Confused? Check out the glossary here.
1. Everybody won
This is probably what you envision when you make a coaching change. You want to improve your own program, obviously, but the odds are decent that you might not hold any open hostility to the guys you're firing, and you probably hold some hope of them succeeding elsewhere. In a perfect world, everybody ends up better off when you fire somebody.
It rarely actually works that way, of course, but one can say that just about everybody benefited from Texas A&M's late-2011 firing of head coach Mike Sherman. A&M replaced him with Kevin Sumlin, unearthed Johnny Manziel from Redshirt Land, and thrived, winning 11 games for the first time in 14 years and taking home a Heisman Trophy. The former A&M coaches, however, saw quite a bit of success as well. Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter took over the head coaching job at Fresno State and more than doubled the Bulldogs' win total, and hell, even the Miami Dolphins improved a little bit, from 6-10 to 7-9, when Sherman came aboard as offensive coordinator.
Being that it featured the Heisman, the SEC, an upset of No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and a Top 5 final AP ranking, A&M's improvement naturally garnered the attention, but from a numbers perspective, the improvement DeRuyter engineered at Fresno State was even more stark than A&M's surge. The offense, never really a problem at FSU, held steady, but the defense ignited, as DeRuyter defenses tend to do. Granted, I'm still a little mad at the Bulldogs for laying an egg in Hawaii after I talked them up with vigor, but there's no question that DeRuyter's first year was a rousing success.
2. Playing for keeps
In 2013, Fresno State returns quite a few of its more noteworthy stars: quarterback Derek Carr, receivers Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse, left tackle Austin Wentworth, and a host of defensive play-makers. The Bulldogs must also replace a few, including safety (and current Washington Redskin) Phillip Thomas, but DeRuyter and his coordinators (Dave Schramm on offense, Nick Toth on defense) still have a lot of fun toys in the toy box.
That said, they're clearly not satisfied. In addition to the play-makers already on the roster, DeRuyter signed 11 junior college transfers in his 2013 recruiting class. Loading up on JUCOs is a high-upside, low-downside move -- if they click, then you've got a lot of extra, ready talent and experience; if they don't, then you've not only wasted scholarships, but you've also hurt future depth by not signing high schoolers who could be around for a few more years and eventually develop -- but it's a move that matches the aggressiveness of DeRuyter's defensive schemes.
He's playing for keeps here. That doesn't automatically mean he will succeed. After all, if JUCOs were a slam dunk, more people would spend half of their recruiting classes on them. Nonetheless, it's pretty exciting.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 34|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||Weber State||37-10||W||38.5 - 20.3||W|
|8-Sep||at Oregon||25-42||L||22.6 - 25.6||L|
|15-Sep||Colorado||69-14||W||36.6 - 21.2||W|
|22-Sep||at Tulsa||26-27||L||25.3 - 14.9||W|
|29-Sep||San Diego State||52-40||W||49.6 - 22.2||W|
|6-Oct||at Colorado State||28-7||W||22.8 - 15.2||W|
|13-Oct||at Boise State||10-20||L||24.2 - 24.1||W|
|20-Oct||Wyoming||42-14||W||21.2 - 11.8||W|
|27-Oct||at New Mexico||49-32||W||36.0 - 27.2||W|
|3-Nov||Hawaii||45-10||W||30.1 - 25.5||W|
|10-Nov||at Nevada||52-36||W||29.7 - 20.3||W|
|24-Nov||Air Force||48-15||W||41.1 - 14.3||W|
|24-Dec||vs. SMU||10-43||L||23.4 - 29.4||L|
|Points Per Game||37.9||17||23.8||37|
|Adj. Points Per Game||30.8||46||20.9||12|
3. The numbers love domination
The 2012 season was a good one for former WAC members. Boise State sank to 21st in the F/+ rankings, but their fall coincided with the stunning rise of Utah State (17th), BYU (23rd), San Jose State (32nd), and Fresno State (34th). Former WAC members TCU (31st), Tulsa (42nd), and San Diego State (44th) also finished in the Top 45.
Fresno State's rankings were dictated mostly by the simple fact that, when the Bulldogs looked good, they looked great. They lost four games, but their losses were at Oregon (by a respectable 17), at Tulsa (by one), at Boise State (by 10), and in the bowl game. SMU aside, these were three quite understandable losses, games that most teams ranked between No. 30 and No. 40 would have dropped. But the Bulldogs' greatest strength was their ability to dominate bad teams (again, SMU aside; that game was an extreme outlier). They beat Colorado by 55, Hawaii by 35, Air Force by 33, Wyoming by 28, Colorado State by 21, and New Mexico by 17. With an easier non-conference slate that didn't feature Oregon and Tulsa, FSU would have been a slam-dunk 10- or 11-win team.
