The Fresno State football team is looking to rebound from last year’s 3-9 record by winning the Mountain West Conference amid many changes in the program.
The Bulldogs return 13 starters from the 2015 team as Tim DeRuyter enters his fifth year as head coach. DeRuyter brought in six new assistant coaches, most notably at the coordinator positions. Eric Kiesau will coach the offense after serving as an offensive analyst for national champion Alabama, while Lorenzo Ward takes over as defensive coordinator after serving in the same capacity at South Carolina for the past seven years.
Speaking on the coaching changes, DeRuyter said, “It’s been good. We started the process in the spring installing some new schemes particularly on offense, but I think our kids are playing as fast as we’ve played in a long time.”
He said the team understands the new system, and the players are executing better than they have in a while.
Kiesau’s transition to Fresno State has gone well, so far, and he says the team has made many strides since his arrival.
“Right when we got here in the spring, the kids really jelled well and bought into what we are doing,” Kiesau said. “It’s quite a different culture than what we had last year here.”
The team shuffled through four quarterbacks last year due to injuries and performance issues. Quarterback Chason Virgil enters his second year on the team after his 2015 season was cut short due to an injury sustained in the third game. Although DeRuyter has not named a starting quarterback, Virgil is the favorite to win the position.
DeRuyter said Virgil did a nice job in the spring and is the most experienced quarterback.
“I think statistically he’s ahead of the other guys right now, but again we’re going to let the scrimmage play out and make some decisions after that,” DeRuyter said.
Although Fresno State was picked by the media to finish fourth in the West Division of the Mountain West, DeRuyter is confident in his players and said the media rarely get it right. The head coach sees similarities to his first season. He said the team came off of a four-win season the year before to win the conference. He feels that if they come out and execute this year, they can be conference champions again.
The Bulldogs open the season Sept. 3 at the University of Nebraska and come home the following week to face Sacramento State. The nonconference schedule continues with matchups against Toledo and Tulsa. The team opens conference play on Oct. 1 at UNLV and finishes the year on Nov. 26 at home against San Jose State.
Running back Dontel James rushes through the defense during a practice on Aug. 16. (Fresno State Athletics)