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Fresno State football is the 2016 Mountain West's biggest wild card

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Just about any wins total is on the table for the Bulldogs.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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1. Things spiral on you

Tim 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 roster could mature into a solid team again. But this could be a tough year.

-- my 2015 Fresno State guide

I wrote in last year's preview that it makes sense when Fresno State is good. Unlike so many other Mountain West schools, you've got a lovely recruiting location, and your program has a history of solid results -- a couple of ranked finishes, seven seasons with double-digit wins, 21 bowl appearances, etc. In the time that current recruits have been alive, you've pulled some memorable upsets, and you've attended a bowl in 14 of 17 seasons.

This week's Mountain West previews have centered around hard jobs, and while no mid-major job is easy, this one is less hard. The urge to get impatient is high any time conference rivals with seemingly harder jobs finish ahead of the Bulldogs.

Fresno State began the DeRuyter era with 19 wins in 23 games; the Bulldogs reached as high as 15th in the polls in 2013, thanks to a 10-0 start. But since whipping New Mexico in late-November to move to within two games of a BCS bowl appearance, they are 10-19. 2013 finished with a shootout loss to San Jose State and a pantsing at the hands of USC in the Las Vegas Bowl. 2014 featured a division title, but also eight losses, seven by double digits.

In 2015, any hope for a quick rebound was dashed by attrition. Fresno State was to be led by a freshman quarterback, two freshman receivers and a thinned-out defense. An honest-to-god rebuild was going on, and 2014 wasn't a random blip.

You don't often survive a rebuild, but so far DeRuyter has. He was unable to oversee a smooth transition from the Derek Carr teams to the future, but he's in a job that has been rewarded by patience.

Only three men have led Fresno State in the last 36 seasons. Jim Sweeney was in charge from 1980-96, at one point going 8-4 or better in eight of nine seasons (1985-93) before fading to 14-21-1 over his final three years. Pat Hill took over in 1997, and after two mediocre seasons, he began a long run of solid play. Fresno won seven or more games 11 times in 12 years between 1999 and 2010.

The Bulldogs never fulfilled the promise of 2001, which saw them in the top 10 thanks to season-opening wins over Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin; Boise State came along and stole a good portion of Fresno State's thunder. But under Hill, this team was physical, often explosive and always competitive.

Hill survived a 4-8 blip in 2006 and responded by averaging eight wins over the next four seasons. And after another four-win campaign, DeRuyter took over.

That he's got a chance to dig out of a self-created hole is admirable in many ways. That just doesn't happen much in team sports. We'll see if Fresno's patience pays off; DeRuyter's Bulldogs are more experienced than last year, but they have to replace just enough pieces that improvement isn't guaranteed. DeRuyter has brought in two new coordinators and a new mentality, and the changes take hold, he might last a while.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 5-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 103 | Final S&P+ Rk: 100
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
3-Sep Abilene Christian N/A 34-13 W 61% 99% +10.1
12-Sep at Ole Miss 5 21-73 L 3% 0% -18.4 -23.0
19-Sep Utah 22 24-45 L 50% 36% -6.6 -6.0
26-Sep at San Jose State 89 23-49 L 16% 3% -17.5 -21.5
3-Oct at San Diego State 43 7-21 L 22% 1% -8.1 -5.0
10-Oct Utah State 53 14-56 L 3% 0% -28.8 -30.5
16-Oct UNLV 105 31-28 W 69% 93% +11.8 +9.5
24-Oct at Air Force 63 14-42 L 15% 0% -10.6 -10.5
5-Nov Nevada 97 16-30 L 31% 18% -12.7 -10.0
14-Nov at Hawaii 120 42-14 W 79% 99% +30.8 +32.5
21-Nov at BYU 35 10-52 L 6% 0% -18.7 -16.0
28-Nov Colorado State 86 31-34 L 75% 84% +7.4 +6.5

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 21.2 110 30.9 85
Points Per Game 22.3 107 38.1 119

2. Up, down, up, down

That Fresno State went 3-9 last year wasn't surprising. The Bulldogs were starting over in so many areas, particularly at QB. But the clear upside had to make the down times twice as frustrating.