Their quality of play remained similar all season, as well, creeping up slightly with each passing month.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): FSU 30.8, Opponent 20.5 (plus-10.3)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): FSU 29.5, Opponent 18.3 (plus-11.2)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): FSU 34.3, Opponent 21.8 (plus-12.5)
FSU got fat and happy over the bowl break and got decimated by SMU, but that could end up being a hell of a learning experience. There are a lot of wins on the Bulldogs' 2013 schedule, and if they stay dialed in, they could have a pretty memorable 2013 campaign.
|Q1 Rk||31||1st Down Rk||35|
|Q2 Rk||53||2nd Down Rk||68|
|Q3 Rk||87||3rd Down Rk||80|
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Derek Carr||6'3, 210||Sr.||*** (5.6)||344||511||4,104||67.3%||37||7||26||4.8%||7.3|
|Greg Watson||5'11, 211||Jr.||*** (5.6)||7||22||128||31.8%||0||1||2||8.3%||4.6|
|Marcus McDade||6'3, 214||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Brian Burrell||6'4, 210||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Marteze Waller||RB||5'11, 205||So.||NR||41||174||4.2||2.3||0||-4.7|
|Derek Carr||QB||6'3, 210||Sr.||*** (5.6)||40||198||5.0||3.3||0||+0.4|
|Greg Watson||QB||5'11, 211||Jr.||*** (5.6)||21||82||3.9||1.8||0||-4.2|
|Isaiah Burse||WR||6'0, 179||Sr.||*** (5.5)||7||39||5.6||7.2||0||+0.8|
|Josh Quezada (2011, BYU)||RB||5'11, 225||Jr.||*** (5.6)||86||298||3.5||N/A||1||N/A|
|Dontel James||RB||6'1, 205||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
4. Trading speed for size
Again, we'll see quite a few of the same faces for Fresno State in 2013. Derek Carr returns after a wonderfully efficient 2012 season that featured a 67 percent completion rate and a better than 5-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. His top two targets also return. But in replacing outgoing running back Robbie Rouse (5'7, 190) with big BYU transfer Josh Quezada and No. 3 receiver Rashad Evans (5'9, 187) with more of Victor Dean (6'6, 209), tight end Marcel Jensen (6'6, 257), and perhaps junior college transfer Jerin McClendon (6'8, 274), FSU's overall offensive personality could change a bit. (Then again, JUCO receiver Devonn Brown is 5'8, 140.)
Quezada is a particularly interesting addition. A former star recruit for BYU, never really got rolling in Provo aside from a late run in 2010. Against New Mexico and UTEP late that season, Quezada rushed 30 times for 208 yards and two scores. In his other 24 games, however, he gained just 595 yards on 155 carries (3.8 per carry). He finished atop the depth chart with sophomore Marteze Waller this spring, however, and if he begins to live up to his three-star hype, he will give FSU a power dimension it didn't necessarily have in 2012. Rouse was as fast as they come, but FSU was only average in power situations.
|Davante Adams||WR||6'2, 200||So.||** (5.3)||146||102||1312||69.9%||9.0||28.7%||68.5%||9.3||177.3|
|Isaiah Burse||WR||6'0, 179||Sr.||*** (5.5)||81||57||851||70.4%||10.5||15.9%||63.0%||10.5||115.0|
|Victor Dean||WR||6'6, 209||Jr.||*** (5.7)||48||30||389||62.5%||8.1||9.4%||52.1%||8.3||52.6|
|Josh Harper||WR||6'1, 182||Jr.||*** (5.7)||37||24||333||64.9%||9.0||7.3%||62.2%||8.9||45.0|
|Marcel Jensen||TE||6'6, 257||Sr.||** (5.2)||29||20||339||69.0%||11.7||5.7%||65.5%||11.2||45.8|
|Greg Watson||WR||5'10, 211||Jr.||*** (5.6)||13||9||98||69.2%||7.5||2.6%||84.6%||7.1||13.2|
|Dillon Root||WR||6'0, 189||So.||** (5.4)||6||2||73||33.3%||12.2||1.2%||66.7%||11.0||9.9|
|Justin Johnson||WR||6'1, 185||So.||*** (5.6)||4||2||43||50.0%||10.8||0.8%||75.0%||16.0||5.8|
|Riley Barnes||TE||6'3, 250||Jr.||NR||3||2||19||66.7%||6.3||0.6%||66.7%||6.2||2.6|
|Marteze Waller||RB||5'11, 205||So.||NR||2||2||11||100.0%||5.5||0.4%||50.0%||5.4||1.5|
|Jerin McClendon||TE||6'8, 274||Jr.||** (5.3)|
|Devonn Brown||WR||5'8, 140||Jr.||** (5.3)|
|Da'mari Scott||WR||6'0, 190||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
5. A hell of a 1-2 punch
In all, Derek Carr's per-attempt average of 7.3 yards wasn't amazingly impressive, especially considering the competition. His raw numbers were staggering (4,104 yards with 37 touchdowns is pretty sexy), but it took him 537 pass attempts (including sacks) to get there. Safety-valve options like Rouse and Evans weren't particularly amazing, but one cannot blame FSU's top two for the slight lack of efficiency.
