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The big 2014 Fresno State football preview: Feisty, with or without Carr

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr or no Derek Carr, Tim DeRuyter's third Fresno State team should look a lot like his first two, with lots of pace and ball distribution on offense and all sorts of defensive aggression.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Solidifying your gains

The order of wins and losses often dictates the narrative for your season. If you lose early before catching fire late, you end up with a story of redemption and, potentially, big hopes for the next year. If you win early and drop a couple of games late, things end up a little more sour, simply because the stakes got too high for you to maintain.

The narrative for Fresno State in 2013 was more latter than former. The Bulldogs began the season 10-0; with wins over San Jose State on the road and Utah State in the MWC title game, we know now that they would have qualified for a BCS bowl.

But a defense that had been decent for much of the year got absolutely torched in a shootout loss to SJSU, and while the Bulldogs went on to beat USU to take the conference title, the season ended with a thumping at the hands of USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.

If Fresno State had lost to USC in the season opener, fallen to SJSU a couple of weeks later, then ripped of 10 wins to finish the season, the end tale wouldn't have been quite as disappointing. Removing that context, however, you find a team that simply solidified its gains from the previous year. That alone makes it pretty encouraging.

When a new coach takes over and a program improves immediately and dramatically, it sets the bar in a pretty tough place. You're often expected to improve even more in Year 2, but from a stat perspective, the more likely result is regression. You bounce too high, too quickly, and you're probably going to fall back down to earth a bit. After four years of rather mediocre football at the end of the Pat Hill era, FS indeed surged in 2012 after Tim DeReyter took over as head coach. The Bulldogs jumped from 91st to 34th in the F/+ rankings and from 4-9 to 9-4 overall. They fell back to 49th in 2013, but 49th isn't 94th.

Fresno State indeed threatened to make a BCS bowl in 2013, but the Bulldogs were never a BCS-caliber team. The late-season losses just bumped them closer to where they should have been all along. And now they move forward having produced back-to-back top-50 results.

They must replace a trio of big names on offense, but DeRuyter has quickly built a sturdy, deep program. His defense should be experienced and aggressive, and if he can find a new, competent quarterback, a third straight top-50 result is likely.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 11-2 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 49
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug Rutgers 91 52-51 W 34.7 - 42.6 L
7-Sep Cal Poly N/A 41-25 W 19.0 - 21.9 L
20-Sep Boise State 45 41-40 W 34.2 - 25.9 W
28-Sep at Hawaii 82 42-37 W 29.7 - 28.2 W
5-Oct at Idaho 116 61-14 W 34.9 - 19.9 W 2.8
19-Oct UNLV 96 38-14 W 40.1 - 19.7 W 8.5
26-Oct at San Diego State 89 35-28 W 21.8 - 29.9 L 7.4
2-Nov Nevada 88 41-23 W 32.4 - 28.7 W 6.5
9-Nov at Wyoming 102 48-10 W 37.2 - 16.5 W 10.3
23-Nov New Mexico 110 69-28 W 41.4 - 21.6 W 11.3
29-Nov at San Jose State 74 52-62 L 46.2 - 42.0 W 8.0
7-Dec Utah State 32 24-17 W 41.3 - 13.2 W 15.3
21-Dec vs. USC 11 20-45 L 18.7 - 32.7 L 11.8
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +9.9% 27 -1.3% 70 -2.6% 105
Points Per Game 43.4 6 30.3 87
Adj. Points Per Game 33.2 31 26.4 56

2. False impressions

Stats are anti-social sometimes. It's like they go out of their way to disagree with you. The structure of Fresno State's schedule -- noteworthy, nationally televised home games early, followed by a slog of regional mediocrity in October and November (yes, there were three more games on national television, but against inferior MWC opponents) -- allowed Fresno State to make an impression with early, narrow, high-scoring wins over Rutgers and Boise State before basically hiding underground.

Once they had cleared the Boise hurdle, the Bulldogs indeed looked poised for a potential undefeated finish and BCS bid, but Fresno State didn't actually play all that well early on. The defense was average at best, and while the offense was fast, it wasn't as productive as it probably should have been given the opponents. Our impression of the offense was skewed by pace, and our impression of the defense was about to end up faulty as well.

