Fresno State Football in rebuilding mode, but still a Western Division contender.
Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Brian Burrell (2) calls a play against the Hawaii Warriors in the first quarter at Bulldog Stadium; Nov 29, 2014; Fresno, CA, USA. (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)
(C+P) — 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 get back into the West title again, 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.
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 last season, 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 game they probably didn’t deserve to make and finished the season 6-8.
In the offseason, a load of players graduated, transferred or were asked to transfer. The units that faced turnover in 2014 are double-dipping in 2015.
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 base of talent and athleticism on the roster could mature into a solid team once again. But this could be a tough year.