USC vs. Fresno State: Previewing the Bulldogs’ Offense


Nov 2, 2013; Fresno, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs running back Josh Quezada (20) rushes for a gain against the Nevada Wolf Pack during the second quarter at Bulldog Stadium. Fresno State won 41-23. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The post-Derek Carr era should be an interesting one for the Fresno State Bulldogs. While they’re likely to remain a spread offense under offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, there’s more options this year with the potential of having a mobile quarterback in Brandon Connette.

Connette, along with Brian Burrell, is competing for the Bulldogs’ quarterback job, which has yet to see a resolution. Head coach Tim DeRuyter told reporters on Monday that both quarterbacks will play Saturday, with the starter being a game-time decision.

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It’s not a result of Connette and Burrell struggling in training camp however.

Instead, Burrell entered August seemingly a step behind Connette and played his way into forcing DeRuyter’s hand at delaying the decision.

Burrell, a junior, backed up Derek Carr last season after being a junior college transfer out of Bakersfield. Connette, a senior, is in his first and only season at Fresno State after transferring from Duke with a graduate exception.

Unlike Burrell, Connette has starting experience at the D-1 level and his dual-threat skill set brings a new wrinkle. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, he’s a big, athletic and physical quarterback that had several different uses in the ACC that pocker passer Derek Carr didn’t have in his repertoire at Fresno State.

Connette ran for 337 yards last year with Duke, including a career-high 101-yard outing in a 58-55 shootout loss to Pittsburgh. Furthermore, he’s Duke career leader in rushing touchdowns with 31 scores in his three years with the Blue Devils as a Blake Bell-type red zone quarterback/half back.

That threat of mobility under center could help a red zone offense that ranked just 53rd in the nation a year ago, despite averaging over 43 points per game.

What won’t help the Bulldogs though, is being without their biggest game-breaking threat from last season Davante Adams. The current Green Bay Packer led the country in receptions last year and combined with fellow former ‘Dog Isaiah Burse to combined for an incredible 230 receptions and 30 touchdowns.

That’s a lot of offense for Fresno State to replace, and they’ll likely do so with a receiving corps-by-committee.

Lead the way is Josh Harper, who made 11 starts as a sophomore last year. He caught 79 passes and scored 13 touchdowns on his way to earning second team All-Mountain West honors.

Joining Harper as a returning producer in the offense are the Bulldogs top two rushers, Josh Quezada(pictured above) and Marteze Waller. The due of backs combined for nearly 1,500 rushing yards last season.

Freshman Kurt Scoby was expected to be a big boost to the running game, but suffered a concussion in fall camp and is out indefinitely.

Up front, the Bulldogs enter 2014 without perhaps the country’s most underrated offensive lineman from 2013, Austin Wentworth.

Twice Wentworth made the All-Mountain West team and he was a big reason for Fresno State preventing USC from registering a sack in the Las Vegas Bowl.

He’ll be replaced at left tackle by junior Alex Fifita, who has made 11 career starts, six of which came last year at left guard. Fifita’s experience should help, and it showed in both spring and fall camp, making him one of the Bulldogs best performers of the offseason.

Joining Fifita on the line are returning starters Cody Wichmann, Bo Bonnheim and Justin Northern.

Bonnheim moves from guard to center to replace Lars Bramer, while Wichmann and Northern provide stability on the right side of the line at guard and tackle, respectively. Sean Rubalcava, a senior, will make his first career start at left guard on Saturday.

Overall, the Fresno State offense returns a veteran offensive line and a complete running game. But with a new quarterback and a new-look receiving corps, don’t look for the Bulldogs to repeat as the nation’s No. 1 passing offense.

Projected Starters

QB Brian Burrell #2 OR Bradon Connette #15RB Josh Quezada #20LT Alex Fifita #76LG Sean Rubalcava #75C Bo Bonnheim #60RG Cody Wichmann #73RT Justin Northern #54TE Riley Barnes #45WR Aaron Peek #7WR Josh Harper #3WR Da’Mari Scott #8