Friday, September 24, 2010

Pre-game Walkthrough: Collecting our thoughts as the 'Dogs take on The Grove

Fresno State's annual hold-your-breath game with utah state is over and done with, complete with a new breakout star and all.

The Bulldogs' attention has now turned to ye olde Miss, thee of the SEC. It's a good thing Fresno State coach Pat Hill and co. enjoy playing the toughest possible games, because the Rebels will be as dangerous as can be this weekend.

What would a 'Dogs game be without an opponent at its best?

You might have noticed the labeling of the Rebels above as "as dangerous as can be." That's because quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is just one hole punch away from filling up his frequent visitor card and getting a free, all expenses paid night in the slammer.

OK, so maybe the Rebels (1-2) present two kinds of danger. They also present a daunting on-field task this week. The rationale? It's do or die for the Rebels. With losses already to an FCS team in Jacksonville State and a usual SEC doormat in Vanderbilt, Ole Miss already has an uphill climb just to become bowl eligible. A loss to Fresno State may very well bury the spirit of the Rebels, making this game the potential turning point in their season and thus, making them as dangerous as they're gonna be.

The stupid elephant in the room

There is one BCS conference left in the world that hasn't been blessed with a loss at the hands of Fresno State — the SEC. That's right, of all the "helmet scalps" the Bulldogs have collected and displayed on the walls of their football complex, none come from the dirty south.

That seems to be a valid enough reason to identify the elephant, who probably has a secret or two to share with Kool-Aid on how to enter a room quietly.

Rebel depression: what Ole Miss fans are saying

The words Fresno State haven't been thrown around much this week by the Rebel faithful. When they have, it is usually as the final accessory to a full-fledged meltdown. Good news san jose state fans, you no longer have to feel alone.

Message boards are full of "what if we fire this coach" topics, I give up claims and overall general confusion about the current state of the Rebels.

The flagship blog for Ole Miss is Red Cup Rebellion of the SB Nation family of blogs. Nowhere have the losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt been more heartfelt than by the younger community of Rebels. All week long, these guys have been sorting through the debris of depression, hoping to find the source of the wildfire. The result has been almost a week's worth of ignoring the opponent that will provide them with the toughest, most physical game they will play all year.

To get an idea of exactly how much these guys new about Fresno State this year, I tuned into their weekly Red Cup Radio podcast. Essentially, during the Fresno State portion of the show, the guys read off stats from the stat sheet and declared which players are starters and what they're capable of based on this. That led to them thinking things like A.J. Ellis missed last week's game and that Ryan Colburn is a dangerous dual threat quarterback. Still, they're probably more reliable than Wes Bunting.

All in all, Rebel fans are dazed, confused and talking each other off of the ledge that each of them is standing on. An Ole Miss win will bring hope. An Ole Miss loss will produce record alcohol sales.

Fresno State players with extra important roles

Ryan Colburn + A.J. Johnson/Jalen Saunders/Matt Lindsey: Colburn will need to find at least one other go-to receiver to distribute the ball to in this game, as Devon Wylie remains out and Rashad Evans is doubtful for this game. Colburn is also facing a defense that has struggled defending the big play at times, and like the Bulldogs defense, has yet to intercept a pass this season.

Jermaine Thomas and/or Desia Dunn: Thomas and Dunn are each responsible for their respective sides of the field, so whomever receives the assignment of the Rebels' Markeith Summers has his work cut out. Summers is a 6'3" big-play receiver who has 10 catches for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns this season.

Fresno State offensive line: Ole Miss is giving up more than 140 rushing yards per game, an average accumulated by the trio of Jacksonville State, Tulane and Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs have yet to have true success running the ball in their previous SEC meetings, and will need to do so this game to keep the defense fresh and out of the humidity, maintain possession and provide the option for big plays in the run game should Colburn fail to find suitable receiving options. The Bulldogs will also plug in Leslie Cooper — who is replacing All-American Andrew Jackson — at right guard for his first start of the 2010 season. Those nervous about Cooper's performance need not worry, you don't name a man Leslie unless you know he can physically dominate other humans or that he'll be the future star of The Naked Gun series.

*Wildcard pick — Derron Smith: Fresno State strong safety Lorne Bell practiced all week, but without contact. His status is still unknown for this game and his replacement is a true freshman in Derron Smith. Smith is faster than Bell and a better defender against the pass, but he has never seen game action for the Bulldogs as a safety. If Smith's first plays at SS come on the road in an SEC venue, his performance will be something to keep an eye on.

Intangible factors

Some of the intangible factors for a Fresno State game are constants, but the significance of their role varies from game to game and opponent to opponent. Come to think of it, that's probably the reason they're called intangibles.

Fresno State players live for games like this. Fans like me live for every game, meaning I also live for games like this. What does that mean? It means I, along with however many Fresno State players, coaches and fans in Mrs. Sippi, will be oozing with the bravado and machismo Fresno State is known for. Fear, confidence and effort will not be a factor. That can't be a bad thing right?

Both Fresno State and Ole Miss combine for a grand total of 0 interceptions through five games. However, Ryan Colburn and Jeremiah Masoli have combined to throw 6 this season. A struggling Rebels team could use the extra possessions to get right and a resurgent Bulldogs defense could use the turnovers to get over a major turnover hurdle. Does this stat even matter? And if so, who needs it more?

On offense and defense, Fresno State's strengths and weaknesses have been the exact inverse of the Ole Miss strengths and weaknesses. The Rebels have been stronger in the first half on all accounts, while Fresno State has largely been a second half team. This trend offers an interesting contrast in styles. 

The Ole Miss tangible factor

Jonathan Cornell: The senior from California has been a one man wrecking crew on defense. How the Bulldogs handle him could determine how well-oiled the offense can be. So far this season, Cornell has  collected 27 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 pass break ups and 1 forced fumble. 

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium: Home of the Rebels

Ole Miss is best known for having the best tailgating experience around in The Grove. Fans dress up and congregate in huge numbers, in a nice setting, doing fun things, apparently. 

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium seats 60,580 fans. According to Phil Steele's 2010 homefield advantage formula, that number is part of what makes up a 3.75 point homefield advantage for the Rebels, good for 62nd-best in the country.
In contrast, Fresno State's Bulldog Stadium is credited with a 4 point homefield advantage by Steele, 46th-best in the country.

The stadium does, however, possess a 48 ft x 84 ft video board, a $6 million dollar gem that should provide great high-definition replays of the SEC officiating crew's homer-jobs. The Rebels also play on an artificial FieldTurf surface, one of the few teams in the SEC to do so.

Bottom line: Fresno State has played in the toughest stadium's in the country, and Vaught-Hemingway isn't one of them. Noise won't be a factor, and intimidation won't be a factor. But at least the Fresno State fans making the trip to Oxford have a nice place tailgate right outside of it.

