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New Season, New Expectations For Pat Hill and Fresno State

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IAugust 18, 2009

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Head coach Pat Hill and the Frenso State Bulldogs prepare to take on the UCLA Bruins on September 27, 2008 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

A new season looms, new expectations have been given and the bar has been set.  For Pat Hill and the Fresno State Bulldogs, this could be the most anticipated season in recent memory. But don't expect Hill to look at this season any differently.

The "Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime," mantra continues in 2009 as the Bulldogs will face Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Illinois as part of their non-conference schedule and all three of those games will be played away from Bulldog Stadium.  Their other non-conference game will be their home opener on Sept. 5 against UC Davis.

It's a schedule that has drawn Fresno State national praise from ESPN's Mark Schlabach.  Schlabach has the Bulldog schedule as the fifth toughest in the nation behind Virginia Tech, Georgia, Oklahoma and Oregon.

"Fresno State coach Pat Hill likes to say his team will play an opponent "anywhere and at anytime." Hill followed up that promise when filling out the Bulldogs' aggressive schedule this season. After opening the season against FCS opponent UC Davis on Sept. 5, the Bulldogs play at Wisconsin on Sept. 12. They also play at Cincinnati on Sept. 26 and close the regular season with a road game at Illinois on Dec. 5."

But Hill has always been known for scheduling tough opponents, which has also drawn a lot of criticism from local fans for the lack of WAC Championships under his belt.  The thought amongst a lot of fans is, why schedule opponents like that when you can't beat teams in your own conference?  Why go for a BCS bowl bid when you can't win your own conference championship?

They're all relevant questions, but here's my rebuttal. Would you rather schedule Division II opponents like a lot of the big conferences do so they can get a few easy wins under their belt? 

For example, top ranked Florida plays Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International out of conference.  No offense to you Florida fans, but come on, if you're the top ranked team in the nation, PROVE IT.  What are you proving by scheduling teams like that?

I will give Hill a lot of credit for sticking to his guns and his philosophy.  He holds his teams to a higher standard and this season's team is no different from any other.  He still expects them to play hard and leave everything on the field, to believe they can beat anyone in the country. Hill will continue to coach, recruit and schedule with that mantra in mind, year in and year out.

This season, however, may have a different feel as well as a different look.  Though there will also be a familiarity about it.

Derek Carr, younger brother of former Bulldog and number one overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft David Carr, is a true freshman under Hill and is fighting to be the starting quarterback when the Bulldogs host UC Davis in the season's opening game.

Fighting alongside Carr are RS Freshman Ebahn Feathers and Jr. Ryan Colburn, both of which have made good cases for themselves during spring practices.

"I think we have a great situation," coach Hill told the media during Media Day on Aug. 7. "We have three very, very talented quarterbacks and they all bring something special to our team. Since none of them have game experience, it's going to take them facing some live bullets in a real game to see what happens and who can lead this team. We have three very good players who I believe can lead this football team to wins. That's what it's all about."

Along with those three quarterbacks, the Bulldogs also have returning players who opened a lot of eyes during the 2008 season. 

Senior wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, a favorite target of departed quarterback Tom Brandstater, senior defensive back Moses Harris and senior cornerback and return man A.J. Jefferson just to name a few.

But the one thing that the Bulldogs do boast is the three-headed monster on offense, a corps of running backs who can each change the game in a single moment. 

Senior running backs Anthony Harding and Lonyae Miller along with Junior running back Ryan Mathews make up that three-headed monster, and each of them is equally deadly with the ball in their hands.

Another position to watch is the position that Bear Pascoe held for so long before graduating and being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2009 NFL Draft.  The two guys that should see time at tight end are Senior Isaac Kinter and Sophomore Ryan Skidmore. 

Look for Skidmore to get the majority of the playing time, especially since he was number two on the depth chart as a freshman behind Pascoe during the 2008 season.

In all, the 2009 season looks to be even more exciting than 2008 and this season is definitely more anticipated by local and national fans alike.  After a disappointing 7-6 season in 2008, Hill and the Bulldogs have a lot to prove to their fans and the media and it needs to start with a convincing win against UC Davis.

Win that game big and the Bulldogs will have the momentum they need going into arguably one of their toughest tests of 2009 as they travel to Madison, WI to take on the Wisconsin Badgers.

But before all that, the question still remains as to who the team leader will be.  Who will be the starting quarterback for the Fresno State Bulldogs?  That's a great question, and one we're all looking forward to.

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