"We can't go out and watch them…but when they come up in the office and see us, they look like a football team," Tim DeRuyter said about his team's conditioning.
"The way the season ended, with [Pat] Hill getting fired…there was a little bit of lack of direction…I don't know how many guys were pushing and really working out from December to February.
"Our guys don't have that option now."
Spring football was an experience to say the least, the ‘Dogs were learning a new offense and defense. Not too mention, the team was working under a new coaching staff. A few players departed – most notably All-WAC WR Jalen Saunders – but the team must buy into the new system if the ‘Dogs expect to contend for a MWC title.
"I guess you never really know until you hit your first adversity," DeRuyter said about his players buying into his philosophy. "When adversity hits, how are we going to handle it? "The best teams that I have ever been apart of it when adversity hits, they don't flinch and they realize its part of the game. We talk about the two core values of the team are trust and love. We got to be able to trust each other and communicate."
FS has some preseason expectations to live up to if and when adversity hits. The MWC media predicts the ‘Dogs to finish third behind Boise State and Nevada, respectively. Coming off a 4-9 season with a new head coach and playing in a tougher conference, the Bulldogs have earned some respect garnering two first place votes.
DeRuyter pointed to few factors for his team's projected finish.
"It's a combination of name recognition of guys like Derek [Carr] and Robbie [Rouse], who are outstanding players…it's a respect factor that the program Coach Hill had built…and because of the fluctuation of the league, the new coaches and new teams, nobody knows where anybody going to be."
"I think Boise is the default [favorite] because of what they've done even though they are replacing a ton of starters," continued DeRuyter.
"You look at what Nevada has done and they have a quarterback coming back. And you look at us with two guys (Carr and Rouse) that are probably going to be considered for offensive player of the year."
But DeRuyter noted that the MWC is not like the WAC, "little top heavy" he described.
"I can see Wyoming winning this conference. And San Diego State, they've got a good club coming back. Our goal is to compete for a conference championship."
The Bulldogs have not won a share of a conference title since the last century (1999). Under Hill, playing "Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime" was the mantra, trying to break into the BCS by playing the toughest schedule possible. However, the ‘Dogs fell short every season, many times before the month of September finished.
"From day one, winning the conference is our number one goal," said DeRuyter.
But his team is not backing off playing the "big boys."
"If they are on the schedule, we are going show up and they are going to have to beat us. One thing I relished about coming to Fresno State was Coach Hill developed a team that had a chip on their shoulder.
"They didn't always beat the BCS teams, but it was going to be a fight. We probably need to be a more consistent in that approach."
But the 2012 ‘Dogs are more focused on the MWC, not necessarily getting to a BCS bowl game.
"Probably not a good way to say this but if we lost every non-league game and won our league and went undefeated, I'd be happy," said DeRuyter. "I would not be extremely happy because we lost four other games. But our number one goal would have been accomplished."
But he is not forgetting every facet of the manta Hill built.
"I want to have a team that plays like that is has a chip on its shoulder," added DeRuyter. "You got to play this game with passion, you got to play this game like someone stole something from you and you're fighting to get it back.
"As I watched Fresno State over the years, that's what I saw, a team that was hungry, that was like hey, buckle up, we're coming after you. And that mentality is not going to change, if anything we're going to amplify that part as well with the consistency week to week."