Injuries Schminjuries

  • Devon Wylie: Wylie injured his foot in the opener, and has since had surgery to correct the problem.
  • Andrew Jackson: Jack suffered a high ankle sprain against utah state and also had minor surgery.
  • Rashad Evans: Shad has been nursing a hamstring injury all week. He's been practicing this week, but only minimally, and hasn't tested it with the same explosiveness he uses in games quite yet.
  • Lorne Bell: Bell appears to be making a quick recovery from a shoulder injury, also against the aggies. He says he'll be good to go, but coaches haven't confirmed it quite yet. He'll be evaluated in Mississippi when the team arrives to see if he's a go.
  • Robbie Rouse: Mighty Mouse has been practicing at full speed after taking much of the last two weeks off to recover from shoulder and ankle injuries. Rouse will be ready to go, and at best will share carries with A.J. Ellis and Tracy Slocum.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

FRESNO STATE (1-0) at Utah State (1-1)

Bulldogs at Aggies
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Romney Stadium (25,513)

It’s far too early to talk about national stats leaders, but Fresno State senior QB Ryan Colburn (6-3, 220) leads the WAC and is second in the NCAA with a 208.1 passer rating after one game. It was well documented during fall camp that Colburn looked different — improved passer with more command — in practice and if the season-opening 28-14 win over two-time defending Big East champ Cincinnati is any indication, those observations were correct. Colburn was 18 of 24 for 247 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception. Last year he was a manageable QB – this year he might be the type of QB who can carry a team to victory.

It’s widely known by now how lethal senior Diondre Borel (6-0, 190) can be, especially for a defense like Fresno State’s that has traditionally struggled against mobile QBs. And Borel is as mobile as they come – even on a ‘Dogs schedule that also includes Zach Collaros (Cincinnati), Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss) and Colin Kaepernick (Nevada). But Borel can also throw it, as his 596 yards and 3 touchdowns in two games this year shows. He’s completed 61% of his passes, but has tossed 3 picks. The Bulldogs’ defense is familiar with what Borel can do (he’s caused it fits two straight years) and have a lot of respect for his ability. Last year against the ‘Dogs, Borel threw for 240 yards and ran for 105. This game will go a long way toward determining which school has the better QB.
Edge: Even

Running Backs
The Bulldogs endured some tough-to-swallow news this week when Pat Hill announced starting RB sophomore Robbie Rouse (5-7, 185) won’t play on Saturday because of injury. Rouse had a disappointing opener, averaging just 2 yards per carry, but that may have been more the fault of the offensive line than Rouse. With one elusive sophomore sidelined, another elusive sophomore gets his first career start in A.J. Ellis (5-11, 180). Ellis had 1 carry for 6 yards out of the “hound” formation (Fresno State’s wildcat) in the opener, and has just 3 runs for 13 yards in his career. He spent most of camp as the fourth-string back, but is a danger in the passing game, especially out of shotgun formation. Thanks to being healthier than his teammates on the unit, he’s shot up the depth chart and will have a chance to emerge as an every-down runner. That said, expect senior Tracy Slocum (5-10, 205), a Fresno native who transferred from Cal, to get his first action in Bulldog Red. He sat out the opener with turf toe but is expected back for Utah State. Slocum rushed for 125 yards in 2008 for Cal. Slocum’s power running game should be the perfect ingredient to mix in with Ellis’ speed. Sophomore Michael Harris (5-10, 200) is the other back to keep an eye on. He’s been a stud the past two years in scrimmages, and should see his most significant playing time. Harris had 11 carries for 26 yards against UC Davis last year.

Utah State also has been hit hard by injury at RB, as returning 1,000-yard rusher Robert Turbin (138 yards against the ‘Dogs last year) is out for the season. There’s no doubt the Aggies would like to establish the run on Saturday, something they haven’t been as successful with as they’d like. But the cupboard’s not empty – in fact, it’s running back by committee. Senior starter Michael Smith (5-9, 195) leads the team with 134 yards rushing (6.7 per carry) and senior Derrvin Speight (5-9, 209) isn’t far behind with 121 yards (4.2 per carry). Second-string sophomore Kerwynn Williams (5-9, 185) has just 32 yards on 7 rushes.
Edge: Even

The injury bug hit Fresno State even harder at WR, though there’s more depth. Senior Devon Wylie (5-9, 185), the fastest WR in school history with a 4.25 40-yard dash, had foot surgery and could miss half or all of the season. Wylie made two spectacular catches in the opener, including a 28-yard, leaping touchdown in double coverage. The most comparable replacement option, as far as skill set, is true freshman Jalen Saunders (5-9, 160), who had an 18-yard grab in his first college game. Saunders doesn’t quite have Wylie speed (in the 40 at least), but he’ll be one of the school’s fastest ever by the time his career is over, and is already a major deep threat. Redshirt freshman A.J. Johnson (6-0, 180) and junior J.J. Stallworth (5-11, 185) are the other options. Neither has a college catch yet, but Hill is very high on Johnson’s potential and Stallworth has the bloodlines (younger brother of NFL’s Donte Stallworth). The two sure things for the ‘Dogs will be junior Jamel Hamler (6-2, 195) and sophomore Rashad Evans (5-9, 180). Hamler had a highlight touchdown grab in the opener, jumping backward in traffic in the corner of the end zone, and Evans sprinted up the seam for a 59-yard score of his own. The two combined for 9 catches and 124 yards. Hamler was second on the team with 503 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.

Junior Utah State WR Matt Austin (6-2, 198) was expected to be Borel’s top target this season but was lost to a knee injury against Oklahoma after making 1 catch for 59 yards. Austin was predicted as WAC newcomer of the year by Blue Ribbon’s preseason magazine. Now, the Aggies will roll with sophomore Dontel Watkins (6-2, 193) and junior Xavier Martin (5-11, 195), who lead the team with 139 and 114 yards respectively. Each had a touchdown. Watch also for freshman Travis Reynolds (6-0, 169) who has 7 catches for 70 yards. This group came up with some big catches against Oklahoma’s secondary, but may have tougher sledding against a Bulldogs unit that looks much improved in press coverage and tackling.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
The biggest shock of the opener was the line’s poor performance in the running game, allowing the team to rush for just 1.6 yards per carry – when’s the last time that happened? With five returning starters, and a boatload of depth returning, don’t expect to see that again. The line has three legit first-team All-WAC candidates in RG Andrew Jackson (6-6, 295), RT Kenny Wiggins (6-7, 315) and C Joey Bernardi (6-2, 285). Jackson was a first-team honoree last season and is an All-America candidate, while Wiggins earned second-team All-WAC.

