UCLA Football Preview: Fresno State Coaching Staff Has a Familiar Feel
Also, the Bulldogs' special teams are filled with veterans.
When UCLA lost to Fresno State, 38-14, back in 2018, things were different. There was no pandemic, Dan Guerrero was still UCLA’s Athletic Director, Chip Kelly had just lost his first two games as the Bruins’ head coach and Jeff Tedford led the Bulldogs to an upset win at the Rose Bowl.
Tomorrow, just over three years since their last meeting, a lot has changed. Martin Jarmond now leads the Athletic Department. He and his team really made the win over LSU fun for the fans. Kelly has the Bruins ranked 13th in the nation after winning their first two games of the season. Jeff Tedford stepped down after the 2019 season, citing health reasons.
In walked former Bulldog offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer. DeBoer was Fresno State’s OC in 2017 and 2018 before leaving to become the offensive coordinator at Indiana. With the Hoosiers, DeBoer helped lead the team to its first eight-win season in 25 years.
In DeBoer’s first season as head coach of the Bulldogs, the team finished 3-3, which should be seen as an improvement after they finished 4-8 in 2019 while DeBoer was at Indiana.
So far this year, DeBoer has the Bulldogs playing competitive football. The team wiped out UCONN at home by the score of 45-0. Then, the team went to Eugene and almost beat the Ducks before falling, 31-24. They got back on track last week when they defeated Cal Poly, 63-10.
Assisting DeBoer offensively is Ryan Grubb. Grubb is now in his third season as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator after working as the offensive line coach when DeBoer was the team’s OC. Grubb and DeBoer have a shared history. In addition to Fresno State, they coached together at both Eastern Michigan and Sioux Falls. They’ve been on the same coaching staffs since 2004 with the exception of DeBoer’s time as the OC at Southern Illinois from 2010 to 2013 and his season at Indiana. No wonder the Bulldogs seem to be clicking on offense.
When DeBoer took over the Bulldogs, he hired William Inge to be Fresno State’s defensive coordinator. Inge was the special teams coordinator at Indiana when DeBoer was there, but he has twenty years of experience coaching defense including stints as either the defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator at Indiana, Buffalo and Northern Iowa. He’s also coached for the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati, San Diego State and Colorado.
Let’s look at the Fresno State special teams.
After starting the season with senior Cesar Silva handling the kicking duties, sophomore Abraham Montano seems to have taken over the job, even though Silva is still listed at the top of the depth chart. Silva was 1 for 2 against UCONN, missing a field goal attempt which exceeded 50 yards. Meanwhile, Montano has made all three of his attempts this season. Neither kicker has missed a PAT attempt.
Punting duties will likely be handled by junior Carson King. King is averaging 42 yards per punt on 13 punts with a long of 54, which he has done several times.
Senior running back Jordan Mims will return kickoffs for the Bulldogs. His long is 22 yards on three returns.
Senior running back Ronnie Rivers has caught more punts, but he has actually lost 14 return yards on nine returns. Junior receiver Erik Brooks is also negative on his return yards. He lost two yards on his only return this season. Meanwhile, senior receiver Zane Pope from Moorpark gained nine yards on his only return.