackle Cody Wichmann, in his first start, showed vast improvement from the cal game when he was forced into action. And how about Leslie Cooper, filling in for Helepiko at center and matching up with nebraska All-American Trevor Crick. At times, Cooper dominated Crick, answering his spin move and stopping him in his tracks. With Carr often rolling out to pass, the line gave Carr plenty of time and allowed zero sacks (we'll see how many times that happens to nebraska all year).
Defensive Line: C-
Though Fresno State was impressive most of the game in shutting down nebraska's offense, the Bulldogs were done in by allowing a handful of big plays. Against a one-dimensional QB in Taylor Martinez, the Bulldogs likely would have won if they were able to remain assignment sound and contain the edge when Martinez kept the ball and ran. The most costly came on third down and 3. A stop would have given the Bulldogs the ball back with plenty of time to go after the winning score, but instead, Martinez scampered right around the tackle and broke a long, game-clinching TD run. Give Logan Harrell and Chase McEntee credit for shutting down everything up the middle, but the edge of the line was inconsistent at best. Matt Akers had the only sack of the game for either team, and Tristan Okpalaugo showed some promising tenacity. But the Bulldogs have to improve in this area before games against utah state and nevada.
Though Kyle Knox was tied for the team lead with 8 tackles, he looked a step slow reacting to nebraska's option attack most of the game. Knox was caught out of position numerous times, something you don't want out of the senior leader of your defense. This group really has to work as one with the front four to become the type of defense capable of shutting down mobile QBs.
Defensive Backs: C-
The Bulldogs cannot afford any more injuries at the safety position. Sophomore Derron Smith went down after a potentially game-changing play in the first half and missed about a quarter of action. That left Terrance Dennis and Zak Hill as the two safeties -- both are liabilities in coverage right now, though Hill has showed much improvement. Dennis tied for the team lead with 8 tackles, and is a big hitter, but has got to improve in man coverage. The Bulldogs were again burned over the top by an inaccurate QB. What happens when they play quarterbacks who can throw well (Kellen Moore anyone)? Smith's early interception could have led to a double-digit lead for Fresno State, but was negated when he didn't protect the ball, flailing his arm behind him without tucking it in, and got hit hard and fumbled it right back to nebraska. He'll learn from the mistake, but the Bulldogs just hope he's healthy.
Special Teams: C
For the second straight week, special teams negated a great play -- or plays -- by giving up a crushing play. Devon Wylie opened up the scoring by returning a punt 67 yards for a TD. But the Bulldogs gave up a 100-yard kickoff return that completely shifted the momentum nebraska's way after Harper's big TD grab. That return may very well have cost Fresno State the win. On a positive note, Kevin Goessling got out of that brutal Candlestick wind and returned to normal, with three field goals of 22, 36 and 37 yards. Hold your breath though, punter and kickoff specialist Andrew Shapiro (who hasn't been much of a specialist when it comes to kickoffs) was injured on the 100-yard return. Goessling came in for the final kickoff and booted it deep into the end zone for a touchback, but the 'Dogs need Shapiro for punts.
Give Pat Hill and staff huge credit for designing a gameplan to render nebraska's pass rush useless. From the get-go, Fresno State rolled Carr out of the pocked, relieving pressure off of the offensive line and buying lots of time in the passing game. The Bulldogs dominated nebraska's defense for a quarter or more, but the problem, as is often the case with Hill's teams, was in-game adjustments. nebraska's adjustments outweighed Fresno State's and the Huskers fought back and eventually took the lead.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
In his first career start, Derek Carr was impressive, making a couple of throws that Fresno State fans haven't seen from their QBs in years, if ever. More impressive than anything was how calm and poised Carr remained in the pocket throughout the game, despite pressure, dropped passes and at least one costly missed hot read by his receiver, who ran an in instead of an out. Carr had a high completion percentage (21 of 33) but didn't get to throw downfield as often as the coaches probably should have allowed. The one bad throw he made was the interception, where the indented target had no chance at the ball over top. But overall, Carr should have fans stoked that he's the new QB because he showed plenty of flashes of what's to come.
Running Backs: B+
Make no mistake about it, cal could not stop Robbie Rouse from running the football. He ate up chunks of yards en route to 86 yards on 17 carries (5.1 yards per attempt). Of course you still have the fans who complain about Pat Hill running too much, but this is one instance where he didn't run nearly enough. Because there's no argument the run was working better than the screen passes the offense kept calling. Fresno State never established a consistent running game, and all signs suggest they easily could have. It might have cost them the game, preventing the team from keeping its defense off the field and controlling time of possession to create sustained drives.
Part of the reason the receivers weren't successful was the coaches not putting them in position to win their matchups. But no matter how well Carr played, the Bulldogs were hurt by the lack of playmaking from their playmakers. TE Ryan Boschma dropped a wide open pass in his chest for a would-be first down. Rashad Evans got two hands on a low-thrown ball and dropped what would have been another first down. And Isaiah Burse dropped a hot read thrown right at the point where cal blitzed from that very well could have resulted in a long TD. Those plays were all drive killers, and kept the 'Dogs from taking control and building confidcence in their offense. The two bright spots were Devon Wylie's 56-yard catch and run and R-Fr Josh Harper's first career TD.
Offensive Line: C-
The offensive line looked very strong in the running game, but had more trouble pass protecting (as was predicted). When center Richard Helepiko left the game with injury, R-Fr Cody Wichmann got his first-ever game action at right tackle. Wichmann missed the block that led to Carr being stripped and cal picking up the fumble for a defensive TD. This unit gave up four sacks, continuing last year's downward trend of the offensive line. But keep in mind, two of those sacks were a slide by Carr on a bad spot where he could have run for the gain and risk being hit, and another was a play where Carr tripped over his center's foot and fell backward.