Utah State’s line is holding up well after two games, helping the rushing attack average 4.2 yards per carry and allowing just 4 sacks. And that’s with two seniors, two juniors and a freshman, Tyler Larsen (6-4, 298), starting at center. The biggest question is whether the Aggies tackles can slow Fresno State’s edge pass rush. And Larsen will have his hands full with the Bulldogs’ big, veteran interior linemen.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Line
If the defensive front continues to play with the type of tenacity it had against Cincinnati, the Bulldogs are on their way to a big, big season. Junior DT Logan Harrell (6-2, 275) had one of the most unsuspected breakout performances in Hill’s tenure, recording 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss against mobile Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros. Senior DE Chris Carter (6-2, 240) was just as ruthless with 3 sacks and 3 tackles for loss. Both also forced fumbles. Carter will be a mismatch for his counterpart all season with his speed off the edge, and Harrell should have opportunities with the amount of attention senior DT Cornell Banks (6-3, 310) will command at scrimmage. And if senior DE Chris Lewis (6-3, 260) plays with a high motor, this front four will rival Boise State’s for best in the WAC. A leaner Lewis added 0.5 sacks and 3 tackles in the opener.

To put into perspective how well the Bulldogs front four played in their opener, Utah State’s front four combines for just 1.5 sacks – less than two individual Bulldogs have on their own in one game. Though senior DT Sean Enesi (5-11, 286) is a team captain, his battery mate senior DT Daniel Gurrola (6-1, 282) has been the most impressive so far with 8 tackles and a sack. Enesi has four tackles, but will try to clog the middle against a Bulldogs’ offensive line that owns a tremendous size advantage.
Edge: Bulldogs

Another breakout occurred at LB with a speedier, lean sophomore SLB Travis Brown (6-2, 235), a former four-star recruit who played as a reserve as a true freshman last season. Brown was second on the team with 8 tackles in the opener, including a sack for an 8-yard loss out of zone coverage. His closing speed in reacting to developing plays is night-and-day from last season. And, of course, Utah State will have to deal with returning first-team All-WAC senior MLB Ben Jacobs (6-4, 240), who had 7 tackles against Cincinnati and has more than 300 in his career.

Another hard-hit injury position could be LB for the Aggies, with standout junior Junior Keiaho (6-3, 243) in doubt for Saturday. Keiaho has 5 tackles, a sack and a pick this year. Junior rover Bobby Wagner (6-1, 230) leads the team with 18 tackles and junior Kyle Gallagher (6-0, 214) is tied for second with 13 stops.
Edge: Bulldogs

Defensive Backs
Another position, another breakout performance – and this one was predicted many months ago by The Bounce. Sophomore CB Jermaine Thomas (5-11, 190) emerged as the team’s first true lockdown corner in years. He’s strong enough to play physical, press coverage that ‘Dogs fans aren’t used to seeing and had 5 tackles in his first career start. When his man makes a catch, Thomas makes the tackle – and quick. His own team often avoided throwing his way throughout fall camp scrimmage situations. And how ‘bout senior CB Desia Dunn (5-9, 195) showing he could get up to scrimmage and play physical at times too? Dunn led the team with 11 tackles and delivered the biggest hit of the night, popping his own helmet off in the process. The ‘Dogs are very strong at safety as well, with the run stuffer and hardest hitter in senior FS Lorne Bell (5-10, 210) and sophomore SS Phillip Thomas (6-1, 205), who has good enough coverage skills to play nickelback. Thomas is an upgrade over the departed Moses Harris, who was a two-time All-WAC honoree.

A local native has emerged as one of Utah State’s top CBs in senior Curtis Marsh (6-1, 193) of Golden Valley High-Merced. He has 8 tackles along with senior CB Chris Randle (5-11, 187), who also has 0.5 sacks and an interception. The Aggies have 4 picks on the young season. Junior SS Walter McClenton (5-11, 193) is tied for second on the team with 13 tackles. The Aggies like to play physical, pressure defense against the pass, a characteristic of coach Gary Andersen, and will challenge the Bulldogs wideouts early.
Edge: Bulldogs

Special Teams
With Wylie out in the return game, true freshman WR Isaiah Burse (5-11, 180) is listed as kick returner along with Hamler. Hamler is likely to be used as a blocker. Evans will assume punt return duties (as he should have in the first place). After one game, the ‘Dogs have to be pleased with P Andrew Shapiro, who averaged 40 yards on 8 punts, including 2 inside the 20. It was also encouraging to see LB Kyle Knox flying downfield in kick coverage and making big tackles. That enthusiasm is contagious. Junior K Kevin Goessling didn’t attempt a field goal in the opener, but Utah State fans remember him well for nailing a game-winning 58-yarder (Fresno State all-time record) in the Bulldogs’ last trip to Logan in 2008. Goessling is up for the Lou Groza Award once again this year as the nation’s top kicker.

Utah State boasts perhaps the WAC’s most powerful punter in senior Peter Caldwell (6-4, 228), who averages 46.3 yards per attempt and has booted 4 of 9 punts more than 50 yards and placed 4 inside the 20. Caldwell is 2 of 4 on field goals, with a long of 40 yards. Kerwynn Williams averages 28.7 yards per kick return, and 11 yards per punt return. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on him as the Bulldogs shut down Cincinnati in kick and punt coverage. If the game comes down to a field goal, it’ll be the Bulldogs’ advantage.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State coach Pat Hill is the grandfather of WAC coaches in his 14th season at Fresno State, and has won 101 games. He has a ton of respect for Utah State after seeing them play the ‘Dogs so closely the past two seasons and should have the team amped up for the game. Utah State coach Gary Andersen has this program looking better than it ever has in the WAC – which has never been good – in just his second season. His a defensive-minded coach and nearly led the Aggies to a season-opening win at Oklahoma.
Edge: Bulldogs

If ever there were some intangibles to talk about – whew! With Fresno State accepting an offer to join the Mountain West Conference, Utah State and the other remaining WAC schools feel betrayed. And the ‘Dogs better believe they’ll use it for motivation, and the fans will feed off it in Logan. Romney Stadium seats only 25,513, but the students are great fans at Utah State and will make plenty of noise to create a hostile road environment. That said, Fresno State is well aware of how dangerous the Aggies’ offense can be, and won’t be caught off guard. There’s a lot on the line for the Bulldogs, who could very well move into the Top 25 with a win (they’re currently 27th in the AP poll).
Edge: Aggies
**Photos by Cary Edmondson

Ryan Mathews is the next American Idol

With this sterling rendition of "Fight Varsity," the storied Fresno State fight song, how could he not be!? Fast forward to 1:16 to see Mathews and avoid the sucky parts of the video.

