Bulldogs Plan to Pick Up the Pace in 2012

July 27, 2012

By Jason Clay

FRESNO, Calif. - Come Sept. 1, Bulldog fans are going to see a new brand of football that hasn't been seen before.

That brand: fanatical.

New Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter, who was hired on Dec. 14, 2011, promises his team will play fast, physical and with a fanatical effort.

"We're going to play like our hair is on fire," DeRuyter said.

DeRuyter, who is just the third Bulldog head coach in the last 30 years, comes to Fresno State from Texas A&M where he was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

Bringing in a defensive-minded coach is something Bulldog football fans were happy to see after Fresno State allowed over 35 points per game and 435 yards of offense last season.

But just because he is a coach with a defensive background doesn't mean he is lacking a vision for a new offense as he leads Fresno State into the Mountain West.

"Offensively, we are going to spread the field vertically and horizontally," DeRuyter said. "Most importantly, we are going to play with tempo."

The Bulldogs are switching from a pro-style offense to a spread under new offensive coordinator Dave Schramm. The spread offense, which is the new fad in college football, uses a no-huddle approach and is fast-paced. Schramm plans to utilize a talented roster to light up the scoreboard in a hurry.

It all starts with quarterback Derek Carr, who is coming off his sophomore season where he completed 63 percent of his passes and threw for 3,544 yards and 26 touchdowns.

"Going into this season as a team, we're expecting some great things," Carr said. "Everyone is healthy. Everyone that needs to be playing is playing and we got some great depth. We got a lot of talent that can play at the next level, so as long as we can put that together I'm 10 times more excited for this season for our team."

Alongside Carr is running back Robbie Rouse, who is on the verge of becoming the school's all-time leading rusher. Rouse enters his senior season with 3,157 career rushing yards and needs just 317 more yards to break Ron Rivers' school record that has stood since 1993.

A first-team All-WAC selection a year ago, Rouse should have an easier time running the ball this season than he did last year. That is a product of the new offense.

The theory behind the spread is that you have to make the defense take away either the run or the pass. If teams try to take away the pass by bringing an extra defensive back into the game, than Rouse will have more room to run at the line of scrimmage.

When teams beef up at the line to stop Rouse, Carr will be able air it out. That is when the offense gets exciting because big plays follow.

"[Robbie] will be able to run the ball against a lot lighter box than he did before," Schramm said. "Hopefully we're throwing the ball well enough that you're going to give him bigger running lanes and a little less people to have to deal with."

The Bulldog receiving corps is probably the deepest and most talented position on the team. Four players that all caught 30 or more passes last year return.

"I like the guys we got in the group," said wide receiver coach Ron Antoine. "We got some guys who obviously have proven themselves in years before so it is a good group."

Senior Rashad Evans is the most experienced receiver, with over 100 catches and 1,000 receiving yards on his resume.

Then you have Josh Harper, who as a freshman caught 35 passes for 497 yards and five touchdowns a year ago - the most by a Bulldog freshman in the last 10 years.

A.J. Johnson and Victor Dean are both targets Carr will be looking for, especially Dean who stands 6-6 and runs a 4.39 40-yard dash.

The one newcomer to the group is redshirt freshman Davante Adams, a talented receiver out of Palo Alto, Calif. Fresno State fans will get to know his name early in the season.

The backbone behind any great offense is a great offensive line.

Fresno State returns five linemen that all started seven or more games last season, so experience is on its side. The only perceived problem with the offensive line is a lack of depth, but DeRuyter and his staff addressed that by bringing in several junior college players to work in the trenches.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs will be led by defensive coordinator Nick Toth. Toth was with DeRuyter at Texas A&M where he coached the linebackers, including Von Miller.

Under Toth's tutelage, Miller won the 2010 Butkus Award given to the nation's most outstanding linebacker and went on to become the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011.

The system DeRuyter and Toth bring is a multiple 3-4, where you have three down linemen and four linebackers. It is centered on stopping the run, pressuring the quarterback and creating turnovers.

"We do not want to let people run the football on us," Toth said. "Those teams that win championships generally play really, really good run defense. To supplement that, we've done a good job in the past of getting after the passer, whether it is to force turnovers or knocking [the quarterback] to the ground."

For years, the Bulldogs have struggled trying to create turnovers. In each of the last four seasons, Fresno State forced 15 turnovers or less and ranked 111th or worse nationally in turnovers gained - and that is out of 120 Division I FBS teams.

The goal for this year and every year in DeRuyter's and Toth's system is to force 30 or more turnovers.

One of the key components on defense was missing from last season's team, and that was safety Phillip Thomas. Thomas missed the entire year after suffering a broken leg days before the 2011 season opener.

He is back on the field and healthy, ready for his senior season.

"We've got Phillip Thomas, who is a strong safety, an NFL strong safety. We haven't had one of those in this defense," Toth said of his past teams at Texas A&M. "We've had NFL corners. We've had NFL inside linebackers and outside linebackers, obviously, and [defensive] linemen. We've never really had the safety that is a flat-out man; [Phillip] is the guy."

In addition to Thomas' return from injury, also back from a broken arm is free safety Derron Smith. Those two join a group of seven returning starters on defense.

Outside linebacker Travis Brown, a two-time all-conference selection, is poised for a big senior year. He and the other outside linebackers that includes fellow seniors Shawn Plummer and Tristan Okpalaugo along with sophomore Donavon Lewis, are ready to get after the quarterback.

Fresno State had 22 sacks a year ago - 9.5 of which came from Brown, Okpalaugo and Lewis. At Texas A&M in 2011, DeRuyter's defense led the nation with 51 sacks.

The inside linebackers, key for stopping the run and lining up the defense, include juniors Jeremiah Toma and Patrick Su'a. Toma started every game last year while Su'a started three games and was the special teams stud. Both were captains a year ago and figure to lead the team again.

"Those are our two guys inside," Toth said of Su'a and Toma. "They are super smart and picked up our defense right away [in the spring]."

Backing them up will be Karl Mickelson, Kyrie Wilson and Malique Micenheimer.

Up front at the line of scrimmage will be two ends and a nose guard. Look for senior Anthony Williams to have a breakout season.

He will be one of the ends in the defense, along with Nikko Motta and Matt Akers. Then at nose guard is Tyeler Davison and Andy Jennings.

"Tyeler Davison is going to be a good player in this league," Toth said. "Anthony Williams, who is going to be a senior, is also a very good football player. Those two guys are kind of the anchor for us [on the defensive line]."

With the all the changes over the offseason, it now comes down to getting out on the field and doing it.

The Bulldogs report for fall camp on Aug. 2 and have 29 practices before opening up the season on Sept. 1 at home against Weber State.

Fresno State plays six home games in 2012 and DeRuyter is looking forward to seeing the Red Wave out at Bulldog Stadium.

"My goal is to build a championship team," he said. "We are going to build a team that is going to win over the hearts and minds of the Valley."

"Discover Fresno State Football" - Fresno State has season tickets available for as low as $140, which is less than $24 per game. Tickets are moving fast, join the excitement of the Red Wave now by calling 559-278-DOGS!