Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hill offers Pitman High kid

After a recent Bark Board posting that said Fresno State coach Pat Hill was spotted having breakfast in Modesto earlier this week, the Turlock Journal broke this story, saying Hill offered lineman Andy Jennings of Pitman High in Turlock.

Pitman High is a familiar school for 'Dogs's the same place running back Anthony Harding came from, as well as Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Good news is Hill and his staff really seem to be focused on shoring up the defense with this year's class. The question is, will the impact be felt quickly enough to make next season a good one?

Luckily, a few returnees, such as Porter Hill, Anthony Williams and Kenny Borg (injured all last season), should be ready to breakout.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

UNLV student reporter mistaking

College newspaper reporters are allowed the benefit of the doubt when making mistakes, and that's what we'll give to this story from the UNLV student paper arguing that the Mountain West Conference should become a BCS conference.

Most of the story was fine, until I came across this line in support of the writer's argument that the WAC has struggled to score any major victories:
"Fresno State has been a threat but has never been able to finish a game against a major ranked team outside their own field."

Excuse me? Besides Utah, no non-BCS-conference team in the country has as many wins as Fresno State against BCS-conference opponents in recent years. Under Pat Hill, since 2000, the 'Dogs have won against Cal, at Wisconsin, Oregon State twice, home and road against Kansas State, at Colorado (preventing the Buffs from playing for a national title), at Washington, at Rutgers, at UCLA, bowl against UCLA, bowl against Virginia, two bowls against Georgia Tech.

So I ask the reporter, are none of these considered "major" wins? Because if not, no Mountain West team besides Utah has ever had a major win.

On a sidenote, here's a story idea -- By adding Fresno State and Boise State, the Mountain West would have a legit BCS-conference argument. But not without.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Speaking of least favorite players ever...

Who are your least favorites? Which college basketball players who you've seen play against the 'Dogs have stuck out as guys you love to root against?

I know I have some personal ideas, and Carl English (for looking like Ellen Degeneres) comes to mind right away, as do Michael Ruffin, Greg Harrington, Anthony Carter (for his confrontation with Chris Herren way back when), Predrag Savovic (just for annoying me by being hard to stop), Robbie Reid, Keith Van Horn, Michael Doleac, Andre Miller (for getting every call) and now certainly Adrian Oliver is up there for all the mouth running he does.

But who are some more?

From upbeat to letdown

Upon arriving at San Jose State's campus Saturday -- after a not-so-short trek around dowtown San Jose trying to find where the heck it was (GPS couldn't even get it right) -- we spent two hours hanging around campus.

A few observations:

  • Lots of students were wandering around campus at 4:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon (kinda strange considering every single restaurant and the bowling alley was closed).
  • A whole lot of people where random college sweatshirts (we saw Virginia, Kansas, USC, Wyoming, Oregon, etc.)
  • A Spartans football player, after seeing the four of us decked out in Bulldog Red, could only smile and say, "Fresno State, huh?"
  • While the upstairs doors to The Event Center (yes, it's literally called The Event Center) remained locked until exactly one hour before game time.
  • Luckily, the doors downstairs near the "Sport Club" remain unlocked. So we walked right in with no other fans in sight and stood on the arena floor as a trickling of Spartans warmed up. The only comments we heard were from an assistant coach (who saw our clothes and said, "That's some cold s&*$," and a trainer who after seeing four people said, "Looks like we're gonna have a big crowd tonight."

The big crowd comment made us laugh, since he was seemingly poking fun at the sad state of affairs that is San Jose State sports. That had us somewhat upbeat, despite the Fresno State hoopsters' poor start to the WAC season. The big letdown came after Adrian Oliver scored 29 points and San Jose State completed a sweep of the 'Dogs for the first time since 1991.

For you Red Wavers who haven't yet seen Oliver play, think offensive talent comparable to Jaycee Carroll (only not as good from the perimeter). A comparison to Courtney Alexander might even be appropriate in that Oliver can also excel creating his own shots. But, the biggest thing that stood out, is what a trash talker Oliver is. It's hard to even respect a guy who looks his opponent in the face and runs his mouth after literally every basket. Red Wave, get ready to add Oliver (who is a Valley traitor from Modesto) to your least favorite players ever list that probably already includes guys like Carl English, Michael Ruffin, Anthony Carter, Greg Harrington, Coby Karl, Darius Songalia (just because he got away with a game-winning goaltend) and others.

