Fresno was awesome last year, neck and neck with UCF for the best team in the G5, but a lot is gone from the 12-2 Las Vegas Bowl champion team, so a step back may be inevitable.
After going 1-11 the year before his arrival, Jeff Tedford took the Bulldogs to a ten-win year in 2017 and then a 12-2 record in 2018, one of the best seasons in school history, so maybe we shouldn’t doubt him too much.
The new offensive coordinator is Ryan Grubb, who was promoted from within previously having been the o-line coach. He loses a few key pieces in QB Marcus McMaryion, WRs KeeSean Johnson and Jamire Jordan, T Christian Cronk, and G Micah St. Andrew. All in all, just three starters return on offense, so his first year may be a rough one.
The new QB is dual-threat senior Jorge Reyna, who has been impressive in spring camp and in limited snaps last year. Ronnie Rivers returns at running back. Rivers is an every-down back, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 12 yards per catch. The line is rebuilding, but JUCO transfer Tim Anderson is a big addition, highly touted redshirt freshman Tyrone Sampson finally gets a chance to shine, and tackle Netane Muti is back from an injury.
The receiver spot is a little shallow, but an all-conference tight end returns in Jared Rice, and the Bulldogs add a nice JUCO transfer to be his #2 in Raymond Pauwels. Derrion Grim is the only receiver returning with more than 60 yards and he was hardly efficient. We may see some underclassmen step into big roles here like sophomore Chis Coleman or redshirt freshman Emoryie Edwards.
This offense has a lot of holes and will likely take a sizable step back in 2019.
The defense was really solid last year for Fresno State, allowing just 4.7 yards per play. The line will remain mostly intact, the rest of the defense might be a work in progress.
Mykal Walker was a do it all DII transfer last year and shattered all expectations, racking up 4.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL, and six PBUs, he was one of the best defenders at the G5 level. He will start at MLB, who his dancing partners will be is still uncertain. WLB Justin Rice is back from an injury, and perhaps Arron Mosby steps up after playing in 13 games last year.
On the line, Keiti Iakopo, Kevin Atkins, Jashad Haynes, and Ricky McCoy return in the middle, where they also add Arizona transfer Kurtis Brown, Kwami Jones wasn’t too productive on the end last year but he returns as well.
The secondary, led by safety Juju Hughes (eight PBUs, four interceptions) and Jaron Bryant (12 PBUs), should be in good shape despite the loss of Mike Bell. Sophomores Wylan Free and Chris Gaston will fall into the other two starting roles.
Five of the top seven tacklers are gone but there is still a lot of talent on this defense and they should be one of the best in the conference yet again.
It seems pretty obvious that the Bulldogs will take a step back from last year’s 12-2 year, but it’s not crazy to say that even with a step back they could still be the West division favorites.
Fresno starts the year with USC and Minnesota and does draw Air Force and San Diego State on the road in conference play, but they don’t draw Boise State from the Mountain. Despite being a “rebuilding” year, this still could be your Mountain West champion.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|28-Sep||at New Mexico State||125||14.9|
|12-Oct||at Air Force||97||4.5|
|15-Nov||at San Diego State||66||-0.1|
|30-Nov||at San Jose State||116||12.1|
Average Projected Record: 8.5 wins, 3.5 losses (5.9 wins, 2.1 losses)