Davante Adams came out of nowhere. A mid-two-star recruit and redshirt freshman, Adams exploded for 1,312 yards and 14 scores; his 7.9 receptions per game were ninth in the country, but beyond that, he got somewhere with his catches. Averaging 12.8 yards per catch with a 70 percent catch rate is lovely. What's even lovelier? Averaging 14.9 yards per catch with a 70 percent catch rate, which is what Isaiah Burse did in the role of No. 2 receiver. Jalen Saunders' unexpected offseason departure robbed FSU of a potentially wonderful No. 1 target, but Adams' emergence meant that Burse could punch in a lower weight class, facing opponents' No. 2 CBs.
It was a lovely tandem, both efficient and explosive. FSU will need some other options to emerge if it is going to field an improved offense this year, but one has to assume that Adams and Burse will hold their own regardless.
|Austin Wentworth||LT||6'5, 299||Sr.||** (5.2)||30 career starts; 2012 1st All-MWC|
|Richard Helepiko||C||24 career starts|
|Cody Wichmann||RG||6'6, 318||Jr.||** (5.2)||22 career starts|
|Matt Hunt||LG||19 career starts|
|Lars Bramer||C||6'5, 274||Sr.||** (5.4)||7 career starts|
|Alex Fifita||RT||6'4, 290||So.||NR||5 career starts|
|James Le'au||RG||6'1, 310||Sr.||NR||1 career start|
|Mike Saenz||C||6'5, 295||Sr.||NR|
|Andrew Gustafson||LT||6'6, 290||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Bo Bonnheim||LG||6'2, 279||So.||NR|
|Justin Northern||RT||6'5, 279||So.||** (5.4)|
|Travis Harvey||LG||6'5, 325||RSFr.||NR|
|Josh Tremblay||LT||6'5, 285||Jr.||*** (5.7)|
|Sean Rubalcava||OL||6'4, 290||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Patrick Kim||OL||6'3, 295||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Kolby Drew||OL||6'5, 282||Jr.||** (5.3)|
6. Handling the blitz (or the Margus)
Despite some shuffling and youth, FSU's offensive line held steady for the most part. The Bulldogs had to start freshman Alex Fifita at right tackle for part of the year (including the bowl game, in which he was traumatized repeatedly by SMU end Margus Hunt) and had to replace their two most experienced linemen from 2011, but their line rankings barely changed: they ranked 70th in Adj. Line Yards and 38th in Adj. Sack Rate in 2011, and they ranked 68th and 36th, respectively, in 2012.
The line was perfectly decent in clearing holes for Robbie Rouse, and it protected Carr quite well on a lot of his quick, standard downs passing, but there were glitches. The Bulldogs ranked just 75th in Stuff Rate (negative plays on the ground) and 99th in Passing Downs Sack Rate. With a little more continuity and experience -- two two-year starters return (including an all-conference tackle), three other players with starting experience return, and four junior college transfers join the rotation (including former USC guard Patrick Kim) -- FSU's line numbers should improve. And if they can protect Carr from blitzes and Marguses this time around, the offense should be just fine.
|Q1 Rk||15||1st Down Rk||18|
|Q2 Rk||27||2nd Down Rk||6|
|Q3 Rk||7||3rd Down Rk||53|
7. The 'D' in DeRuyter
In his three years as Air Force's defensive coordinator (2007-09), Tim DeRuyter's defense improved from 80th in Def. F/+, to 50th, to 12th. When he left for Texas A&M, Air Force sank to 47th in 2010, then 82nd, then 99th. At Texas A&M, he inherited a defense that ranked 117th in 2008 and 45th in 2009, and he immediately improved the Aggies to 11th in 2010 and 22nd in 2011. When he moved to Fresno, FSU's defense improved by an absolutely staggering amount. FSU ranked 102nd in 2009, 78th in 2010, and an egregious 110th in 2011, but the Bulldogs surged all the way to 21st in 2012.