One last takeaway, the "Spartan Thunder" students committed a fan blunder with the weak, no-creativity chant of "O'Neil sucks" every time Dwight O'Neil touched the ball. (He finished with a game-high 21 points, 19 in the second half). And the Spartan band is foolish with its repetitive chant of "Fresno inmates." Quick, someone ask the Spartan band what it's favorite chant for the football team's Coye Francies was...?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Best part of the West-East Shrine Game

That's right West-East (West comes first)!

The best part of seeing some of yesterday's game was two of the helmets. Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater's helmet, and Fresno State TE Bear Pascoe's. While many of their West teammates' helmets were littered with the shared logos of other schools represented in the game, Brandstater and Pascoe both kept their helmets clear of any other logos.

That, my friends, is the Bulldog Football mentality. We're Bulldogs, and ONLY Bulldogs. No other logo is deserving of going on those beautiful Bulldog Red helmets.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This is getting absurd

This whole changing offensive coordinators every year habit -- it's a bad one. When Fresno State hires its next O.C., the one who will replace now-departed Doug Nussmeier, it might be wise to get a true 'Dog to come back home and stay a while. But who are the candidates?

Trent Dilfer? Sure would be a huge get on the recruiting and QB tutelage end, but the former Fresno State QB is probably a longshot with his new TV gig and the rave reviews he's been getting. Plus, when he spoke at an Easter service in Fresno last year, he talked about the likelihood he'll spend a few years on TV before considering a coaching job.

Mike Martz? How exciting would that be to get a guy just a handful of years removed for the Super Bowl with the Rams? Is an assistant's job at Fresno State too much of a drop in stature (and pay) for the former 'Dog to consider it?

Kelly Skipper? The 'Dog from the '80s might jump at the chance to join younger brother Tim on the Fresno State coaching staff. But is he the best candidate?

Jeff Grady? Long assumed to be in the grooming stages for eventually landing this job, Grady has just two years coaching experience and only started a few games for Fresno State in his career as QB. But not all great coaches were great players. Grady is definitely a loyal guy with solid character. Would other coaches on staff resent it if he got the promotion?

As one final note, good riddance to Nussmeier. Speaking from a fan's point of view, I'm offended that he came in here, didn't do anything extraordinary, and then took a giant demotion in title and stature to be QB coach at Washington, a program with all of zero wins last season. Maybe it's time to talk to Jim McElwain about signing back on as the Fresno State "coach-in-waiting" since that seems to be the popular trend...?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Looking ahead to '09 'Dogs offense

Let's talk about what to expect from the young up-and-comers in the program who saw little to no playing time this past season but will figure in to the 2009 campaign...

QB: Ebahn Feathers redshirted this season but is already a fan favorite because his speed is so unique to the position it makes fans gawk. Problem is, he came in as a raw thrower with a ton of refining to do. But he's also the type of youngster who is coachable, modest and willing to work at it. Will it be good enough to beat out the elder statesman Ryan Colburn and an even newer young stud, Derek Carr?

RB: A.J. Ellis and Michael Harris both redshirted. Ellis might have been able to help out in 2008, but came out of high school super skinny and would have been knocked around a little at the running back position. But Rashad Evans was much undersized and did a fine job as a true freshman at receiver. While Harris might be more likely to develop into a "featured back" so to speak, Ellis has the potential to develop into a multi-threat lining up in the backfield, the slot and as a return man.

WR: Jamel Hamler was the offensive scout player of the year after academic issues caused him to redshirt this season after playing as a true freshman in '07. Though many don't realize it yet, Hamler has the ability to be the best wideout on the team, and is set to make the type of impact next season that Seyi Ajirotutu did this season. Matt Lindsey, with his height, hands and ability to go up and get the ball in traffic, will be plenty capable too, but this unit might just be too deep and talented for Lindsey to get on the field much before 2010.

TE: We saw what Ryan Skidmore is capable of late this year, and he'll be the main receiving threat, along with Issac Kinter, next year. But more unknown are Tapa Taumopeau and David Gory. Taumopeau started on special teams as a true freshman before an injury led to him redshirting. When Gory steps on the field, many fans will think Bear Pascoe is back until they notice he's wearing No. 88 instead of 85. Gory has a very similar body type and came in listed at 6-4, 235 pounds but looks to be more like 250 now.

