Scouting the WAC: Fresno State

Fresno State started the '01 campaign on fire but finished with a flicker, not even winning the conference title. Even though this team will be without the likes of David Carr, Rodney Wright, Paris Gaines and Alan Harper, it is still a very talented squad that will do well on the field this year, and in War Rooms around the league next April.

Fresno State Bulldogs

The offense has a lot of high-powered talent from both the senior and junior classes. Obviously the headliner is wide out Bernard Berrian; a game breaking pass catcher and return specialist. An explosive receiver, Berrian is constantly getting separation from defenders in the middle of the field or beating them deep down the flanks. A heady wide out, he instinctively finds the open spot on the field, adjusts nicely to the errant throw and displays excellent eye-hand coordination, with the abilities to pick up big yardage running after the catch. That skill spills over to the return game as Berrian instantaneously changes the momentum of a contest with big runbacks on either punts or kicks. His is not much blocking for the running game nor does he always play to his listed size but has first round potential, and could end up in the late part of the frame to a team like the Rams or Raiders (just guessing here), organizations his talents would fit perfectly. The other legitimate receiving prospect, though not always mentioned, would be Marquis Davis, a solid intermediate pass catcher that breaks it deep on occasion and possesses strong, reliable hands. What stands out about his game is the ability to get open in underneath coverage or make the difficult catch in traffic, displaying almost clairvoyance as to what his quarterback is thinking throughout the play. He is exceptionally consistent and his ability, (or inability) to run fast prior to the '04 draft (unless he leaves in '03) will determine whether or not he breaks into the first day and even top 60 choices. Another underclassman we like that excels as a pass catcher is Jeremy Johnson, an athletic tight end that makes the difficult catch down the field but lacks the desirable size/speed numbers to be considered a complete tight end and may be better off at H-Back. They have a load of solid linemen that should get selected in the late frames. Rodney Michael is a powerful senior prospect that can play either center or guar, and is a nasty blocker who turns opponents out and opens holes for the running game. Limited in his agility or ability to play in space, Michael can only be used in certain blocking schemes, which will push him down draft boards. Many extol the talents of tackle Joe Schey as he is another strong lineman best blocking for the run and a heady prospect aware of his assignments. Schey does a fine job playing with leverage but is yet another best in confined quarters. To our minds the best pro-prospect up front is junior Fitu Tu'ua, a versatile lineman that can be used at either guard or left tackle. Tu'ua is athletic, nimble and very strong at the point. He is effective either at the line or on the move into the defensive secondary. He needs to iron out the rough edges but is a player with a good degree of upside and could be a first day choice in '04.

On defense this year's squad should provide more draft selections then the April '02 Bulldog Class. The big name here is defensive end Nick Burley, a terrific athlete that displays range, plays with speed and pursues all over the field to get involved in the action. Burley uses leverage, balance and has a relentless motor but lacks the great size/speed numbers for a true end and could be better off standing over tackle in a three-four alignment; something his natural skills will help him be succeed at. On the flip side is Sam Williams, a large linebacker that stands out amongst the crowd and an athletic prospect with size potential who could grow into an every down end in the future. Williams displays range, can run and fluidly moves about the field but lacks instincts, overall awareness and would not be a consideration until the later rounds unless he pulls off a big senior campaign. Junior Bryce McGill is a solid strong safety tough against the run and not bad versus the pass. He has a bright future ahead of him.



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