Fresno State football has high hopes for this upcoming season. With 10 returning starters on offense and eight on defense, the Dogs are looking to make their first trip to a BCS game.
Head coach Pat Hill is entering his 12th season in the Valley. With an overall record of 85-55, including 13 wins over BCS teams in this decade alone, Pat Hill isn't afraid to play the big boys of college football.
Living up to the "Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere" slogan Fresno fans are familiar with, this season's lineup includes games at Rutgers, Toledo and UCLA. On September 13th, the Dogs welcome Wisconsin into Bulldog Stadium for the home opener. Look out for Fresno State to be ranked high in the polls if they can survive the always tough non-conference schedule.
Coach Hill welcomes in a new Offensive Coordinator this year, the fourth in the last four years. Doug Nussmeier is taking the reigns of the offense this year after Jim McElwain was offered the job at SEC power Alabama. When Pat Hill started his search for the new coordinator, McElwain personally recommended Nussmeier because both run similar styles of offense. This way, quarterback Tom Brandstater would have an easier time adjusting to Nussmeier.
Brandstater is coming off a career Junior season, leading Fresno State to a 9-4 overall record and a birth into the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl. Along the way, Brandstater lead the Dogs to wins over Kansas State and Georgia Tech. Although the game ended in a loss, Brandstater showed signs of what was to come in a game at Texas A&M early in the 2007 season. Brandstater will lead a solid offense which only lost one lineman from last season.
At the wide receiver position, Marlon Moore looks to lead the Dogs. Moore turned into Fresno State's top receiver last year after a preseason injury took Chastin West out for the 2007 campaign. West will return for the 2008 year and be joined by Jason Crawley, Seyi Ajiroututu and Devon Wylie.
Rashaad Evans, Freshman from Union City, Ca, will look to be a big threat in the years to come. At tight end, Bear Pascoe will look to return from an injury in the 2007 and be a big target for Brandstater.
Ryan Mathews had a fantastic true Freshman season and looks to improve upon the 900 yards of rushing and 14 touchdowns, a Freshman record. Lonyae Miller will be a solid number two, Anthony Harding in the third spot, and Raynard Camp at the Fullback position.
The offensive line only lost Senior Ryan Wendell to the Patriots this off season, but don't look for the O-line to fall apart with his loss. Cole Popovich and Adam McDowell will show their senior leadership and take control of this very talented line. Andrew Jackson and Kenny Avon will also be key to the success of the offense.
On the defensive side, Dan Brown will miss the play of All-WAC Lineman Tyler Clutts and WAC Defensive Player of the Year linebacker Marcus Riley. Looking to become the next defensive stars for the Dogs are John Monga on the D-line and Ben Jacobs at linebacker. Jacobs shined last year as a Freshman starter in the absence of Ahaji Lane and will be the anchor of the linebackers, flanked by Nico Herron and Nick Bates.
Monga will be joined on the line by Ikenna Ike, who is finally healthy after many injury plagued seasons. Look for Ike to fill in hole that Clutts left.
Moses Harris, Damion Owens and AJ Jefferson are the three key players for the Fresno State secondary. Through the spring workouts, they showed great leadership. Marvin Haynes will be back at safety and will be the final piece in the lockdown secondary.
This group in the secondary isn't well known for interceptions. In the 2007 season, their first interception came in game seven versus San Jose State, a play that set the mood for a 30-0 shutout over the Spartans.
If all of these pieces can come together and play flawlessly, don't be suprised to see Fresno State playing in a BCS bowl. Unlike Boise State and Hawaii the past two years, the Dogs have a high ranking strength of schedule, and will have earned their spot in the BCS.
GO DOGS GO!