OL: There will definitely be an adjustment period here with 2-3 new starters, but it might be a short one considering big talents like Kenny Wiggins and Bryce Harris have been around a while. Wiggins has had the best size and footwork of the unit for two years now and will finally get his shot to start with Kenny Avon and Bobby Lepori gone. And Harris is an athlete who adapted quickly to the switch from defensive to offensive line. The guard spot will be more interesting with Charley Robbins, Devan Cunningham and Richard Pacheco all vying. Pacheco is a senior spot starter, Cunningham could dominate if he dedicated himself to getting in better football shape and Robbins practices and plays well enough to deserve the job. But watch out, highly-touted prospect Douglas Spacht, who redshirted this year and is a true center, has looked good enough to make a run at a starting spot at guard if others don't step it up.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

And the next Cal Poly head coach is...

...not John Baxter.

According to this breaking story from the SLO Tribune, it's Tim Walsh, the former Army offensive coordinator. You can also see more info on the annoucnement on the Cal Poly blog.

So what do you think Bulldog Bouncers? Good news for the 'Dogs that Baxter is remaining special teams coach? Or bad news considering the sub-par year and lack of adjustments fans saw from the special teams unit last season?

Is John Baxter for real?

Amid rumors Fresno State special teams coach John Baxter (the mastermind behind the Academic Gameplan that has helped Fresno State's football program become one of the nation's most sound academically) is a finalist for the Cal Poly job, Baxter told the SLO Tribune he's not interested.

True? Hopefully, for honesty's sake, but it's a bit of an uneasy feeling for Red Wavers who heard Pat Hill deny that Washington had contacted him about its vacancy after the Boise State game, only to be interviewing in Seattle the next day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A gross exclusion from the Hall of Fame...

Perusing The Bulldog Shop today and taking a look at its new throwback Fresno State football jerseys got me thinking again about former wide receiver Henry Ellard. More specifically, it got me thinking about how Ellard is not yet in the NFL's Hall of Fame.

How can that be?

Someone more in the NFL know, please explain this to me. Ellard, the longtime L.A. Rams star who also spent time with the Redskins and Patriots, retired as the NFL's fourth leading receiver of all-time. I don't know what he ranks as now, and I don't need to know. It's somewhere in the top eight I'm guessing. That's plenty good enough.

The 17 finalists for this year's induction class were announced, and Ellard's name is nowhere in print. Cris Carter is a finalist this year, and he has only been retired a handful of years. Is anyone else in the top 10 who's not active not in the Hall of Fame? Jerry Rice, Steve Largeant, Art Monk, etc.

Ellard's NFL career:

  • 17 years (11 Rams, 5 Redskins, 1 Patriots)
  • 13,777 yards receiving (7 season over 1,000 yards)
  • 814 receptions
  • 65 touchdown catches
  • 16.9 yards per catch
  • 135 punt returns, 1,527 yards, 4 touchdowns
  • 19 kick returns, 364 yards
  • 2 fumbles lost (1 catch, 1 rush)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bad news for the soccer 'Dogs

Apparently Fresno State women's soccer coach Steve Springthorpe is headed off to coach at NC State, a team that finished 11th in the ACC last season.

Springthorpe led Fresno State to each of the past four WAC tournament championship games, as well as two NCAA tournaments (2005, 2008). Considering the short time Fresno State has had a women's soccer program, they've experienced a solid amount of success.

It's a tough pill to swallow for Springthorpe to leave now, when the school has already started construction on a new women's soccer and lacrosse stadium that will take up a huge chunk of the Red Lot on Cedar and Barstow avenues, one of the premier tailgating areas in all of college football (at least from my personal experience).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

WAC Hoops Predictions

It's the first Saturday of 2009 -- and for Fresno State that means the start of the conference basketball season. It'll be a pivotal stretch of games for a young team looking more toward its future potential than immediate postseason hopes. Here's how I see the WAC shaking out this year, in one of the most unpredictable seasons in memory.

