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Fresno State OC Dave Schramm Driving A High Octane Offense


The 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is as important a supporting character as Cameron, Sloan, or Principal Rooney. The viewer knew from the moment Ferris and Cameron step into the garage, things would go horribly awry. Those two weren’t prepared to handle the responsibility inherent behind the wheel of a V12, 276 hP sled.

At the risk of coming off hyperbolic, new Fresno State offensive coordinator Dave Schramm has the keys to a Ferrari. The talent Fresno State has at its skill positions is capable of 12-cylinder explosiveness; or, as quarterback Derek Carr said last month: “There is so much talent on this team, it’s crazy.”

If Carr (3544 yards, 26 touchdowns/9 interceptions, 62.6 percent completions), running back Robbie Rouse (1549 yards, 13 touchdowns), and wide receiver Jalen Saunders (1065 yards receiving, 12 touchdowns) weren’t enough get the Bulldogs’ engine humming, Schramm’s made alterations vis a vis a spread offense. The sky’s the limit in Year One of Fresno State’s new era.

Gushing over the Bulldogs’ potential might seem perplexing, giving the man responsible for its past success was just canned after a season that included a loss to New Mexico State. But Fresno State isn’t coming off a 15-season worst 4-9 because of its offense. The Bulldogs averaged 28.5 points per game, good enough to finish in the top half of the nation at No. 54.

The addition of Schramm from Utah’s coaching staff is intriguing. Schramm spent two seasons as the Utes’ offensive coordinator, 2009 and 2010. He assumed duties from Andy Ludwig, who in 2008 had a top 20 scoring offense, but employed a rather vanilla system. Schramm’s vision came to fruition in 2010, when UU was one of the higher scoring teams in football, but his role was reduced to that of running backs coach last season.

Good news for Rouse, who last season was No. 9 among all ball carriers nationally, is that Schramm’s featured back excelled. John White was just behind Rouse for yards gained, despite playing in a less desirable quarterback situation.

The Bulldogs played one of the earlier spring games in the nation, wrapping up workouts on March 25. New head coach Tim DeRuyter had encouraging things to say of what he saw in the new offense, per writer Jason Clay:

"“It was fun to see our guys compete against each other,” DeRuyter said. “They had some fun out there. We saw what we can do with the spread offense. We have a bunch of playmakers. You get them in space and they can make some explosive plays. That was encouraging to see.”"

Last season’s PPG figure could have been much loftier, too. Fresno State averaged 32:05 of possession and 411.9 yards per game, both ranking in the top one-third of all offense. The Bulldogs were unable to translate those opportunities into points, making Schramm’s job as offensive coordinator simple: let no chip go uncashed.

Required is the right balance of a free-wheeling lead foot — letting Carr exhibit the full capacity of his big arm, designing blocking schemes and redirects to open the sideline to quick-as-a-hiccup back “Mighty Mouse” Rouse — and conservativeness. Getting careless was Ferris and Cameron’s undoing; likewise, Fresno State must protect the football to reach its ceiling.

In 2011, the Bulldogs turned the ball over 23 times; not a particularly bad total, but the team’s -14 turnover differential was downright ghastly. Fresno State’s defensive struggles put the team in deep holes. Cumulatively, State was outscored 369-272 in the first three quarters. Falling behind early is an effective way to limit an offense’s capability, pressuring it to produce quickly. From Clay’s report, DeRuyter was pleased with the defense’s initial appearance in the spring game.

A could not have come at a more opportune time for Fresno State, though. Longtime foil Boise State is undergoing a massive overhaul in its complexion, losing four-year starting quarterback Kellen Moore to the NFL. His departure means Carr could be the top quarterback in the conference. Brother of Fresno State legend (and rightful 2001 Heisman Trophy winner, I would contend) David Carr, Derek has the tools to lead this program back to the golden age it enjoyed under big bro.

Interestingly, the turning point from Fresno State dominating the non-BCS landscape to Boise State ruling was in David Carr’s epic ’01. Derek has the opportunity to regain the torch, with BSU returning eight starters, fewest in the entire Bowl Subdivision. The rest of the conference is something of a question mark. So long as Schramm keeps the tires on the road and the engine oiled, the freeway could have smooth coasting.