Defensive Line: C
While the unit got stronger as the game went on, and put more hurries on cal QB Zach Maynard, this group can do a better job finishing plays and applying pressure with the front four. Star DT Logan Harrell had a sack and two tackles for loss, and true freshman Donavon Lewis (Clovis West High) had a sack in his first college game. But there weren't many other bright spots. DE Matt Akers didn't have the same burst getting to the backfield as he showed in fall camp and Donavaughn Pritchett was less effective containing the QB than he was last season. DE Tristan Okpalaugo and redshirt freshman DT Tyeler Davison both got their first significant reps as Bulldogs -- expect good things from them before the year's over. DE Nat Harrison, who was supposed to have a breakout year, had virtually no impact on the game.
Travis Brown tied for the team lead with 8 tackles and the entire unit was very active all over the field and in blitz packages. Sophomore Jeremiah Toma, in his first career start as Ben Jacobs' replacement, was uber impressive. He displayed better ball instincts and much more quickness than the Bulldogs previously had at the position. Toma finished with five tackles and Kyle Knox had four, including one for a loss, after an blindsided hit forced him to the sideline for a few plays. This group was a big reason why cal RB Isi Sofele averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt.
Defensive Backs: D-
There were two positives that can be taken away by this group. Sophomore L.J. Jones intercepted cal's first pass of the game and it led to a quick Bulldogs TD. And junior Terrance Dennis, who entered the game as the third-string strong safety behind Cristin Wilson and Zak Hill, broke out and left no doubt he deserves to start in place of the injured Phillip Thomas. Dennis, the son of former Bulldogs player Terry Dennis (1983-84) and cousin of former usc star Hershell Dennis, had five tackles and at least four big hits. Standout CB Jermaine Thomas gave up a couple big passes, including a long TD in blown coverage, raising concern he's still not fully recovered from last season's injury. The 'Dogs don't seem to have much to lose by playing tighter man coverage and getting physical with opposing receivers, because the cushion coverage wasn't working either.
Special Teams: C
Any time you miss a clutch 35-yard field goal, it can't be a great special teams performance, but the Bulldogs' Cody Wichmann blocked cal's first two PATs. Chalk up the missed field goal to that insane Candlestick wind, and expect a better performance vs. nebraska.
Typically the fans who whine about playcalling make educated fans want to pull their hair out, but this time the criticism is fair. The Bulldogs seemingly pounded their collective heads into a wall the entire game. The screen pass never proved effective, yet, even on the final possession of the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs were still throwing to receivers behind scrimmage and still getting nowhere. That, coupled with the lack of recognition by coaches that cal was susceptible to Fresno State's running game, is beyond frustrating.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Returning Lettermen: Jermaine Thomas, Isaiah Green, L.J. Jones, Derron Smith, Zak Hill, Terrance Dennis, J.B. Dock
Newcomers: Charles Washington, Beau Fryer
Lost: Desia Dunn, Lorne Bell, Justin Webber
Isaiah Green: Senior Not Green Anymore
Sr, 5-10, 180
Long Beach (Polytechnic HS)
Many fans still have nightmares about cornerback Isaiah Green being exposed in the embarrassing loss to boise state last season, but that’s not a true picture of Green’s ability. Green is one of the hardest workers on the team. He can be seen year-round in the grass lots surrounding Bulldog Stadium doing any number of drills, or just out with a couple teammates covering pass after pass. Green’s the defense’s fastest player, though he’s showed suspect hip flexibility in the past. As a senior, he’ll be expected to raise his level of play and that of his teammates, and should do a good job of it. Green had 34 tackles last season and ranked second on the team with 8 pass break-ups and 8 deflections (second only to Phillip Thomas, who’s out for the season with injury). For the Bulldogs to do everything they need to defensively, Green and his battery mates will have to be able to stick in man coverage, play fast and be aggressive. If they can’t, we’ll be looking at another subpar Bulldogs’ defense.
L.J. Jones: Jonesin' for a Playmaker
So, 5-11, 180
Encino (Crespi Carmelite HS)
One guy who’s going to help make sure the defense is far from subpar is L.J. Jones, who got his first taste of big-time college football last season. Jones was good enough to play as a true freshman, but the team didn’t have a need for him until last season. And he didn’t disappoint. Last season was a learning experience that helped season Jones, and he can be expected to have a breakout year of sorts this season. Jones is athletic enough to jump routes and force turnovers. He’s got natural corner instincts and will be a lock among the Bulldogs’ top three at the position. Last season, he totaled 14 tackles (one for loss).
Jermaine Thomas: Recognizing the Game
Jr, 5-11, 190
Duarte (Duarte HS)
As is widely known, the Bounce has long been a Jermaine Thomas proponent. Thomas was injured against louisiana tech last season and is still battling back toward 100%. It’s unclear if he’ll be full speed during Saturday’s opener at cal, but he’s getting close. Thomas remains the team’s top cover corner. He quickly made that fact known last season in the opening win over cincinnati. If you’re lucky enough to catch a ball on Thomas, you’re probably not going to get many yards after the catch. Thomas had 25 tackles and an interception last year, along with 5 break-ups, 6 deflections and a fumble recovery. While his stats aren’t all that impressive, consider how much less opposing quarterbacks throw to his side of the field because of his lockdown coverage. Most folks around the nation and even the so-called WAC experts haven’t yet caught on to Thomas’ ability. If he’s healthy, it’ll be a huge boost for the Fresno State defense – and not only in the passing game. He’s also the Bulldogs’ best run support corner, though Isaiah Green is right there with him.
Derron Smith: Putting on the Pounds
So, 5-11, 190
Banning (Banning HS)
Talk about immediate impact. Derron Smith stepped right in as a true freshman and started at safety in the team’s third game last season at ole miss after an injury to now departed Lorne Bell. Smith had 29 tackles (one for loss) while playing in every game of his first season. Want more good news? He had a stellar fall camp – even more so than last year’s – and looks to have gained 15-20 pounds. Alongside Phillip Thomas, Smith made up half of an overwhelming safety duo. Now, he’s got to carry the flag and act like a veteran with Thomas injured. Smith’s greatest strength is in pass coverage, as a ball hawk. He didn’t get an interception last year, but there’s a good chance he’ll have multiple picks in his sophomore campaign.