When the nationally televised games were over, Fresno State kicked things up a bit.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): Fresno State 30.5, Opponent 27.7 (plus-2.8)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 7 games): Fresno State 37.2, Opponent 24.5 (plus-12.7)

Until the San Jose State game, Fresno's defense had played somewhere between decent and great for nine straight games. The offense, meanwhile, had hit its cruising altitude, averaging at least 7.0 yards per play in four of five games. The Bulldogs averaged 9.6 per play against SJSU, but the defense just had no answers, allowing 736 yards and 62 points.

Again, that loss was statistical justice of sorts -- Fresno State wasn't good enough to play in a BCS bowl and got served some massive regression-to-the-mean just in the nick of time -- but it also wasn't indicative of the way the Bulldogs had played defense for most of the last two months.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.20 38 IsoPPP+ 100.9 55
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 48.6% 17 Succ. Rt. + 110.2 29
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.0 72 Def. FP+ 101.4 41
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.8 23 Redzone S&P+ 109.7 30
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 24.1 ACTUAL 22 -2.1
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 3 26 29 22
RUSHING 80 36 13 88
PASSING 1 43 44 9
Standard Downs 27 26 36
Passing Downs 45 47 94
Q1 Rk 24 1st Down Rk 14
Q2 Rk 35 2nd Down Rk 83
Q3 Rk 58 3rd Down Rk 73
Q4 Rk 83

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Derek Carr 454 659 5083 50 8 68.9% 11 1.6% 7.5
Brian Burrell 6'4, 219 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 7 12 51 0 0 58.3% 0 0.0% 4.3
Myles Carr 6'1, 211 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Zack Greenlee 6'1, 197 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)

3. Life without a Carr

Here's something else from those anti-social stats: Derek Carr was good, but he wasn't irreplaceable. The soon-to-be NFL Draft pick was absurdly prolific for Fresno State over the last three years; he completed two-thirds of his passes and threw for more than 12,700 yards from 2011-13, connecting on 113 touchdown passes with only 24 interceptions. Those are jarring numbers. Of course, he also threw more than 1,600 passes in that span -- it would take Jameis Winston more than four seasons to throw that many, and it would take Braxton Miller more than six. If you're throwing that many passes, you're going to pile up the yards.

Break Carr's numbers down into per-attempt chunks, however, and you find that while he was good, his production was a little more standard than it appeared. He averaged 7.5 yards per attempt, including (minimal) sacks. A good chunk of his passes were quick and easy. Fresno State was able to win 20 games in two years because he was also good at making tough passes at times and mostly avoiding crippling errors. But 7.5 yards per attempt is within replaceability range.

That's not to say that anybody can replace what Carr did, of course. If his replacements stink, his replacements stink. But if it turns out that Brian Burrell, Myles Carr, or Zack Greenlee (or a potential transfer) is competent and knows the offense, the yards will follow. Because Fresno State wants to pass. A lot.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Josh Quezada RB 5'11, 214 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 155 807 6 5.2 4.4 40.0%
Marteze Waller RB 5'11, 214 Jr. NR 124 646 7 5.2 4.5 40.3%
Malique Micenheimer RB 6'1, 232 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 31 148 2 4.8 7.2 32.3%
Derek Carr QB 29 188 2 6.5 4.1 55.2%
Darryl Cash WR 5'10, 191 Sr. NR 18 67 1 3.7 3.7 27.8%
T.J. Thomas LB


17 69 0 4.1 2.4 35.3%
Isaiah Burse WR 10 74 2 7.4 6.7 60.0%
Brian Burrell QB 6'4, 219 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 5 10 1 2.0 3.0 40.0%
Myles Carr QB 6'1, 211 So. 2 stars (5.3) 4 26 0 6.5 1.8 75.0%
Dontel James RB 5'11, 210 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Kurt Scoby RB 5'8, 176 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)



4. Backs to burn

Carr also had one hell of a receiving corps at his disposal. In Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse, and Josh Harper, Carr had a trio of wideouts capable of carrying a large load and offering diverse sets of skills. Adams was relatively explosive (13.2 yards per catch) and incredibly reliable (75 percent catch rate). Burse was the recipient of a lot of those aforementioned short passes. And Harper was an in-betweener, capable of efficiency and occasional explosiveness.

They were all different shapes and sizes, too, but two of the three are now gone. The winner of the quarterback job will still have the steady, reliable Harper, but others will need to step into larger roles.

