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.