Cristin Wilson: Carrying the Flag
Jr, 5-8, 175
Stockton (St. Mary’s HS)
Suddenly, walk-on Cristin Wilson is the guy everyone’s talking about. With Phillip Thomas injured, Wilson becomes the new starter at safety and he’s never suited up for a college game in his life. Fans better hope he has nerves of steel because it’s a big-time game in a bowl-like atmosphere that he’s stepping right in to. Making matters even worse, he only had two days to mentally prepare himself to start. That’s a quick turnaround. Wilson obviously impressed coaches in camp, to be chosen as starter of the coach’s son Zak Hill and ultra talented true freshman Charles Washington. Wilson gives up about four inches of height to Thomas and isn’t nearly the hitter, but is a converted cornerback who offers coverage ability. The looming question is can Wilson do enough to allow the Bulldogs to play as aggressively as they need to and would like to? We’re about to find out.
Zak Hill: Call Him the Doctor
Sr, 6-2, 205
Fresno (Clovis West HS)
After missing all of last season with an injury, Zak Hill returned to camp ready to go and was injured again, missing several days of practice. He’s expected to play Saturday in the opener, but it’s not clear how much. Hill received significant playing time two years ago and was a big liability in pass coverage. And if he’s lost any speed since his injury, that liability will only be magnified. On the plus side, Hill, coach Pat Hill’s youngest son, is a very smart kid and doesn’t make a lot of mental mistakes. He might be needed badly if Wilson falters.
Davon Dunn: He's Dunn Sitting the Bench
R-Fr, 5-11, 185
San Diego (Lincoln HS)
Davon Dunn moved over to cornerback from wide receiver in the offseason and is one of the most gifted athletes Fresno State has had on defense in years. Dunn, the son of former Fresno State and NFL receiver David Dunn, originally committed to cal before changing his mind and choosing Fresno State. Having an athlete like him on defense is a sign the Bulldogs are putting more emphasis on shutting down opponents – great news. It was clear in spring camp that Dunn was good enough to be a starting corner right now. Fresno State is lucky enough to have three other deserving corners as well, but Dunn will be the fourth and will contribute. He’s a playmaker-type, who’s going to be aggressive going after the ball and cause a few turnovers in his career. And he’s also a dangerous return man.
J.B. Dock: On the Verge of Playing Time
So, 5-10, 170
Ventura (St. Bonaventure HS)
More proof of how talented Davon Dunn is is that he leaped past elder J.B. Dock on the depth chart. Dock will still get plenty of reps this season and is developing quite nicely, but doesn’t have the size of Dunn. Dock is a great fifth corner and may very likely develop into a starter in the next couple years. And give him credit for continuing to work hard, while the other corner who was part of his signing class, Erik Brown, saw that he was third on the depth chart and transferred. Dock performed far better than Brown in the past few camps and created separation. Now, he’s got to focus on getting experience under his belt and stepping it up another notch.
Terrance Dennis: Injured No More
Jr, 6-0, 180
Pomona (Diamond Ranch HS)
Terrance Dennis was expected to have made an impact at safety by now, but he’s still third on the depth chart. A nagging injury set him back last season, as he recorded just four tackles, but Dennis is still intriguing. With the Phillip Thomas injury, he, too, might get a look at a starting job if the team is searching for the right fit. Dennis isn’t the biggest defensive back, but does lay some hits.
Charles Washington: It's Go Time
Fr, 5-11, 190
Encino (Crespi HS)
If you want the Bounce opinion, Fresno State has to do everything it can to get Charles Washington on the field right now. It’s difficult for most true freshmen to come in right away and play, especially in big, high-pressure games like Saturday’s, but Washington has a college-ready body and, on film, looks like a star in waiting. His film showed similar qualities to those of Derron Smith, but in a bigger body. Washington is sound in coverage and big enough to step up on the run. If he’s at all capable of digesting the playbook and learning the schemes well enough to play this year, the ‘Dogs would be wise to get him some experience before the boise state game and others against spread-it-out opponents.
Sean Alston: In Good Hands With Alston
R-Fr, 5-10, 175
Alta Loma (Los Osos HS)
Sean Alston is another impressive young corner who should battle for playing time as soon as this season. He was the star of his first spring camp with an interception, and shows coverage skills regularly that this team needs. With the lack of turnovers forced by the defense in recent years, the Bulldogs have to focus on getting guys like L.J. Jones, Davon Dunn and Alston on the field.
Anthony Riggins: Dialing it Up
R-Fr, 5-11, 185
Fairfield (Rodriguez HS)
Anthony Riggins improved by leaps and bounds this fall camp. He’s got track speed, and turned that into legit game speed if camp was any indication. Another young, talented corner, Riggins looked to have grown up right before our eyes. This secondary lacks seasoned veterans, but makes up for it in upside.
Jonathan Norton: A Special Day at Camp
So, 5-8, 185
Moreno Valley (Moreno Valley HS)
Walk-on Jonathan Norton might be little in size, but he capitalizes big on his opportunities. During a spirited practice during fall camp, Norton had two consecutive pick-six interceptions – against two different quarterbacks, Kelly O’Brien and Marcus McDade. The defense mobbed the young walk-on, and Pat Hill blew the whistle, letting the defense end on a high note. Norton won’t see the field this season, but keep an eye peeled.
Beau Fryer: Who's the New Beau?
Jr, 5-8, 185
Manteca (Manteca HS)
Walk-on Beau Fryer joined the team in spring camp, and didn’t get many quality reps with anyone but the scout team. He’s also undersized, but has enough ability to work towards developing into a guy who gets a good look. (And no, before you even ask, Fryer is not Dwight O'Neil's twin).
Tyler Stirewalt: He Converted
Jr, 6-2, 200
San Bernardino (Aquinas HS)
Converted quarterback Tyler Stirewalt doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to be an impact safety at this level, but he gets a spot on the team – something many of us would and should covet.