On a few occasions, Fresno State played like a team good enough to challenge in the Mountain West. But not only were the good performances usually followed by a dud, the good performances were done in by bad breaks or silly mistakes.

They played Utah closer than the 21-point margin would indicate (Utah had two return touchdowns and only outgained FS by 15 yards). They easily outgained an improving UNLV and created more scoring chances in a game made closer by a fumble and a couple of missed field goals (they missed as many in this game as they missed the rest of the season). They led Colorado State 24-10 and outgained the Rams by 52 yards but gave up two return touchdowns in a three-point loss.

Fresno could have easily won five games if not for return touchdowns. You can spin that into a positive. But it's harder to spin this: In their other seven games, they were outscored by an average of 46-15.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.19 98 IsoPPP+ 79.9 117
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 34.6% 120 Succ. Rt. + 84.1 118
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.8 45 Def. FP+ 29.0 55
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.0 103 Redzone S&P+ 90.4 109
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.2 ACTUAL 22 +2.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 122 118 118 117
RUSHING 105 78 89 68
PASSING 107 125 125 126
Standard Downs 120 120 120
Passing Downs 99 109 95
Q1 Rk 117 1st Down Rk 117
Q2 Rk 100 2nd Down Rk 119
Q3 Rk 122 3rd Down Rk 112
Q4 Rk 100

3. An Eric Kiesau offense

While it's hard to remain head coach after going 9-17 in two years, it's almost impossible to remain the coordinator when your offense has fallen apart.

After ranking 33rd in Off. S&P+ in 2012 and 17th in 2013, the production of Dave Schramm's offense cratered when Carr left. The Bulldogs ranked just 96th in 2014 and 110th last year. A revolving door at quarterback didn't help, but DeRuyter decided some new blood might be a good thing.

DeRuyter chose Eric Kiesau as Schramm's replacement. Like those actors whose names or faces you know but can't quite place, Kiesau is a That Guy of college football. He coached for Jeff Tedford at California, then ended up on Dan Hawkins' Colorado staff, eventually as coordinator. After another year at Cal, he spent two years as Steve Sarkisian's coordinator at Washington. He bounced to Kansas for one season, briefly as coordinator after Charlie Weis had been fired. Then, to wash off the Kansas stink, he undertook the Alabama Coaching Rehabilitation Program, serving as an analyst for Nick Saban's 2015 national champion squad.

Kiesau's track record is mixed, but there have been high points. After years of struggle, his last Colorado offense bounced up to 63rd in Off. S&P+, and his second Washington offense ranked 26th. Both of those had bellcow running backs -- CU's Rodney Stewart rushed for 1,136 yards in 2010, and UW's Bishop Sankey rushed for 1,870 in 2013 -- and at first glance he doesn't appear to have that in Fresno. But he's attempting to instill physicality that last year's more finesse-based offense did not have.

Of course, be it through finesse or power, step one to an offensive rebound will be finding a quarterback.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Kilton Anderson 6'2, 217 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8023 78 157 817 2 5 49.7% 10 6.0% 4.5
Zack Greenlee 74 156 866 13 6 47.4% 12 7.1% 4.6
Chason Virgil 6'1, 184 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8697 31 56 298 3 3 55.4% 1 1.8% 5.2
Ford Childress 6'5, 230 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) NR 19 34 159 2 2 55.9% 0 0.0% 4.7
Quentin Davis 6'0, 202 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8399








4. A revolving door

As the saying goes, if you've got four quarterbacks, you've got no quarterbacks.

  • Zack Greenlee began 2015 as Fresno's preferred QB, but he completed just 14 of 32 passes against Abilene Christian.
  • Freshman Chason Virgil got much of the work against Ole Miss and looked okay (12-for-18 for 140 yards, but with two picks), but he got hurt in the second half of the Utah loss and was gone for the season.
  • Greenlee was suspended a game for underage drinking, so West Virginia transfer Ford Childress took over against SJSU and was mostly ineffective.
  • Greenlee returned against SDSU and was mostly ineffective.
  • Redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson got his chance and was mostly ineffective.
  • Greenlee returned with schizophrenic play: two picks in nine passes against Nevada, six touchdown passes in a nearly perfect performance against Hawaii, then a 14-for-41 line with three picks against BYU.
  • Anderson was back against Colorado State and, despite the closeness of the game, was mostly ineffective.

