2006 Bulldog Football Preview: Linebacker 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."
LinebackersStarters Returning/Lost: 3/0
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 5/2
Andrews is the inspirational leader of the group. After earning second-team All-WAC honors last season, he will likely be the top middle backer in the conference in 2006. In 2005, he had 71 tackles and 7.5 for losses. He is equally effective against the run or pass and has great instincts for the game.
Like Andrews, senior Goodwin has been a productive player over the last three seasons. Last year, he finished fourth on the squad with 58 tackles, had two for a loss and had one quarterback sack. Riley was on his was to an All-WAC-caliber season before suffering an injury against No. 1 USC and missing the final three games of the year. Prior to that, he led the Dogs in tackles with 52, had a fours tops behind the line and was involved in a couple fumbles. Needless to say, he was around the football a lot. The return of that trio should keep Fresno State's defense at the top of the WAC.
Two young players should see plenty of action again this season. Sophomore Quaadir Brown and junior Ajijah Lane, both explosive playmakers, will again see action in nickel and dime situations and on special teams. Sophomore Ryan McKinley continues to develop and will provide a solid back-up. Newcomer Trevor Shamblee is athletic and had showed great promise during spring drills.
"I feel like we have some very athletic and gifted players at the linebacker position," said Hill. "Dwayne Andrews has been a good player for us. He's tough, a great leader, and the epitome of a Bulldog football player. We missed Marcus (Riley) last year when he got hurt, no doubt about that. It will be good to get him back on the field. Alan Goodwin is a tough guy and very good against the run. I like having Q. Brown and Ahijah Lane. They give us tremendous position flexibility. They can come off the edge as rushers to can be effective in pass coverage. Trevor Shamblee has a been a good addition."
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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.