Phillip Thomas: He Will Be Missed
Jr, 6-1, 205
Bakersfield (Bakersfield HS)
Fresno State received the most devastating defensive news it possibly could have late Wednesday, when its best player, best NFL prospect and potential leader Phillip Thomas was lost for 8-12 weeks on an injury in non-contact drills. Just how good is Thomas? The Fresno State secondary would get a 9 out of 10 rating with him. Without him, that rating drops to at least 7 of 10. You can’t help but feel bad for Thomas as a person. He was entering a season in which he would have likely gained national notoriety for his ability as hands down the best defensive back in the WAC and one of the best in the nation. Thomas does it all. He’s as good in coverage as the team’s best corners, and he’s as big a hitter with as good of instincts as the defense has had in years. And all that was obvious after his sophomore season – there’s no telling how much he would have turned up the dial in this, his junior year. Now that year will likely be lost. Thomas has already redshirted and greyshirted, and he won’t be eligible for medical hardship waiver.
Returning Lettermen: Kyle Knox, Travis Brown, Jeremiah Toma, Patrick Su’a, ShaTwn Plummer, Daniel Salinas, Damion Whittington, Stephan Plevney
Newcomers: Karl Mickleson, Jaamal Rose, Kyrie Wilson, Ejiro Ederaine
Lost: Ben Jacobs (Browns), Sonny McCree
Travis Brown: No. 9, No. 9 ...
Jr, 6-2, 235
Fresno (Clovis West HS)
After a freshman season spent mostly adjusting to the college game, Travis Brown emerged as a legit star last season. Brown, son of the late former Bulldogs defensive coordinator Dan Brown, is the team’s leading returning tackler with 79 stops (nine for losses), two sacks and an interception. He’s an all-around impact player who has the instincts and aggressiveness to get to the quarterback and the vicious hitting to be a force in the running game. Brown’s expected to step it up yet another level this year and contend for All-WAC honors in a conference loaded with linebackers. He continues to work on his speed, and last season became a playmaker while making strides in assignment discipline. And, of course, growing up in the Brown household, he’s developed a football mind and can lead this entire defense along with his top battery mate at linebacker.
Kyle Knox: Kyle Knox You Out
Sr, 6-1, 220
Los Angeles (St. Bernard HS)
That top battery mate is Kyle Knox, the most battle tested of the unit, and the team’s second leading returning tackler. Last season, specifically against nevada, Knox showed what he’s capable of. He’s always had the look, attitude, strength and athleticism to be a great linebacker, but struggled in years past to combine all those attributes with the decision making to excel. Last year, with the Bulldogs’ emphasis to turn the defense around against the dangerous WAC offensive schemes, Knox took assignment details to heart. Against nevada’s pistol read option, he stuck to his assignments and it paid off with a key 8-tackle performance that helped the Bulldogs do the best job they had against that offense in three years. And don’t discount the intangibles Knox brings to the team with his emotional leadership. He’s not afraid to stand up and let the team have it if he thinks they need a spark, as he did last season during a subpar practice.
Jeremiah Toma: It's Not a Toma (Arnold Voice)
So, 6-0, 215
Sacramento (Grant Union HS)
Typically when a defense loses a four-year starting middle linebacker it sends shock waves and takes a big adjustment for all involved. Well the Bulldogs just lost perennial All-WAC linebacker Ben Jacobs, but there’s no panic in sight. Jeremiah Toma showed he can compete at this level from the day he stepped foot on campus. He just had to wait for an opening. This is it, and he should have a stranglehold on the job from here on. Toma appears larger than his listed 215 pounds, with a strong, powerful lower body. But perhaps more importantly, Toma has the lateral speed and quickness that Jacobs never did. If he develops the same mind and plays with similar aggressiveness to Jacobs – which all signs suggest he will – Toma could actually be an upgrade at the position. Last season, with limited reps behind the proven Jacobs, Toma had 14 tackles.
Patrick Su’a: The Art of Kabooming People
So, 6-2, 220
Bakersfield (Highland HS)
For now, Patrick Su’a’s biggest impact will be felt on special teams – but that’s a darn big impact. Last year, in his first season on the field, Su’a had four knockout blocks in kick coverage. No joke. Knockouts. Fresno State fans, or any college football fans for that matter, may have never seen a special teamer like this. Su’a is a load with monster calves and one of the toughest sons of guns you’ll ever see on a football field. He had just one tackle last season in limited time on defense, but should get a much bigger look this year. Like Jeremiah Toma, Su’a only needs an opening to prove he deserves playing time. After that, he’s likely to take over a position. For now, he’s backing up Travis Brown on the strong side.
Ofa Fifita: Waiting in the Wings
R-Fr, 5-11, 235
San Bernardino (Arroya Valley HS)
Remember former Fresno State standout middle linebacker Dwayne Andrews? Well, Ofa Fifita is Andrews reincarnated – and not just because he wears the same No. 51. Size-wise, Fifita is almost identical to Andrews. And like Andrews, Fifita has impressed coaches early in his career. The one difference is the Bulldogs’ linebacking corps is much deeper now than it was in the middle of the decade. Fifita sits second on the depth chart behind Jeremiah Toma in the middle. But with Toma’s quickness, it’s not out of the question he could slide over to the weak side next year if Fifita is impressive enough.
Ed Dilihunt: What the Dealio with Dilihunt?
R-Fr, 5-10, 195
Tulare (Tulare Union HS)
We at the Bounce scratched our heads when the coaching staff moved Ed Dilihunt from safety to linebacker in the spring. Safety was already the thinnest spot on the defense and this exaggerated the lack of depth there. With the recent injury to Phillip Thomas, it’s not out of the question Dilihunt could eventually move back to safety, but for now he’s the second-string weak side linebacker behind Kyle Knox. Dilihunt has impressive size and build for a youngster, and was a highly regarded recruit. That said, he was more of a natural offensively with the ball in his hands and has spent the past year trying to learn the nuances of the defensive side of the ball. His athletic ability points to this project ending well for both Dilihunt and the Bulldogs.
