Fresno State Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice
The Bulldogs had a very good year in 2021, but the expectations are now higher with Jeff Tedford back in the fold. Meeting them begins now.
The Bulldogs have plenty of work ahead to make good on their potential.
It isn’t very often that a team wins ten games and then has even greater goals in its sights, but that’s where the Fresno State Bulldogs find themselves this spring after a very successful 2021. Jeff Tedford is back in charge, Jake Haener will be back under center, and while the team has a number of contributors to replace like every other team in the Mountain West, there isn’t much to suggest this team can’t fly high next fall.
For right now, though, the work of fine-tuning a seasoned and very productive squad begins. The Bulldogs may not have other teams’ quarterback controversies or other pressing issues of that sort, but they’re not without wrinkles to iron out.
Potential does not equal success.
— Fresno State Football 🧸 (@FresnoStateFB) March 22, 2022
Will Jordan Mims be a true workhorse or the leader of a committee?
Mims’s monster games against Nevada, San Diego State and UTEP weren’t the first time that he proved he can shoulder a big burden, but will the ground game under Tedford and offensive coordinator Kirby Moore use him more like it did with Ronnie Rivers under Kalen DeBoer (17 to 20 touches per games between 2019 and 2021), or will Mims share the load like he often did in 2018?
Given how Rivers got banged up both late in 2020 and last year, building depth may take precedence this spring. The good news on that front is Fresno State is flush with options of both the veteran (Jordan Wilmore, Jevon Bigelow) and the up-and-comer type (Malik Sherrod, Jordan Hornbeak), and both Wilmore and Sherrod flashed potential in their limited opportunities last fall. If the backfield proves it can be as loaded as the pass catchers appear to be, the Bulldogs offense could be that much more threatening in 2022.
Will Abraham Montano cement his status as Cesar Silva’s replacement?
Montano emerged as a pleasant surprise in 2021 when Silva got sidelined by injury, finishing the year a perfect 5-of-5 on field goal tries and 14-of-14 on extra points. Now that Silva has moved on, it would seem Montano has a clear path to being his successor.
That’s not to say there still isn’t work to be done, however: All of Montano’s field goal successes came from within 40 yards and his 20.83% touchback rate on kickoffs would’ve been the second-worst figure among Mountain West specialists had he qualified. Andre Meono is the only other kicker listed on the current roster, though, so the path toward removing all doubts is wide open.
Who will step up along the defensive line?
It took a group effort for the Bulldogs to rack up a 20.5% stuff rate and a 7.5% sack rate in 2021, but a number of key contributors in the trenches — Arron Mosby, Kevin Atkins and Ryan Boehm — have departed. Perhaps more so than anywhere else on the team, opportunities abound here for new faces to step into the breach.
The question is, beyond end David Perales and tackle Leonard Payne Jr., who will those new faces be? Evan Bennett started a pair of games last season and ended the season on the two-deep, as did Da’Marcus Johnson and Matt Lawson, while Isaiah Johnson may benefit from a fresh start under new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle after flirting with the transfer portal and nearly departing for UNLV. Add to that list juco transfer Johnny Hudson Jr. (5.5 sacks at Contra Costa College last year) and 2021 redshirts like Julius Lewis, and the Bulldogs are well-positioned to take a long look at all of their options.