As much as everyone tried to act otherwise, an air of cold formality pervaded Bulldog Stadium on Saturday night.
Fresno State honored its seniors with the usual introduction and family reception, the last links to the Mountain West Conference championship glories of 2012-13.
Of the current state of affairs, there was nary a mention. Even as entire rows upon rows of empty seats stood a silent reminder.
Lame duck coordinators Dave Schramm and Nick Toth continued to call plays. Schramm won’t return next season. Toth may not be back, either; for certain he’ll be in a different role.
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No formal announcement is expected until Sunday evening – at the earliest – but everyone knows the gig’s up.
No formal announcement on coordinators Dave Schramm and Nick Toth is expected until Monday – at the earliest – but everyone knows the gig’s up.
Kilton Anderson started at quarterback. If Chason Virgil and Ford Childress both return healthy next season as expected, he and Zack Greenlee likely battle it out for third string.
Marteze Waller surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards; he won’t be back in 2016 – and neither will most of the guys blocking for him.
Ejiro Ederaine and Kyrie Wilson spearheaded the defense; they won’t return, either.
No matter where you hold up the magnifying glass, the next edition of the Bulldogs won’t bear much resemblance to the outfit we’re currently shoveling dirt on.
Except it’s far, far from certain whether “different” will actually mean “better.”
No decision will be more pivotal than who Fresno State brings aboard as offensive coordinator.
I suspect, with Virgil and Childress waiting in the wings, the Bulldogs will stick with the no-huddle spread they’ve run the past four seasons. Though whether they should is debatable.
DeRuyter and athletic director Jim Bartko (who will surely have input) can go two ways with this hire.
Fresno State during the Pat Hill era usually went for the young up and comer. Guys such as Andy Ludwig, Frank Cignetti or Doug Nussmeier came in, sometimes for just a season or two, were extremely successful and productive, and left for bigger jobs.
Among today’s MW, the current trend skews gray. Coordinators like Bob Toledo at San Diego State, Al Borges and Greg Robinson at San Jose State and Kent Baer at UNLV bring an older, veteran presence.
A name in that vein that makes sense would be Dennis Erickson, now 68 and coaching running backs at Utah.
A name in that makes sense for offensive coordinator would be Dennis Erickson, now 68 and coaching running backs at Utah.
It’s almost certain DeRuyter and Bartko will look outside the current staff. Of the remaining assistants, only inside receivers/tight ends coach Phil Earley has experience coaching quarterbacks, most recently at Syracuse from 2006-08.
At defensive coordinator, I’m hearing there’s a good chance DeRuyter takes on the responsibility himself. He should.
If there are additional staff changes, which there could be depending on the coordinator hires, expect those to wait until after signing day.
Why? Because Fresno State needs every assistant on the payroll scouring the recruiting trail during December.
During his Monday news conference, the fourth-year coach was asked to identify some standout freshmen, players who should be the pillars of future teams.
DeRuyter named leading receiver Jamire Jordan, followed by linebackers Nela Otukolo (season-ending injury in Week 8) and James Bailey.
DeRuyter couldn’t name any linemen; he is already on record saying the Bulldogs will target junior college transfers to plug gaping holes on both sides of the ball. Never a good sign.
He couldn’t name any running backs or defensive backs. He couldn’t name receivers Keyan Williams and L.J. Reed, who began the season on the depth chart and ended it among eight players that left the team midseason.
That sort of attrition has become the norm under DeRuyter, and there’s no sign of slowing down.
The September addition of director of player personnel Jimmy Morimoto was supposed to help recruiting. He still might, but you wouldn’t know it by Fresno State’s list of early commitments.
The Bulldogs have seven oral commits lined up for February’s signing day, according to Rivals.com.
Just for fun I looked up the rest of the MW. Boise State has 17 early commits, Air Force 16, Colorado State 15, San Diego State and Nevada 14 each.
The only schools with fewer than Fresno State are New Mexico (five) and Hawaii (two).
7 Fresno State oral commitments for 2016 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com
Early commits aren’t everything, and some programs purposefully withhold many of their offers until later in the process to see which players shake free from the Power Five teams.
But since the Bulldogs intend to sign a full class of 25, at the very least it means they have plenty of catching up to do.
That’s a pretty full template for one offseason, but such is the predicament this program finds itself in.
Fresno State does not have the $4.6 million required to make a head coaching change.
Nor can it afford to make these losing seasons a habit.
Figure DeRuyter has one season to turn things around, or at least show the Bulldogs can be competitive against more than one MW opponent not named Hawaii or UNLV.
Or else next year on Senior Night, he’ll be the one waving goodbye.