Yuck. Despite a decent run game, Fresno's offense never had a chance. The Bulldogs ranked 125th of 128 FBS teams in Passing S&P+ (just a slight problem for an offense that wanted to pass first), and the fact that the receiving corps was nearly as inexperienced didn't help.

Priority No. 1 is figuring out QB. Greenlee left, and it appears Virgil will have the first crack at the job. On paper, he was the least bad of the bunch.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Marteze Waller RB 228 920 5 4.0 5.0 33.3% 0 0
Dustin Garrison RB 54 294 2 5.4 10.7 27.8% 0 0
Kilton Anderson QB 6'2, 217 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8023 41 278 5 6.8 6.7 48.8% 2 1
Malique Micenheimer RB 18 59 0 3.3 4.7 22.2% 0 0
Dejonte O'Neal RB 5'7, 166 So. NR NR 16 56 0 3.5 1.8 31.3% 0 0
Zack Greenlee QB 6'1, 216 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8777 15 92 0 6.1 3.2 60.0% 1 0
Jamire Jordan WR-H 5'10, 168 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7894 10 55 1 5.5 4.2 60.0% 2 0
Chason Virgil QB 6'1, 184 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8697 8 56 0 7.0 1.8 87.5% 2 2
Bryson Oglesby RB 6'0, 190 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8509
Dontel James RB 5'11, 217 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7667
Justin Rice RB 6'2, 201 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8260
Deonte Perry RB 5'11, 169 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8315







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Jamire Jordan WR-H 5'10, 168 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7894 94 46 540 48.9% 25.5% 5.7 52.1% 30.9% 1.73
KeeSean Johnson WR-X 6'1, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7556 64 37 337 57.8% 17.3% 5.3 54.7% 39.1% 1.25
Aaron Peck
(2014)
WR 6'3, 213 Sr. NR 0.7100 59 32 419 54.2% 12.3% 7.1 54.2% N/A N/A
Josiah Blandin WR-X
38 22 221 57.9% 10.3% 5.8 44.7% 47.4% 1.15
Da'Mari Scott WR-Z 6'0, 211 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8313 37 24 364 64.9% 10.0% 9.8 37.8% 48.6% 1.94
Chad Olsen TE 6'5, 236 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7633 35 19 229 54.3% 9.5% 6.5 54.3% 34.3% 1.79
Marteze Waller RB 28 20 151 71.4% 7.6% 5.4 42.9% 25.0% 1.97
Delvon Hardaway WR-Z 6'0, 193 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8126 26 9 88 34.6% 7.0% 3.4 61.5% 23.1% 1.38
Justin Johnson WR-Y 10 5 79 50.0% 2.7% 7.9 50.0% 50.0% 1.29
Malique Micenheimer RB 10 9 51 90.0% 2.7% 5.1 80.0% 50.0% 0.86
Keyan Williams WR
10 7 34 70.0% 2.7% 3.4 80.0% 30.0% 0.91
Dustin Garrison RB 5 2 9 40.0% 1.4% 1.8 20.0% 0.0% 0.00
Kyle Riddering TE 6'4, 242 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7908 3 2 7 66.7% 0.8% 2.3 66.7% 33.3% 0.58
Michael Martens WR-Y 6'2, 211 Sr. NR NR 3 0 0 0.0% 0.8% 0.0 100.0% 0.0% 0.00
Justin Allen WR-H 5'11, 185 So. NR NR
Darrell Fuery WR 5'11, 202 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533
Jared Rice TE 6'4, 214 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389
Donte Coleman TE 6'3, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8510

5. Youth becomes experience

It's going to be difficult for Kiesau to establish a strong run game this year. The Bulldogs are replacing last year's top three backs (including Waller, the go-to guy) and three three-year starters on the offensive line. Returning running backs have combined for 16 career carries (all from Dejonte O'Neal).

