This week, BearTerritory caught up with BulldogReport.com publisher Christopher Aguirre to ask a few questions about the Fresno State Bulldogs, prior to their opener with California on Saturday.
BearTerritory: What kind of offense can Cal fans expect to see from Fresno State?
Christopher Aguirre: Fresno State has been known to be a team that has run the ball a lot. This year however with Derek Carr now at quarterback for the Bulldogs, Cal fans should expect to see a lot more throwing down the field. Still expect to see the ground and pound but now with the passing game that Fresno State should have, expect a more balanced offenese out of the Bulldogs.
BT: Have there been many changes to the offense now that the Bulldogs are going with a first-year signal caller in Carr? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
CA: Carr's biggest strength is his ability to make plays, his strong arm, and his football I.Q. He once threw passes to Andre Johnson at Texans camp when his brother was there, so he is not afraid of the moment. He has the ability to escape the pocket and keep plays alive for the Bulldogs. His arm is one of the best in the history of Fresno State, he can throw probably 70 yards on the fly. He has been waiting for this moment his whole life to be the starter at Fresno State, so expect him to come out and show it.
His weakness: This will be his first ever college game so it will be interesting to see if he can live up to the hype that everyone at Fresno State is giving him. He does tend to overthrow his receivers a bit on long passes down the field. His main weakness may just be that he cannot live up to the hype.
BT: The Bulldogs seem to have lost a lot of experience along the offensive line. How much of a strength or a weakness is that going to be for Fresno State?
CA: Actually one of the question marks right now is the offensive line. The Bulldogs did lose four starters on the O-line in center Joe Bernardi, Andrew Jackson, Devan Cunningham and Kenny Wiggens. With that being said, Fresno Sate does have some experience on the offensive line in players such as Richard Helepiko, Leslie Cooper who should take over the center duties, as well as Bryce Harris -- all who saw significant playing time due to injuries to the other starters last year. Coach Pat Hill believes that, if his line can stay healthy and progress quickly, that the Bulldogs will go far. The running game will benefit a lot from the offensive line -- who seem to becoming more cohesive as every day of practice goes by. Carr will benefit the most if he is able to stay upright.
BT: What kind of defense can we expect to see, and which players are the big playmakers on that side of the ball?
CA: Fresno State will run a 4-3 defense. Last year, the Bulldogs did not blitz at all, as they did not have the speed on the outside to do so. This year that will change, as Hill believes that the best athletes he has are on defense. Look for big time plays from junior linebacker Travis Brown, who was second on the team in tackles last season. Also look for senior defensive lineman Logan Harrell to try and build on his outstanding junior season. Other notable players to watch are defensive back Isaiah Green and senior linebacker Kyle Knox. Both these players will be a key part to the Bulldogs defense in 2011.
BT: With so many injuries to wide receivers during fall camp, which young receivers emerged as go-to targets for Carr?
CA: The young receiver who has stood out in fall camp has been redshirt freshman Josh Harper. Harper runs the 40 in the 4.3-second range and has been showing flashes of being a great player for the Bullodgs. He caught three touchdown passes in the final fall scrimmage and has been making some great catches all fall long. Look for him to have a breakout season and be another fast receiver that Fresno State can utilize, along with Jalen Saunders, Isaiah Burse, and Devon Wylie.