Can Coach Jeff Tedford breathe life into Fresno State football? His plan includes aggressively looking at Valley talent. KSEE24’s Scott Bemis looks at how the university is recruiting in the Central Valley.


By SCOTT BEMIS | May 1, 2017

Coming off its worst season in school history, Fresno State is hoping new head coach Jeff Tedford can revive its struggling football program.

And Tedford is kind of re-launching an old brand when it comes to Bulldog football success.

Since Pat Hill became head coach in 1997, the Bulldogs have worn a green “V” on the back of their helmets. It’s symbolic of their connection to the San Joaquin Valley.

Hill knew that Central Valley support was vital to the success of the program.

20 years later, one of Hill’s former assistants – Jeff Tedford – is now using a similar approach as head coach.

“I can’t wait to fill their roster full of Bakersfield kids.”

“I cannot wait to fill their roster full of Bakersfield kids,” said A.J. Gass, head football coach at Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield.

Gass is also a former Bulldog – having starred at linebacker for the ’dogs in the mid-90s.

“You know, Sweeney’s term was ‘no ’dogs down,’” Gass said.

But after taking the Garces job a little over two years ago, the term “no ’dogs down” could be used to describe something else.

Basically, “no ’dogs” – as in Bulldog football coaches – were regularly “going down” to recruit Bakersfield.

“DeRuyter never came down,” Gass said. “I noticed that there were a couple kids in the valley who I thought could play – definitely in this Bakersfield area – that weren’t getting the interest.”

A couple hours north at Bullard High School in Fresno, longtime Knights football coach Donnie Arax knows a thing or two about great high school football talent.

Arax said DeRuyter was a great guy, but he and his staff left a little to be desired when recruiting in their own backyard.

“I always got the sense that maybe they hadn’t done their homework, and they didn’t know all the players in the area,” Arax said.

Perhaps no player symbolized this more than former Bullard running back Charles Williams – a 2,000-yard rusher and state-caliber sprinter as a high school senior who was overlooked by the DeRuyter regime.

He eventually signed with UNLV where his career-high 153 rushing yards last season as a true freshman played a big part in handing the Bulldogs one of their school-record 11 losses.

“It was a big miss, because I think Charles wanted to go to Fresno State,” Arax said.

Enter Jeff Tedford – and a seemingly renewed commitment to never letting this happen again.

“We have assigned each and every one of our coaches a piece of the Valley,” Tedford said.
 

“We have assigned each and every one of our coaches a piece of the Valley.”

Tedford even dedicated one day of the January recruiting period to visiting as many schools in Fresno and Clovis as possible.

“I started early in the morning and tried to hit as many as I could. I think I hit about 12 of them – 12 [or] 13 in that day,” Tedford said.

Their Valleywide effort isn’t going unnoticed.

“I know what the past coaching group would say is that we did recruit the Valley, but if we talk amongst ADs or coaches, they never would really show up right,” said Coby Lindsey, the Clovis North High School athletic director. “All of a sudden there’s been a change with Coach Tedford and his staff, and now all of a sudden, they are coming to high schools.”

 

“When you recruit kids that are homegrown, they’re gonna stay.”

Like Sanger – the Apaches program hadn’t had a scholarship player go to Fresno State since 1998, but Coach Tedford’s first recruiting class included Sanger receiver Aaron Mosby – who wasn’t offered by DeRuyter.

“When you recruit kids that are homegrown, they’re gonna stay,” Tedford said.

That means a South Valley city like Bakersfield – which has produced former Bulldog greats like Ryan Mathews and the Carr brothers – is once again squarely in Fresno State’s crosshairs.

“It only took me saying ‘really, he’s a guy, he’s a guy you’re gonna wanna look at,’” Gass said.

On the recommendation of Gass, Tedford offered under-the-radar Garces senior Chris Coleman, and Coleman signed with the ’dogs in February – becoming the first high school recruit from the Bakersfield area to sign with the Bulldogs since 2012.

“He knows what he’s talking about; he’s got the swagger of ‘hey, I got this. I’m gonna bring the Valley back; we’re gonna bring Fresno State back to when they used to beat teams like USC,’” Coleman said.

“You’re gonna get the support in the community, and I think that’s the formula for a Fresno State success.”

Of course recruiting Valley guys has another big plus – the kind that could be really beneficial for a program trying to raise millions of dollars for a massive stadium renovation.


Gass said, “You’re not only gonna get the ability on the field, but you’re gonna get the support in the community, and I think that’s the formula for a Fresno State success.”

College coaches are only allowed to give 25 scholarships a year, but there’s no limit when it comes to walk-ons. So several other Valley guys have accepted opportunities to join the Bulldogs as preferred walk-ons next fall. And you should expect that trend to continue in the years to come.


 

EXTENDED

INTERVIEWS

Web Extra 01

DONNIE ARAX

 

Bullard Head Football Coach Donnie Arax on Fresno State Football Recruiting the Valley

Web Extra 02

JEFF TEDFORD

 

Fresno State Football Coach Jeff Tedford on Recruiting the Valley

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