Granted, a fresh start can be a good thing, but this is extreme. There appears to be a good base of athleticism -- redshirt freshman Bryson Oglesby was a star of the 2015 class, JUCO transfer Dontel James was a three-star recruit per Rivals and two incoming freshmen were three-stars.

And while it's possible that up to three JUCO transfers, two redshirt freshmen and a true freshman get involved on the offensive line two-deep, at least a few were well-regarded recruits. The run game is undergoing a total reboot, but there's enough potential to think it could get some traction by 2017.

At the very least, the passing game will improve in 2016. It almost literally can't be worse, but if Virgil (or anyone else) can stick at QB, he'll have a far more experienced receiving corps. Sophomores Jamire Jordan and KeeSean Johnson are back after getting thrown into the deep end, and the return of senior Aaron Peck from a foot injury gives the Bulldogs a big-play threat they didn't have.

So while FS will probably have to pass more than it prefers, that might not be the worst thing.

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 89.8 2.46 2.88 36.5% 61.8% 26.1% 84.0 4.8% 10.0%
Rank 111 120 101 92 92 125 89 64 106
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Alex Fifita LT 12 36 2015 2nd All-MWC
Justin Northern RT 12 39
Bo Bonnheim C 12 33
Aaron Mitchell LG 6'2, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7806 12 12
Jacob Vazquez LG 6'3, 287 Sr. NR NR 8 8
Micah St. Andrew RG 6'3, 327 So. NR NR 4 4
David Patterson LT 6'4, 288 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926 0 0
Zack Kinninger RT 6'5, 299 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8081 0 0
Isaiah Trevino OL 6'5, 357 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8414

Donnie Greene OL 6'2, 283 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8289

Ryan Popolizio OL 6'6, 310 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7900

Shane Gama OL 6'4, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7533

Christian Cronk OL 6'5, 290 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8059

Quireo Woodley OL 6'2, 282 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8381


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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.20 36 IsoPPP+ 90.3 99
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.2% 109 Succ. Rt. + 91.3 98
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.5 35 Off. FP+ 31.2 36
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.8 102 Redzone S&P+ 92.7 101
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 16.9 ACTUAL 20.0 +3.1
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 102 101 98 99
RUSHING 117 104 100 102
PASSING 49 94 101 86
Standard Downs 86 90 80
Passing Downs 119 107 119
Q1 Rk 61 1st Down Rk 101
Q2 Rk 85 2nd Down Rk 68
Q3 Rk 121 3rd Down Rk 118
Q4 Rk 82

6. A great pass rush doesn't matter if no one has to pass

DeRuyter took on a lot of underdog coaching roles; he served as defensive coordinator at Ohio (twice), Navy and Air Force before doing significant damage as Texas A&M's coordinator in 2010-11. Everywhere he went, he was able to install a disruptive attack, usually despite outmanned personnel. He knows how to get defenders into the backfield.

To some degree, that remained the case in 2015. Fresno State once again boasted one of the nation's better pass rushes. The Bulldgos ranked 11th in Adj. Sack Rate, thanks mostly to two guys: end Claudell Louis and outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine. The two combined for 14 sacks while a few other linebackers pitched in two or three each.

The problem was that this was the only thing the defense did well. Fresno State had no disruptive presence against the run -- 113th in stuff rate, 114th in power success rate -- and if the quarterback didn't get sacked, he was almost assured of finding an open receiver.

Quite a few opponents had lovely passing days against Fresno State -- Ole Miss, San Jose State, San Diego State, Utah State, Air Force, Nevada and BYU all recorded a passer rating of at least 160 (SJSU hit 222) -- but most didn't feel the need to throw at all. They just ran and ran and ran and ran. Opponents ran 69 percent of the time on standard downs (fifth-most in the country) and 40 percent on passing downs (12th). Part of this could be because opponents were usually leading, but since these numbers filter out garbage time, that only explains so much.

