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The big 2015 Fresno State football guide: Waiting for the time to strike

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The 128-team countdown hits a reigning Mountain West division champion.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. It all started so well

After falling to 4-9 in Pat Hill's final season, Fresno State hired Tim DeRuyter in 2012, and he went 20-6 in two years and took home the 2013 Mountain West title. The former defensive coordinator and 3-4 whiz at Ohio, Nevada, Air Force and Texas A&M found the perfect set of personnel for his aggressive needs.

It just makes sense when Fresno State is good. The Bulldogs are one of not too many California mid-majors and are perfectly placed three hours from San Francisco and 3.5 hours from Los Angeles (barring traffic), with access to the surplus of athletes that the Pac-12 couldn't snap up. Pat Hill and Jim Sweeney were both able to milk this convenience over long stretches of time -- Sweeney won at least eight games nine times from 1982-93, and Hill won at least seven games 11 times from 1999-2010. Both lost their respective ways at the end, DeRuyter was able to bring energy to an athletic squad that had gone just 4-9 in 2011, and the wins quickly rolled in.

And then last year happened. Quarterback Derek Carr, receivers Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse, two starting offensive linemen and three of the top five defensive linemen all left. The defense regressed, and the offense regressed a lot. Fresno State started and finished the season playing like one of the worst teams in the country but played just well enough in the middle to win the MWC West, maybe the single weakest division in FBS last year. They got rocked in the MWC title game, got rocked in a bowl they probably didn't deserve to make and finished the season 6-8, ranked just 102nd in F/+.

In the offseason, a load of players graduated, transferred or were asked to transfer. The result: returning quarterbacks threw 41 career passes last year, one returning running back carried more than five times, two returning wideouts caught more than eight passes and one returning defensive lineman had more than 7.5 tackles. The units that faced turnover in 2014 are double-dipping in 2015.

Now DeRuyter starts his fourth season in the middle of a contradiction: the roster is like what a first-year coach might inherit, talented and fast but young and thin. But DeRuyter is a fourth-year coach with a seat quite a bit warmer than it was last year. If he survives 2015, the base of talent and athleticism on the roster could mature into a solid team once again. But this could be a tough year.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-8 | Adj. Record: 6-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 102
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug at USC 16 13-52 L 8% -33.4 0%
6-Sep at Utah 29 27-59 L 6% -37.1 0%
13-Sep Nebraska 30 19-55 L 6% -36.4 0%
20-Sep Southern Utah N/A 56-16 W 73% 14.0 100%
26-Sep at New Mexico 94 35-24 W 54% 2.2 79%
3-Oct San Diego State 76 24-13 W 70% 12.2 76%
10-Oct at UNLV 118 27-30 L 40% -5.7 70%
17-Oct at Boise State 21 27-37 L 37% -7.7 9%
1-Nov Wyoming 113 17-45 L 3% -45.7 0%
8-Nov San Jose State 116 38-24 W 58% 4.7 89%
22-Nov at Nevada 64 40-20 W 70% 12.2 88%
29-Nov Hawaii 111 28-21 W 57% 4.2 92%
6-Dec at Boise State 21 14-28 L 17% -22.2 0%
24-Dec vs. Rice 86 6-30 L 4% -40.8 0%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 23.7 96 33.4 97
Points Per Game 26.5 85 32.4 101

2. The middle was decent

Fresno State's final rankings -- 102nd in F/+, 85th in Off. S&P+, 101st in Def. S&P+ -- are a little bit misleading. For the middle two-thirds of the season, the Bulldogs played at close to a top-60 level. But at the beginning and the end of the year, they were one of the 10 or 15 worst teams in FBS.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 3 games): 7 percent (record: 0-3)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 9 games): 51 percent (record: 6-3)
  • Average Percentile Performance (last 2 games): 11 percent (record: 0-2)

It was a team-wide struggle. Granted, four of the five awful games were against top-30 teams, but in these five games the Bulldogs averaged 4.1 yards per play and allowed 7.0. In the middle nine games (mostly against worse teams), they gained 5.8 and allowed 5.9. The defense still had plenty of rocky moments -- allowing 9.8 yards per play against Wyoming was particularly egregious -- but for a while the offense raised its game, even taking competition into account.