Tim DeRuyter gets results, in other words. In the last four seasons (two of which were spent at mid-majors), his defense has ranked 12th, 11th, 22nd, and 21st. This comes despite the fact that he has twice had to integrate his scheme into personnel recruited by others.
What makes DeRuyter's 3-4 scheme so different? It's not like the 3-4 is that rare these days, but he has gotten results at A&M and FSU with extreme aggressiveness. A 3-4 like Alabama's relies on talent, athleticism and discipline to react and swarm. DeRuyter's 3-4, meanwhile, attempts to confuse and cow you, relying on speed wherever he can find it to force quick decisions and mistakes. DeRuyter defenses pile up the tackles for loss, hack at the ball, and generally make life miserable. They can also get burned for big plays at times, and they aren't amazingly successul in power situations, but the gambles are mostly worth it.
It's hard to critique a defense that improved so dramatically, so quickly, but if we're looking for faults, here are three:
A. The redzone defense really was lacking. As good as FSU was between the 20s, the Bulldogs were pretty leaky once opponents got near the goal line.
B. There were some big plays. Fresno State was incredibly efficient in 2012, minimizing opportunities for gains a good percentage of the time, but when a player did find the second level of the defense, he was likely to go a pretty long way, especially in the run game.
C. The element of surprise went away after a while. Opponents were better in the second quarter than the first and better in the fourth quarter than the third. And the defense was worse over the final five games of the season than in the previous eight. The difference in this regard was marginal, but it existed.
In all, though, this really was a staggering change in fortune for a defense that, despite speed and some play-making ability, just couldn't get stops in 2011.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Tyeler Davison||NG||6'2, 311||Jr.||** (5.4)||13||35.5||4.8%||7||3||0||1||1||3|
|Andy Jennings||DE||6'2, 278||Sr.||** (4.9)||12||27.5||3.7%||11||5.5||0||2||4||1|
|Nikko Motta||DE||6'2, 285||Sr.||** (5.1)||13||24.0||3.3%||6||3||0||0||0||1|
|Ben Letcher||DE||6'2, 241||Sr.||** (5.2)||10||13.5||1.8%||4||1||0||0||0||0|
|Todd Hunt||DE||6'3, 238||So.||NR||8||10.0||1.4%||2||1||0||0||1||0|
|Maurice Poyadue||NG||6'3, 296||So.||** (5.2)||8||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Claudell Louis||DE||6'4, 288||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Ioane Sagapolu||NG||6'0, 301||Jr.||** (5.3)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Donavon Lewis||OLB||6'2, 240||Jr.||** (5.4)||13||32.0||4.4%||10||4||0||1||1||0|
|Patrick Su'a||ILB||6'1, 240||Sr.||** (5.4)||7||31.0||4.2%||3.5||3||1||4||1||1|
|Jeremiah Toma||ILB||6'0, 230||Sr.||** (4.9)||9||24.5||3.3%||4||2||0||0||0||0|
|Karl Mickelsen||ILB||6'0, 224||Jr.||** (5.2)||13||19.5||2.7%||1||1||0||0||1||0|
|Kyrie Wilson||ILB||6'2, 227||So.||*** (5.5)||13||18.0||2.4%||2.5||0||0||2||0||0|
|Nat Harrison||OLB||6'2, 240||Sr.||** (5.2)||11||9.0||1.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ejiro Ederaine||OLB||6'3, 222||So.||** (5.4)||3||2.5||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jamaal Rose||OLB||6'2, 213||So.||NR||3||2.5||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Brandon Hughes||OLB||6'3, 215||RSFr.||** (5.3)|
|Stephen Van Hook||LB||6'2, 215||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Derron Smith||S||5'11, 194||Jr.||*** (5.7)||13||70.0||9.5%||1||0||6||2||1||0|
|Sean Alston||CB||5'10, 192||Jr.||*** (5.5)||13||47.0||6.4%||2||1||5||6||2||0|
|L.J. Jones||CB||5'10, 180||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||36.5||5.0%||1.5||0.5||1||13||0||1|
|Davon Dunn||CB||6'0, 186||Jr.||**** (5.8)||11||14.5||2.0%||1.5||0.5||0||2||0||0|
|Jonathan Norton||DB||5'6, 173||Sr.||NR||13||11.5||1.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Charles Washington||S||5'11, 189||So.||*** (5.5)||12||10.5||1.4%||0||0||0||2||0||1|
|Shannon Edwards||CB||5'11, 180||So.||*** (5.6)||12||9.5||1.3%||1||1||0||1||0||1|
|Stephan Plevney||S||6'2, 216||Sr.||NR||1||2.0||0.3%||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|Dalen Jones||S||6'1, 185||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Jamal Ellis||CB||5'11, 170||RSFr.||NR|
|Rodney Mathews||S||6'0, 190||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Tray Hall||CB||5'10, 164||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Treshon Broughton||DB||5'11, 170||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