Daniel Salinas: Dan the Man
R-So, 6-0, 215
Galena Park, TX (North Shore HS)
Another promising young linebacker who plays with a mean streak, Daniel Salinas didn’t dress all of last season. But he got some reps the year before and showed glimpses of an effective middle linebacker who possesses speed, quickness and a fearless attitude. Now sitting third on the depth chart behind Jeremiah Toma and Ofa Fifita, Salinas will have to battle his way back up that ladder. Until then, he can be a big-impact player on special team. This guys loves to hit people.
Karl Mickelsen: Soon to Be a Household Name
Fr, 6-0, 215
San Diego (Morse HS)
Speaking of guys who love to hit people, from the first day we at the Bounce saw Karl Mickelsen’s high school film, we were ecstatic. Talk about a playmaker. Mickelsen, on film, is probably one of the five most impressive Bulldogs we’ve seen. Ever. He arrived banged up for fall camp and spent the first several days rehabbing injury, but almost shockingly took first and second team reps his first day in full pads. This guy is a player and coaches wanted to see him work with the vets right away. It’s not clear yet if he’ll play this season or redshirt, but he’s the type of guy who runs around with his hair on fire (and it’s a whole lot of hair) hitting people hard. He wears No. 43 and has Troy Polamalu-like hair. YouTube him immediately. You’ll be glad you did. Watch his nose for the football and ability to quickly shed blocks and move to the next assignment.
Jamaal Rose: Roses Are Bulldog Red
Fr, 6-2, 200
San Jose (Valley Christian HS)
A guy who wasn’t expected to make an immediate impact, but had a standout fall camp, is true freshman Jamaal Rose. Rose has height and strength and held his own against the veterans. He’s another newcomer with special teams potential right now, and it’ll be interesting to see how Pat Hill decides to use him.
Kyrie Wilson: Hey Mr. Wilson!
Fr, 6-3, 210
Bakersfield (Ridgeview HS)
Kyrie Wilson was a late surprise near signing day for Fresno State fans. The Valley native had committed to oregon and got a royal backstabbing before changing his commitment to Fresno State. The Bulldogs are glad to have him. Tall, big and built like a veteran, Wilson is another linebacker who had a superb camp. He was impressive on a consistent basis and was the highest rated recruit at the position. That said, the unit is so deep and talent laden that Wilson might be better off redshirting for a year.
Damion Whittington: Is This the Year 'Dogs Get Whitty Wit' It?
So, 6-1, 245
Norco (Norco HS)
Damion Whittington entered the program as a hyped recruit and is still among the biggest Bulldogs linebackers. But Whittington is battling a plethora of young talent at the position. We know what to expect from him in practice, but it’s time to see him in game action. Hopefully he’ll fight his way onto the field this season so we can see him do just that.
Stephan Plevney: Walk-on Hangs Strong
So, 6-2, 215
Palmdale (Knight HS)
Walk-on Stephan Plevney might be the team’s fastest linebacker, but he’s also one of the slimmest. Plevney had his first career tackle last season, and got some quality second-team reps in practice throughout camp. He’s definitely in the mix of guys battling for playing time, and his speed works in his favor during an era in which fast, hybrid linebackers who can cover a spread or option offense are invaluable.
Shawn Plummer: A One-Year Hiatus
Sr, 6-0, 210
Clovis (Clovis HS)
Shawn Plummer still isn’t 100% from an offseason injury and is likely to redshirt this season. The would-be senior would have been second-string behind Kyle Knox, as he’s been for several years now. Already one of the team’s fastest linebackers and possibly the best in pass coverage, Plummer bulked up big-time this offseason and should come back from the injury ready to give it his best shot.
As we continue to break down Fresno State, position by position, here at Bulldog Bounce, it's time to split our focus to the opponent as well for Saturday's opener at Candlestick Park. Fresno State and cal fans have long had a hate-hate relationship on message boards over the years, rarely agreeing on anything. So we thought it'd be fun to keep it respectful -- as it should be -- and really dive in to the mindset of some of cal's most educated fans.
And don't forget to see the Q&A we answered over at California Golden Blog.
Bulldog Bounce: Fresno State has long fought the perception that it can't compete with the state's Pac-12 schools. And now the 'Dogs are 2-0 vs cal, have won 2 straight vs ucla and are 1-1 vs usc, while stanford still wants no part of the schedule. Do cal fans respect Fresno State as a university and a football program?
I don't want to devalue Fresno State's last win over Cal, but it was a Tom Holmoe coached team. It's like getting a win over San Jose St! As for Cal fan's perception of the Fresno State program? I think you'll find universal respect for the attitude and ethos that Pat Hill has instilled in the Valley, and if they are being honest they know Fresno has a solid chance to beat the Bears. I know the bloom has come off a bit on Hill over the past few years because of the Boise problem, but that doesn't mean he isn't a good coach in the right situation. Actually, sounds similar to how most Cal fans feel about Jeff Tedford. As for Fresno St. as a university? I can't say I know anything about Fresno State beyond 'it's a state school', but let's just say we Cal grads can be a little insufferable about our academic reputaton.
We certainly respect the Fresno State football program. In fact, there's been quite a bit of hand-wringing over the fact that the Bulldogs might very well take this game, because they're a good team, but the fact that they get little respect from the rest of the college football world means that even if the Bears do manage to come away victorious, we won't get a lot of credit for it. Playing you guys is a high risk, low reward proposition for a BCS conference team. As a resident of California I think most of us recognize that the Cal State system is a valuable and important aspect of the state's higher education system. I can't say that I know a ton about the Fresno campus in particular, though.
Bulldog Bounce: Pat Hill expressed desire to play 1-2 in-state games vs Pac-12 schools each year. Would cal fans enjoy playing Fresno State regularly?
Probably not. Fairly or unfairly, there isn't much upside to playing Fresno State. Beating them gets you less respect than it should, and losing obviously isn't any help. Plus, for better or for worse, Cal's last trip to Fresno in 2000 was evidently a disaster both on the field and in the stands, and I'm told alumni have basically begged our AD to never schedule a road game in Fresno ever again.
