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FRESNO STATE AT RUTGERS

MONDAY 9/1/08

Fresno State travels across country for a Monday afternoon affair with Rutgers in what figures to be an exciting matchup. While not a Key Release, one of our staff members likes the game quite a bit. Here's his pick and analysis.

Fresno State +5 over Rutgers - Fresno State will have 10 starters on offense that was a scoring machine accumulating 33 points per game last season. After rarely looking to throw downfield in ‘06, Tom Brandstater, though still slightly under wraps, suddenly had more confidence in the pocket a year ago en route to 2654 YP and 15 TDs, with only 5 picks. How he responds to new o.c. Doug Nussmeier, a former NFL QB who arrived at Fresno from the NFL (Rams’ QB coach LY), and is Hill’s fourth o.c. in as many years, remains to be seen. Don’t forget, however, that the Bulldogs ran 62% of the time in ‘07 and are likely to remain ground-oriented, with their top three rushers (including scintillating soph Ryan Matthews) back in the fold. All of Brandstater’s top targets return, plus Chastin West, the top ‘06 receiver who missed ‘07 with a knee injury. Hill and Nussmeier played it cool in the spring, however, not risking injury to several stars on the mend, including most of the veteran OL. Special teams ace A.J. Jefferson is also a force to be reckoned with after leading the nation in kick returns in ‘07.


Assuming Fresno will be plenty potent offensively, how close the Bulldogs get to their BCS dream likely depends upon a defense that lost 5 starters and has to replace a couple of heavy-duty playmakers in LB Marcus Riley (WAC Defensive MVP) and DE Tyler Clutts. WAC sources say the talent, if not the experience, is there, but the platoon did allow 5.1 ypc in ‘07 and needs to become more disruptive after forcing just 13 and 14 TOs, respectively, the last two years. In Riley’s absence, look for jr. SS Moses Harris to become the stop unit’s emotional leader.

For Rutgers, The initial plan is to use a “by-committee” approach at RB without the workhorse Rice, who toted the rock 30 times per game over the last two seasons while racking up 3806 yards & 44 TDs on the ground. Scouts say don’t expect anything close to Rice-type stats from projected new top dog Kordell Young (even if the fleet junior is able to return at full strength in the fall after suffering a major knee injury early in last year’s campaign) because coaches would also like to give some carries to a pair of highly-regarded sophs—Mason Robinson, who possesses the speed to hit “home runs,” and Jourdan Brooks, who has been transformed into a 235-lb. thumper after arriving on campus last year at a doughy 255. Sans Rice, the Scarlet Knights will likely be much more dependent on their aerial attack in 2008, and the passing game has the potential to be prolific. Strong-armed QB Mike Teel returns for his senior season with nearly 30 starts under his belt over the last three years. He had 14 TDP in the first 7 games of 2007, then struggled over a 4-game stretch (only 1 TDP & 6 ints.) due to painful thumb injury before finishing strong (64% for 568 yards with 5 TDP & 1 int. in regular-season finale at Louisville & the International Bowl win over Ball State). Teel will have at his disposal two of the Big East’s top WRs in sr. Tiquan Underwood (65 catches for 1100 yards & 7 TDs last year) and rangy 6-4 jr. Kenny Britt, who gained a robust 20 ypc on his 62 receptions in 2007. The OL (only 11 sacks last season!) is retooling after losing three
senior starters, including all-Big East OTs Jeremy Zuttah & Pedro Sosa. Mammoth soph Anthony Davis (6-6, 350), one of the most touted recruits in school history, is being moved from RG out to LT in order to keep pass rushers away from Teel’s blind side.

Experience in the secondary is a major plus with three starters returning from a platoon that permitted only 171 ypg passing on 51% completions. And spring practice scouts were very impressed with hard-hitting RS frosh LBs Manny Abreu & Antonio Lowery.


FINAL THOUGHT: Continuity is the key for this opener, which favors Fresno State +5

 

 

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