Not that there aren't candidates. Greg Watson and Justin Johnson are each former three-star recruits; so was Da'Mari Scott, who has been fighting the injury bug for most of his time in Fresno. Junior kick returner Dillon Scott moves back from the defensive side of the ball as well. There are options here, but there is uncertainty, as well.

Less uncertain: the backfield. Fresno State will still pass frequently, but the Bulldogs have a trio of interesting backs. Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller are basically the same player (efficiency backs with decent power and average explosiveness), and senior Malique Micenheimer is a home runs-and-strikeouts guy (high explosiveness, low efficiency). Throw in two young three-star prospects in Dontel James and Kurt Scoby, and offensive coordinator Dave Schramm has quite a few reasons to call a few more run plays in 2014.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Davante Adams WR 175 131 1726 74.9% 27.6% 68.8% 9.9 252 9.7 205.4
Isaiah Burse WR 140 100 1031 71.4% 22.1% 61.7% 7.4 -120 7.5 122.7
Josh Harper WR 6'1, 184 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 112 79 1011 70.5% 17.7% 66.0% 9.0 97 9.0 120.3
Josh Quezada RB 5'11, 214 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 58 51 290 87.9% 9.1% 61.2% 5.0 -244 5.3 34.5
Greg Watson WR 5'10, 209 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 38 21 285 55.3% 6.0% 55.6% 7.5 10 7.8 33.9
Marcel Jensen TE 33 26 353 78.8% 5.2% 59.1% 10.7 67 11.0 42.0
Marteze Waller RB 5'11, 214 Jr. NR 33 24 187 72.7% 5.2% 53.6% 5.7 -87 6.0 22.3
Aaron Peck WR 6'3, 211 Jr. NR 23 14 157 60.9% 3.6% 72.2% 6.8 -17 6.8 18.7
Justin Johnson WR 6'1, 202 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 11 8 65 72.7% 1.7% 60.0% 5.9 -26 7.0 7.7
Jerin McClendon TE 6'8, 258 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 2 1 3 50.0% 0.3% N/A 1.5 -11 0.0 0.4
Da'Mari Scott WR 6'0, 199 So. 3 stars (5.6) 2 2 19 100.0% 0.3% N/A 9.5 -1 0.0 2.3
Riley Barnes TE 6'3, 261 Sr. NR
Darryl Cash WR 5'10, 191 Sr. NR
Devonn Brown WR 5'8, 143 Sr. 2 stars (5.3)
Dillon Root WR 6'0, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Delvon Hardaway WR 6'1, 181 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Darrell Fuery WR 6'0, 186 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)
Carl Coleman WR 5'11, 170 RSFr. NR

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 106.4 3.12 3.46 40.5% 62.7% 15.9% 267.2 2.3% 1.5%
Rank 42 38 43 54 97 15 5 11 4
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Austin Wentworth LT 43 1st All-MWC
Cody Wichmann RG 6'6, 311 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 36
Lars Bramer C 20
Justin Northern RT 6'5, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 13
Alex Fifita LT 6'4, 307 Jr. NR 11
Bo Bonnheim C 6'2, 295 Jr. NR 7
James Le'au RG 1
Josh Tremblay RT 6'5, 284 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0
Mike Saenz RT 0
Sean Rubalcava LG 6'4, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Allen Brown RG 6'3, 301 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0
David Patterson LG 6'4, 289 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Elijah Cox RG 6'4, 297 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)
Bobby Johnson OL 6'5, 300 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jacob Hicks OL 6'5, 310 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

5. A great line loses a couple of pieces

Carr was in a quarterback-friendly system and had perhaps the best mid-major receiving corps in the country catching his passes. He was in the perfect position to succeed, especially when you throw in the fact that his line was quite good.

The quick passing helped to keep the sack rates low, but Fresno's run-blocking stats tell you this was a good line regardless of the system. Despite solid size and big running backs, Fresno State stunk in short-yardage situations last year, but while that does matter, their ability to prevent negative plays and open up a solid number of opportunities mattered more.

