2012 FRESNO STATE FOOTBALL PREVIEW:
Over the past 15 years, head coach Pat Hill built the Fresno State football program into one of the most competitive in the country, but 2011 seemed like a low point for his staff and the team as a whole. The Bulldogs finished with a 4-9 record overall and a 3-9 record in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) after a dominant run in the conference and national standings over the past decade. In this brave new era for the program, Fresno State hired well-renowned Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who's likely looking to bring his smash mouth brand of defense to the Bulldog squad. With a tough schedule ahead and an unsettled depth chart, Fresno State will have to come out of the gates strong to contend during 2012.
In many ways, bringing in Tim DeRuyter will solve the Bulldogs' defensive deficiencies, but he would be wise to leave the offense alone. Fresno State boasts two of the best players in the league in quarterback Derek Carr and running back Robbie Rouse. Carr threw a very impressive 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions during 2011 and led the WAC in passing yards. Rouse also exploded for 1,549 yards last year, so he will surely be a major fixture of the offensive attack. The receiving trio of Rashad Evans, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper should continue to give opposing defensive backs fits, while the offensive line is a talented and deep group with many upperclassmen performers.
The Bulldogs will be switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense to take advantage of their many large defensive tackle/end hybrids like Tristan Okpalaugo, Anthony Williams and nose tackle Tyeler Davison. The team's linebacking corps is also a strong suit, with Travis Brown, Donavon Lewis, Patrick Su'a and Jeremiah Toma offering plenty of versatility. The secondary took some hits due to graduations and players moving onto the NFL, so the Bulldogs will need to receive consistent pressure from their front seven to give their defensive backs help in coverage.
While the Bulldogs finished with a ho-hum record in 2011, their 2012 schedule didn't do them any favors. With showdowns against Oregon, Colorado and Tulsa over the season's first four weeks, Fresno State may find itself launching to the top of the national rankings or becoming buried quickly. Only time will tell, but Fresno State's talented roster and Tim DeRuyter's defensive experience may be the recipe for success in 2012.
FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS TEAM FACTS:
Location: Fresno, California
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium
Conference: Mountain West Conference
Rivals: Nevada Wolfpack, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (The Battle of the Bone), Hawaii Warriors, San Jose State Spartans
Mascot: Timeout the Bulldog
Notable Alumni: David Carr, Ron Cox, Adam Jennings, Lorenzo Neal, Billy Volek
Notable Bowl Games:
Fresno State Bulldogs Basketball tickets
Fresno State Bulldogs Bowl Game tickets