Finding a replacement for your starting quarterback is tough. Finding a replacement for the top quarterback in the league is even tougher.
That’s what Fresno State and coach Jeff Tedford are tasked with following the departure of Jake Haener.
Haener was selected with the 127th pick in April’s draft by the New Orleans Saints after spending a pair of seasons as the top quarterback in the Mountain West. Along with Haener, the Bulldogs are losing the second leading rusher in the league — Jordan Mims — and two of the top five receivers in the conference from last season in Jalen Moreno-Cropper and Nikki Remigio.
Those are some big voids that need to be filled. Here’s a look at some of the returning guys that will try and fill it.
The Bulldogs shouldn’t waver too much in an attempt to replace Mims’ production. Malik Sherrod and Elijah Gilliam should complement each other well this fall. Sherrod was second on the roster with 80 carries and 428 yards last season while rushing for one score. He also added seven receptions for 51 yards. Gilliam finished with 17 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Outside of the backs, there are just three players who caught a pass last year who are still on the Fresno roster.
Erik Brooks was fourth on the team with 37 receptions for 391 yards and three scores. The speedy wideout should have a breakout senior season:
The only other receiver on the squad who caught a pass last season is Mac Dalena. The junior hauled in 10 catches for 92 yards and one TD. Tight end Tre Watson is the lone other returner and caught eight passes for 80 yards.
While there won’t be much familiarity returning among the skill guys, the offensive line should be in great shape with four starters back up front.
Mose Vavao and Jacob Spomer will be leading the charge. Vavao started all 14 games at right guard and received All-Mountain West Honorable Mention honors. Spomer started all 14 games at left tackle and received All-Mountain West Honorable Mention honors as well.
Jacob Isaia is also returning after starting 10 games at left guard, and Braylen Nelson will be back after starting the final six games at right tackle. Nelson made the move from guard and should provide depth in any instance.
Fresno State also returns a pair of young kickers in Abraham Montano and Dylan Lynch. Lynch filled in nicely while Montano dealt with injuries, going 6 for 7 and 15 for 15 on PATs. Montano was just 12 for 19 on the season in 12 games.
Although there will be a lot of new guys with the ball in their hands for the Bulldogs in 2023, there seems to be no doubt that they’ll be back as one of the top offenses in the league, as they always are.
With most of the offensive line returning, and QB Mikey Keene transferring in from UCF, this offense has potential. It may not be nearly as explosive as the Haener-led squads, but it’ll be interesting to see how it compares.