The 2011 version of the Fresno State Bulldogs is unlike any other Pat Hill-coached team in that it finished the season with a 4-9 record and missed a bowl game for just the fourth time under the coach’s direction.
The record was the worst in Hill’s tenure and after losing the final game of the season against San Diego State, 35-28 at Qualcomm Stadium last Saturday, there were grumblings that Hill’s job was in jeopardy after the ‘Dogs didn’t meet expectations.
Then late Sunday afternoon the media were notified that Hill would be relieved of his duties as the face of Bulldog football.
After 15 years, it was decided that Hill would no longer lead the team down the ramp on game days. It would instead be someone new.
During his final Monday morning press conference, Hill highlighted the program’s many accomplishments and even added thank yous to everybody that helped make Fresno State football respected along the way.
Hill left the podium for the final time at the end and bid farewell, “Goodbye Fresno.”
It is sad to see the man that put Fresno State football on the national map exit because of what he meant to the program, but the ‘Dogs just weren’t winning at the same rate as in Hill’s earlier years.
Fresno State Athletics announced it will be hiring a firm to help in the process of bringing the next head coach.
There have been numerous candidates that have been speculated to be interested in the job, including former Rams head coach Mike Martz and current Edison High School football coach Tim McDonald, but no one will truly know until Director of Athletics Thomas Boeh announces the coaches that the school is interested in. The search will need to be done quickly with National Signing Day approaching on Feb. 1.
Until that happens, fans will have to wait and see who will be the head coach, but this person should be well versed on the defensive side of the ball, an area Fresno State has severely struggled with in recent years.
The defense took on added struggles this season. It was one of the worst in the Western Athletic Conference and shows in the box scores as to why Fresno State slumped to such a poor record.
The new coach will need to decide whether he will want to retain some of Hill’s assistants, especially interim defensive coordinator Tim Skipper. Skipper led the defense in the final couple games and the unit showed some improvement in fundamentals, but still gave up 424 yards to San Jose State and let San Diego State come from 21 points down to get the win and send Hill into unemployment.
The ‘Dogs will lose some of the starters on defense in defensive lineman Logan Harrell, who finished his final season with 71 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and six sacks. The secondary will also lose cornerbacks Isaiah Green, Jermaine Thomas and safety Zak Hill.
Other than the aforementioned names, the majority of the players that received playing time will be returning, including free safety Derron Smith and strong safety Phillip Thomas, who were lost to season-ending injuries in the beginning of the season.
While the defense has had its ups and downs, the offense has been a productive unit, with sophomore quarterback Derek Carr piling up passing yards and touchdowns in his first season behind center. Carr finished with 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions and broke Kevin Sweeney’s record for passing yards by a Fresno State quarterback in his first year as the starter.
The offense will also have its workhorse back running back Robbie Rouse back for his senior season to help relieve the pressure off of Carr. Carr will have all of his weapons on the outside with top target Jalen Saunders coming back for his junior season. Wide receivers Josh Harper and Victor Dean will be back for their sophomore seasons as well.
The key losses will be along the offensive line with three-year starter Bryce Harris and first-year starter Leslie Cooper running out of eligibility. The line will be experienced again with many backups getting playing time this past season due to injuries.
Whoever the program decides to bring in will likely pack with him his own schemes on both sides of the ball. On defense, Fresno State would benefit from a modern defense like a 3-3-5 lineup with three down lineman, three linebackers and five defensive backs, which helps out with all the pass-happy schools in the nation. TCU runs this defense and has been successful running it for a while under defensive guru Gary Patterson.
The offensive scheme should continue to be pro style, and should continue to try to utilize Carr’s arm and his playmakers. Teams such as USC and Alabama run a pro style offense, which put up a lot of points and yards this season. The new head coach should use this as a blueprint for his scheme.
Whoever Boeh hires as the 17th head coach in Bulldog history, he will have his work cut out for him trying to turn around a respected program that has a severe blemish looming.