The peak lasted just long enough for Fresno to easily take down both San Diego State and Nevada, two teams that were better than them over the full season, and win the MWC West. And then the Bulldogs either trailed off or reverted to form.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.88 47 IsoPPP+ 84.1 106
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 36.0% 117 Succ. Rt. + 86.5 116
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.5 65 Def. FP+ 101.0 53
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.1 88 Redzone S&P+ 91.3 92
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.6 ACTUAL 27 +4.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 62 114 120 106
RUSHING 46 105 109 96
PASSING 72 115 117 103
Standard Downs 110 122 97
Passing Downs 110 103 108
Q1 Rk 118 1st Down Rk 111
Q2 Rk 110 2nd Down Rk 103
Q3 Rk 61 3rd Down Rk 90
Q4 Rk 84

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Brian Burrell
252 432 2620 22 18 58.3% 34 7.3% 5.2
Brandon Connette
29 54 299 2 3 53.7% 4 6.9% 4.7
Zack Greenlee 6'1, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8777 18 41 213 1 0 43.9% 2 4.7% 4.8
Kilton Anderson 6'3, 207 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8023
Chason Virgil 6'1, 170 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8697

3. Insert young, highly-touted quarterback here

We know a Dave Schramm offense can work. In his first two years at Fresno, the Bulldogs ranked 33rd and 17th, respectively, in Off. S&P+. That was with a loaded cast of stars, obviously, but it proved that if Schramm has horses, he knows how to use them.

Schramm didn't have them in 2014 and might not in 2015, either. Duke transfer Brandon Connette was dreadful to start the season (23-for-41, 245 yards, one touchdown and three picks against USC and Utah), and Brian Burrell eased into the starting role. But while he did still have star receiver Josh Harper, this was a new quarterback throwing to mostly new receivers, and it didn't go well. The running game, which wasn't amazing even in 2013, struggled to make up the difference.

Now, the quarterback unit and receiving corps are double-dipping in the turnover department. Connette graduated, and Burrell left, leaving a battle between three young, former three-star recruits. There is plenty of upside among them, but as Zack Greenlee proved in completing just 44 percent of his passes in a bit role as a redshirt freshman, it sometimes takes a while to approach your ceiling. Greenlee is the de facto old-guy on the depth chart now, but redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson and incoming freshman (and one-time Mississippi State commit) Chason Virgil could both have a shot. All of them were in for spring, and all saw time with the No. 1 offense.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Marteze Waller RB 5'11, 209 Sr. NR 0.7000 226 1368 11 6.1 7.0 39.4% 1 0
Josh Quezada RB
134 525 5 3.9 4.1 29.1% 0 0
Brian Burrell QB
76 552 3 7.3 7.2 48.7% 3 2
Brandon Connette QB
34 145 2 4.3 5.5 32.4% 0 0
T.J. Thomas ILB
11 70 1 6.4 3.5 54.5% 0 0
Zack Greenlee QB 6'1, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8777 10 52 0 5.2 3.1 50.0% 0 0
Darryl Cash WR
7 57 0 8.1 9.3 42.9% 0 0
LeKendrick Williams WR
6 36 0 6.0 2.5 50.0% 2 1
Dillon Root WR
5 28 0 5.6 6.0 40.0% 2 1
Dontel James RB
5 8 0 1.6 2.6 20.0% 0 0
Malique Micenheimer RB 6'1, 239 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8700
Chris Moliga RB 5'11, 205 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000