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 89.9 3.32 3.56 40.6% 77.6% 15.3% 140.2 7.1% 10.2%
Rank 107 119 100 90 114 113 11 12 20
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Todd Hunt DE 12 37.5 5.2% 4.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
Claudell Louis DE 12 35.5 4.9% 6.5 5.0 0 1 0 0
Nathan Madsen NG 6'4, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7633 11 14.5 2.0% 3.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Tyler Puccio NG 6'1, 271 So. NR NR 10 9.5 1.3% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Hendrickson DE 6'4, 266 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856 12 7.5 1.0% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nick Kristofors DE 6'3, 268 Sr. NR NR 12 6.0 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Steele NG 6'0, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8194 8 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mason Bradley DE 6'3, 260 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793
Austin Vaimili DE 6'5, 265 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8117
Malik Forrester NG 6'1, 315 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7859
Patrick Belony NG 6'2, 309 So. 3 stars (5.5) NR
Elijah Piper NG 6'3, 308 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ejiro Ederaine OLB 12 76.5 10.6% 16.5 9.0 2 2 1 0
Jeff Camilli ILB 6'2, 255 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 11 55.5 7.7% 1.0 0.0 2 2 0 0
Kyrie Wilson ILB 11 55.0 7.6% 3.0 0.0 0 0 2 0
James Bailey OLB 6'1, 202 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8202 12 39.5 5.5% 2.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Nela Otukolo ILB 5'11, 234 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8187 8 20.5 2.8% 3.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Hughes OLB 6'3, 223 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 8 20.5 2.8% 4.0 3.0 0 0 0 1
Tobenna Okeke OLB 6'2, 237 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7819 9 17.5 2.4% 3.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Robert Stanley ILB 6'2, 234 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8056 9 15.5 2.2% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
George Helmuth ILB 6'1, 221 So. NR NR 12 14.0 1.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Justin Green OLB 6'4, 201 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926 10 13.0 1.8% 4.0 3.0 0 0 1 0
Kyrian Obidiegwu OLB 12 3.5 0.5% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Van Hook OLB 6'1, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8184
Trent Soechting OLB 6'3, 207 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7900
Lukas McKenzie OLB 6'1, 184 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115
Jeffrey Allison ILB 6'0, 260 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8007
Tainoa Foster OLB 6'2, 192 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893








7. Losing the wrong people

To inject life into the defense, DeRuyter brought in a seasoned hand. Lorenzo Ward spent seven seasons on Steve Spurrier's staff at South Carolina, and when he had attacking pieces up front, he did a pretty good job of deploying them. (Those pieces disappeared after 2013.)

Improvement will be tricky. A front seven that was unintentionally passive must now replace all three players who logged more than four tackles for loss each.

But there is at least potential among last year's backup linebackers and an influx of JUCO transfers. DeRuyter signed four JUCOs here -- three linemen (including three-star end Austin Vaimili) and a linebacker -- along with three-star freshmen Elijah Piper (nose guard), Lukas McKenzie (OLB) and Jeffrey Allison (ILB).

Combined with sophomore OLB James Bailey and veteran backups like Tobenna Okeke (3.5 TFLs last year) and Brandon Hughes (four), maybe there's enough play-making potential for a bit of a rebound.

There BETTER be, because with two new starting safeties, the back four might be fragile.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Tyquwan Glass CB 5'11, 185 Sr. NR NR 12 55.0 7.6% 1.5 0 4 6 0 0
Shannon Edwards FS 10 42.5 5.9% 1 1 1 0 0 0
Jamal Ellis CB 5'10, 179 Sr. NR 0.7000 12 40.0 5.6% 4.5 0 0 8 0 1
Charles Washington SS 11 35.5 4.9% 1 1 0 6 0 0
Dalen Jones S 6'1, 201 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8407 12 17.5 2.4% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Stratton Brown SS 6'2, 196 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7819 11 15.5 2.2% 0.5 0 0 0 2 0
DeShawn Potts FS 6'0, 190 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7633 8 14.5 2.0% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Anthoula Kelly DB 5'10, 192 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7719 9 13.0 1.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Alan Wright S 6'0, 186 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8059 12 10.0 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Malcolm Washington CB 6'2, 179 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7759 12 7.0 1.0% 0 0 0 4 0 0
Mike Bell DB 6'2, 190 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8482
Jalen Smith DB 5'11, 181 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7916
Juju Hughes DB 5'10, 172 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8019
Jaron Bryant S 6'1, 176 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7959








