Monday, November 28, 2016
Bilo's College Football: Fresno State Bulldogs 2016 End of Year Report
Fresno State Bulldogs 2016 End of Year Report
This was not the way the year was supposed to go for the Bulldogs. Fresno State finished dead last in our PRS rankings with -1878 points and a 1-11 record for the season. Their only win on the year came against FCS member Sacramento State, and eventually, the season ended up with a coaching change, which should elevate the program moving forward. Here is our review for the season…
The ball ended up in the hands of a freshman, Chason Virgil, this season, and the reviews were that he is a work in progress with a decent upside for the future. Virgil played in 10 games, completing166/322 passes for 2021 yards and 13 TDs to 10 picks. His completion percentage was just over 51%, but he did manage to average 202.1 yards per game. With improved play from his line next season, you can expect a better completion percentage and in increase from his 111.58 passer rating.
Behind Virgil, there is a gaping void of experience. Zach Kline is gone, and nobody with any experience returns in 2017.
The line did not do their job very well, and this area was completely obliterated by bad performances. Junior Dontel James was the leading rusher with just 697 yards and 5 TDs, and averaged just 63.36 yards per game on 18.91 carries per game. What was worse is that James rushed for just 5 TDs all season. As a team, the Bulldogs rushed for just 11 TDs in 12 games this season. As a team, the Bulldogs averaged just 3.17 yards per carry and averaged just a shade over 116 yards rushing per game. This was a central reason as to why Fresno State failed in 2016.
This was a decent, not great, but decent group in 2016. KeeSean Johnson, Jamire Jordan, and Delvon Hardaway all are slotted to return in 2017 after the group combined for 121 receptions this season. Johnson led the club with 66 catches on the year for 773 yards and a team leading 6 TDs. Jordan caught 45 passes for 713 yards and is a better deep ball threat. Johnson and Jordan will be juniors. Hardaway caught just 10 passes all season, but has room for development as a senior next fall. After those three, depth really falls off as far as experience is concerned.
TE is a position with no real value for the Bulldogs, as their top two TEs caught a combined 13 passes on the season. Chad Olson looked promising in a small spurt, but played in only 5 games this season. Kyle Riddering and Jared Rice are both also slotted to return, so the Bulldgos should be able to develop this group in the spring.
This unit was largely terrible in 2016. The best penetrating defender up front on the line was Malik Forrester, and he recorded just 5.5 TFLs on the season. Nathan Madsen was next with just 1.5. There was a complete inability to stop the run, as the Bulldogs gave up 167 rushing 1st downs on the season, against 80 passing. That is a terrible number to contemplate. This unit accounted for just 3.5 sacks all season as well, which is abysmal.
Jeff Camilli was a standout in disrupting the backfield, but stil only recorded 9.5 TFLs to lead the team. He will move on and will not be back in 2017, so the leadership would go to Nela Otukolo, who finished with 5.5 TFLs, and James Bailey, who had 5. Camilli led the unit with 108 tackles, and so will be missed. Bailey finished with just 54 on the season, while Robert Stanley had 54. Tobenna Okeke, Otukolo, Trent Soechting, and Jeffrey Allison all return after decent seasons, so there should be some depth here next fall. Still, this group has to do better at preventing the run next year as well.
Tyquwan Glass led the team in passes broken up with 9 this season, and was a star on defense for the Bulldogs. Jamal Ellis finished with 5 PBUs as well, but the bad news is that both are seniors who will not be back. Deshawn Potts, a sophomore this season, finished with 5 PBUs, and will be the new leader in the secondary for his junior season, but he will be leading a small group of returnees. The Bulldogs picked off just 5 passes all season, and everyone who picked off a pass for this unit will not be back next year. That is concerning.
Thank God for PK Kody Kroening. He was one of the most dependable players on this football lteam in 2016, hitting on 15/17 FGs, and connecting on all 23 of his PATs. The junior will return next season, giving the Bulldogs at least one area of consistent scoring.
Freshman Blake Kusick was not at all dependable, and had a rough freshman season, averaging just 38.33 yards per punt on the year. Expectations are that he can improve as a sophomore, but if I were the new staff, I would recruit a punter just in case.
There are options in the kick return game, as Dejonta O’Neill averaged over 30 yards per return in 2016. Jordan and Johnson from the WR corps also will return next season, and had some decent gains here.
Glass was the primary punt return guy this season, but he averaged just under 6.5 yards per return, so that does not work. Expect JuJu Hughes to get more work in that department in spring ball.
A new staff will be in place for 2017, as Tim DeRuyter was fired earlier in the season. Jeff Tedford, the former California and BC Lions head coach, will come in and try to bring the Bulldogs back to prior glory, but this roster needs a virtual rebuild before that can happen. Tedford was known at Cal for starting fast and fading late, and Fresno State cannot afford that approach right now. DeRuyter was a hot commodity early, and then went to rock bottom at an alarming speed. This entire team needs major overhauls, but there is some promise for a better tomorrow at QB, LB, and at PK.
Areas of Need: Offensive Line, Running Back, Depth at WR, Physicality on D Line, depth and productivity in secondary, consistency at Punter, new direction in punt return game are all primary needs.
2017 Non-Conference Opponents: The non con schedule is a meat grinder, and I can only see the Bulldogs slogging through it to go 1-3. Fresno State begins next season with Abilene Christian of the FCS Southland Conference, but the next three are at Alabama, at Washington, and BYU on 11/4. It’s brutal for a rebuilding team.