By Jason Clay
By Jason Clay
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Fresno State went through its day of interviews Wednesday at the 2014 Mountain West Football Media Days held inside of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, with head coach Tim DeRuyter and seniors Josh Harper and Derron Smith circling through a series of interviews and promotional shoots with local and national media outlets.
There were three main topics that the media centered on with the Bulldogs at Media Days; pressure to win a third-straight Mountain West championship after being picked the preseason favorite to win in the West Division, how the team is going to replace record-setting quarterback Derek Carr and their nonconference schedule that features opening games against two Pac-12 teams on the road followed by Nebraska visiting Bulldog Stadium Sept. 13.
Pressure to Three-Peat
"I don't think our players worry about the expectations," DeRuyter said. "A year ago we expected to compete for a championship as we did our first year. I think it's flattering that even though we lost some tremendous players that the media has picked us to potentially be the top team.
"Our guys don't really think about [three-peating]. It is more of our internal drive and part of our fabric is that we are going to compete for championships. We really appreciate the fact that our players have embraced that."
Harper said there is no pressure, that the slate is wiped clean this year and that they are ready to get started.
"We're looking forward to competing to get back into the Mountain West Championship game and winning it," said Harper. "We know it is not going to be an easy road, it never is, so we work hard during the summertime and compete in the season."
Smith, who was voted as the league's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year for the second-straight season, said that this year's team has the experience and knows what it takes to repeat as champions.
"You got to have the mindset that you can lose any game if you don't come with your 'A' game," Smith said. "We've been putting in the work this summer to get ready to have another good year. We have to roll into every game like the target is on their back and not on our back. If we do that then we'll be fine."
Replacing Derek Carr
As for the quarterback position, the coaching staff is not going to ask any of the four quarterbacks competing for the starting job to be what Carr was for the Bulldogs.
"He set a standard that very few in college football are going to be able to emulate," DeRuyter said of Carr. "It's surely not fair to ask that of the guys we have. We have guys that are very capable of leading our team, spreading the ball out to our playmakers and I think we have the players to get the ball to. We just have to figure out the right trigger guy who is going to take care of the football and lead our team."
DeRuyter did mention that they most likely will not name a starting quarterback until they are well through camp and getting closer to the season-opening game against USC.
"I feel like we have some good dudes back there and we're not expecting them to come in and be Derek Carr," Harper said. "They are themselves and however they are going to make us successful, that's how we want them to be."
Opening up with USC, Utah and Nebraska is no easy task. DeRuyter and Norm Chow, head coach at Hawai'i, were comparing opening schedules at Media Days. Hawai'i opens up with three Pac-12 schools in its first four games.
Fresno State does have its own willing history to face the upper echelon in college football. It's part of its culture.
"Whoever it was that set our schedule, I want to thank them," Harper said. "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."
One player not at media days that kept getting mentioned was senior defensive lineman Tyeler Davison.
Smith and DeRuyter both raved about Davison to the media while in Las Vegas.
"We have Tyeler Davison back and he's a monster in itself," Smith said. "He's not getting enough recognition, I feel, for the stuff that he does because he was playing nose guard, taking on blocks freeing up our linebackers. He's moving to end now and will definitely get a lot more opportunities to make plays at that spot."
"I think he is one of the best in the conference," DeRuyter added. "He is a tough, blue-collared guy, will mix it up with the best of them and he's a guy coming into his senior year and realizing that curtain is starting to fall. He's really worked his tail off to do that."
Good Sense of Humor
With all the business being conducted in Las Vegas in the form of interviews and photo shoots that make up media days, the Bulldogs were able to crack a few jokes and keep a light-hearted approach.
DeRuyter had some fun with the beat reports from around the conference. As he was seated at a table surrounded by seven different reporters, DeRuyter was showing Dan Hinxman of the Reno Gazette-Journal his 2013 Mountain West Championship ring.
Hinxman was in awe of its size and said you could miss a field goal kicking it from one side to the other to which DeRuyter replied, "It's not gaudy or anything."
Smith, who also attended the Mountain West Media Days last season, noted the change from last year to this year. He and Harper were seated at another table full of beat reporters and were talking about the differences between this year and last year, when Derek Carr attended media days with him.
"Last year at this time we were sitting at this table, Derek and I side-by-side, and he has five tape recorders in front of him and all these reporters and I'm over here just chillin'," Smith said.
Smith, who is a good sport and very good working with the media as he is a communications major, was one of the big attractions at this year's media days.
The Bulldogs now head back to Fresno. The team is in its last week of summer workouts and then will be off next week until reporting for fall camp on Aug. 1. The first practice for the 2014 season will be held on Saturday, Aug. 2.
"Be Bold" - The official home of the Fresno State Bulldogs is 940 AM ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes 1600 AM.
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