2023 MWC Preview: The Bulldogs Re-Open Midway

Updated on July 15, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

With Jeff Tedford back on the sideline in the Valley, Fresno State quickly took home the Mountain West title.

It was the fourth 10-win season for the Bulldogs in the past six years, and they are undefeated in their last four bowl games, including a 29-6 victory over Washington State in the LA Bowl to end last season.

I preview Fresno State’s upcoming season below and take a look back at last season and examine the offense, defense, and system.

Fresno State Bulldogs Fast Facts

2022 Record: 10-4
Head Coach: Jeff Tedford (36-18 at FSU)
Offensive Coordinators: Pat McCann
Security Coordinator: Kevin Coyle
Home Stadium: Bulldog Stadium (40,727), Fresno, CA
Topic of the Final Conference: 2023, Mountain West

2022 in Comments

Alooking back shows that many of the key pieces of the 2022 team are no longer at Fresno State. Jeff Tedford and the Bulldogs need to reload this season.


The most visible piece of the offense is no longer QB Jake Haener, who was taken in the Fourth Round of the 2023 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.

Most of its top gear from 2022 is also gone.

All told, on the offensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs need to replace the passer, the leading rusher, the top three linebackers, and the starting TE from the 2022 class.

When Haener went down in the third game of the season, Logan Fife stepped in and was solid, though he struggled with turnovers.

He completed 70% of his passes and threw for 892 yards but threw six interceptions against two TDs—passing on 8.6% of his passes.

Mickey Keene was in a similar situation at Central Florida in 2021, joining the then-injured starter Dillon Gabriel and finishing with 17 TDs to 6 interceptions in 11 games that year.


KHe didn’t win the job in 2022 and now he’s back in Fresno and should be the one throwing the ball this season. Keane will give the Bulldogs a good start on a new offense.

But, again, almost everyone else is gone last season, including Erik Brooks, the fourth-leading receiver in the 2022 class with 37 receptions.

Also in the mix should be Jaelen Gill, a Boston College transfer who has 80 receptions in his three-year career.

Mikel Barkley and Josiah Freeman are JUCO transfers who will add depth immediately along with Mac Delena on the outside. Tre Watson should get more snaps at TE.

The running back position will also see a new face take the bulk of the carries as Jordan Mims departs.

Fresno State RB Malik Sherrod | Icon Sportswire by Getty via BarkBoard

The Bulldogs had the same problem last season when Ronnie Rivers left, and Mims came in and rushed for nearly 1,400 yards and 18 TDs.

This season it will be Malik Sherrod stepping up and becoming a big part after passing for 428 yards and a touchdown in 2022. Cal transfer Damien Moore will also be in the mix.

The backfield will still have talent and should produce as well. The production will be there as the offensive line will also be strong with four of the five starters returning.

Moses Vavao will be the leader of the group. The All-Conference performer will establish the guard position. Jacob Spomer moves to center from the batting position and could be in contention for the postseason.


Tdefense could be the straw that revives the Bulldogs’ drink in 2023.

This unit has the potential to be very strong. Where the offense only returns four starters from a year ago, the defense has all but four returning.

The only question is the defensive line. David Perales had one-third of the Bulldogs’ sacks in 2022 and is gone.

The rest of the lineup is still there, though, with Johnny Hudson closing in the middle with Devo Bridges and Isaiah Johnson in the tight ends. Hudson is a 300-pound running back who racked up 3.5 TFLs in 2022.

The linebackers will clean up everything in the middle of the field. Lavelle Bailey was the team’s leading tackler last season with 88 tackles to go along with 5.5 TFLs and 7 pass breakups.

Malachi Langley was a bit of a mixed bag last season playing at fullback, this season he should put up big numbers like the other players.

Fresno State DL Johnny Hudson | Jackson Moore/247Sports

Look for USC transfer Tuasivi Nomura to play a big role in the middle of the field as well.

The defensive backfield has a lot of talent and should force turnovers. The Bulldogs had 12 interceptions in 2022 with five coming from Cam Lockridge.

Lockridge may be the best defensive player in the Mountain West, and we may see his name on some postseason All-American teams. Lockridge will be joined by Carlton Johnson, a JUCO transfer and plenty of talent.

Dean Clark comes from Kent State and should pair up with Steven Comstock and Morice Norris on defense. Norris will also see time in the NB/LB hybrid position.

The DBs should be strong but will need to see the line harassed to be successful.

The defense allowed just 19.5 points per game and 340 yards in 2022 but has a chance to be even better this season.

2023 Fresno State Football Program

September 2 at Purdue
September 9 vs Eastern Washington
September 16 at Arizona State
September 23 against Kent State
September 30 vs Nevada
October 7 in Wyoming
October 14 at Utah State
October 28 against UNLV
November 4 vs Boise State
November 11 at San Jose State
November 18 vs. New Mexico
November 25 at San Diego State

Fresno State has non-conference Power Five road trips with Purdue and Arizona State. Both teams have new coaches and should be close to their meetings.

The Bulldogs haven’t beaten a Big Ten team since 2010 and are 4-5 against Pac-12 opponents since 2017, but one of those games could be in the works.

In conference play, they open with Nevada and then travel to Wyoming and Utah State before their bye week. That’s hard to go back to.

Later in the week, the Bulldogs will host UNLV and four tough games to end the season await with Boise State and trips to San Jose State and San Diego State among the final four of the regular season.

How they go about this stretch can be the difference in whether or not they get a chance to protect their head.

Even in a rebuilding year, the Bulldogs should be in the MW hunt. The offense has a lot of weapons to get back into position, but is still very deep on that side of the ball.

The Jeff Tedford-coached team will act quickly on offense. While the offense was the star of the show last season, it may be the defense to watch this year.

Especially in the early stages of the road where the fault may still be present.

If things can click on the D-line and get to the QB then the Bulldogs could have a chance to land a 2022 running back.

-More from Stephen Vilardo-

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