2006 Bulldog Football Preview: Quarterback Analysis
There's an old saying that says it doesn't matter how you start, but rather how you finish. Pat Hill and the 2005 Bulldog football team heard that repeatedly after the season, so much so that the theme for the 2006 campaign is "Finish the Job." That theme will ring throughout the next six months, both on the field and in the Fresno State locker room.
"Because of the way the 2005 season ended, we will be better mentally and a more focused football team in 2006," said Hill. "We learned a lot about ourselves and overcoming adversity. This senior class has been through the battles of some big football games and this is their team and their season. There's a tremendous amount of seriousness to how they have prepared themselves for the season."
Hill welcomes his largest senior class, a group that has been instrumental in Fresno State's success over the last three years. With three straight bowl game appearances, including wins over UCLA and Virginia, these Bulldogs are battle-tested.
Headlining the senior class are several players who have earned All-WAC honors, and are looking to earn All-America honors after the season. This group will likely set a Fresno State record for numbers of NFL draft picks, as Hill predicts a minimum of six players will be selected in the 2007 draft.
The 2006 schedule is once again superb, with top-notch non-conference competition, and an excellent balance of WAC teams, the home schedule ranks among the best in Bulldog history. The season kicks off Sept. 1 with a nationally televised game against defending WAC champion Nevada at Bulldog Stadium. Eight days later, Fresno State will host Oregon, a team that finished the 2005 season with a 10-2 record and ranked No. 10 in the nation. One week after that, Fresno State makes its first road trip to Washington, where the Dogs won 35-16 in 2004. After that, the Bulldogs return home to host perennial Mountain West Conference powerhouse Colorado State. Needless to say, the front of the schedule is loading. The Bulldogs are also looking forward their first game against LSU on Oct. 21 at Baton Rouge. In all, at least five games will be shown on national television.
"As long as I'm here, we are going to play as tough a schedule as we can," said Hill, whose 10 wins over BCS Conference schools since the 2001 season are more than any other non-BCS coach. "This is a great home schedule and it's tough from top to bottom. We can really make a statement if we get off to a fast start and then it's up to us as we head down the stretch to finish the job."
QuarterbackStarters Returning/Lost: 0/1
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 0/1
If history means anything, Fresno State's quarterback situation will be just fine in 2006. Hill has a knack for developing quarterbacks. In his previous nine years, he's had three starting quarterbacks, each earned first-team All-WAC honors before heading to the NFL.
The cupboard was not bare behind Paul Pinegar, a 10,000-yard career passer. The leading candidate to win the job is the most experienced, albeit limited, Bulldog passer Tom Brandstater. A tall, rangy and athletic quarterback, Brandstater has wowed his coaches and team mates with arm strength, touch and deep ball accuracy.
Right on his heels is a scrappy, savvy and tough leader in Sean Norton. While Norton does not have the physical skills of Brandstater, his leadership, excellent accuracy and gamesmanship, bring unique qualities to the position.
Talented freshman Ryan Colburn joined the squad in the spring of 2006 and has tremendous qualities and talents, but will likely need more time to learn the Bulldog scheme and develop his skills.
"I like our quarterback situation," said Hill. "We have some flexibility. Each guy has some unique skills and abilities that are intriguing. We had a very competitive situation in the spring and I'm looking forward to fall camp to see how it shakes out."
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Join the State - Fresno State! Get tickets online 24/7 at www.gobulldogs.com or by calling the Bulldog Ticket Office (559-278-DOGS), Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Ticket Office is located at the south entrance of the stadium off Bulldog Lane. Fresno State's 2006 home schedule- which kicks off Sept. 1 against Nevada- features opponents such as Oregon, Colorado State, Hawai'i, New Mexico State and Idaho.