Just over a year ago, Fresno State announced the hiring of coach Jeff Tedford. At the time, some people questioned and outright denounced the move. Long-time readers may remember one writer calling it “the dumbest move in Mountain West history.”
Fast forward to a year later and that claim appears to look rather silly. Tedford inherited a team that stumbled to a 1-11 2016 season(their lone win coming against Sacramento State) and pulled a complete 180. At the time of this article, the new-look Bulldogs find themselves at 8-3. 2 of those losses came at the hands of top-25 teams from the P5 conferences; Alabama, who in case you haven’t heard is pretty good at playing football and can usually be found in the top two of any rankings, and Washington, who has developed into one of the premiere programs out west (the third loss was to UNLV). Regardless, the impressive number is the 8 in the win column. The program is alive and well once again, at least for this season. They have clinched the west division and a showdown vs Boise State, followed by a showdown vs Boise State for the conference championship.
Off the field, Tedford and his staff are picking up some impressive victories on the recruiting trail as well. They have received verbal commitments from 11 recruits, a number that will only increase between now and February. Back in July, they had a run of 6 commits over a 10 day period. Every single one of them has come from the state of California, meaning Tedford is putting the work in with the local players and programs, building a foundation to get the best in-state talent. Recruits are taking notice of the success and it is translating to recruiting success. MWConnection contacted some of the members of the 2018 recruiting class to hear their thoughts on the Fresno State’s great season.
On the Field Success: Tedford the Coach
It is common for recruits to follow their future school during the season and watch as many games as possible on tv, or in person, usually through official visits. The Bulldogs 2018 class is no different; the reviews are in and the recruits are raving about the success Fresno State has found this season.
“I'm so proud of all those guys proving everybody wrong this season!” says WR Emoryie Edwards. “It's not easy to bounce back from an 1-11 season but obviously with the great coaching staff that is there, they've made it happen. I'm hoping we can continue it when we arrive and get better and better each year”
“I'm very impressed.” said DT Matt Kjeldgaard in his assessment of the team. “Nobody plays with the grit and determination that the Bulldogs do. I'm absolutely stoked knowing that I am going be a part of that team next year.”
Added CB Deshawn Ruffin: “I think it just shows how hard they had to work and the discipline they had to have to continue this winning streak and not let the outside noise distract them from their end goal which was to be in the championship game.”
LB Sherwin King gave perhaps the most candid response. “This season the Bulldogs not only shocked me, they shocked everybody else. At first it was a slow start , but I guess they were able to find their swagger. Ever since then I felt like they’re playing as if they have something to prove. The Dogs really couldn’t have the success they are without the coaching staff. Coach Tedford came in changing everything around and got things back moving in the right path. That’s why I’m very excited to be able to put on a Bulldog jersey next year!”
Building a Class: Tedford the Recruiter
As mentioned above, Tedford hasn’t just found the right way to coach his current plays the field. In his own way, he is showing a knack for being able to recruit players that have totally bought in to the same message and can’t wait to be a part of the program and excitement going forward. According to the players being recruited, much of that can be attributed to Tedford the person, who is the type of man athletes want to play for.
“Coach Tedford brought a new energy to Fresno State but at the same time brings that old school vibe back and then he brought in a great coaching staff that knows the game inside and out” said Ruffin.
“I believe that Coach Tedford has been so successful because kids know the caliber of coach he is, they know he can win. So his kids are just buying into the program.” explains Kjeldgaard. “I have a great respect for Coach Tedford. During the recruiting process he was very supportive and friendly. He took time at the FSU football camp to talk with me. During my unofficial visit he sat with my parents and I, and answered all my questions about school and about football. I really look forward to building my relationship with him.”
“Well looking at his background shows he knows the game well. He is intelligent and knows his stuff. As a person, Coach Tedford is a cool laid-back kind of guy and I’m excited to get to knowing him more next year.” chimed in WR Ricardo Arias.
Added King: “I feel that Coach Tedford came in and set the bar high this year for the team, and ever since then they been locked in a ready to go. I feel that our relationship, once I get there, will be like a father/son type of relationship. Not only can I talk to Coach Tedford about football, but I feel that it’s going to get to the point I can talk to him about anything. That’s a great feeling to have.”
There you have it. Fresno State has found a coach who can relate to players and recruits. Players believe in what he says, what he teaches, and see him as genuine. Players want to play for a coach who knows how to win, who take the time to truly want to know the player and make them better people. When that happens, a natural trust forms and if players trust you, they will do whatever they can to take their game to the next level. A year ago, Fresno State had to hope they made the right choice. Now, they have to hope Tedford can stick around. If year one is any indication, success on the field and in recruiting will only get better.
Make sure to follow Mike on twitter: @Mike_SBN for all the latest recruiting news around the MWC.