Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Monday, April 26, 2010
Spring superlatives: Fresno State

By Graham Watson

Fresno State’s loss to Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl was a tough way to finish a tough season and it was made worse when star running back Ryan Mathews decided to leave school for the NFL. But coach Pat Hill saw an opportunity in Mathews' departure and perhaps a break from the power running game the Bulldogs have relied upon in the past. Hill wants to air it out a bit this spring, which is a good thing since he has a nice group of quarterbacks and receivers.

Here’s a look at the strongest and weakest positions for Fresno State this spring:

Strongest position: Quarterback

Key returners: Senior Ryan Colburn (60.7 completion percentage, 2,459 yards, 19 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), sophomore Derek Carr (completed 10 of 14 passes, 112 yards)

Key departures: Ebahn Feathers (completed 2 of 3 passes, seven yards, touchdowns, 60 yards rushing, one rushing touchdown)

The skinny: Hill said prior to spring ball that Carr would either start or redshirt this year, which seemed to come across as a challenge to last year’s starter Colburn. Colburn struggled at times in his first year as starter, but played well down the stretch. The quarterbacks are going to be asked to do more this year while the running game is being rebuilt. Hill said the Bulldogs have more speed at wide receiver and he wants to exploit that with some spread looks. While Colburn and Carr will be the main competitors this spring, the Bulldogs have three other quarterbacks coming in, including junior college transfer Kelly O’Brien.

Weakest position: Running back

Key returners: Sophomore Robbie Rouse (82 carries, 479 yards, four touchdowns), sophomore Michael Harris (12 carries, 26 yards)

Key departures: Ryan Mathews (276 carries, 1,808 yards, 19 touchdowns), Lonyae Miller (68 carries, 354 yards, four touchdowns), Anthony Harding (15 carries, 32 yards)

The skinny: Losing Mathews, who was the nation’s top rusher last year, is a huge blow to the Fresno State team that relies on the running game for the bulk of the offense. Rouse had a good freshman campaign, but he’s not big enough to be an every down bruising back for the Bulldogs' style of play. He is, however, a good threat to catch passes out of the backfield and he has the moves to shake a lot of defenders. Fellow sophomores Harris and A.J. Ellis also will be counted on to get the running game going.