Now, strike up the music:

Utah State Film Room

OK, so it's always tough to get a true feel for a game based on one team's highlight package, but take a gander at Utah State in its opener at No. 7 Oklahoma to get an idea for what the Aggies do:

Then take a look at the highlight package from the Oklahoma perspective to get an idea of how Utah State is vulnerable:

Then take a look at this distraught Oklahoma fan after the game (I don't advise watching more than a few seconds) for kicks and giggles:

Sunday, September 12, 2010


With heartbreaking news reported by The Fresno Bee tonight that senior WR Devon Wylie's foot bone bruise might be a whole lot more serious, the Bulldogs have to prepare for Saturday's huge WAC opener at Utah State without the fastest player in school history.

Wylie had 2 catches for 39 yards, including a 28-yard leaping touchdown between two defenders (pictured above courtesy of our Cary Edmondson) in the Bulldogs' 28-14 victory over Cincinnati.

The injury is not a good sign for an offense with just two other experienced WRs -- Jamel Hamler and Rashad Evans -- but if there's any position on the field positioned with enough depth to make up for injury, wideout might be the one. Speed wise, true freshman Jalen Saunders is the first thought in mind, but he's only played one college game.

Do you think someone can step in and fill Wylie's shoes? If so, who? If not, what's your prediction for Saturday's game?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Grading the 'Dogs (1-0) vs. Cincinnati (0-1)

FRESNO STATE 28, Cincinnati 14

Quarterbacks: B+
Overall a great game for Ryan Colburn, but a couple poor decisions keep the performance from being an A, namely when Colburn tried to throw under pressure near his own goal line and fumbled. If Cincinnati would have recovered -- tragic. But Colburn gave fans a taste of what he'll be capable of this season, throwing for 247 yards, 4 TDs and 1 interception on 18 of 24 passing. The 'Dogs can rely on their QB to lead them to victory again. As soon as the coaching staff stopped calling for short, quick passing plays and spread the defense, Colburn took over.

Running Backs: C-
It's difficult to even give a grade here. The numbers were abysmal, as Robbie Rouse averaged just 2 yards per carry in his first game as full-time starter (20 carries, 40 yards) with a long of 5. But Rouse never really had a chance to run in space with multiple defenders all over him everywhere he went (he did score the first TD with a 20-yard catch). It'll help the 'Dogs to get Tracy Slocum back from injury, and get A.J. Ellis and Michael Harris more involved to give the defense different looks. Don't count on the running game struggling again like this unless it's against Boise State.

Receivers: A
Lose 3 WRs to the NFL? Eh, no problem. The 'Dogs got some help from Colburn's accuracy, but both Jamel Hamler and Devon Wylie made outrageous leaping TD catches in traffic. And Rashad Evans led the corps with 4 catches for 71 yards, including a 59-yard TD up the seam. Shout out to true freshman Jalen Saunders with an 18-yard diving catch to jump-start his career.

Offensive Line: C-
The biggest shocker of the game had to be the o-line, considered hands down the strength of the team with all five starters returning. But the left side had a particularly bad day with Devan Cunningham and Bryce Harris struggling to handle their counterparts. The run blocking was non-existent, but the pass blocking was solid (2 sacks), making for a slightly below average game. Another performance like that and we might see Matt Hunt starting sooner than later.

Defensive Line: A+
Who woulda thunk it!? The defense, by far the team's biggest concern the past three seasons, answers 2010 questions with a statement game. It was led by constant pressure -- on a no-huddle spread offense by the way -- predominantly using a four-man rush. DT Logan Harrell had twice as many sacks (4) as he had all last season. Chris Carter added 3, Chris Lewis 1 and the team had 8 total, after recording just 11 last year. And don't forget Carter's forced fumble, recovered by Donnie Pritchett in his first game as a 'Dog.

Linebackers: A
Standing out above all else at the position was Travis Brown, who showed newfound speed and recorded his first career sack. Brown was second on the team with 8 tackles, followed by Ben Jacobs' 7 and Kyle Knox's 5 (most came on special teams). The athleticism is much improved here, especially when considering the second team reserves.

Defensive Backs: A-
Cincinnati's two first-half TDs probably had more to do with a tired Bulldogs defense (because the offense couldn't move the ball early) than anything else. S Lorne Bell was fooled on a route to the end zone, but the game was full of highlights. None stood out more than CB Desia Dunn's helmet-popper-offer hit on a receiver as soon as the ball was delivered. And while Dunn led the team with 11 tackles, first-time starter CB Jermaine Thomas showed why we've been hyping him since last season. He was locked on receivers all evening. And don't forget about the big upgrade at safety with Phillip Thomas in the starting role.

Special Teams: B+
Converted P Andrew Shapiro was flatout robbed of WAC player of the week honors. The guy was a walk-on, backup kicker thrust into the starting punter role when Matt Darr bailed on his committment. All Shapiro did was average 40 yards on 8 punts, pinning 2 inside the 20. Knox was a tackling demon (love him in that role) and Pat Su'a was a gut-buster.

Friday, September 10, 2010

WAC Rundown Week 2

Hawaii (0-1) @ Army (1-0)
Saturday, 9 a.m., CBSCS
Last week: USC 49, Hawaii 36 / Army 31, Eastern Michigan 27
This ain't (is that a word?) the same Bryant Moniz we saw last year QBin' Hawaii. He was well on pace to throw for 300 yards against USC in a 13-point loss last week before getting hurt. The question is, will he play this week? Strangely, there's no word one way or another on Hawaii's game notes (seems suspicious). Last time Army faced the Warriors, Hawaii set a school record for yardage in a blowout win in 2003. This time it's in the eastern time zone, the farthest from home Hawaii has been since 1975. But something tells me even if backup QBs Brent Rausch or Shane Austin have to play, the Warriors' offense will be too much.
Prediction: Hawaii

San Jose State (0-1) @ No. 11 Wisconsin (1-0)
Saturday, 9 a.m., ESPN
Last week: No. 1 Alabama 48, San Jose State 3 / No. 12 Wisconsin 41, UNLV 21
Credit San Jose State for playing a mighty tough non-conference schedule, but this is different than Fresno State scheduling tough early-season games -- for the Spartans they're body-baggers. San Jose State has lost 13 straight games against ranked opponents, and the closest its come in its last six road games against Top 25 teams was a 42-7 loss at then-No. 21 Boise State in 2007. We still don't know if Wisconsin is for real this year, but it's definitely for real enough to brutalize San Jose State at Camp Randall.
Prediction: Wisconsin

Idaho (1-0) @ No. 6 Nebraska (1-0)
Saturday, 9:30 a.m., FSNPPV
Last week
: Idaho 45, North Dakota 0 / No. 8 Nebraska 49, Western Kentucky 10
Don't be overly fooled by Idaho's beatdown of a non-FBS team last week. The Vandals won't have as good a record as they did last season, even though they've got similar talent (sans first-round pick Mike Iupati of the 49ers). Nebraska has its most hype in about a decade and will overwhelm Idaho in Lincoln.
Prediction: Nebraska

