Fresno State – The Bulldogs return nearly every receiving piece that allowed them to become one of the most explosive offenses in the nation in 2012. The leader of the receiving unit is Sophomore Davante Adams. Josh Harper, Isaiah Burse, Marcel Jensen, Aaron Peck, Greg Watson, and Justin Johnson all hope to contribute during the 2013 campaign as well. Bulldog Playbook does not want to leave anyone who contributed to the 2012 season left out. Below are the stats of the receivers in 2012 that will be a part of the Fresno State receiving unit in 2013:
Davante Adams - Caught 102 passes for 1312 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Isaiah Burse – Caught 57 passes for 851 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Marcel Jensen – Caught 20 passes for 339 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Josh Harper – Caught 24 passes for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Greg Watson – Caught 9 passes for 98 yards and no touchdowns.
Justin Johnson – Caught 2 passes for 43 yards and no touchdowns.
Adams comes into the 2013 season as a Freshman All American as well as the MWC Freshman of the year. He is looked at as the most physically gifted and talented receiver on the Bulldogs roster. If Rutgers blitzes in the fashion that they did in 2012 look for Adams to see a large percentage of passes his way as he will be covered man to man. Very few corners had success covering Adams in 2012. Senior Wide Receiver Isaiah Burse has shown the ability to make the tough catch in years past. Burse allows the Bulldogs a safety valve who can hold on to the ball and make the catches in traffic. Josh Harper's play was limited due to injury in 2012. However, Harper has the hands, speed, and ability to take pressure off of Adams. If Harper is able to make key catches Rutgers will not have the luxury of focusing on Adams throughout the course of the game. Marcel Jensen gives the Bulldogs a vertical target as he stands at 6'6, can block, and allows Fresno State a fourth strong option in the passing game. Fresno State without a doubt has the weapons to exploit any defense in the nation if Derek Carr is given the time to throw the ball. In order to understand how well Fresno State will succeed against Rutgers defense we must take a look at the opponents in 2012 that ran a similar scheme to what Rutgers will throw at Fresno State.
In 2012 Fresno State faced four teams with a defense that blitzed from all angles forcing Carr to move out of the pocket often throughout the course of the game. The four teams were Oregon, Tulsa, Boise State, and SMU. Coincidentally these were the only four games Fresno lost in 2012. A closer look shows the following:
Passing and Receiving stats vs. Oregon, SMU, Boise State, and Tulsa:
Carr – 1093 yards passing, 4 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
Adams – 339 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns
Burse – 236 yards receiving, 1 touchdown
Harper – 141 yards receiving (only played in two games), 1 touchdown
Jensen – 57 yards receiving
We are able to see that the Bulldogs struggled mightily against the four teams mentioned above. Now let's take Oregon out of the equation because at this time Bulldog Playbook does not believe Rutgers and Oregon are comparable due to Oregon being as talented as they are yearly. However, if we take the other three teams the Bulldogs lost to last season, Rutgers defense would be somewhat comparable to all three.
Conclusion – Fresno State brings a wealth of receivers into this game. Rutgers 4-3 defense will have its hands full trying to cover all receivers on each play. Rutgers uses a strong blitzing scheme to continually keep the quarterback guessing. What makes Rutgers defense difficult to read is the fact that often they will put players on the defensive line who drop back into coverage. At the same time Rutgers often brings players from their defensive secondary to blitz the quarterback. Carr is experienced enough to know what to do when pressured. However, in the four games mentioned above he struggled mightily when pressured. Some of this may be attributed to the fact that Carr played injured last season. Carr may be much more comfortable in pressure situations this season because of his mobility. Look for Carr to complete over sixty percent of his passes at home as he commonly did throughout 2012. At this point we have no idea who will step up for Fresno on the receiving end. Adams, Burse, Jensen, or Harper all has the ability to play game changer. But if Carr is not given time to throw and the offensive line is confused by the switches thrown at them by Rutgers defense look for mistakes from Carr and a poor offensive night from the Bulldogs overall. Bulldog Playbook is betting on the first of these two scenarios where the offensive line adjusts well enough to give Carr and his receivers enough time to put together a solid offensive game.
