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Fresno's new coach builds atop Hill's solid foundation

By Ferd Lewis


FRESNO, Calif. » If you peer closely at a section of the sidewalk behind the Duncan Athletic Complex at Fresno State, you can make out a message long ago scratched in the cement.

"Play hard! (signed) Pat Hill" it reads near the spot where he used to park his Bulldog-red Hummer.

Hill, then the Bulldogs' tenacious head football coach and an architect of its national visibility, showed it to a visiting reporter in a melancholy moment nearly a decade ago, saying he wanted to leave behind something to "someday show that I was here" while urging future teams on.

These days, barely 11 months after Hill was let go in the wake of a 4-9 finish, change has been so deep and sudden that the message sometimes seems like one of the few reminders that Hill not only called the shots for 15 seasons but was the determined face of the program.

Hill, with his trademark Fu Manchu and creased ball cap (with game scores written on the visor), has been succeeded by clean-shaven Air Force Academy graduate Tim De Ruyter.

The rookie head coach has put his graduate degree in marketing strategy to use, changing the offense, overhauling the defense and slapping his own brand on the program's turn toward revival.

At 6-3 (4-1 conference), bowl eligible and still in the running for the Mountain West Conference title, the 49-year-old DeRuyter is, by far, the most successful of the four new head coaches in the conference this season. It has been a transition so seamless as to be remarkable.

That Hill, now an assistant with the Atlanta Falcons, bequeathed him a proven quarterback, Derek Carr; a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, Robbie Rouse, and 15 returning starters hasn't hurt.

De Ruyter has complemented the considerable talent he inherited with schemes designed to showcase their abilities, challenge for championships and bring back fans.

The knock on Hill, who was a solid 112-80 in 15 seasons, was that he was too conservative on offense. The feeling was that even though the Bulldogs rarely had a losing season, they were too often stuck in a 7-5 rut. And for the feisty "anybody, anyplace" scheduling of nonconference goliaths, the Bulldogs didn't take care of business where it mattered, sharing just one conference title (1999) in his tenure.

So DeRuyter, who was not the favorite for the job, captured the position selling the Bulldogs on a 180-degree shift in schemes and philosophy. The pro-set offense has been replaced by the no-huddle spread; a 3-4 attacking defense has succeeded the 4-3; conservatism has given way to a fourth-down fearlessness and a vow to compete for titles is Job One not a secondary target.

"To me, if I'm a head coach in any league, the primary goal is to win your own conference," De Ruyter said. "I just want to make it very, very clear that as long as I'm here that is going to be our No. 1 goal."

The offense, averaging almost 80 plays a game, averages 37.6 points and 475.4 yards per contest with Carr throwing 26 TD passes. The defense is tied for the NCAA lead in interceptions with 16 and has run back five for touchdowns.

For all the statistical high points, the turnaround was best illustrated in many Bulldog minds last week in Albuquerque, N.M., where the Bulldogs rallied from a 21-0 deficit to win, 49-32, marking one of the biggest comebacks in school history.

Now we wait to see how De Ruyter might write his name in Bulldog lore on the foundation Hill helped build.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com or 529-4786.