No offense, but I'm doubtful. As Nick said, and as I mentioned in my answer to Question 1, it's not a very good value proposition for Pac-12 teams. Maybe if Fresno State were part of a BCS-qualifying Mountain West or something, the equation might change. Then again, I don't know if too many Bay Area- or SoCal-residing Berkeley folk really relish the idea of a regular road trip to Fresno. Many don't have very fond memories of the last trip down there.
Bulldog Bounce: What type of offense will cal run with Zach Maynard at QB? Any indication schemes will change much?
From all reports so far, it's the same pro-style Jeff Tedford Cal offense that we've seen, though they've usually added a couple of new wrinkles every year. Perhaps Maynard's running ability might result in a few more designed QB run plays. Mostly though, we're hoping it means that when the original playcall is busted, Maynard can pull the ball down and scramble for some extra yards rather than having to throw the ball away or take a sack.
Bulldog Bounce: What is the defense's gameplan likely to be? Will cal focus on stopping the run? Will it be an aggressive blitzing scheme?
Cal's defensive gameplan will probably be aggressive and oriented towards shutting down Robbie Rouse while putting a lot of pressure on Carr. We have two solid corners in Anthony and Williams (both former US Army All-Americans) and Coach Pendergast doesn't mind leaving his defensive backs on an island. He'll mix things up, though. There will be plenty of pressure, plenty of blitzes, and plenty of zone blitzes. I think he'll throw a variety of looks to try to confuse Carr into making mistakes. There's a big emphasis this year on having the secondary (and the defense as a whole) cause more turnovers. So, the corners and safeties will be attacking the ball more. The downside of this aggressive defensive is that Fresno State will have their chances to pop some big plays if they can handle Cal's pressure. We have some young players scattered throughout the defense, so double-moves, play-action, and misdirection could result in big payoffs. Of course, the classic tight end down the middle on 3rd and long is apparently something that Cal will traditionally leave wide open.
Our second-year defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast loves to make opposing QBs uncomfortable. With four new starters on the Fresno State O-line and a new QB under center, you can bet Clancy will design all sorts of pressure packages. Cal runs a 3-4 defense, so trying to identify that fourth or fifth potential pass rusher is always tough for a QB, particularly one making his first start. It's not immediately clear whether this pressure-heavy scheme will pick up where it left off last season. We lost a first round pick in defensive lineman Cameron Jordan and we are breaking in two new starting outside linebackers. We also lost our defensive anchor Mike Mohamed to the NFL Draft. There is plenty of talent and experience in the front seven, so the shuffling of roles should not have a major impact on our defense. Still, we cannot immediately expect to be as productive and disruptive as last season.
BUlldog Bounce: How would you rank each FBS football program within the state looking at the past decade as a whole, 2000-2010?
3. Fresno St.
5. San Diego St.
6. San Jose St.
7. UC Davis
At first I had UCLA over Fresno St., and then I looked at UCLA's record, realized they had only one season with more than 7 wins, laughed at how hard the southern branch had fallen, and moved Fresno up. I guess you could argue Fresno should be above Cal based purely on W/L records, but I think it's disingenuous to suggest that the WAC is the same as the Pac-10.
Mine is similar to Norcalnick's ranking, but I'll be a little more objective and say that Stanfurd (yes, that's how it's spelled) probably deserves to be closer to #5 or #6 based on the turnaround they've seen the past few years.
Bulldog Bounce: Which matchup within the game favors cal most? Which favors Fresno State most?
I think Cal's front seven vs. Fresno St.'s offensive line is Cal's biggest advantage. Cal has a ton of depth in their defensive line and linebacking corp, and that could be decisive if Fresno St.'s relatively inexperienced line isn't ready. I think Logan Harrell vs. Cal's interior line is Fresno St.'s biggest advantage. Cal didn't have a ton of success running on the inside last year and there are some question marks at the guard position.
Anything involving running water or electricity favors Cal. Anything involving the best porn 'stache favors Pat Hill and FSU. On the field, Fresno State's best match-up is probably Logan Harrell against Justin Cheadle. Until proven otherwise, Cal's offensive line is still a question mark. Cheadle, in particular, had trouble standing his ground last year against dominant defensive tackles. I'd guess that they'd have to double-team Harrell all day. Cal's best match-up is Coach Clancy Pendergast's defensive scheme against an inexperienced David Carr. Coach Pendergast likes to bring pressure from different areas, different looks, and different players. If Carr doesn't make the right read or holds onto the ball too long, he could have a rough day.
Bulldog Bounce: What do you expect from Isi Sofele? How does he compare to other recent backs at cal?
He's short, but he's not small. Although he had the rep as a speedster when he came in, he's put on some muscle and has been compared to trying to tackle a human bowling ball. He's been working hard to change his running style to be more upfield than juking/dancing. If the Oline can hold up, he should be fine. He may not have Jahvid Best's unworldly speed, Shane Vereen's balance/vision, Marshawn Lynch's power, but he could be similar to a Justin Forsett type of back who does a lot of things well. I expect that he'll platoon with Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson and CJ Anderson. Whichever runner emerges as the most consistent will likely end up taking most of the snaps.
This is an issue that has worried Cal fans all offseason. Typically, our second running back gets around 100-150 carries and is an integral part of the offense. Although he was our second string last season, Sofele was not as involved with the offense mostly due to Vereen's extreme durability and reliability. We simply do not know what to expect from him. We have tremendous confidence in our running backs coach Ron Gould, but we have not seen Sofele take on as much responsibility as he will this season. He will be productive, however. He's small, he's shifty, and he breaks tackles. When he is not running the ball, Covaughn DeBoskie Johnson will run. CDJ has played a bit of garbage time in years past, but this offseason he obviously did his homework and is in the best shape since he's been at Cal. Again, having only seen him in garbage time, we do not have a great idea what to expect from him against first-team defenses. Behind CDJ is a new face in CJ Anderson, who will mainly be brought in for short-yardage situations. As you might expect, he's the low-running, bruising type of back (something we have not really had at Cal since Marshawn Lynch back in 2006). Whether he will be productive remains to be seen. The biggest question in our running game, however, is blocking. We fired our abysmal offensive line coach after last season and rehired Jim Michalczik, whose offensive lines at Cal from 2002 to 2008 ranged from solid to dominant. We're looking forward to some much-improved run blocking and pass protection.