Louisiana Tech (1-0) @ Texas A&M (1-0)
Saturday, 6 p.m., None
Last week
: Louisiana Tech 20, Grambling State 6 / Texas A&M 48, Stephen F. Austin 7
The Male Techsters are still trying to figure out their own offense under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, who aims to spread it out more than his predecessor (he is a disciple of Mike Leach after all). With transfers all over the offense at skill positions, La Tech didn't have much to show for it against weak competition in its opener. And starting QB Ross Jenkins threw for just 101 yards, though he was efficient going 15 of 19. It'd be a shocker if this Tech team was up to par for a game in College Station. Oh, and Texas A&M is 9-0 all-time against the Dude Techsters, including a 45-14 beating in 2006.
Prediction: Texas A&M

San Diego State (1-0) @ New Mexico State (0-0)
Saturday, 5 p.m., AggieVision/Altitude 2/ESPN GamePlan
Last week
: San Diego State 47, Nicholls State 0 / New Mexico State bye
Get ready to rub your eyes, wait for the blurriness to subside and repeat. San Diego State is about to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 1994. New Mexico State is one of just three FBS teams that didn't play last week, so we don't really know what to expect -- well, besides its usual loss in a football game.
Prediction: San Diego State

Idaho State (1-0) @ Utah State (1-0)
Saturday, 5 p.m., None
Last week
: Idaho State 32, Montana-Western 3 / No. 7 Oklahoma 31, Utah State 24
If this game were on TV, I'd say tune in Fresno State fans. But it's not so I can't. The Bulldogs play the Aggies in Logan next week -- the same Aggies team that darn near pulled off its greatest win ever at Oklahoma last week. But they didn't. And now they go to the other side of the college football spectrum to play Idaho State. The only way Idaho State slows QB Diondre Borel enough to win this one is if the Aggies look real, real quick at the ISU logo (depicting a tiger) and mistake it for LSU (you know, because lower case 'l' looks like upper case "I"). Let's see how this strategy works out for them ...
Prediction: Utah State

Colorado State (0-1) @ Nevada (1-0)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU
Last week
: Colorado 24, Colorado State 3 / Nevada 49, Eastern Washington 24
A rough, rather embarrassing start for Colorado State last week heading into a game against arguably a better team in Nevada. But the Rams beat Nevada last season (somehow). Wolf Pack QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua had better not slip up again this season. With Kaepernick departing, who knows when the Wolf Pack will have another chance to compete for a conference crown? The Rams are starting true freshman QB Pete Thomas, and have lost 10 straight since beating Nevada last season.
Prediction: Nevada

Bye: Fresno State, Boise State

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fresno State GameDay: Week 1

September 4, 2010
Fresno State (0-0) vs. cincinnati (0-0)
Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
Fresno, Ca
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: KMJ 580 AM and Sports USA Radio Network

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Position Breakdown 2010: Defensive Backs

Returning: Lorne Bell, Phillip Thomas, Desia Dunn, Jermaine Thomas, Isaiah Green, L.J. Jones, Justin Webber, Terrance Dennis, Erik Brown, J.B. Dock, Cris Wilson, Zak Hill (injured)
Newcomers: Derron Smith
, Ed Dillihunt, Sean Alston, Anthony Riggins
Lost: A.J. Jefferson (Cardinals), Moses Harris (Rams), Damion Owens, Marvin Haynes

Lorne Bell
FS, Sr, 5'10", 205
Simi Valley (Simi Valley HS)

Fresno State lost more "impact" players in the secondary than any other spot on defense -- but don't think it's a bad thing. This unit will be much improved, and leading by example with his pulverizing, run-stuffing hits is free safety Lorne Bell. Bell was second on the team with 65 tackles (5 for loss) and an interception last season coming back from an injury. Watching him practice when he first arrived on the team, he looked to be much more of an interception threat, but down the field pass coverage has proved to be his weakness. S
till, the coaching staff typically leaves him in the game on passing downs.

DaCo on Bell: Lorne Bell is known for providing more sour candy faces (faces you make after a big hit) than a WarHead candy (which wouldn't be a bad nickname for him, now that I think about it). Bell is also finally 100% healthy and is no longer wearing an ankle brace for an ankle injury that was once career-threatening. Bell is truly shy off the field, and is a quiet assassin on it. Yet another Bulldog worthy of a man crush.

FSDogs1 on Bell: Poll the entire team on who is the hardest hitter and it's a safe bet you'll get a unanimous response of "Lorne Bell." Wisconsin's 2009 team would probably say the same.

Phillip Thomas
SS, So, 6'1", 205
Bakersfield (Bakersfield HS)

"P.T." will get a whole lot more p.t. this season than last. And he had a solid 2009 campaign,
with 30 tackles and a team-best 2 interceptions (one returned for a TD). Thomas replaces Moses Harris in the starting lineup, immediately improving the pass coverage capability at the safety position. In spring camp, Thomas even saw time as the nickelback on passing downs, but that was before Zak Hill was lost for the season with injury.

DaCo on Thomas: The past is the past, but Phillip Thomas has been the best free safety on the team for at least two years now. He's a pure athlete with pass defending (and intercepting) instincts, traits that could be used in the secondary right about now.

FSDogs1 on Thomas: Make no mistake, Moses Harris was as good a student-athlete representative for the school as there has ever been. But he was a bit overrated as a player, and Phillip Thomas will be an upgrade at the position.

Desia Dunn
CB, Sr, 5'9", 190
Stockton (Edison Senior HS)

One of the better walk-on stories in recent years, Desia Dunn has turned in to the most seasoned corner on the squad. He was as consistent as anyone last season, and has shown exponential improvement over the past three seasons. If the d-line puts consistent pressure on the opposing QB, Dunn will stick to his man. It's when receivers have too much time to run around that Dunn gets into big-play trouble.

DaCo on Dunn: Dunn prefers man press coverage. He is quick in and strong in isolated spaces, but can be vulnerable to the deep ball against the burners. This offseason, Dunn increased his speed and should have his best season, especially when you consider his supporting cast is much more capable.

FSDogs1 on Dunn: At 5-9, Dunn gets into mismatches periodically against bigger receivers, but for the most part he should be applauded for holding his own.

Jermaine Thomas
CB, So, 5'11", 180
Duarte (Duarte HS)

Little-known to most of those who call themselves "experts," Jermaine Thomas is the team's best corner -- and probably it's best overall player in the secondary. He's a true lockdown guy, who has good size and top-notch strength. Fans got a very brief glimpse last season when he picked off a pass against San Jose State (in super highlight fashion), but there's a lot more coming for the highlight reel this year. For evidence of just how good Thomas is, look no further than the fall scrimmage when Fresno State's QBs avoided throwing to his side all night.

