Hill sticks to high-risk, high-reward strategy


POSTED: Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Pat Hill knows his scheduling philosophy can present pitfalls at times.

But a shot at the big payoff outweighs such concerns for the Fresno State football coach.

“;I'm not a gambler at all, but I don't have the patience to play with pennies,”; Hill said. “;I'd rather shove it all in and see what happens.”;

Hill has annually assembled challenging schedules to test the Bulldogs in his 12 years as head coach, and his “;anybody, anytime, anywhere”; mantra is part of the attraction for prospects.

“;That's why we came to Fresno State,”; senior safety Moses Harris said. “;We believe in that philosophy, we train that way, and we play that way.”;

This year's schedule has the Bulldogs — who are coming off a 7-6 season punctuated by a loss to Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl — playing just five home games and includes trips to Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Illinois.

But the challenges don't end with the schedule. Employees in the California state university system have taken pay cuts and furloughs due to budget shortfalls.

“;This year will be the most challenging year for our team and our coaches that we've ever gone through,”; Hill said. “;But challenges bring your best times.”;





        Sept. 4 Central Arkansas

        Sept. 12 at Washington St.

        Sept. 19 at UNLV

        Sept. 30 at Louisiana Tech

        Oct. 10 Fresno State

        Oct. 17 at Idaho

        Oct. 24 Boise State

        Oct. 31 at Nevada

        Nov. 7 Utah State

        Nov. 14 New Mexico State

        Nov. 21 at San Jose State

        Nov. 28 Navy

        Dec. 5 Wisconsin

The schedule, which opens with UC Davis on Sept. 5, will test a Bulldogs offense replacing quarterback Tom Brandstater. The Bulldogs entered camp with three contenders for the post, junior Ryan Colburn and freshmen Derek Carr (younger brother of former Fresno State great David Carr) and Ebahn Feathers.

“;We haven't had a quarterback that could run since I've been there. We've had pocket passers,”; Hill said. “;Now I've got three quarterbacks who can run.”;

Hill said he expects all three to see action early in the season, which will require an adjustment by a receiver corps that returns Seyi Ajirotutu, who averaged 16.9 yards per reception in racking up a team-high 795 yards last season. Marlon Moore and Chastin West also have proven big-play potential.

“;We've each had our big years and we haven't been able to put something together as a a collective unit,”; Moore said. “;There's a lot of weapons we have and we know we have the experience to get the job done.”;

The running game could take pressure off of the quarterbacks as the Bulldogs return their top four backs. Anthony Harding led the Bulldogs with 822 yards, followed by Lonyae Miller's 812. Ryan Mathews was among the nation's top rushers before being slowed by injuries, finishing with 606 yards.

The defense returns eight starters, including Harris, defensive end Chris Carter and linebacker Ben Jacobs, all second-team All-WAC selections last season.

Sophomore kicker Kevin Goessling struggled in losses to Wisconsin and Hawaii last season. But he made a 58-yard game-winning kick against Utah State and finished second in the WAC with 15 field goals.

Fresno State's role in the WAC race could be determined early. The Bulldogs open the conference schedule against Boise State on Sept. 18 and at Hawaii on Oct. 10.