Bulldog Bounce: Which cal offensive and defensive players should most concern the Bulldogs?
On offense: I'd say Keenan Allen and Zach Maynard. Maynard because I think the Bulldogs are going to have a hard time knowing what to expect from him. Heck, we barely know what to expect ourselves at this point. Fresno State is going to be the first team play Cal with Maynard, and they'll have the least film to go on, so it will be tough to gameplan for him. Allen should concern you because he is a very exciting talent and if he's healthy he can be a gamechanger. He tantalized us last year but then was banged up for most of the season. We're hoping for big things out of him this year.
On defense: Mychal Kendricks, and pretty much the entire D-line. We're really excited about our D-line, especially the young players who are raw but oozing with potential. Mychal Kendricks is the team's leader on D now that Mike Mohamed is gone. He's moving to ILB and will captain the defense. We need a big year out of him.
Bulldog Bounce: Would you like to predict a score?
Sure. I think it's going to be a competitive game, but Cal will come out on top, 34-21.
Bears 21, Bulldogs 10
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Returning Lettermen: Logan Harrell, Chase McEntee, Nat Harrison, Matt Akers, Donavaughn Pritchett
Newcomers: Donavon Lewis, Mershad Dillon, Todd Hunt, Maurice Poyadue, Suli Faletuipapai, Ronald Ussery
Lost: Chris Carter (Steelers), Cornell Banks (Bengals), Chris Lewis, Mark Roberts
Nat Harrison: Filling some BIG Shoes
So, 6-2, 240
Fresno (Edison HS)
Local product Nat Harrison has by far the biggest shoes to fill on the team, replacing WAC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Carter at weak defensive end. Carter led the WAC in sacks last season, and was a mismatch for every opponent on Fresno State’s schedule. Harrison won’t provide that type of presence for the Bulldogs right away, but even Carter himself said his successor is a breakout player in waiting on the defensive line. In nine games last season, Harrison recorded nine tackles and a sack. Like Carter, he was a high school linebacker, and is trim for a defensive lineman, but he’s got the tools Pat Hill loves in his edge rushers.
Chase McEntee: The Chase is On
Sr, 6-2, 275
Galena Park, TX (North Shore Senior HS)
Chase McEntee was quietly one of the most improved players on the team last season. With the emergence of battery mate Logan Harrell, casual fans didn’t notice McEntee’s growth, but he turned into quite the playmaker himself, taking advantage of his playing time. Out of his 16 tackles last season, four were for losses, including 1.5 sacks. McEntee played as a true freshman, and will have his best year yet during this, his senior season. And with the suspension of Anthony Williams, McEntee has a handle on the full-time starting gig.
Logan Harrell: All-America Confidence
Sr, 6-2, 275
Santa Margarita (Santa Margarita HS)
Wow. After two years of so-so performance, Logan Harrell club, rip, cross-faced his way into the WAC and national spotlight. As one of the nation’s sack leaders last season with 10.5, Harrell was a key part of the attitude change displayed by the Bulldogs defense. They went back to playing hard-hitting, aggressive “Bulldog Football” last season, and still have lots of room to improve. This year, Harrell will face far more attention from Bulldogs’ opponents, but he’s built the confidence in himself to sustain a high level of play. He had 46 tackles last season, including 14 for losses – huge numbers for an interior lineman. And this year, to help keep opposing offenses off balance and free Harrell from double teams, he’ll rotate back and forth at tackle and end. That versatility makes him an NFL prospect, and WAC Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Matt Akers: On the Rise
Jr, 6-2, 245
Bakersfield (Liberty HS)
Like Logan Harrell, Matt Akers was a highly touted prospect out of high school. Neither looked like they were going to live up to the hype until Harrell burst onto the scene last season. Akers didn’t even dress last season after playing a reserve role his first two years. Then, in spring camp, he had a coming out party of his own, taking the No. 1 spot on the depth chart at strong defensive end. Akers looked even better in the fall, consistently making offensive linemen look foolish while coming around the edge and getting to the quarterback. Akers is another guy Chris Carter pegged as having breakout potential, and it looks like Carter was right on the money. It’s almost hard to believe how much improvement Akers has shown, the motor he plays with now and the size he’s added.
Donavaughn Pritchett: Donnie Bark-o
Sr, 6-5, 280
Santa Rosa (Santa Rosa JC/Santa Rosa HS)
Before Matt Akers’ uprising, Donavaughn Pritchett was set to be a darn good starter for the ‘Dogs. Pritchett played in 12 of 13 games last season, and started when Chris Lewis was lost to injury. He proved to be an upgrade over Lewis, who went half-speed on too many plays. Pritchett plays hard, and has the prototypical defensive end body – tall and strong with long arms. He finished last season, his first in major college football, with 13 tackles (4.5 for losses and 2 sacks). Perhaps most impressive was his discipline in containing the edge and staying assignment specific – not the norm for first-year players. Even if Pritchett isn’t named a starter this season, he’ll be on the field often as the defensive line is a constant rotation of personnel groupings.
Tristan Okpalaugo: It's Really Not That Hard to Pronounce His Name
So, 6-5, 240
Livermore (Granada HS)
By far the biggest vocal presence throughout fall camp, former walk-on Tristan Okpalaugo could start to see significant game action. He’s listed as a possible starter behind Nat Harrison at defensive end. Okpalaugo came on as a project player who hadn’t played much organized football in his lifetime. If he continues to develop and add a tad more size, he could make an impact with the Bulldogs.