DaCo on Thomas: Thomas is the guy I've positioned myself to take a bullet for. He was the best corner on the team last year, and is very comfortable in his new "Richard Marshall" lockdown role. His commitment to the weight room is unmatched, and his athletic abilities are as good as it gets at the college level. Tight ends complain about his strength, and wide receivers are overmatched on balls up for grabs. In open camp, Thomas averaged nearly two interceptions per day. That's smile inducing. All this said (and despite being his biggest advocate), Thomas isn't even as good as he can be (yet), which is simply scary.

FSDogs1 on Thomas: Remember back in spring camp when The Bounce called Thomas and L.J. Jones the best two corners on the team -- here comes the proof. Bold prediction time -- Thomas will be a household name among Red Wavers by midseason.

Isaiah Green
CB, Jr, 5'10", 180
Long Beach (Polytechnic HS)

The big news from Isaiah Green this offseason was him setting a new 40-yard dash school record for defensive backs -- 4.29 seconds. Green is another big prospect at corner, and will be a major contributer this season after getting his feet wet with 12 tackles as a sophomore.

DaCo on Green: With Green as the 3rd, or possibly even 4th cornerback, Fresno State is in a much better position with its defensive backfield than it was a year ago. Green shows flashes of brilliance at times, but it's the frequency of those flashes that has him fighting for more time.

FSDogs1 on Green: No doubt about it, Green is good enough to be in the starting lineup. His speed will be an asset for the defense, and his experience this year could turn him into one of the WAC's best.

L.J. Jones
CB, R-Fr, 5'11", 170
Encino (Crespi Carmelite HS)

Coaches have known since early last season L.J. Jones is an up and comer, but decided to redshirt him after he greyshirted the year before. Even so, he was working out with the veterans already as a greyshirt freshman and this year was in the mix to win a starting job. As the dust settled, Jones came out third or fourth on the corner depth chart and will see plenty of time. He was picked on a little bit in the open fall scrimmage, but part of that was because he constantly covered the fastest receivers (Devon Wylie, Jalen Saunders).

DaCo on Jones: L.J. Jones is on the cusp. Consistency has been his biggest enemy, but he can absolutely put together sequences of brilliance. In the open fall scrimmage, Jones struggled at defending the ball, but was frequently in position to make the play. By this time next year, Jones should be part of the 1-2 punch Bulldogs fans have been clamoring for on the corners.

FSDogs1 on Jones: Jones is another big addition to this unit. Besides the inexperience factor, he's probably the second most talented corner (behind Jermaine Thomas). But he does still need to add girth. Don't forget he was dominant in coverage during the Spring Game.

Derron Smith
S, Fr, 5'11", 170
Banning (Banning HS)

When Zak Hill went down with a season-ending injury, it didn't take long for an already head-turning Derron Smith to emerge as a freshman with immediate playing potential. He's listed second on the depth chart at safety, and had a heck of a pick in the open fall scrimmage. Smith is a ball hawk who's capable of making the open-field tackle. But like L.J. Jones, the only thing working against him is a lack of size.

DaCo on Smith: The first time I saw Derron Smith play, I crossed all fingers and toes that the Bulldogs would sign him. Smith, although currently undersized as a true, is part of a crop of impressive athletes in this class. He is simply a playmaker with great instincts, and showed a great desire to hit as well. If Smith sees the field this year, it will definitely be high risk/high reward, but that risk will decrease drastically over time.

FSDogs1 on Smith: The second-to-last day of open fall camp was when Smith cemented his ability in my mind. Running back Milton Knox, who torched the defense all camp, entered the game and took a handoff up the middle, breaking free with only one man to beat -- Smith. Knox made his best move to try and shake the isolated true freshman, and was dropped to the ground, eliciting roars from the defense. Heck, the guy even had Desia Dunn tweeting about his potential during a scrimmage.

Justin Webber
S, So, 5'9", 180
Sanger (Sanger HS)

Walk-on safety Justin Webber, a former stud running back at Sanger High, gets his chance to take the field as a second-stringer now that Zak Hill is out with injury. Webber works as hard as anyone and will do everything he can to capitalize on the opportunity. He's not the fastest safety around, but has true lower body power, leverage and balance and knows how to deliver a strong hit.

DaCo on Webber: Webber has surprising speed (though not elite), but it's not surprising he's tough. He is a smart player with a true love for football, and has earned his current role. Webber is almost guaranteed action at some point this season, so that role could be an important one.

FSDogs1 on Webber: If Webber flourishes in his new role, the 'Dogs will be feeling good about safety depth. If not, it's by far their biggest concern, especially with the injuries Lorne Bell has endured over his career.

Erik Brown
CB, R-Fr, 5'11", 185
Scottsdale, AZ (Saguaro HS)

As was the case last season, Erik Brown had a bit of a rough camp. He was oft-exposed by faster receivers and seems to always be a step late in reacting and closing. The potential is there for him to be a solid player down the road, but right now he's limited. Still, based on amount of reps, coaches seem to favor him slightly over fellow redshirt freshman J.B. Dock.

DaCo on Brown: Erik Brown possesses the desired athletic ability for a corner, but over-thinks way too much on the field. When he lets himself go, you can see his potential. If he's gonna develop, he'll do it here, because the receivers he practices against are the best he'll see all year.

FSDogs1 on Brown: He'll have to really step up to hold off talented true freshman Sean Alston.

J.B. Dock
CB, R-Fr, 5'10", 170
Ventura (St. Bonaventure HS)

There's no doubt who the Bulldogs top four corners are right now, and J.B Dock and Erik Brown are a notch below. Dock has better coverage ability than Brown -- for now -- but lacks the size and needs work to face top-caliber physical receivers.

DaCo on Dock: Dock, once again, has the building blocks to be a successful corner. He'll need to hit the weight room even harder this offseason, and is a player who needs a good spring in 2011.

FSDogs1 on Dock: It'll be interesting to see which of these young corners steps up to fill in next year to replace Desia Dunn in the top four of the depth chart.

Terrance Dennis
S, So, 5'11", 180
Pomona (Diamond Ranch HS)

Terrance Dennis was hampered by injuries throughout spring camp and some of fall, and was passed up by Justin Webber and Derron Smith in the meantime. He's got much improved physique from when he first entered the program, but just hasn't gotten the reps to be game-pressure ready yet. If he accomplishes that, he'll really help out at an otherwise thin position.

DaCo on Dennis: Something about Terrance Dennis is intriguing. I'm thinking it's because he loves to hit and can run fast. Dennis has missed far too much time on the field over the last year, but I'm still hoping he can be Lorne Bell with more speed.

FSDogs1 on Dennis: It's not out of the question for Dennis to climb to second-string by midseason, depending on how the other reserves at safety play.

