Preview 2017: Fresno State Bulldogs

Preview 2017: Fresno State Bulldogs

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Preview 2017: Fresno State Bulldogs

Preview 2017: Fresno State Bulldogs


Previewing and looking ahead at the Fresno State Bulldogs season – and what you need to know.


Contact @PeteFiutak

2017 Fresno State Preview: Tedford Will Crank Up O Fast
2017 Fresno State Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– Fresno State Previews: 2016 | 2015

What You Need To Know About The Fresno State Offense

If anyone knows how to kickstart an offense, it’s supposed to be new head coach Jeff Tedford, along with offensive coordinator, Kalen DeBoer, but there’s a ton of heavy lifting to do.

On the plus side, ten starters are back. In a glass-is-half-empty way, those ten starters weren’t any good last season for an offense that was the ninth-worst in college football.

If Chason Virgil can grow into the starting quarterback gig – and if he looks as sharp as he did this spring – all of a sudden, the woefully inefficient passing game should work.

The receiving corps should be terrific, with KeeSean Johnson and all the top targets back – along with a few great new ones – to crank up the production in a hurry. At least that’s the hope.

All five starters are back up front with more than enough size to potentially pound away when needed for a couple of big backs who should at least make the nation’s 119th best running game more physical.

Biggest Key To The Fresno State Offense

The O starts to score again. How bad was the offense? The 2013 Bulldogs scores more in the first five game than the 2017 offense did all season long. Fresno State put up 41 points in a shootout loss to Tulsa, and 31 points in the lone win on the year against Sacramento State, and that was about it. In the other ten games, the Bulldog offense averaged just 14 points per game.

The Fresno State offense scores 17 points or fewer in 11 of the last 20 games, and that has to change fast. That’s what the new coaching staff is for – Tedford and this crew will crank up the scoring, even if it’s not enough to make up for the leaky D.

What You Need To Know About The Fresno State Defense

Defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer has to try generating some semblance of production out of a defense that wasn’t all that awful at allowing yards – it gave up a not-horrible 415 yards per game – but couldn’t do anything against the run and couldn’t make up for the problems on offense.

Step One is figuring out the defensive front – and the change to a 4-3 isn’t going to help. DT Malik Forrester isn’t a bad place to start, but the depth is going to be woefully lacking early on. Fortunately, the linebackers should be there to pick up some of the slack. Second-leading tackler Jeff Camilli is gone, but it’s a good enough overall group to come up with a ton of stops – and it’ll get its chances.

The secondary that didn’t get thrown on all that often – partly because everyone had so much fun running the ball – loses the team’s top tackler in Stratton Brown and two other starters. DeShawn Potts is a good one at safety, but it’ll be a youth movement on the corners.

Biggest Key To The Fresno State Defense

Get to the quarterback already. There weren’t enough picks, there weren’t enough tackles for loss, and there wasn’t enough production against the run. A lot of that had to do because of a line that had a really, really hard time getting into the backfield with half as many sacks as it came up with in 2015.

There were seven sacks against Sacramento State and Tulsa, and a grand total of seven more in the other ten games. At some point, the Bulldogs have to sell out to start forcing more mistakes.

Fresno State Will Be Far Better If …

The run defense has to be just a bit better. It’s been years since the Bulldogs did much of anything up front against the run, and it might be asking a lot for a big change early on considering the line needs an overhaul.

It was impossible for the Bulldogs to ever get into games because the run defense just couldn’t hold up, allowing 200 yards or more to everyone but Sacramento State and Hawaii. It was painful – the Bulldogs didn’t get hit with a ton of big plays, but it kept getting hammered on over and over again. That has to change, but it won’t look like it with Alabama and Washington early on.

Best Fresno State Offensive Player

WR KeeSean Johnson, Jr. – The leader of a terrific receiving corps, the 6-1, 204-pound Johnson came up with 66 catches for 773 yards and six scores, while getting a little work as a runner and kick returner. Ultra-quick, and now bulked up a bit, he had a few bursts, catching ten passes for 142 yards and three scores against Air Force, and doing a decent job as the No. 1 target.

2. QB Chason Virgil, Soph.
3. RB Dontel James, Sr.
4. WR Jamire Jordan, Jr.
5. OT Christian Cronk, Jr.

Best Fresno State Defensive Player

LB James Bailey, Jr. – How will the new coaching staff use him? Is he a small, 6-1, 225-pound outside linebacker? Is he a nickelback? Is he a pass rusher? He’s fast, can hit, and he has the potential to get to the quarterback, but as long as he’s holding his own against the run, he’ll be doing his job. The team’s leading returning tackler only came up with 59 tackles, but he broke up four passes with five tackles for loss.

2. LB/DE Tobenna Okeke, Sr.
3. S DeShawn Potts, Jr.
4. DT Malik Forrester, Sr.
5. LB Nela Otukolo, Jr.

Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Chason Virgil, Soph. – There will be others who’ll be in the mix for the honor of running Jeff Tedfords’s offense, but Virgil looks and should play the part once he’s able to let it rip. He’s coming off a shoulder injury, but he looked great in spring ball. Now he has to be the one who cranks up the pro-style offense to improve a passing attack that finished 120th in the nation in efficiency. While he’s not big at 6-1 and 190 pounds, he’s accurate – he’ll fit in just fine.

The Fresno State Season Will Be A Success If …

It wins at least four games. Baby steps. After a few miserable seasons, and just one win last year, it’s going to take a little while to be back in the mix for anything that matters in Mountain West play. The Bulldogs will match last year’s win total right away with a date with Incarnate Word, and they have to be able to hang with UNLV, maybe San Jose State, and maybe Hawaii, but they’ll be underdogs against just about everyone. That’s why it’ll be so important to set the tone with …

Key Game To The Fresno State Season

Sept. 30 vs. Nevada – So where’s Fresno State going to be at early on in the season and to start the Mountain West campaign? How far does it have to go? After getting obliterated by Alabama and Washington, and beating Incarnate Word, this is the first game to see if the season has any hope of being interesting.

2016 Fresno State Fun Stats

– Sacks: Opponents 31 for 186 yards – Fresno State 14 for 94 yards
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 9-of-13 (69%) – Fresno State 8-of-23 (35%)
– Fumbles: Opponents 14 (lost 4) – Fresno State 13 (lost 5)

2017 Fresno State Preview: Tedford Will Crank Up O Fast
2017 Fresno State Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– Fresno State Previews: 2016 | 2015

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