8. Stats give mixed signals in the secondary

In seniors Tyquwan Glass and Jamal Ellis, Fresno State boasts two veteran cornerbacks who have proven they can make plays. The duo combined for six tackles for loss, four interceptions and 14 break-ups last year. But knowing what we know about the Bulldogs' pass defense -- that, despite a strong pass rush and these aggressive corners, they still got burned a lot -- that tells us that either safety was a weakness, that the corners gave up as many plays as they made, or both.

In that sense, it might not be the end of the world that starting safeties Shannon Edwards and Charles Washington are gone. Neither was effective as a ball hawk. Still, that doesn't mean the replacements are any better. The hope has to be that a sophomore like DeShawn Potts is ready, and that with a sustained starting role, former star recruit Dalen Jones is ready to break out.

DeRuyter has been in charge of so many good defenses that it's surprising when he isn't. Still, Fresno has ranked below 80th in Def. S&P+ for three straight years, and there's enough turnover to make you wonder how much improvement is possible in 2016.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Garrett Swanson 67 42.2 3 27 20 70.1%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Garrett Swanson 54 61.8 25 1 46.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Kody Kroening 5'10, 150 Jr. 31-33 5-7 71.4% 1-1 100.0%
Jimmy Camacho 5'10, 160 Jr. 0-0 1-2 50.0% 1-2 50.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Da'Mari Scott KR 6'0, 211 Sr. 26 22.3 0
Jamire Jordan KR 5'10, 168 So. 16 19.7 0
Da'Mari Scott PR 6'0, 211 Sr. 5 6.4 0
Tyquwan Glass PR 5'11, 185 Sr. 4 18.8 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 76
Field Goal Efficiency 89
Punt Return Success Rate 3
Kick Return Success Rate 101
Punt Success Rate 40
Kickoff Success Rate 28

9. Losing two good legs at once

Garrett Swanson was instrumental in Fresno State posting top-40 efficiency ratings in both punts and kickoffs. His loss is a double blow of sorts. The return of place-kicker Kody Kroening and return man Da'Mari Scott assures some continuity, but without Swanson, the Bulldogs would have ranked a lot worse than 76th in Special Teams S&P+.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep at Nebraska 26 -20.0 12%
10-Sep Sacramento State NR 28.3 95%
17-Sep at Toledo 58 -12.1 24%
24-Sep Tulsa 93 3.5 58%
1-Oct at UNLV 114 4.1 59%
8-Oct at Nevada 91 -4.2 40%
15-Oct San Diego State 55 -5.5 38%
22-Oct at Utah State 73 -9.2 30%
29-Oct Air Force 80 -0.8 48%
5-Nov at Colorado State 96 -2.1 45%
19-Nov Hawaii 118 11.9 76%
26-Nov San Jose State 92 3.4 58%
Projected wins: 5.8
Five-Year F/+ Rk -8.8% (77)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 72 / 78
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -2 / -2.3
2015 TO Luck/Game +0.1
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 76% (89%, 62%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 4.3 (-1.3)

10. So many tossups

Because experience is more valuable in the passing game than the running game, Fresno's experience numbers are solid. Combined with California recruiting, the S&P+ projections are kind to the Bulldogs, projecting a slight jump after back-to-back No. 100 rankings. And if quarterback is no longer a liability, a bigger jump is possible.

As with the schedule of so many teams in the Mountain West, a little jump could go a long way. Fresno State is given between a 38 and 59 percent chance of winning in seven games, with two likely wins and three likely losses. That's a blank canvas, and it could result in 4-8 or 8-4 with just a few shifts.