Sean Alston
CB, Fr, 5'10", 175
Alta Loma (Los Osos HS)

Arguably as impressive as Derron Smith during fall camp was true freshman Sean Alston. He looks -- and plays -- bigger than his listed height and weight and made several plays on the ball in the later part of open fall camp, culminating with an interception in the fall scrimmage and an eye-opening pass deflection on a fade route to Victor Dean in the end zone. Alston was recruited as an athlete but certainly is in the right spot at corner.

DaCo on Alston: It's amazing to watch a young player turn a corner right before your eyes. After going through the normal freshman struggles early on, Alston almost randomly had a day of breakthrough in camp. His acceleration out of the break is very good, he recovers well and he looks to defend the ball.

FSDogs1 on Alston: Alston is hands down the most unexpected of early contributers among freshmen newcomers. But he legitimately is game-ready. That said, he'll likely redshirt with the depth the 'Dogs have at corner.

Cris Wilson
S, So, 5'10", 180
Stockton (St. Mary's HS)

With the lack of depth and Zak Hill injury at safety, Cris Wilson is likely to play there as opposed to corner. The walk-on is young, but much improved. Still, the Bulldogs won't turn to him in game situations unless it's special teams work.

Anthony Riggins
CB, Fr, 5'11", 185
Fairfield (Rodriguez HS)

Anthony Riggins is another speedy young corner. We're talking track speed. But he's not as advanced in coverage skills as Sean Alston. Riggins was inconsistent in his first fall camp, getting beat by 7 to 10 yards on occasion, but also making big deflections and stops on others. A redshirt season will go a long way in his development.

Ed Dillihunt
S, Fr, 6'0", 190
Tulare (Tulare Union HS)

As exciting as Derron Smith was at safety, Ed Dillihunt could eventually be even more exciting. Dillihunt is built to knock people out (hence exciting) on the football field, but just doesn't have the experience playing safety necessary to be an immediate impact guy. If he can familiarize himself and buy in to becoming a great safety, he'll be just that -- great.

Zak Hill
S, Jr, 6'2", 200
Fresno (Clovis West HS)

Zak Hill, youngest son of Pat Hill, was injured early in fall camp and will miss his entire junior season. He was taking first-team reps over Phillip Thomas early on (which is as confusing a coaching decision as there is) but definitely would have at least been the top reserve at the position.

Position Breakdown 2010: Linebackers

: Ben Jacobs, Kyle Knox, Travis Brown, Jeremiah Toma, Pat Su'a, Shawn Plummer, Daniel Salinas, Damion Whittington, Sonny McCree, Mario Moore, Steven Plevney
Newcomers: Ofa Fifita, Lester Fontenette
Lost: Nico Herron (transfer)

Ben Jacobs
Sr, 6'4", 240
Las Vegas (Silverado HS)

Early in his career, Ben Jacobs was pegged as a future star at the linebacker position. Jacobs has always been a hard hitter, and has great knowledge of the position. Two years ago, Jacobs turned the corner in his fitness, hardening his body and cutting his body fat immensely. He now enters his senior year as a team leader on defense who is ultra-committed to performance on the field and in the film room, neither of which are new traits. Jacobs is a run stopping specialist, especially between the tackles, but has had a tougher time with consistency in pass coverage and lateral (sideline to sideline) movement. That consistency has been magnified by the rest of the defense's performance during his tenure. All in all, Jacobs is essentially all you want in a middle linebacker, and can be a star when surrounded with the right personnel.

DaCo on Jacobs: Ben Jacobs has a lot of the qualities we've talked about for guys like Chris Carter and Ryan Colburn. Combined with his on-field traits, it's hard not to root for him to be great (not that you'd want to). But as good as Jacobs is, he might not be the best middle backer on the team (see below), which isn't to diminish his ability at all, but rather speak highly of another. His leadership, commitment and track record have his spot secured, though, and it's likely his senior year is the monster one he's capable of.

Kyle Knox
Jr, 6'1", 215
Los Angeles (St. Bernard HS)

If there's one thing Kyle Knox has been known for in his Bulldogs career, it's his ability to deliver the knockout hit, a traditional Fresno State prerequisite. Knox is built like a tank, is strong and fit, and has truly impressive open field top speed. That explains his hitting ability, but fails to explain his inability, to this point, to take a stronghold on his weakside backing position. Knox has been given every chance to shine in that role, and at this point is looking over his shoulder. Tools wise, Knox is about as good as it gets. He just needs to master his craft.

DaCo on Knox: Knox is a head scratcher supreme. If there was ever a guy you saw on the street and would bet that he's a linebacker, Knox is him. You see what he's capable at times in practice, and you want so bad for him to be great, because you know what's possible, and you know what it could do for the defense.

Travis Brown
So, 6'2", 235
Fresno (Clovis West HS)

As the 2009 season came to a close, it was clear to see Travis Brown was being worked more and more into his future (and now) starting role. Brown showed promise early on as a true freshman, and became visibly more comfortable as his game action increased. With an offseason of experience added to that freshman year, Brown is now prepared to man the strong side from the get-go of the 2010 season. The former 4-star recruit has given every indication he is ready to perform up to those standards starting this season.

DaCo on Brown: Travis Brown looks like he belongs out there, which is another way of saying he is good at what he does. At the least, Brown is much more confidence-inducing than former starter Nico Herron, who really should have been a defensive end.

Jeremiah Toma
R-Fr, 6'0", 215
Sacramento (Grant Union HS)

Jeremiah Toma is arguably the most exciting prospect at the linebacker position, which is saying a whole lot. His athletic ability stands out as something special, but that's only part of the reason his future is so bright. Toma has made the move from outside backer to a middle backer, and has leapt over several talented teammates to grasp the backup role behind senior Ben Jacobs (see above). Jacobs even shared some first team reps during camp, highlighting just how impressive, rapid and drastic Toma's acclimation has been.

DaCo on Toma: I'd like to say that Toma is the man in the linebacking unit, but it's only fair (and smart) to wait until he carries his performance from practice time to game action. Toma has taken me by storm with his talent in practice, and has given me every reason for me to think he'll be a machine when his time comes.

Pat Su'a
R-Fr, 6'2", 220
Bakersfield (Highland HS)

With the amount of praise just thrown upon Toma, you would expect whomever follows him on the breakdown to receive a much less regarded description, just by default. But Pat Su'a has arguably made just as big a splash as Toma, setting the Bulldogs up for a happy future at linebacker. Su'a can play all three spots in the Bulldogs base 4-3 set, but for now is listed behind Travis Brown. Su'a is yet another hard hitter who has an extremely bright future, and potentially present.

DaCo on Su'a: If Toma is 1, Su'a is 1A on the list of scene-burster-on-ers. Su'a is a more muscle-bound linebacker, especially in the legs, and is decisive (a trait often taken for granted). It will be exciting to see Su'a and Toma tag team offensive skill players for years to come.

