Know your foe: Fresno State Bulldogs

WSN publisher Jackson Moore, who also publishes Scout's Fresno State site, fields questions from the Warrior Sports Network boards about this weekend's game against the Bulldogs.

Q: Is Fresno really going to hire Tedford?

A: Yes, Jeff Tedford was named the next head coach at Fresno State last week. Tedford will not do any hands-on coaching on Saturday as Interim Head Coach Eric Kiesau and the current staff will coach out the season. The Tedford hire is perceived similarly as Rolovich was at Hawaii, as both have ties to the schools as both a player and a coach.

Q: How can Fresno afford Teford's salary?

A: That’s a good question - Fresno State was hoping to avoid a Tim DeRuyter buyout, as he was owed over $3 million per his contract for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Some thought the costs would prevent a change, but a 1-7 start left the program no choice. More surprising was the additional $1.6 million per year contract promised to Jeff Tedford.

Where the money is coming from hasn’t been confirmed. The Bulldogs do make back-to-back trips to Alabama and Washington next year which should net some of those costs. The true motivation for this move comes from Fresno State’s new president, Dr. Joseph Castro, and athletic director, Jim Bartko. The two appear to be going all-out to make Fresno State the class of the Mountain West and seem to know how to work the Central Valley to get the funds to try to achieve that. The Bulldogs also have a stadium renovation in the works at a cost of over $80 million. They find themselves with a huge rebuilding project when it comes to the actual team, however.

Q, Does Fresno State have a streaming site we can watch the game?

A: Unfortunately, no. Home games are not streamed unless done so by the Mountain West Network.

Q, What happened to Fresno State?

A: After Fresno State’s big 2013 season, former head coach Tim DeRuyter was never able to reload the team. In fact, Fresno State seemed to regularly lose their top recruits to attrition and others never panned out. The Bulldogs went through seven different quarterbacks in three seasons, had the entire offensive staff removed after the 2015 season and now finds themselves with only 69 scholarships being actively used. DeRuyter was fired in October and Jeff Tedford was hired as his replacement last Friday.

Fresno State hosts Hawaii in its darkest point in program history, but the Bulldogs do come off a bye week to try to regroup.

Q, Will we be able to run on them?

A: Fresno State ranks as one of the three worst run defenses in the nation. The Bulldogs can’t seem to stop anyone on the ground. They have played primarily run-first teams, but opponents routinely run though the Bulldogs’ front seven.

Fresno State does not give up a large amount of big plays on the ground, but their bend-but-don’t break defense does give up chunks of yardage at a time. Watch for Paul Harris to have another big game if he touches the ball 20 times or so.

Q, What's the main strength of their defense?

A: There is not much for Fresno State to take pride in on its defense, but the Bulldogs do have two senior cornerbacks that have done a solid job preventing the deep ball. Missed assignments by other secondary personnel gave up big passes early on, but Fresno State has mostly fixed that issue. If Hawaii pounds the ball and Dru Brown throws accurate intermediate passes, UH should find plenty of success anyway.

Q, Is there a dominant pass rusher?

A: There aren’t many standouts in Fresno State’s front seven, though inside linebacker Jeff Camilli would be the top option. As a heavier linebacker without top-end speed, he usually disrupts offenses rushing between the tackles. Listed at 272 pounds, he will occasionally find a gap and is a scary site if left unaccounted for.

Q, Who is their go to guy on offense?

A: Fresno State’s two playmakers are wide receivers Jamire Jordan and KeeSean Johnson. Jordan lines up in the slot and is a threat whether he is catching a screen pass, taking the ball in the backfield or just streaking straight downfield. Johnson, meanwhile, is solid possession receiver who can also beat you deep. In the Bulldogs’ last home game, Johnson went for three touchdowns. However, these two threats are still sophomores and have not had the best of help getting the ball in their hands.

Q, Will UH take this one?

If Hawaii can bounce back both mentally and physically from their last two beatings, they should leave Bulldog Stadium with a win. Hawaii could even be poised to return the treatment that Fresno State gave them last year during Chris Naoele’s intereum run. As long as the Rainbow Warriors don’t have multiple turnovers, it should be a stress-free victory on Saturday.

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