Fresno State Football 2019 Preview

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 2018 was a memorable one for Fresno State football. (In an overtime thriller that was played through a snowstorm and was one of the craziest games I've ever seen) The Bulldogs won the Mountain West title for the first time since 2013. They beat Boise State IN Boise for the first time since 1986 (for the first time on the blue turf. I'll officially never ask Coach Tedford about the blue turf again).



Then they capped the winningest season in program history with a victory over Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. In just two seasons as head coach, Jeff Tedford turned the worst team (record-wise) in FS history into the best.



But the 2019 season kicks off in 143 days and there are several question marks heading into the new year. Here are a few:

1. Who is the quarterback?
It's always hard to replace a starting quarterback. It's decidedly more difficult when you have to replace a top 5 QB in program history. Marcus McMaryion finished his tenure with a 22-4 record as starting quarterback and provided buckets of leadership on and off the field.

RELATED: Fresno State QB Marcus McMaryion cements Valley legacy through his focus, faith on and off the field

Tedford has three quarterbacks on his spring football roster. Two redshirt freshmen in Steven Comstock and Ben Wooldridge and senior Jorge Reyna. Pending any summer transfers, expect Reyna to be the guy in week one. The Metro League Offensive Player of the Year from West LA College saw limited action in games that were already won in 2018 but was 8/12 throwing it for 111 yards and a touchdown.

2. Will the defense be as dominant?
Likely no. The 'Dogs D was tied with Clemson for second best nationally in points allowed (behind only Mississippi State). With standouts Mike Bell and Jeffrey Allison both declaring for the NFL Draft and seniors George Helmuth and James Bailey graduating, there are a number of holes that need to be filled. But there are several players coming back, namely All-Mountain West First-Team selection at linebacker Mykal Walker (also the Defensive MVP of the MW title game) and All-Mountain West honorable mention selection at defensive back Jaron Bryant.

3. Can Tedford win with his new staff?
In just two years Jeff Tedford has once again turned Fresno State football into a winner. Or as he says it "restored the pride and tradition of Bulldog football." The former 'Dogs quarterback (in 1981-82), Tedford has a record of 22-6 at his alma mater but this year faced the challenge of having to replace several of the coaches he brought in back in 2017.



Former offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer opened two positions when he departed for the OC job at Indiana. Ryan Grubb, last year's offensive line coach, has been promoted to replace DeBoer as OC. But Tedford has also brought in Danny Langsdorf to be the quarterback's coach/passing game coordinator, an area previously overseen by DeBoer. Other changes include Will Plemons as a defensive line coach (to replace Jamar Cain who left for the same position at Arizona State) and Roman Sapolu who will fill Grubb's old position as OL coach.

4. WHO IS THE QUARTERBACK???
I know we touched on this already. I'm sorry. I still have so many more questions. Redshirt sophomore Hunter Raquet, a JC transfer who starred at Monterey Penisula, looked to be McMaryion's replacement. But in early March, Raquet announced via Twitter that he was transferring out of Fresno State.



Why? While Tedford hasn't made a commitment to any one quarterback, this would certainly indicate that behind the scenes, Raquet didn't feel like he would get the job. Until we know for sure, enjoy the former QB1/current head coach throwing passes at Bulldog Stadium.



5. How tough is the 2019 schedule?



August 31st. At the Coliseum. Fresno State v. USC. What a way to open a new season. Long time Red Wavers have fond memories of the 'Dogs facing off with USC. Some still say the '92 win over the Trojans in the Freedom Bowl is the greatest win in program history. How about the 2005 matchup when FS nearly knocked off the #1 team in the country (technically now a "vacated game" thanks to the USC sanctions)? We've seen the resurgence of the Red Wave. Will we now see it travel back down to LA?

While USC provides bragging rights in California, week two gives a chance at revenge against Minnesota. Last year the 'Dogs were beaten on the craziest of plays leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of Tedford and his returning players.
Games against New Mexico State and Sacramento State look to be easy wins but the schedule really ramps up in November. A trip to Hawaii is followed by the (preseason pick for) game of the season when Utah State comes to town for Jordan Love's return to the Central Valley. That's followed by a road trip to rival San Diego State and a home meeting with Nevada. Brutal.

Local players to watch:
Actually a lot at wide receiver with Emoryie Edwards (Tulare Union), Rodney Wright III (Clovis West), Frank Dalena (SJM), Ricardo Arias (Clovis West). At linebacker Sherwin King Jr. (Sunnyside) enters as a freshman while Arron Mosby (Sanger), Tanner Rice (Clovis) and David Tate Jr. (Edison) are expected to get more time as a junior. Defensive backs feature Deshawn Ruffin (Sunnyside) and Juju Hughes (Hanford) while running backs will have Khai Williams (Edison/Fresno City) and All-American wrestler Josh Hokit (Clovis). Finally, Leevel Tatum III (Edison), Jasad Haynes (Clovis North) and Ricky McCoy (Roosevelt) are back on the defensive line while Jared Torres (El Diamante) and Nick Abas (Fresno City) will try for spots on the offensive line.



Did we miss anyone? What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming season? Let me know by sending me an email at Stephen.m.hicks@abc.com or a message on twitter @StephenABC30.
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