Shawn Plummer
Jr, 6'0", 210
Clovis (Clovis HS)

Arguably the speediest linebacker of the group, Shawn Plummer has begun to carve his niche as the __ and long pass defender specialist. Plummer has done a fair job in this role, and has tenacity in his game, which has helped him with special teams performance as well. In this year's fall camp, Plummer was seen as the main competition for Kyle Knox, and may see increased time on the weak side if Knox stumbles in that role.

DaCo on Plummer: Plummer is quick and accelerates very well, making him niche-worthy in pass coverage. He's actually also shown a more well-rounded ability this fall, but still isn't the best option for a starting linebacker. He's maximizing his talent, though, which is all you can ask of a player.

Daniel Salinas
So, 6'0", 205
Galena, TX (North Shore HS)

The true sophomore out of Texas might have the best nickname on the team, although we're biased, having given it to him. It goes a little like this: "The bumper that fell off the back of the bus of Salinas!" (2:05-2:18) Sure it's a tad modified, but it rolls off the tongue better that way. Salinas is a stout linebacker with outstanding instinct from his middle backer position, yet has fallen behind Toma to the third spot in the lineup, which provides insane depth to that spot. Salinas shows very good lateral range and is in on seemingly every tackle, but it's still a mystery as to how he fits in the Bulldogs' plans, since he currently ranks behind a younger talent.

DaCo on Salinas: I have no problem taking credit for the Salinas nickname. It's earned the one uncontrollable laugh it deserved already, so that makes it worth it. Before the arrival of Toma and Su'a, Salinas was the man to keep an eye on. Stylistically, Salinas reminds me of his linebackers coach, Tim Skipper. If he works his way up to that level, obviously he'll be a star.

Damion Whittington
R-Fr, 6'1", 245
Norco (Norco HS)

Damion Whittington is another former outside backer who sees most of his time in the middle. Despite his listed size, Whittington is actually more known for his speed. He is indeed very range-y and adds unfathomable depth to the middle, where he currently is 4th on the charts. Given the depth in the middle, however, it's conceivable that he or another backer could move to the outside at some point.

DaCo on Whittington: Whittington remains an intriguing possibility at linebacker. His name will occasionally come up in conversation, as word was out early on his speed trait. That part of his game is still there, but he hasn't showcased his overall ability as much as others in 11-on-11 work to this point. He is a redshirt freshman, so he has plenty of time to develop.

Sonny McCree
Sr, 5'11", 235
Fresno (Edison HS)

Sonny McCree seems to have found a home at linebacker after a trial run at tight end a couple years ago. Physically, McCree is built similarly to Salinas and Whittington. His biggest value has and will continue to be on special teams, where he contributes to one of the best units in the country on a year-to-year basis. McCree is a name few will recognize, but his role on the team is valuable.

DaCo on McCree: McCree is an easy eval because he is what he is. He's a reliable backup with experience at the linebacker position, but will make his impact on special teams.

Mario Moore
So, 6'0" 185
Riverside (Citrus Hills)

Mario Moore is a linebacker stuck in a free safety's body. Moore has some of the best instincts in pass coverage of this group (which led to several interceptions in camp), and has plenty of speed to boot. Even at his listed weight of 185 pounds, Moore likes to deliver the biggest hits he possibly can. Moore has been a pleasant surprise during his tenure as a Bulldog, but it will be tough for him to crack the lineup unless he can specialize in a Plummer-like role.

DaCo on Moore: If the gamble wasn't so big and so much wasn't on the line for a single football game, the curiosity of Mario Moore's talents could be explored in a live game scenario. Moore is clearly undersized at his position, but he has good skills against the pass and has great speed. If Moore gets reps at linebacker this year, he will have my attention.

Ofa Fifita
Fr, 5'11" 235
San Bernardino (Arroya Valley)

With all the hype (deservedly so) around Fresno State's crop of receivers and defensive backs, guys like Ofa Fifita and Lester Fontenette (see below) have been in their shadows. Fifita, however, showed he is a force to be reckoned with already as a true freshman, a trait that can be applied to numerous members of this class. Fifita will now have a redshirt year to develop in the program and will be intriguing to watch when he emerges in the spring next year, and even more so when fall 2011 rolls around.

DaCo on Fifita: FSDogs1 has a residence in camp Fifita, while I am about ready to make an offer for my own place. Considering he's a true, Fifita has surprised with his perceived comfort out on the field.

Lester Fontenette
Fr, 6'0", 205
San Diego (Madison)

Lester Fontenette comes into the program as a linebacker, but he could be the most versatile player on the team. Fontenette could easily have been a safety, running back and even defensive end, but is being given the role of outside linebacker to start his career. The freshman out of Fresno State's latest pipeline (San Diego) missed a large portion of open camp this year, but displayed elite athletic ability at the position during the time he saw.

DaCo on Fontenette: With Lester Fontenette added to the pot, it's becoming evident that Tim Skipper has the players he needs on his team, and concerns about the defense's future can be placed elsewhere. Fontenette has always been more of an athlete type, and will now get to focus on learning one position. Given that, Fontenette may actually have the highest ceiling of anyone of this group.

Steven Plevney
R-Fr, 6'2", 215
Palmdale (Knight HS)

Steven Plevney has the chance to pull a Rocky-like upset if he can achieve more than special teams time as a Bulldog. Plevney received a fair amount of reps during camp this year, and did nothing to suggest he's quite up for that task. Plevney is amongst a group featuring a juggernaut of talent though, and can only gain from working with them.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nike Pro Combat Uniforms 2010


Not sure if many have seen these or not, but Nike designed new Pro Combat Uniforms for 10 teams this year. Yep, boise state was included.

Make sure to go full screen and read the INSPIRATIONS for each design. Most of them are pretty awesome and I am ... well ... no other word to describe it ... jealous. I would love to see a Fresno State Nike Pro Combat uniform (hint hint ---> Nike / Phil Knight).

Also, when you click on INNOVATION it breaks down each part of the uniform. Make sure to look at the front, back, and baselayer. The back usually describes a few unique and significant designs for each uniform.

Clicking on the ALLEGIANCE part takes you to the t-shirts designed specifically to go along with each uniform, which are available for purchase (even though you would have absolutely no reason to buy any of that rubbish).

It is absolutely shocking that oregon wasn't included with this year's Nike Combat Uniforms. It's probably because Nike/Phil Knight have run out of designs, considering the Ducks have had about 45 different uniforms over the last 6 years.

Here's my ranking for the designs. Ranking is based on design, uniqueness and meaning to the school.

1. Ohio State
2. TCU
3. Virginia Tech
4. West Virginia
5. boise state
6. Miami
7. Florida
8. Pittsburgh
9. Alabama
10. Oregon State