Let’s get this straight now: Derek Carr is no longer the QB at Fresno State. Nor is his older brother, David. This is not an underappreciated offense led by an NFL talent anymore.
Instead, it is an offense that was 125th out of 128 FBS teams in 2016 in points per game. An offense that completed around 50% of its passes on the year, and averaged 3.2 YPC on the ground. And that offense lost it’s top running back, 2nd leading receiver, and only returns one full-time starter on the offensive line (the center).
Senior Aaron Mitchell started all 12 games in 2016, and brings a veteran presence to the line— a line known for NOT committing penalties. A bit of an odd thing to hang your hat on, but really underrated. Just ask any Alabama fan how much they would have traded to cut out the Cam Robinson/Cyrus Kouandjio/every right guards’ false starts over the last 3 years.
Aside Mitchell, the line, from left to right, is manned by a JUCO transfer, a redshirt freshman, a 340 pound former walk-on who started 5 games last year, and a senior making his first start after years of being unable to crack the depth chart.
True freshman Ronnie Rivers is the guy at running back. In his college debut, he took 9 carries for 60 yards, including an electrifying 30 yard touchdown scamper, while adding 3 catches for 22 yards. He’s also 5’8” 170.
He’s backed up by 220 pound sophomore Josh Hokit, who, after sitting out most of the season his freshman year, racked up 137 yards on 20 carries in two games at the end of the season. With the blowout last week, Hokit only took 4 carries for 13 yards before giving way to his backups.
Redshirt junior Kyle Riddering is the man here, a 6’6” 240 specimen who has played on and off due to injuries over the last few years, but has 10 catches for 42 yards to his name. He caught one ball for a touchdown in the season opener last week.
His backup, Jared Rice, is a redshirt sophomore that caught 4 passes last season. He also caught a 65 yard touchdown last week.
Redshirt Junior KeeSean Johnson is probably the best player on the offense. He was the team’s leading receiver in 2016 in receptions, yards, and touchdowns— 66, 773, and 6, respectively. The year before, as a redshirt freshman, he was second on the team with 37 catches.
To open 2017, the 6’2” 200 pound star recorded 7 catches for 120 yards.
Junior Jamire Jordan was one of the three main receivers in 2016, but seems to have fallen to 4th on the depth chart this year. He still caught 2 balls for 64 yards and a touchdown last week.
Redshirt senior Da’Mari Scott was one of the team’s top receivers two years, but missed all of 2016. He’s now worked his was back to the top three, and caught two balls last week in his first game in nearly two years.
Lastly, transfer sophomore Derrion Grim is slated to make a huge impact for the Bulldogs. In his first game, he caught two passes for 14 yards.
Like I said, it’s no Derek Carr back there. Sophomore Chason Virgil returns for his second year at starter after completing 166 of 322 passes for 2021 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also was second on the team with 77 rushes for 122 yards.
In his first game as a returning starter this year, he completed 16 out of 29 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown.
So, now you know the names of the Fresno State players you’ll see on the field this weekend. Feel free to impress your friends with this knowledge. Or don’t.
Either way, it’s unlikely we see them pose too much of a threat to the defense that just finished holding the #3 team in the nation to 7 points. The O-line is inexperienced, the QB has inconsistent accuracy, and the starting running back is 170 pounds.