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Fresno State Preview: Offense

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NCAA Football: Fresno State at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Long gone are the glory days of Derek and David Carr. Last season the Bulldogs’ offense was statistically one of the very worst in the country. How bad was it? It was 125th out of 128 FBS teams in 2016 in points per game, with plenty of other dismal offensive stats to match. This all culminated in the firing of head coach Tim DeRuyter after a 1-7 start to the 2016 season. Once a perennial offensive powerhouse, Fresno State has fallen on hard times.

Into this void steps former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford (a UW offensive consultant last season), who was hired during the off-season as Fresno State’s new head coach. Tedford has California recruiting connections and a strong offensive prowess. How will that translate into offensive success on the field against the Huskies on Saturday?

Let’s get into it.

Offensive scheme:

Tedford hired Kalen DeBoer as his new offensive coordinator. DeBoer was most recently the O-coordinator at Eastern Michigan for three years and held the same position at Southern Illinois for four years prior. Last season, Fresno State ran a relatively slow and balanced attack... that often looked more like a retreat. Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan under DeBoer ran an up-tempo, pass-first offense. This is more likely what the Huskies will see Saturday evening.


Redshirt sophomore Chason Virgil (6’1”, 192 lbs.) was able to fend off competitors to return for his second year at starter. In 2016 he completed 166 of 322 passes for 2021 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also was second on the team with 77 rushes for 122 yards.

Through two (very different) games, Virgil has completed 37 of 63 pass attempts (59%) for 426 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. Last week against ALABAMA (lordy what tough back-to-back matchups) Virgil ran three times for a total of 2 yards, but with a long of 11.

Running backs:

True freshman Ronnie Rivers (5’10”, 170 lbs.) is the Bulldogs’ featured back. So far this season Rivers has 18 touches split evenly between his two games, with a total of 89 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. He had a 30 yard run against FCS Incarnate Word in week 1, but rushed for only 29 yards in week 2 against ‘Bama. He also has four total receptions for 28 yards and two punt returns for 19 total yards.

Rivers is backed up by sophomore Josh Hokit (6’1”, 220 lbs.). In 2016, Hokit saw limited playing time until the final two games of the season when he put up some solid numbers. Thanks to his size, he’s used primarily used as the red zone back, with eight touches for 25 yards and two touchdowns so far this season. He also caught two passes for 16 yards against Alabama and threw a 65 yard touchdown pass in week 1.

Wide receivers:

Redshirt Junior KeeSean Johnson (6’2”, 202 lbs.) is Fresno State’s best weapon on the offensive side of the ball. He was the team’s leading receiver last season in receptions, yards, and touchdowns— 66, 773, and 6, respectively. As a redshirt freshman, he was second on the team with 37 catches. In his 2017 campaign so far he has 15 receptions for 175 total yards, with a long of 34 yards. He had 8 receptions against Alabama.

Redshirt senior Da’Mari Scott (6’1”, 210 lbs.) was one of the team’s top receivers in 2015, but missed all of 2016. Now he’s back in the thick of the action and is second on the team in receptions this season. Last week against Alabama Scott had seven receptions for 67 yards. He also had two rushing attempts and is the team’s primary kick returner.

Junior Jamire Jordan (5’11’, 171 lbs.) and sophomore transfer Derrion Grim (6’1”, 186 lbs.) are the next two receivers most likely to see the ball thrown their way. Grim had two catches for 23 yards against Alabama, along with the Bulldogs’ only touchdown of the game.

Tight end:

Redshirt junior Kyle Riddering (6’6”, 240 lbs.) is the main threat at tight end for the Bulldogs. He had a touchdown catch in week 1 against Incarnate Word and had two receptions for 20 yards last week.

Offensive line:

People like to say it all starts up front on the offensive line. Well, for whatever reason, I keep addressing them last.

Senior center Aaron Mitchell (6’2”, 305 lbs.) is the lone returning starter from last season. He started all 12 games in 2016.

After Mitchell, the line, from left to right, is manned by a JUCO transfer, a redshirt freshman, a 340 pound former walk-on who started five games last year, and a senior with limited starting experience.

This won’t tell you much about the Bulldogs, but check out the highlights below of Alabama running all over Fresno State last week:

Roll Dawgs.