Losing all-conference tackle Austin Wentworth hurts, but FS does still bring back four players with starting experience (67 career starts), including three-year starting guard Cody Wichmann. The sacks will always be low in this system, and the run blocking should still be sound.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.24 104 IsoPPP+ 97.0 81
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.6% 35 Succ. Rt. + 101.5 49
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.5 63 Off. FP+ 97.5 88
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.2 69 Redzone S&P+ 84.6 106
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.4 ACTUAL 23.0 -0.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 96 66 49 82
RUSHING 40 45 46 52
PASSING 119 82 59 103
Standard Downs 44 30 88
Passing Downs 89 102 39
Q1 Rk 32 1st Down Rk 70
Q2 Rk 56 2nd Down Rk 69
Q3 Rk 86 3rd Down Rk 67
Q4 Rk 98

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 103.6 2.63 3.26 33.1% 63.6% 23.0% 116.6 4.9% 10.3%
Rank 48 26 60 12 40 17 32 52 10
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Nikko Motta DE 13 36.0 4.7% 8.0 3.0 1 3 0 0
Tyeler Davison DE 6'2, 304 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 34.0 4.4% 7.5 2.0 0 2 0 0
Andy Jennings DE 13 28.0 3.6% 5.0 0.5 0 1 0 0
Todd Hunt DE 6'3, 261 Jr. NR 13 19.0 2.5% 5.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Ben Letcher DE 9 6.5 0.8% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Maurice Poyadue NG 6'3, 280 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 3.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ioane Sagapolu NG 6'0, 301 Sr. 2 stars (5.2)
Nathan Madsen DE 6'4, 260 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Claudell Louis DE 6'4, 286 Sr. 2 stars (5.4)







Ryan Steele NG 6'0, 301 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Nathan Madsen DE 6'4, 260 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Sam Akoteu DT 6'2, 290 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Kyle Hendrickson DE 6'4, 250 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






6. Thin but feisty

Fresno State basically played four defensive linemen in its 3-4 system in 2013. Either the Bulldogs had awful depth or, because the top four never got injured (each played all 13 games), they never had to tap into the second string.

They are hoping for the latter, because two of last year's four are gone. DeRuyter and defensive coordinator Nick Toth have done some shuffling this year; big Tyeler Davison moves to defensive end (at least in certain situations), which means potential opportunity for nose guards like Maurice Poyadue and Ioane Sagapolu. There are certainly plenty of candidates here, but almost none of them actually played in 2013.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Karl Mickelsen ILB 6'0, 229 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 13 79.5 10.3% 2.5 0.0 0 3 1 0
Kyrie Wilson ILB 6'2, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 72.0 9.3% 5.0 3.5 0 5 1 0
Ejiro Ederaine OLB 6'3, 220 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 52.0 6.7% 16.5 10.0 0 2 1 1
Donavon Lewis OLB 6'2, 239 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 38.0 4.9% 9.0 5.0 1 5 0 0
Patrick Su'a ILB 13 26.5 3.4% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Jeremiah Toma ILB 12 18.5 2.4% 4.5 1.0 0 0 2 0
Nat Harrison OLB 13 16.0 2.1% 2.0 1.0 0 2 0 0
Brandon Hughes OLB 6'3, 212 So. 2 stars (5.3) 13 12.0 1.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Camilli ILB 6'3, 264 So. 2 stars (5.4) 7 4.0 0.5% 2.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
T.J. Thomas ILB 6'0, 204 So. NR 13 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jaamal Rose OLB 6'2, 222 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
Stephen Van Hook OLB 6'1, 230 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Robert Stanley OLB 6'3, 224 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Michael Lazarus ILB 6'2, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Xavier Ulutu ILB 6'1, 240 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Justin Green OLB 6'4, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

7. Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive

Even considering the potential lack of depth up front, Fresno State's front seven still performed exactly as Tim DeRuyter's aggressive front seven is supposed to. Fresno State was fourth in the country with 108 tackles for loss. (The Bulldogs were also 24th in passes defensed.) They attacked from every direction, and the stats bear that out -- four linemen, four linebackers, and five defensive backs had at least four tackles for loss last fall.

And the linebacking corps was as deep as the line was thin. The inside linebackers batted passes and rounded up ball-carriers. The outside linebackers rushed the passer with abandon. And the second string did quite a bit of damage as well.