Bryson Oglesby RB 6'0, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8509







Dejonte O'Neal RB 5'7, 157 Fr. NR NR







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Josh Harper WR
143 90 1097 62.9% 29.9% 58.7% 7.7 5 7.7 89.4
Aaron Peck WR 6'3, 213 Sr. NR 0.7100 59 32 419 54.2% 12.3% 54.2% 7.1 19 7.0 34.1
Greg Watson WR
53 35 369 66.0% 11.1% 52.8% 7.0 -52 6.7 30.1
Josh Quezada RB
43 33 223 76.7% 9.0% 55.8% 5.2 -164 5.1 18.2
Delvon Hardaway WR 6'1, 191 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8126 41 23 279 56.1% 8.6% 61.0% 6.8 -7 6.9 22.7
Marteze Waller RB 5'11, 209 Sr. NR 0.7000 36 27 120 75.0% 7.5% 61.1% 3.3 -198 3.3 9.8
Da'Mari Scott WR
22 8 214 36.4% 4.6% 45.5% 9.7 103 9.9 17.4
Chad Olsen TE 6'5, 222 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7633 18 13 150 72.2% 3.8% 55.6% 8.3 -4 8.5 12.2
LeKendrick Williams WR
17 9 39 52.9% 3.5% 76.5% 2.3 -74 3.3 3.2
Dillon Root WR
16 10 85 62.5% 3.3% 37.5% 5.3 -37 4.9 6.9
Justin Johnson WR 6'1, 207 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8221 14 8 72 57.1% 2.9% 50.0% 5.1 -27 5.6 5.9
Malique Micenheimer RB 6'1, 239 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8700 10 7 48 70.0% 2.1% 60.0% 4.8 -35 4.7 3.9
Brandon Connette QB
3 1 4 33.3% 0.6% 66.7% 1.3 -10 1.2 0.3
Jeff Camilli ILB 6'3, 263 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 2 1 3 50.0% 0.4% 50.0% 1.5 -10 1.7 0.2
Darrell Fuery WR 6'0, 195 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533
Keyan Williams WR 5'10, 182 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8144
KeeSean Johnson WR 6'1, 179 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7556
Jamire Jordan WR 5'11, 170 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7894
Jared Rice TE 6'5, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389








4. Who gets touches?

At receiver, Aaron Peck is a decent big-play threat (though he would need to either come up with more big plays or raise the success rate to be a league-average threat), and there are plenty of former star recruits and solid athletes in the mix, from sophomore Delvon Hardaway to senior Justin Johnson to redshirt freshman Keyan Williams. In theory, if you throw enough options out there, your odds of coming up with something viable are good. But Peck and Johnson are the only upperclassmen, and Fresno State at its best is spreading the ball around to a ton of guys. While Josh Harper was targeted 10 times per game, five other players were targeted at least twice per game. A lot of redshirt freshmen or sophomores are going to see passes; that doesn't always work out well, especially with a young quarterback throwing the passes.

Meanwhile, because of tempo, Fresno managed to hand to Marteze Waller and Josh Quezada a combined 360 times last year as well. Waller's back, but almost nobody else is. That means either an absurd load for Waller (who might be big and explosive enough to handle it), or more freshmen and redshirt freshmen getting touches. Schramm is going to be riding with the young guys this year. That probably means exciting things for 2017. But for 2015, not so much.

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 94.2 2.88 3.25 38.2% 72.7% 18.5% 98.1 4.5% 9.3%
Rank 94 77 67 76 27 54 72 61 96
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Cody Wichmann RG 50 2014 2nd All-MWC
Justin Northern RT 6'5, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 27
Alex Fifita LT 6'4, 303 Sr. NR NR 25
Bo Bonnheim C 6'2, 283 Sr. NR NR 21
Sean Rubalcava LG
14
Josh Tremblay LT
0
Aaron Mitchell LG 6'2, 291 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7806 0
Jacob Vazquez C 6'2, 283 Jr. NR NR 0
Alan Gonzalez RG
0
David Patterson RT 6'4, 284 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926 0
Elijah Cox OL 6'4, 274 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7733 0
Bobby Johnson OL 6'5, 300 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7826
Jacob Hicks OL 6'5, 308 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7759
Isaiah Trevino OL 6'6, 320 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8414
Donnie Greene OL 6'3, 280 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8289
Zack Kinninger OL 6'5, 295 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8081

5. How much is a Wichmann worth?

If you compare Fresno State's line stats to its overall offensive stats, you get the impression that the line was a strength. The Bulldogs were great in short-yardage situations and suffered few negative rushes, and the sack rates weren't awful. Three two-year (or close to it) starters return, but all-conference guard Cody Wichmann doesn't. How much were he and fellow guard Sean Rubalcava responsible for the short-yardage success? And how much of a role will some well-touted freshmen and redshirt freshmen play? (And are you catching onto a "young guys" trend here?)

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.96 115 IsoPPP+ 92.5 89
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.3% 56 Succ. Rt. + 102.3 57
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.4 63 Off. FP+ 102.0 38
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.9 115 Redzone S&P+ 107.5 40
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.2 ACTUAL 20.0 -2.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 111 76 57 89
RUSHING 100 57 54 64
PASSING 99 103 71 114
Standard Downs 67 51 85
Passing Downs 101 81 103
Q1 Rk 108 1st Down Rk 103
Q2 Rk 70 2nd Down Rk 111
Q3 Rk 98 3rd Down Rk 93
Q4 Rk 64

6. When attacking goes wrong

Defense dragged Fresno State down a little bit in 2013 and certainly didn't pick the Bulldogs up when the offense regressed. They wanted to attack and occasionally did so effectively, but in the process of attacking, they got sliced up in the secondary. The Bulldogs gave up 31 passes of 30-plus yards (second-most in the country) and 18 passes of 40-plus (most).

