Thursday, August 16, 2012

Folsom: Rebuild or Reload This Season?

Here is the latest in my series of football previews, this one I look at the exciting Folsom Bulldogs ...

Folsom’s football team has made Friday nights at Prairie City Stadium fun. There’s never a dull moment. Kris Richardson’s score-quickly and score-often offense has been thrilling Bulldog fans for several years now, winning the California state championship in 2010 and placing second in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division II playoffs a year ago.

The question this season is whether the Bulldogs will be reloading or rebuilding because of the loss of big stars like J’juan Muldrow, Tanner Trosin, Carson McMurtry, Alex Wood and Doug Vernon to graduation.

Behind the play of those guys Folsom averaged 507 yards and 42 points a game, including two games in which 100 or more points combined were scored. In a memorable offensive contest on Oct. 14, Folsom and Sheldon combined for 48 points scored in the third quarter alone as the Bulldogs defeated the Huskies, 63-40. There were 1,113 total yards of offense run up by the teams that night.

“I think this is our year to reload,” Richardson, entering his eighth season as Folsom’s head coach, said. “All the good programs – our whole league is like this – have a great thing going. The outgoing seniors graduate and we just plug the next guy in.”

But, two coaching personnel changes will also help the Bulldogs’ program this season. Richardson’s friend and former boss, Troy Taylor, resigned his job as radio color commentator with Cal Bears’ football and has returned to Folsom to spend more time with family. Richardson has asked Taylor to become his co-head coach.

“Troy is one of the smartest offensive minds I’ve ever been around,” Richardson said of his best friend. “On a personal note, I love being the head coach but it’s turned into a massive job. Troy coming in has allowed us share those duties and for me it’s a breath of fresh air.”

Defensively, former Cordova head coach Max Miller is no longer the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator and Richardson has hired former Sacramento State defensive backfield coach Lou Biaz to replace him.

“We wanted to bring Lou in to start doing some more dynamic things such as zone pressures,” Richardson said. “Lou brings a college style and scheme. At Folsom, we may not be as big or as physical as other programs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be as successful, so we’ll do lots of movement to try to confuse the offense.”

Offense -
Folsom led the state in total offense, marking more than 7,100 yards on the stat sheets en route to an 11-3 overall record. And, Richardson thinks they’ll have the personnel this season to keep the Bulldog offense sprinting to the end zone.

“We’re just like all the great programs, we’re working year round in the weight room,” he said. “(The players) are out working on their own, throwing the ball. They know the offense. We work during the off-season to see how we’re defended and we tweak things to get ready for them. We’re just not going to sit back and say, ‘we’re the number one offense in the state.’ We’re going to be an improved offense so we can continue be the best offensive team in the area.”

Taking Trosin’s place as top quarterback, will be one of two guys, Taylor Miller-Wing, a senior, and Jake Browning, a sophomore.

“Both of them can run this offense,” Richardson said. “The best guy will play. If both of them are the best guy, then both will play.”

Richardson says at this time, he hasn’t decided who will be the starter. But, much like the past when Cary Grossart and David Graves, and later, Dano Graves and Tanner Trosin were battling for the starting signal caller job, Richardson found ways to get both guys in the game at the same time. That could happen this fall, too, with Miller-Wing and Browning.

At receiver the top returner is Troy Knox who had 66 receptions for 845 yards and six touchdowns, but there are several more quality ball catchers.

“We’re as deep at wide receiver as we’ve ever been,” Richardson claimed. “Rodney Ellison, I think, is going to be one of the top receivers in the area.”

Trace Noble (34 catches, 342 yards, 2 TD’s) is also back.

Running backs are all untested, as far as varsity play is concerned, and Richardson is looking at a sophomore and a junior as starters.

If there is a question mark on offense, it may be with the offensive line. All five starters from a year ago graduated.

“We’re excited, though, with what we’ve got,” Richardson said. “Reed Garmsen and Josh Wormsley got some time last year.”

Now that Taylor is on board as co-head coach, Richardson is focusing more on the offensive line and likes what he sees right now.

“We’re not a bunch of 280-pound road graders,” he said. “We’re a bunch of 230-, 220-pound athletic guys and I like what we’ve done.”

Richardson admits he has what he terms “multiple snap counts” with his offense that makes the offensive linemen appear to move just prior to the snap.

“We have our little tricks we do, which I’m not going to share, where we go on three or four different snap counts where we don’t make ourselves jump offsides and with what we do with our screen game, we slow down the other team’s defensive line,” he said.

Though the spotlight has been on the Bulldog’s offensive prowess, defense sometimes got overlooked. During their 2010 state championship season, the Bulldogs came up with big stops defensively. Richardson thinks the same thing might happen this fall. Folsom had nine juniors start on defense a year ago and they all return.

“A year ago we struggled against the big, physical teams like Pleasant Grove and Grant, but this year we’ve adjusted our schemes,” Richardson said. “I think we’re going to be pretty darn good.”

Folsom will be led by returning all-Delta River League lineman Quincy Capel, linebackers Derek Stiles and Chaz Arnold and defensive backs Troy Knox, Phillip Carter, Rodney Ellison and Alec Geist.

Richardson is a former offensive lineman at New Mexico while Taylor is a record-holding quarterback at Cal. Richardson was the line coach when Taylor was Folsom’s head coach. Taylor resigned in 2004 to take a job with Cal’s radio network and Richardson became the head man at Folsom.

The Bulldogs play non-conference games against a pair of out-of-area opponents, Deer Valley from Antioch and San Ramon Valley, the Central Coast Section runner-ups a year ago. They’ll also take on a pair of Sierra Foothill League members, Woodcreek and Roseville, along with Casa Roble, who has had good teams as of late.

Prediction- 7-3 overall, 3-2 Delta River League
Though Richardson claims they’ll be reloading this season and be one of the best teams offensively, the fact so many starters didn’t play varsity last season is a bit of a concern, especially along the offensive front.

They’ll likely light up the scoreboard once again and make watching Bulldog football an entertaining night. It’s going to be tough, though, for them to have an answer for the defending DRL champions, Pleasant Grove, and stop the new-look Jesuit Marauders.

But, Folsom will be heard from in the post-season once again. They’ll likely be competing in the Section’s Division II bracket where they were the runner-ups to Vacaville last year and could return to Hornet Stadium for the championship game once again.

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