Rutgers – Rutgers takes the field in 2013 without many of its receiving standouts from 2012. Rutgers will begin the 2013 season without Mark Harrison, Tim Wright, Jawan Jamison, and D.C. Jefferson. The four aforementioned receivers accounted for 56% of all Rutgers receiving yards in 2012 as well as 48% of receiving touchdowns. Rutgers still has one of the best receivers in the nation in Brandon Coleman. In 2012 Coleman caught 43 passes for 718 yards and 10 touchdowns. Coleman standing at 6'6 is one of the more difficult receivers to cover in the nation. Not only can Coleman make the receiver miss, but he will win nearly every jump ball situation manageable. After watching film on Rutgers offense Bulldog Playbook noticed that Coleman has the speed to take the ball to the house if a tackle is missed. Fresno State's secondary will have to figure out a way to take Coleman out of the game if they want to keep the Rutgers offense off of the field. After Coleman, Rutgers brings a great deal of unknown to the game. The remainder of receivers who will line up opposite Fresno State combined for under 500 yards receiving on the season with 230 of those going to Quron Pratt. The Rutgers statistics for 2012 look as follows:
Brandon Coleman – Caught 43 passes for 718 yards and ten touchdowns
Quron Pratt – Caught 22 passes for 230 yards and no touchdowns
Miles Shuler – Caught 5 passes for 71 yards and no touchdowns
Just as Bulldog Playbook did with Fresno State, we will now take a look at the games in which Rutgers faced defenses that brought pressure early and often and see how they handled it. As noted, Fresno State had a tough time dealing with defensive pressure in 2012. It should then be mentioned that Rutgers faced the same exact problem. Rutgers began the season 7-0, looking like a top fifteen team in the nation due to a defense that allowed eleven points a game during their seven game winning streak. In the eighth game of the season Kent State brought a new wrinkle to the Rutgers offense as they blitzed defenders from every angle possible. Gary Nova threw six interceptions in the game and could never find a rhythm due to the constant pressure provided by Kent State's defense. Rutgers would continue the season struggling against teams who pressured the quarterback. Although Rutgers found a way to beat Cincinnati, it was not due to its offensive output.
Rutgers closed the season with three straight losses to Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Virginia Tech. In the final four games of the season the Knights failed to score more than 17 points in each game. The defenses Rutgers faced brought pressure often forcing Nova into situations where he was flushed out of the pocket. It will not matter how good a receiver such as Brandon Coleman is if the 3-4 defense played by Fresno State is able to get pressure on Nova. Just to gain a better understanding of how poor Rutgers offense plays when pressured let's take a look at their final four games of the season:
Cincinnati: Nova – 186 yards passing, 1 td, 2 ints, Coleman 2 catches for 49 yards
Pittsburgh: Nova – 157 yards passing, 1 td, 1 int, Coleman 1 catch for 11 yards, 1 td
Louisville: Nova – 284 yards passing, 2 tds, 2 ints, Coleman 2 catches for 100 yards, 1 td
Virginia Tech: Nova – 129 yards, in int, Coleman 4 catches for 55 yards
It becomes apparent that just as so many teams do across the nation, Rutgers also struggles with pressure when the defense applies it. Coleman's numbers go down a great deal as well as Nova's for that matter. Coleman is able to do just about everything on the football field at the receiver position. However, if Nova does not have time to get the ball to him don't expect much from Coleman in this game.
Conclusion – Bulldog Playbook is honestly not sure what to expect from Rutgers in the receiving department. The game film shows a QB who can make great throws over the middle, to the corners, and when using play action if given the time to do so. Fresno State likes to disguise its blitzes as the often bring pressure form the linebacker, corner and safety positions. With a defense returning nearly all linemen look for the Bulldogs to try and force Nova to beat them with his arm. Bulldog playbook has not taken a look at the rushing games for either team and we know that this aspect of the game will heavily affect the passing game. At this point we expect Rutgers to try and use play action as well as its big time receiver to control the passing game. Nova is a QB who is comfortable in the pocket and will look to stay there as much as possible. Fresno State in turn will have to bring pressure from all over the place to force Nova to let the ball go early. Bulldog Playbook sees Nova being bothered at times and making mistakes. However, we do not believe they will be the type of mistakes that flat out lose the game. We do not know who else will contribute for Rutgers due to the uncertainty of their roster. However, sometimes the unknown is the best way to head into a game. We still feel this will be a closely contested game which will be won by the offensive and defensive lines play.