The secondary should be more experienced this time around, but Fresno's two best pass rushers, nose guard Tyeler Davison and linebacker Donavon Lewis, are gone. Stop me if you've heard this before, but freshmen and sophomores will likely play a large role up front. The Bulldogs basically played three linemen last year, and two are gone. Even if some young athletes start playing well, they're going to play like young athletes, and Fresno's decent line stats will probably regress.

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 103.7 2.89 3.17 33.6% 66.7% 18.3% 105.3 6.0% 7.3%
Rank 46 63 50 16 60 79 58 38 66
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Tyeler Davison NG
14 47.0 5.8% 12.0 7.5 0 0 1 0
Todd Hunt DE 6'3, 263 Sr. NR NR 14 43.5 5.3% 5.0 2.5 0 0 0 0
Maurice Poyadue DE
13 19.5 2.4% 2.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Nathan Madsen NG 6'4, 275 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7633 14 7.5 0.9% 2.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Claudell Louis DE 6'4, 292 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8141 14 7.0 0.9% 1.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Ioane Sagapolu NG
13 7.0 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Ryan Steele NG 6'0, 271 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8194
Kyle Hendrickson DE 6'4, 253 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856
Mason Bradley DE 6'4, 240 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Karl Mickelsen MIKE
14 83.5 10.3% 7.0 2.0 2 2 3 0
Kyrie Wilson WILL 6'2, 238 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8600 14 71.0 8.7% 6.5 1.0 2 0 2 0
Ejiro Ederaine OLB 6'3, 221 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 14 54.0 6.6% 12.5 2.0 0 2 1 0
Donavon Lewis OLB
14 44.5 5.5% 8.5 6.0 1 0 1 0
Jeff Camilli WILL 6'3, 263 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 14 37.5 4.6% 4.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Hughes OLB 6'3, 216 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 14 33.0 4.1% 3.0 1.0 0 1 0 0
Xavier Ulutu MIKE 6'1, 248 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8149 13 16.5 2.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Adam DeCosta LB
14 7.0 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Michael Lazarus ILB 6'2, 233 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8788 7 5.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tobenna Okeke ILB 6'2, 210 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7819 13 4.0 0.5% 2.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Kyrian Obidiegwu OLB 5'11, 207 Sr. NR NR 14 4.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
T.J. Thomas ILB NR 11 3.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Justin Green OLB 6'3, 183 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926
Stephen Van Hook OLB 6'1, 236 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8184
Robert Stanley ILB 6'3, 224 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8056
James Bailey OLB 6'2, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8202
Nela Otukolo ILB 5'11, 240 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8187








7. Everybody in the Mountain West has good linebackers

As we roll through this MWC preview series, it seems like I'm saying "[Team A] should have really good, experienced linebackers this year" quite a bit. I've said it about UNLV and Hawaii, and now I'm going to say it about Fresno State.

Seniors Kyrie Wilson and Ejiro Ederaine are strong run-stoppers for a defense that desperately needs them, and while almost no linemen played last year, quite a few LBs saw action. Two starters are gone, including the ace-blitzer (Donavon Lewis), but five returnees had at least 16 tackles. And the number of former three-star recruits (per the 247Sports Composite) attempting to work into the rotation is large.

Because of the returning personnel, there's a chance that last year's strength (run defense) gets stronger while the pass defense gets weaker. In a pass-happy conference, that's far from optimal, but at least if you can force opponents to become one-dimensional, you can create more opportunities to attack like DeRuyter has always wanted his defense to attack.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Derron Smith S
14 79.5 9.8% 2.5 0 1 7 0 2
Charles Washington CB 5'11, 197 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 14 70.0 8.6% 5.5 1 2 7 0 0
Curtis Riley CB
13 47.5 5.8% 4.5 1 0 8 1 0
Malcolm Washington CB 6'2, 165 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7759 14 29.5 3.6% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Shannon Edwards S 5'11, 191 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8472 12 22.0 2.7% 1 1 0 3 0 0
Jamal Ellis CB 5'11, 174 Jr. NR 0.7000 12 19.5 2.4% 1 0 1 2 0 0
Dalen Jones S 6'1, 196 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8407 13 13.5 1.7% 1 1 0 6 1 0
Bryan Harper CB
5 12.5 1.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Stratton Brown DB 6'1, 186 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7819
Alan Wright S 6'1, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8059
Mike Bell DB 6'3, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8482
A.J. Greeley DB 5'11, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8417
Jalen Smith DB 5'11, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7916