The second string is getting rebuilt in 2014, but that's tolerable when your first string returns intact. Fresno State's top four combined for 33 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks, and 16 passes defensed; all four return. That's very good news for those who enjoy aggressive defense.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Derron Smith FS 5'11, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 73.5 9.5% 8 4 7 6 0 0
Charles Washington SS 5'11, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 62.5 8.1% 8 2 1 2 1 0
Curtis Riley CB 6'0, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 13 48.0 6.2% 5.5 0 1 7 1 0
Jonathan Norton CB 13 40.5 5.3% 4 1 0 3 0 0
L.J. Jones CB 7 32.0 4.2% 4 0 2 7 0 1
Jamal Ellis CB 5'11, 170 So. NR 11 19.5 2.5% 1 0 0 3 0 0
Dalen Jones SS 6'1, 193 So. 3 stars (5.6) 11 13.5 1.8% 2 1 1 1 1 0
Shannon Edwards FS 5'11, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 10.0 1.3% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Kyrian Obidiegwu DB 5'11, 204 Jr. NR 9 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rodney Mathews S 6'0, 208 Sr. 3 stars (5.5)
Justin Holmes S 6'2, 173 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Bryan Harper (Arizona) CB 6'0, 170 So. 3 stars (5.6)
Corey Ferguson DB 5'10, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Stratton Brown DB 6'1, 183 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Malcolm Washington DB 6'2, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






8. Big plays, one way or another

Aside from the Rutgers game (in which running back Paul James erupted for 182 yards against the Bulldogs), when Fresno State's defense struggled in 2013, it was usually because of big plays in the passing game. It usually happened on early downs, when the defense was concentrated near the line of scrimmage. On passing downs, Fresno State would usually bitz, but form a rather conservative umbrella with its secondary. But in both of Fresno's losses, opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating over 200.0.

It's perhaps a little bit disconcerting, then, that Fresno State now has to replace two of its top three cornerbacks. With so much returning at linebacker, Fresno's 2013 strength might get even stronger; but despite the return of both starting safeties, the main weakness might get weaker unless somebody like Arizona transfer Bryan Harper or sophomore Jamal Ellis is able to make pretty rapid improvement.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Garrett Swanson 6'0, 213 Jr. 52 43.2 3 26 14 76.9%
Derek Carr 6 33.8 0 0 6 100.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Colin McGuire 5'10, 183 So. 89 54.5 15 3 16.9%
Garrett Swanson 6'0, 213 Jr. 8 64.5 6 0 75.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Colin McGuire 5'10, 183 So. 71-74 8-11 72.7% 3-5 60.0%
Blake Dunn 0-1 0-0 N/A 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Dillon Root KR 6'0, 190 Jr. 28 21.5 0
Da'Mari Scott KR 6'0, 199 So. 20 19.6 0
Isaiah Burse PR 21 12.5 2
Davante Adams PR

2 8.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 105
Field Goal Efficiency 91
Punt Return Efficiency 86
Kick Return Efficiency 124
Punt Efficiency 6
Kickoff Efficiency 118
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 52

9. Swanson's a keeper

Garrett Swanson was a fair catches machine in 2013; half of his punts were high enough to be fair-caught, but he still averaged more than 43 yards per punt. He is a lovely field position weapon.

Now ... about that return game. Kick returns were distinctly average, and punt returns ace Isaiah Burse is gone. Having a great punter is a major asset, but only if you're not giving away his gains with your own returns.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug at USC 11
6-Sep at Utah 45
13-Sep Nebraska 35
20-Sep Southern Utah NR
26-Sep at New Mexico 116
3-Oct San Diego State 83
11-Oct at UNLV 109
17-Oct at Boise State 18
1-Nov Wyoming 100
8-Nov San Jose State 82
22-Nov at Nevada 62
29-Nov Hawaii 93
Five-Year F/+ Rk -1.2% (61)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 71
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 1 / -0.7
TO Luck/Game +0.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (5, 8)

10. Survive the first three weeks

Fresno State will be breaking in a new quarterback, a relatively new receiving corps, and a couple of new pieces on defense just in time to face a brutal beginning to the season. Trips to USC and Utah, with a visit from Nebraska, are an impressive way to start; even a top-50 team could start 1-2 or 0-3.

But unless things really fall apart at the beginning, or if there isn't a decent quarterback on the roster, Fresno State will likely be favored in eight of its last nine games. Struggle early, then roll late: it's the opposite of Fresno State's 2013 season, but it's the most likely scenario here.

Tim DeRuyter is building a rather entertaining squad in Fresno. He is bringing in three-star recruits, and he has installed both a high-paced offense and a high-octane defense. Fresno State tries to go big at all times, even while making small throws, and that is pretty fun even when it doesn't work. But it's working quite a bit, too, and it should once again in 2014, Carr or no Carr.

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