Tyeler Davison: Really Big Man on Campus
R-Fr, 6-2, 305
Scottsdale, AZ (Desert Mountain HS)
When the man-child Tyeler Davison arrived on campus last fall, he was already one of the most physically imposing players on the team. That fact remains. He’s got perhaps the thickest, strongest legs on the Bulldogs, and is ready to take the starting nose tackle role when the time is right. Davison showed a lack of quickness and iffy footwork last year at the start of fall camp, but had already made strides before the camp was over. This fall, he stood out throughout, and has silenced any doubt about his potential. While he won’t bust into the backfield the way Logan Harrell can, Davison might be the best run-stuffing interior lineman since Jason Shirley and Louis Leonard.
Andy Jennings: A Project No More
So, 6-3, 280
Turlock (Pitman HS)
Recruits who are brought in as project players to develop aren’t supposed to be game-ready this soon. But Andy Jennings has coaches very excited. With a powerful lower body outdone only by Tyeler Davison, Jennings is Logan Harrell’s primary backup and will be a serious contender for a starting job next season. He’ll get plenty of experience this year as part of the regular rotation, along with Davison.
Donavon Lewis: Earning Some True Playing Time
Fr, 6-3, 240
Fresno (Clovis West HS)
Chris Lewis graduates and little brother Donavon Lewis jumps right in. In the second week of fall camp, it was clear Lewis was standing out amongst his peers, as coaches sent him across the field to work with the veterans group in the middle of a drill. On his first play, he got offensive lineman Cody Wichmann off balance and tagged the quarterback for the would-be sack. It’s still uncertain if Lewis will play as a true freshman, but there’s a high likelihood he will become part of the regular rotation. And don’t be surprised if he passes up someone like Tristan Okpalaugo on the depth chart during the year.
Mershad Dillon: An Immediate Impact?
Fr, 6-1, 260
Santa Maria (Santa Maria HS)
On signing day, Pat Hill was already making the Mershad Dillon comparisons to former Bulldogs standout Jason Stewart, another 6-1 defensive tackle with a wide body. Dillon actually played quarterback in high school and was part of his track relay team in the 4 x 400. He’s a serious athlete with the size to compete at this level immediately. The two-deep on the roster, however, is very solid. But with two other defensive tackles ineligible, Dillon could very well have an opportunity to play as a true. He was certainly one of the most impressive newcomers in fall camp and will be on the travel squad for the opener.
Todd Hunt: Hunt for a Hidden Gem
Fr, 6-2, 245
Anaheim (Mater Dei HS)
Todd Hunt was not expected to contend for immediate playing time, but he’s doing just that. With the versatility to play end or tackle, Hunt was a unique prospect who signed weeks after signing day. Usually a player who signs that late isn’t the immediate impact type of guy. But Hunt had the size and presence from Day 1 of camp that made his stand out. And coaches noticed. He’ll also be on the travel squad with the season opener, so stay tuned.
Ibe Nduke: Leveraging His Options
So, 5-11, 240
Etiwanda (Etiwanda HS)
Talk about an undersized defensive tackle. Height-wise and weight-wise, Ibe Nduke is far from the typical interior lineman. But he’s been at the position since spring camp (after converting from fullback) and has the lower body strength and leverage to make up for some of the size he’ll give up to every opponent he faces. Nduke isn’t likely to see much playing time this season, but could be used in certain schemes aimed at defending the spread and getting as much speed as possible on the field.
Ben Letcher: Hannibal Letcher
So, 6-3, 240
Corona (Centennial HS)
Ben Letcher is still a bit of a mystery. He passes the eyeball test with flying colors, with a physique that screams star player. But Letcher has no experience and spent much of fall camp on the sidelines rehabbing a nagging injury. That kept him from taking valuable reps to determine where he falls in the mix of defensive ends. But because of his obvious dedication in the weight room, he’s a guy to watch for.
Maurice Poyadue: Only a Matter of Time
Fr, 6-2, 280
Martinez (Alhambra HS)
Another true freshman defensive lineman with the size to play right away is Maurice Poyadue. Pat Hill made no secret on signing day that he was excited to land this one. And it was apparent why when he fit right in size-wise with the vets during camp. Poyadue held his own in drills and gives the ‘Dogs another young, exciting prospect at defensive tackle. Depth continues to be a strength of this unit.
Suli Faletuipapai: Just Call Him Suli
Fr, 6-3, 220
Gardena (Junipero Serra HS)
One guy who is nowhere near size-ready is Suli Faletuipapai. He looks flatout skinny compared with the other defensive linemen and has his work cut out for him. His ability could be big-time if he develops the size and strength needed at this level, but that’s at least a year or two away from happening.
Ronald Ussery: Finding a Use for Ussery
Fr, 6-3, 230
Encino (Crespi HS)
Ronald Ussery was one of the most impressive recruits on film this season. His lack of size wasn’t nearly as noticeable when he was lined up against other high school players last season, but now it’s obvious. There’s no doubt Ussery can be a strong pass rusher if he puts on 10 to 20 pounds in the offseason.
Anthony Williams: Big Dub a Big Loss
Jr, 6-2, 300
Humble, TX (Atascocita HS)
There’s no specifying what Anthony Williams did to get suspended for a year by violating team rules, but it’s a big loss for the ‘Dogs. The Bounce said during Williams’ freshman season that he was the most impressive newcomer on the defensive line and could play right away (that group included Logan Harrell, Chase McEntee and Matt Akers). But Williams got injured and had to redshirt. He finally got quality playing time last season and had 16 tackles (3 for losses) and 2 sacks. Hands down the strongest player on the team, Williams was set to battle McEntee for a starting job. But now that’s out the window and so is an experienced backup for the ‘Dogs – until next season.
Nikko Motta: See Ya Next Year
So, 6-3, 265
Sanger (Sanger HS)
Nikko Motta’s case is different. He too is out for the season, but Motta’s situation is because of his grades. Bad grades don’t just sneak up on a student, it's a shame he didn't get himself eligible, and it’s a shame Motta will be lost. He’s a versatile player who can fill in at end or tackle. With 11 tackles (2.5 for losses) and a sack last season, Motta flashed his potential. .