Fresno State is not your ordinary top 25 pre-season team, but then again, they have a pretty unordinary prospect at the QB position. Derek Carr–yes, the younger brother of former Bulldog great and Texans #1 overall pick David Carr–is set to lead a Fresno State team that has its highest expectations in years.
Even after losing running back Robbie Rouse, FSU is looking at a potential BCS season if the stars align right. In addition to Carr, the Bulldogs have some nice pieces at WR and that aerial attack is expected to carry them this season.
Fresno State returns 16 starters this season and while they aren’t the favorite in the Mountain West (Boise State) they are certainly a team that has some intrigue for NFL scouts, and it all starts with the QB…
4 QB Derek Carr (6’3″ 212 pounds, SENIOR)
One of the strongest arms in the country and certainly one of the more prolific and efficient passers of 2012. The younger brother of former #1 overall pick David Carr has a chance to make his own mark on college football and lead Fresno State back into the national spotlight after showing NFL scouts what he is capable of last year when he threw for 4,104 yards, 37 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He completed over 67 percent of his passes and has everyone buzzing that he could be a top three quarterback in a deep class of players this season. He reminds me a lot of Jay Cutler in the way he sort of has a natural bent toward throwing the ball off his back foot, and that could also be his main weakness as a prospect. Obviously, any time you throw off your back foot you lose velocity, and that has caused Carr to float some balls. Pretty athletic quarterback who can make plays on the move and run an up-tempo offense as well as anyone in the country.
When Carr is able to set his feet and step into a throw, there aren’t many in the country who are better than he is. Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun called Carr an “NFL quarterback playing in college.”
Goes to a lot of screens and check downs, but is definitely capable of orchestrating a vertical offense and can make every throw.
15 WR Davante Adams (6’2″ 212 pouns, RS SOPHOMORE)
This is a young player who will have very high expectations in 2013. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Adams took the nation by storm, becoming one of the most productive freshman receivers you’ll ever see in the college level. He caught a whopping 102 passes for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns, earning a unanimous first-team All-MWC selection and Freshman All-American status. Adams is eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft, and he could choose to leave if he has another big year in 2013 and doesn’t want to continue his career there without Derek Carr. The two obviously have built up quite a bit of chemistry, connecting over 100 times last season. Adams’ game is not without flaw, and he is still pretty raw, but he has good size at 6’2″ 212 pounds and excellent ability after the catch. He really reminds me a lot of Michael Crabtree, formerly of Texas Tech and now a star with the San Francisco 49ers. Adams knows how to get the ball into the end zone after he catches it, and he is always picking up YAC. This is a player that I really like his potential, and I think with another big year, he could leave for the NFL after just two college seasons.
1 WR Isaiah Burse (6’0″ 180 pounds, SENIOR)
If you watched Derek Carr light it up last season for over 4,100 passing yards and all those touchdowns, you probably thought, “Man, this guy must have some good receivers, right?” Well, Isaiah Burse–now a senior at Fresno State–wasn’t the leading receiver on Fresno State’s roster but he is certainly one of their more exciting playmakers who could be in line for a huge senior season if Carr continues to develop and he gets more involved in the offensive game plan. The 2012 Honorable Mention All-Mountain West Conference selection is third all-time on the school’s all-purpose yardage list with 4,504, and needs just 1,322 more to break that record. Burse is an explosive kick returner who also gives the Bulldogs a jolt offensively. He caught 57 passes for 851 yards and six touchdowns last year, totals that ranked him second on the team behind freshman Davante Adams. With senior running back Robbie Rouse departed, Burse’s role in the offense could expand. He has taken some plays out of the backfield and even had a rushing touchdown as a junior.
13 DB Derron Smith (5’11” 194 pounds, JUNIOR)
Smith is a smaller safety who finished last season as a first-team All-MWC selection after he racked up 79 tackles, six interceptions, a forced fumble, and a couple of passes broken up. Smith was granted a medical redshirt after playing in just three games as a true sophomore in 2011, but burst back onto the scene last season and finished second on the team in picks. He helped key a pass defense that ranked in the top 20 in the nation, and as an underclassmen, this is a player to watch. Even as a junior, he was voted the pre-season Mountain West Defensive Player of the year in 2013, and has high expectations this season. Definitely an impact defensive player who has a nose for the ball that has the size/speed to contribute as a safety or maybe even a nickel/dime DB in the NFL. He has time to grow and develop in the college game yet.
6 CB L.J. Jones (5’11” 200 pounds, SENIOR)
Jones was named to the pre-season Thorpe Award watch list after a junior campaign where he had only one interception but 13 passes broken up to go along with 43 tackles. Coming off of a very productive sophomore campaign in 2011 where he had 56 tackles and three interceptions, as well as another 13 broken up passes. Jones seems to have a knack for getting his hands on the ball. There are some pretty big discrepancies about his size (listed between 180-201 pounds) so those will have to be cleared up, but he is a very productive player that if he runs well at the Combine/pro day, he will be a player that warrants serious mid-late round consideration from NFL teams.
72 OT Austin Wentworth (6’5″ 300 pounds, SENIOR)
Wentworth is one of the top returning senior tackles in the country, and he is tasked with blocking for the backside of Derek Carr, one of the top QBs in the nation. As a junior in 2012, Wentworth was a first-team All-Mountain West selection by the coaches and media, and has made 30 starts in his Bulldog career. This is a very consistent, durable player who has been a key part of an explosive offense at Fresno State, one that has seen players like Robbie Rouse and Derek Carr break school records. He is a pre-season All-Mountain West first team selection, as well as making the watch list for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies.
Other Senior Prospects to Watch
89 TE Marcel Jansen, 6’6″ 257 pounds
98 DE Andy Jennings, 6’2″ 278 pounds