8. Potential is not a problem

When a cornerback logs 70.0 tackles in a season, either he's fantastic in help defense, or his man is catching a ton of passes. For Charles Washington, it was likely both. Fresno defensive backs (including Washington) ended up having to chase receivers down quite a bit, but his 5.5 tackles for loss suggest he was spending quite a bit of time near the line of scrimmage.

Washington's return is probably a net gain, as is the return of five of last year's top seven DBs. And in terms of speed and play-making potential, there's a lot to like here. Safety Dalen Jones managed to break up six passes in limited opportunities, and a few of this year's most highly-touted signees -- JUCO transfer Alan Wright, freshmen Mike Bell and A.J. Greeley -- are DBs. The ceiling appears high, and maybe this is an instance where a fast unit needed just a little more experience to start playing at a high level. The experience is there this year. We'll see about the rest, especially considering a potential regression in the pass rush.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Garrett Swanson 6'0, 217 Sr. 82 40.7 3 32 26 70.7%
Brian Burrell 3 30.3 0 0 3 100.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Garrett Swanson 6'0, 217 Sr. 69 59.1 15 3 21.7%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Kody Kroening 5'10, 150 So. 45-46 6-9 66.7% 3-5 60.0%
Colin McGuire 1-2 0-0 N/A 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Dillon Root KR 25 19.3 0
Da'Mari Scott KR 16 20.6 0
LeKendrick Williams PR 11 8.9 0
Derron Smith PR 9 11.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 43
Field Goal Efficiency 93
Punt Return Efficiency 23
Kick Return Efficiency 113
Punt Efficiency 77
Kickoff Efficiency 2
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 54

9. Got a return man?

Fresno State is starting over in the returns department; this is not much of a problem in kick returns (not a strength last year), but LeKendrick Williams and Derron Smith were solid, efficient punt returners. If one of these new, young receivers or defensive backs can do well in this regard, the rest of the special teams unit should be just fine. Garrett Swanson was a fair catch machine on punts, and his kickoffs, while not incredibly deep, set the coverage unit up well to prevent returns. This could be a top-30 or top-40 special teams unit if the returns don't stink.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
5-Sep Abilene Christian NR
12-Sep at Ole Miss 5
19-Sep Utah 29
26-Sep at San Jose State 116
3-Oct at San Diego State 76
10-Oct Utah State 52
17-Oct UNLV 118
24-Oct at Air Force 48
7-Nov Nevada 64
14-Nov at Hawaii 111
21-Nov at BYU 46
28-Nov Colorado State 49
Five-Year F/+ Rk -4.2% (67)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 75 / 82
2014 TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -7 / -0.4
2014 TO Luck/Game -2.4
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 11 (6, 5)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 6.0 (0.0)

10. Still the champ (technically)

Last year, Fresno State was about three different teams, and while it's difficult to figure out which was the real one, it doesn't really matter because newcomers and youngsters are going to be playing serious starting or second-string roles at quarterback, running back, receiver, offensive guard, defensive line and defensive back. There are some nice, experienced pieces -- Marteze Waller, Aaron Peck, a few offensive linemen and linebackers, Charles Washington -- but youth will determine whether Fresno State is a contender in this year's MWC West race.

And here's where we remind ourselves that, inconsistent or not, Fresno State did still win the West. The Bulldogs did still beat SDSU and Nevada by a combined 31 points. They did still play pretty well in their first trip to Boise. The high points were still pretty high, even if the overall regression was stark.

Fresno State could back into the West title again -- it's not like SDSU or Nevada are going to be amazing -- but the primary goal for the Bulldogs is to look just good enough to keep DeRuyter's name from rising too far on the hot seat lists. There was some serious disposal of dead weight at the end of the season, and this team is going to be too young to play consistently well. But if the core of the roster and coaching staff stick together into 2016 and 2017, the Bulldogs are going to be awfully good. But 2015 is a transition year.