9. Can star ratings replace a star?
When DeRuyter took over the Texas A&M defense, he took a potential star in Von Miller and turned him into an All-American. No single position exemplifies the reckless abandon with which DeRuyter Ds tend to play more than the attacking OLB, and Fresno State had a couple of pretty successful ones in Tristan Okpalaugo and Donavon Lewis, who combined for 21.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. But the single most disruptive force on FSU's 2012 defense was safety Phillip Thomas, who was good for Pat Hill (3.5 tackles for loss, 12 passes defensed in 2010 before missing 2011 with leg and ankle injuries; and yes, his absence certainly contributed to 2011's defensive collapse) and incredible for DeRuyter. Thomas led the nation in interceptions and led his team in tackles for loss, which is an absolutely baffling accomplishment. He was all over the field, and his absence will be felt this season.
That said, there is still quite a bit of potential in this secondary. Two aggressive corners (Sean Alston and L.J. Jones) return, and safety Derron Smith was a perfectly fine ball hawk himself. (In general, FSU probably lucked out a bit in the number of interceptions they collected. The ratio of INTs to passes broken up is generally about 1-to-3 or 1-to-4, but for Thomas and Smith, the ratio was 2-to-1.)
Beyond that, however, FSU has recruited particularly well in the secondary. While the front seven boasts just two former three-star recruits, the secondary nine of them, plus a former four-star in senior corner Davon Dunn. Between sophomore Charles Washington, redshirt freshman Jamal Ellis, and JUCO transfer Rodney Mathews, there are plenty of high-potential guys to fill in some of Thomas' playing time. You can't expect them to match Thomas' ridiculous TFLs and INTs, but they should still make some plays.
|Derek Carr||6'3, 210||Sr.||4||29.0||0||0||3||75.0%|
|Garrett Swanson||6'0, 205||So.||88||61.5||25||28.4%|
|Isaiah Burse||KR||6'0, 179||Sr.||29||22.4||0|
|Isaiah Burse||PR||6'0, 179||Sr.||8||10.2||0|
|Special Teams F/+||80|
|Field Goal Pct||27|
|Kick Returns Avg||69|
|Punt Returns Avg||56|
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|26-Oct||at San Diego State||53|
|29-Nov||at San Jose State||72|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||70|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||90|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin||+15 / +14.7|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||13 (7, 6)|
Because of the loss of Phillip Thomas and the unsustainable INTs-to-PBUs ratio, Fresno State's defense will probably not make quite as many plays in 2013 as it did in 2012. And because of the loss of Robbie Rouse, FSU's offense might not have quite as much big-play capability. But this squad will still have a lot to offer. The offensive line gets a potential boost from JUCOs, the Bulldogs return a ferocious pass-and-catch combo in Carr, Adams, and Burse, the secondary is loaded with potential, and the defensive front seven is now more familiar with the ins and outs of DeRuyter's aggressive 3-4. Conservatively speaking, this will almost certainly still be a Top 40-50 team on paper. And if the JUCOs take hold, then Top 20-30 isn't out of the question.
But if Fresno State is indeed only a Top 40-50 team, then the Bulldogs could pretty easily match last year's win total. They play only three teams projected better than 70th, and the two best (Boise State and Rutgers) must visit Fresno. After years of almosts under Pat Hill (FSU won either eight or nine games seven times in nine years from 2002-10) and an incredible bounce back under DeRuyter in 2012, Fresno State could finally return to the land of double-digit wins in 2013. It would be the first time since 2001 and only the second time since 1991.
DeRuyter has pulled off the turnaround, and now he has a chance to pull off something even more difficult: sustained success.