'Scheme isn't any good if the players can't do it'
By any measure, Dave Schramm's first year coordinating Fresno State's offense was a rousing success. In year one under head coach Tim DeRuyter, the Bulldogs posted a 9-4 record and won a share of the Mountain West title behind an offense that ranked 16th nationally in total offense, 17th in scoring offense and 12th in passing offense. Fresno State's run to the MWC crown was cemented by a five-game winning streak to close the regular season in which the Bulldogs posted 42, 49, 45, 52 and 48 points.
It turns out the Fresno State offense was successful by any measure except Schramm's. Asked by the Fresno Bee to assess the state of his offense as the Bulldogs head into spring practice on Monday, Schramm had this to say.
"We gave up too many sacks, especially in this offense. We turned the ball over way too many times. We have to be better on third down. We have to score more touchdowns in the red zone," Schramm said. "As we were going through our cut-ups from this past year, we just have to be more consistent and do things better."
Schramm's critiques aren't off base at all: Fresno State tied for 78th nationally in sacks allowed, tied for 46th in turnovers lost and tied for 49th in red zone touchdown percentage.
Outside of fixing those issues, Schramm's biggest task will be replicating a running game that was totally dependant on departed senior running back Robbie Rouse. While ranking 16th nationally, Rouse's 1,490 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns accounted for 75.4 percent of Fresno State's rushing yards and 63.2 percent of its rushing touchdowns.
"We have to find someone to replace Robbie (Rouse)," said Schramm. "Who is that going to be? We have some pretty good candidates, but they have to prove that. We have to shore up our offensive line. We have to find a center. We have to find a left guard. Our question marks are fewer than they were last year at this time, but on top of that, we have to continue to get better at the things that we do on game day."
Even with a lengthy to-do list this spring, Fresno State returns ultra-productive quarterback Derek Carr (4,104 passing yards, 37 touchdowns against seven interceptions) and four players that hauled in at least 24 receptions in 2012. That's more than enough for Schramm to run his base offense: a player's offense.
"I've said it since the day I got here: It's a player's offense," he explained. "It isn't about the plays. It's about the players and what we can and can't do and what we believe our strengths are. We try to always play to our players' strengths, and at the same time don't ask them to do stuff that we don't think they're good at. When you start to do that, and you start to get stubborn about the scheme ... you know, the scheme isn't any good if the players can't do it."