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bleedgreen wrote:
So I guess McMackin left us a ramshackle with no foundation.
on November 1,2012 | 02:59AM
hunebasami wrote:
Better than Hill with a worst record. Mac used the spread and was winning, Hill used the pro set and losing to us. Pro set losing and spread winning. Why are we using the pro set than? Must be we are old and like losing....
on November 1,2012 | 04:44AM
oxtail01 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 1,2012 | 07:55AM
hunebasami wrote:
If he is trying he should stop.
on November 1,2012 | 02:23PM
allie wrote:
frankly, most of this state could not care less about a minor league program in a minor league division. Get a life! Hawaii has many other concerns!
on November 1,2012 | 09:44AM
hunebasami wrote:
Out if the 4 new headcoaches which one did we get? The one that needs time to think how to win. A coach who took over a 4 abd 9 team and now has a winning team, wow. Chow took over a 6 and 7 team. Chow went from a spread to a pro set and now has a losing season. This young coach went from a pro set to a spread and now winning. Hill was losing with the pro set so why do we use it? Old coach with memories olf the olden days. Need a young coach with new ideas and new ways. Get Rolo back and fet rid of Chow. Put him in the right place. RETIREMENT PLEASE
on November 1,2012 | 04:40AM
oxtail01 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 1,2012 | 08:03AM
hunebasami wrote:
He did already....
on November 1,2012 | 02:24PM
BTO wrote:
Von Appen had the same resume - Appen coached with Rick Nueheisal at Colorado coaching the d line. Appen also coached the defense at Stanford, Pittsburgh (under Denny Green) and coached 5 years as a special teams coach for the 49ers under Bill Walsh. Sounds impressive. Appen brought a big push to get a better training table for the players. Changed the culture and yet they failed to win.... I wish Norm better, but the more I compare the two the more the similarities are striking.
on November 1,2012 | 01:40PM
hunebasami wrote:
Right on. The UH taught Von was better and chose him first.
on November 1,2012 | 02:25PM
joewilly wrote:
They going to kick the s*** out of Norm Chow.
on November 1,2012 | 06:50AM
hunebasami wrote:
Pro set against spread again. Remember Nevada Spread against pro set. Chow is to old. With Chow as president we would be fighting with muskets. Lets join the 21 century.
on November 1,2012 | 07:29AM
allie wrote:
It is Chow time!
on November 1,2012 | 08:14AM
frontman wrote:
Not another new coach...........the last one, we didn't fare so well with and they were 1-6.
on November 1,2012 | 06:58AM
oxtail01 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 1,2012 | 07:54AM
allie wrote:
UH neevr beat anyone significant with their dirty recruiting and phony gimmicks. Goergia destroyed the JJ myth forever.
on November 1,2012 | 08:15AM
PCWarrior wrote:
allie are you like sexually frustrated or something? Always so peed off! Two words baby: Ritalin and Prozac.
on November 1,2012 | 05:13PM
hunebasami wrote:
He is living in the past not pass.
on November 1,2012 | 02:26PM
Allenk wrote:
DeRuyter got rid of the pro set and went to a no huddle spread and they are now 6-3 and 4-1 in the conference. That says a lot.
on November 1,2012 | 08:02AM
Descartes22 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 1,2012 | 08:31AM
BTO wrote:
Ask Alex Green former UH running back currently getting major minutes with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers made some adjustments to make up for their iffy O-line. They have had Green and others block first to protect Aaron Rodgers if no one is coming off the edge they release to the flat. Maybe Chow needs to make this adjustments with their speed RB's.
on November 1,2012 | 01:52PM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
Wouldn't be too hard to work this in. LIKE.
on November 1,2012 | 11:36PM
2bworker wrote:
The spread works when you don't have an O line that control the line of scrimmage using a pro set scheme. The hurry up is so the D can not load the box and to keep them off balance. In the NFL, look at Payton Manning, he is using the hurry up, but he is great at reading defense schemes and knows where to throw. UH trying to run a pro set against teams that load the box because they know they can stop the run and the QB is trying to read the D schemes at the line is causing stalled drives. Look at Air Force with their spread option. Their O line controls the line through zone blocks/run schemes off a spread set. As a Defense, you have to account for all the backs because you do not know which one will get the ball, on top, if the QB has an arm, then on a sprint out, he should be able to throw on the run. It because of the talent that they have that dictates what they do. UH will need to recruit traditional players to fit the pro set offense. Defensively, need players to handle the spread, hurry up and off balance schemes that is becoming the new norm-look at Oregon. This is a tall order for Chow to fill.
on November 1,2012 | 09:52AM
BTO wrote:
Most major college programs run defensive rotations of players. Example on first down you usually have your stop run team, and on third and long you have your faster D line pass rushers in and quicker LB's, and best man cover DBs. But with the hurry up, you disrupt that rotation of getting the players on the field and confused with formations and motions. Maybe this is Hawaii's desperate strategy going forward.
on November 1,2012 | 02:00PM
Anonymous wrote:
The game of football has evolved and changed. Instead of the traditional 'I formation', 'wishbone formation'...etc.; we now have shotguns, pistols, West Coast spread formation, empty backfield...etc. It doesn't matter what kind of offense, it all depends on the coaches. Each team has different strength and weakness, coaches have to make adjustments. Smart coaches know how to adjust, use their teams strength to attack the other teams weakness. That takes a lot of hard work in watching game films; and most important, AN OPENED MIND to make adjustments. Incompetent coaches live in the past and still using play books from the eighties.
on November 1,2012 | 09:54AM
allie wrote:
I like Coach Harbaugh
on November 1,2012 | 10:04AM
hunebasami wrote:
It dudn't take him three years to think.
on November 1,2012 | 06:41PM
Classic_59Chevy wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 1,2012 | 11:37AM
hunebasami wrote:
Why not. Are you that bad?
on November 1,2012 | 06:42PM
Allenk wrote:
If one does some research, the pro set was invented in 1965, used heavily from 1975 - 2000. Football has gone from a combination of two wide receivers to four wide receivers. From an "I" formation to a double wing back, no running backs, from under center snapping to the shot gun. The game has progressed from a balanced attack one that is more passing. What hasn't changed is the need for solid blocking and a defense that can read and adjust to the attack.
on November 1,2012 | 01:16PM
hunebasami wrote:
Who are you talking about? Could it be someone we know.
on November 1,2012 | 06:40PM
Classic_59Chevy wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 1,2012 | 11:33AM
NITRO08 wrote:
on November 1,2012 | 12:17PM
hunebasami wrote:
Chow doesn't know how. tI takes brains.
on November 1,2012 | 06:45PM
hunebasami wrote:
Tell him to save us by quiting.
on November 1,2012 | 06:43PM