Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Returning lettermen: 8

Incoming: 8
Lost: 3 (Jon Monga, Ikenna Ike, Michael Stuart)

Fresno State’s defensive front was ravaged by injuries in 2008 and forced to throw young, inexperienced players into key roles – and it didn’t work well as opposing offenses averaged 6.1 yards per play against the Bulldogs. It was painful at times to see the team struggle to apply pressure on the quarterback, as the ‘Dogs finished with just 18 sacks on the year (and half of those sacks left with the departure of Jon Monga and Ikenna Ike). With renewed health throughout the unit, and a new coach in Will Plemons, who shifted over from linebackers to replace Kerry Locklin, much improvement should be on the horizon.

Junior Chris Carter (6-2, 240) shuffled between linebacker (where he was second-team All-WAC) and defensive end last season, but looks to have settled in at end. Though Carter is smaller than is ideal, his speed and athleticism can cause fits for opposing tackles – an attribute Fresno State coaches hope will help solve their pass rush woes. He was second on the team with 88 tackles last season, and is the returning sack leader with 3.5. Starting opposite Carter at end is redshirt sophomore Kenny Borg (6-3, 245), who missed all of 2008 with injury. Borg offers a tremendous boost to the unit, and has bulked up substantially from his true freshman season when he had 2.5 sacks in limited time. Don’t be surprised if Borg develops into an All-WAC-caliber player in the next year or two.

While Carter and Borg appear to have a stronghold on the starting spots, junior Chris Lewis (6-3, 260) has shined at times during spring and fall camps. If he turns his motor on, and keeps it running every play, he too can make a big impact. Lewis originally signed with Miami out of high school, but decided before his freshman season started Fresno State was a better fit. Now, he needs to prove he can produce at this level.

It’ll be interesting to monitor how the dominoes fall with junior Donnie Pritchett (6-5, 290), a highly-touted transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College. Pritchett has prototypical size, and the long build Fresno State fans haven’t seen from an end since the Nick Burley days. Pritchett stood out in summer voluntary workouts (with no pads) but had a relatively quiet first week of fall camp. Another two ends battling for playing time are redshirt freshman Matt Akers (6-2, 225), who’s extremely undersized but fits the mold of the speedy pass rusher coaches want to emerge. True freshman Terrance Kindle (6-3, 220) is a candidate to redshirt, but after graduating high school a semester early to participate in spring ball, he’s looked impressive getting into the backfield in fall camp – especially in the first scrimmage.

True freshmen Nat Harrison (6-2, 215) and Ben Letcher (6-3, 240) are likely to redshirt. Harrison received some audible praise from coaches during camp, but both need some seasoning before being ready to hit the field. Freshmen walk-ons Tristan Okpalaugo (6-5, 220) and Ryan Bouchma (6-4, 235) have intriguing size, but fit in the same category.

That leads in to defensive tackle, where there’s a logjam of options for what should be one of the most fun competitions to follow. The one spot that seems locked in is sophomore Logan Harrell (6-2, 275), who saw valuable action as a true freshman in 2008, but has separated himself with his aggressive play in fall camp. He looks to be a run stuffer who can occasionally get to the quarterback. Though fellow sophomore Chase McEntee (6-2, 265) lined up for first-team reps all spring and fall, he’ll have to hold off junior Cornell Banks (6-3, 300), who started all of last season and had 32 tackles. Banks, however, missed spring camp due to academics and coaches are making him earn his way back from the bottom of the depth chart. Lucky for Banks, he looked better than ever in fall camp. McEntee also has looked solid, and appears much larger than his listed weight.

Junior Mark Roberts (6-2, 300) became a starter last season when Monga was injured and had 24 tackles, but looks to have been passed by others on the depth chart since. That doesn’t mean he can be counted out, especially when he’s making plays like in the last fall scrimmage, when he forced a fumble and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. Another experienced starter, who can play tackle or end, is Wilson Ramos (6-4, 270), the lone senior on the unit. Don’t discount the impact Ramos will have after returning from an injury that cost him about half of 2008. He came in as a bit of a project player, but developed into a solid contributer.

Adding even more depth is redshirt freshman Anthony Williams (6-2, 300), who may very well have played as a true last season if not for an injury during camp. The wow factor is his size and strength for being a young guy, and he arguably looked better than McEntee and Harrell in the 2008 fall camp.
Freshman Andy Jennings (6-2, 250) has a long way to go development-wise and is a strong redshirt candidate, as is freshman walk-on Aki Dionsopoulos (5-11, 260).

Rating: 7 of 10


  1. I Hope were much improved here If not we can expect the same defensive showing as last year.

  2. Pretty shocking to read in The Bee today that Chris Lewis was told he'll start in the opener. He's got talent, for sure, but he just hasn't shown the desire yet. If that part comes in this year, it could be big news.

    I'm wondering who he'll replace in the starting lineup?


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