Under former coach Pat Hill, Fresno State had a reputation of playing anyone, anywhere.
However, the Bulldogs lost more than it won and even became a non-factor in the Western Athletic Conference. So Hill was jettisoned and nabbed the popular Texas A&M assistant Tim DeRuyter.
While some die-hards were sad to see Hill go, DeRuyter has made an immediate impact on the program and guided the Bulldogs to a share of the Mountain West Conference crown.
If he keeps this up, DeRuyter won’t be coaching long in the Valley.
What went right? After winning just one conference championship in 15 seasons under Hill, DeRuyter delivered big time in 2012 by leading Fresno to a tie with San Diego State and Boise State.
Fresno went 9-4 last year and had wins over San Diego State, Colorado and Air Force.
Even their loss to Oregon was a bright spot as the Bulldogs hung tough and lost 42-25.
Quarterback Derek Carr, the younger brother of former top pick David, had a breakout season. He completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 4,104 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Robbie Rouse also had a huge year running the ball as he amassed 1,490 yards and 12 touchdowns.
What went wrong? So much went right for Fresno State that it’s being overly critical to say something didn’t go well.
The big loss to SMU in the bowl game did expose some weaknesses on defense and losing to Boise late in the season with the conference outright title on the line was tough. But almost no one beat Boise on the blue turf.
Where do things go from here? DeRuyter’s second recruiting class has plenty of promise and by signing 24 players — the largest at Fresno since 2007 — definitely improves the depth.
The return of Carr is a hug plus for the offense, but he also has back his top receiver Davante Adams. He led the Bulldogs with 89 catches for 1,168 yards.
Defensive back Derron Smith had six interceptions and was a first-team all-conference performer. He’ll be back to lead an defense that will be pushed to the limit in 2013.
The Bulldogs second season in the Mountain West will be another tough challenge, but they have to be pleased to see Boise and San Diego State spurn the Big East and maintain the quality of the league.
Tim DeRuyter’s First-Year Coaching Grade: A
Jim Mora, UCLA
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Charlie Weis, Kansas
Tim Beckman, Illinois
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Mike Leach, Washington State
Larry Fedora, North Carolina