Utah State: The Aggies can no longer rely on the awe-inspiring shooting and quickness of Jaycee Carroll, but 6-foot-9, 240-pound Gary Wilkinson (17.1 points per game, 8.2 rebounds) has inherited the go-to role for a Utah State team that started the season 12-1 with its only loss a close neutral site one to BYU. Tai Wesley (6-7) is the invaluable type of guy who will do the dirty work and get second-chance points. Wilkinson is a double-double threat every night.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack is a young squad, but maybe the most talented in the WAC. Gone are stars Marcellus Kemp and Javale McGee, both now in the NBA, but Armon Johnson is the WAC's best point guard. Freshman Luke Babbitt (6-9, 225) showed flashes of why he was so highly touted out of high school, hitting a couple jumpers in the face of North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough earlier in the week. Babbitt already leads the team with 15.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Johnson has 56 assists and 30 turnovers in 13 games. Despite a 7-6 start, watch for Nevada to mesh just in time for conference play.

Boise State: Even with a 9-3 start, it’s hard to get a good gauge on the Broncos. They’ve been stomped by 38 at BYU and 30 at Siena, and five of their wins were by four points or less against sub-par competition. Boise State did pick up a solid road win at San Diego. Led by Mark Sanchez’s 15.8 points and 7.1 rebounds, the Broncos also boast one of the WAC’s better point men in Anthony Thomas (60-31 assist-turnover) who is selectively efficient from long range (14 for 34).

New Mexico State: Despite having four players averaging double figures in points, and an efficient young point guard in Hernst Laroche (58 assists, 20 turnovers), the Aggies are off to a 6-7 start. Jahmar Young leads the team with 17.2 points and joins Jonathan Gibson and Wendell McKines in shooting better than 42% from 3-point range. McKines leads the team with 8.9 rebounds. Credit the Aggies for a challenging non-conference slate that included road games at USC and Kansas and a home-and-home with UTEP and New Mexico. But they won just one of those six contests, at home against UTEP.

Fresno State: The WAC better get used to dealing with the dynamic freshmen tandem of Paul George and Mychal Ladd. George leads the Bulldogs with 15.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 30 3-pointers (50% from the perimeter). Both are athletic leapers and dunkers. The team’s lone senior, Dwight O’Neil is second in the WAC with 74 assists and is third on the ‘Dogs with 12.9 points, but has a ridiculous 56 turnovers. Freshman point guard Bryce Cartwright has a 44-25 assist-turnover ratio. Arizona State transfer Sylvester Seay is second on the team with 13.1 points, and leads the WAC with 22 blocks. Out to a 7-7 start, this team figures to be around .500 in WAC play, but has the potential to get hot and pull off some decent wins as the youth matures.

Hawaii: Junior college transfer Roderick Flemings (6-7, 210) has led the Bows to an 8-4 start with a team-high 17.9 points and 6.8 rebounds. The downside is Hawaii hasn't beaten any team worth a darn, with Iowa State being the only name win, and that was a one-point victory. The Bows are tough to predict with so many key new faces.

San Jose State: Could this be San Jose State’s best team under George Nessman? Heck, it could be its best in modern memory – which isn’t necessarily saying much. The Spartans are led by Washington transfer Adrian Oliver, who averages 20 points in his four games this season. Three other Spartans – Tim Pierce, C.J. Webster (6-9, 255) and Chris Oakes (6-10, 235) – also average in double figures. Oakes leads the WAC with 9.3 rebounds per game. Point guard Justin Graham, who was hyped last year as an up-and-comer, has a glaring 42 turnovers to go with his 56 assists. That’s way too many in just 10 games.

Louisiana Tech: It looks like a long year for La Tech (6-7) after non-conference losses to Seattle, Western Carolina, Alaska-Anchorage, McNeese State and Samford. That said, the big thing La Tech has going for it is size in 6-11 Magnum Rolle (11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds), 6-10 Kenneth Cooper (11.9, 6.9) and 6-8 David Jackson all in the starting lineup. The shortest starter is 6-3. Kyle Gibson leads the team with 16.1 points and shoots 42% on 3s. But the point guard also has more turnovers (48) than assists (37).

Idaho: Credit the Vandals (6-7) for challenging themselves with non-conference games at Michigan State, Gonzaga and Washington State, but those were all pretty telling losses. Strangely, Idaho also laid a beatdown on UC-Irvine by 101-47. But that might say more about how bad the Anteaters are. Washington State transfer Mac Hopson leads the Vandals with 16.3 points and has a WAC-high 77 assists compared with 41 turnovers.