With the 2010 season in the books, lets take an early look and preview at the 2011 football season. I know its a bit early, but spring ball is just three to four months away.
The Bulldogs lose a quartet of senior leaders in QB Ryan Colburn, DE Chris Carter, LB Ben Jacobs and FS Lorne Bell. But that doesn’t even mention some of the impact players that have contributed in the past few years.
Here are some of the players that the Bulldogs will be losing after the bowl game against Northern Illinois.
- Cornell Banks
- Joe Bernardi
- Devan Cunningham
- Desia Dunn
- Andrew Jackson
- Chris Lewis
- Vince Pascoe
- Kenny Wiggins
The players mentioned above have at least two years or more of starting experience under their belts. So, with this class graduating, it’s going to be tough to replace these veterans. Young and inexperience players will be asked to step up in 2011, most notably at QB, the offensive and defensive lines, and tight end.
The Quarterback Position
The Departed: Ryan Colburn
Colburn, a two-year starter, had an up-and-down career as Fresno State’s starting quarterback, but Colburn has played well down the stretch. He didn’t make the kind of impact that most quarterbacks will be remembered for, and he didn’t lead the Bulldogs to a national ranking, but he left his mark as a hard-working player on and off the field. Colburn is probably the toughest player to ever suit up at QB under head coach Pat Hill.
- 4,988 passing yards, 40 TDs and 20 INTs
- 270 rushing yards with five TDs
The Heir Apparent: Derek Carr
Ever since Carr’s arrival onto the Fresno State campus in the spring of 2009, many Bulldog fans expected Carr to come in and steal the starting job away from Colburn. But for some reason, Carr could never beat out Colburn for the starting gig. Carr redshirted this season to shore up three years of eligibility. Carr gets his shot with Colburn’s departure. Expectations will be at an all-time high for Carr, especially with his older brother David being the most beloved quarterback in Fresno State history by many fans.
Carr possesses a strong arm and surprising mobility, but will he be able to live up to the hype?
Outlook: More promising
The Offensive Line
The Departed: C Joe Bernardi, G Devan Cunningham, G Andrew Jackson and T Kenny Wiggins
Entering the 2010 season, this unit was supposed to be the focal point of the Fresno State offense, but injuries decimated the growth of this group, and it seemed like the line was never able to live up to the hype. The only upside to the injuries was that it forced Hill and offensive line coach Derek Frazier to plug in some of Fresno State’s younger players into prominent starting roles. The only player returning for the 2011 season is two-year starter and second-team All-WAC selection Bryce Harris. Harris’ return will be vital, considering he will be expected to be the personal protector of Carr’s blindside.
The Replacements: G Leslie Cooper, C Richard Helipiko, T Austin Wentworth and G Matt Hunt
At one point or another this season, the four mentioned above was asked to fill in for an injured starter. When Jackson went down in the second game of the season against Utah State, Cooper was penciled in and he played well as his replacement despite suffering a few minor injuries of his own. Helipiko started a few games in place of Bernardi while Wentworth started at guard when Cooper was out with an injury. As for Hunt, he has been more of sixth man, coming in-and-out as a replacement player.
With so many injuries to the offensive line this season, it was really a blessing in disguise, in that it forced the coaches to insert young and inexperienced players into the rotation.
Outlook: A wait and see
The Defensive Line
The Departed: DT Cornell Banks, DE Chris Carter and DE Chris Lewis
Carter, the WAC’s premier defensive player, will be missed and its going to hurt. It took Carter four years to evolve into one of the nation’s elite sack specialists. Will the players be able to replace Carter? I don’t think so, but the force in the middle of this season’s stout defensive line returns—Logan Harrell.
Banks and Lewis have been part-time contributors each of the past two season with Banks playing a starting role in each, but when younger players are asked to step in and replace a veteran, it almost, always seems, like there will be growing pains.
The Replacements: DE Donahvaughn Pritchett, DE Nat Harrison, DT Chase McEntee and DT Anthony Williams
Pritchett has filled in nicely, since taking over as a starter when Lewis went down with a career-ending injury against Boise State. But his shoes will be much bigger next season when coaches ask Pritchett to take over Carter’s spot. Before the season began, Carter told me that Harrison should be a player that fans should look out for. Harrison is a young player, but Carter said that Harrison possesses the athletic ability and the right mindset to be a successful player in Fresno State’s defensive front.
Williams is Fresno State’s strongest player ever on the bench press. Williams made the game-ending sack against Illinois to seal the upset victory for the Bulldogs. He should be a nice addition to Harrell on the interior.
Outlook: Won’t be the same
The Tight End Position
The Departed: Vince Pascoe
Pascoe entered the Fresno State program as a walk-on, and has since etched his name as one of the hardest-working student athletes on campus. Pascoe excelled in the classroom and was honored as an Academic All-America as a senior. His smarts will be missed on and off the field.
The Replacements: Michael Butler, David Gory and Ryan Skidmore
Skidmore was hailed as an exciting receiving TE out of East (Bakersfield), but through three years the junior has yet to produce, recording just three catches for 17 yards, and that came in 2008 as a freshman. Butler and Gory are both young and intriguing prospects, but both have little to no experience. This might be the position that raises the most concern, but if Fresno State can develop a strong blocking tight end, this unit shouldn’t miss a beat, considering Pascoe was more of a road grinder as a blocker than a receiver.
Outlook: More upside with a talented and younger group