Welcome to part nine of our twelve-part series to kick off the recruiting season, and the final one of this week. The aim of these articles are to provide a detailed look at what each team has done thus far on the recruiting trail, what to expect come December 20th, and what work still needs to be put in before NLI day in February.
Fresno State: 4th in the MWConnection Recruiting Rankings
They had a remarkable turnaround season, going from 1 win to the MWC championship game. The first three games did little to accurately depict how good this team was. They started the year with a massacre of Incarnate Word, but that was expected. The next two weeks the Bulldogs got destroyed By Alabama and Washington, which was also expected. Then the team got hot in conference play, reeling off 4 straight wins, including a very impressive showing against SDSU. A slip-up resulted in a loss to UNLV, but then another 4 game win-streak, with the last two coming against Wyoming and Boise State. They came right back a week later to play Boise State in the conference championship game, but this time they came up short. Again, 9-4 was unthinkable going in to the year and this was only year one of the Tedford era.
Bare with me on the repeating, but the offense is considered a 3 WR pro-style while the defense is a 4-3 base.
To review, the slot-receiver tends to be smaller and quicker than a traditional receiver. In the slot, there is a tendency to run short quick routes designed for quick-hitters or getting the ball in space to utilize the speed. Tight-ends usually have dual-responsibilities these days, with an edge to being a pass-catcher over the middle first, and blocking second. However that blocking remains important in the single-back system most teams employ, as does having a RB that can break tackles in the backfield and has the ability to catch passes.
In the 4-3, the DEs tend to be a bit on the lighter side to use speed, while the DTs tend to plug up the middle to stop the run. The LBs all have different focuses: the MLB stops the run and covers running backs out of the back field on check downs, the WLB has some run-stopping abilities but also plays in coverage with a slot WR or TE, while the SLB is used to blizt, stop the run, and is your primary pass defender out of the 3, picking up slot WRs or TEs, whoever is considered a bigger threat. The safeties tend to play deeper to provide support to the CBs.
The Road So Far
MWConnection posted an article a few weeks ago about the impact Coach Tedford was making on the field and on the recruiting trail. At the time of this article, the Bulldogs have secured 13 verbal commitments. Remarkably, and a sign of their recruiting strategy, every single recruit has come from the state of California. A lot of talent has been brought in thus far and more so, the commits all seem to have completely bought in to the staff and program.
Looking at their commits on offense, that is where most of the work has been done at this point. 7 of their verbal pledges appear that they will suit up for the offense. They have taken two quarterbacks in this class: Steven Comstock and Ben Wooldridge. As you may expect, they have different skill sets; Comstock is classified at a dual-threat, where Wooldridge is considered more of a pro-style QB. They have one OL commit, Nick Abbs who has really nice size and as a JUCO player, he should be penciled in to the starting lineup next year. They have 4 WR recruits this class. Rodney White and Emoryie Edwards look like speed demons and Bryce Parker will be a huge target in the red-zone. Ricardo Arias may be the most complete WR and may have the best chance to play next season, but don’t count any from the group out.
While they don’t have as many defensive recruits as this point, it doesn’t mean they are short on talent. DTs Matt Kjeldgaard and Keiti Iakopo will do a great job clogging up the middle on the line and shutting down the run. Similarly, their pair of CB commits Shamar Westone and Deshawn Ruffin figure to use their athleticism to develop into nice corners. LB Kilifi Leaaetoa could slide into a run-stopping role at the second level and Sherwin King is the sleeper here. He will be in the play-making SLB role and has all the necessary tools to play there.
Number Expected to Sign in December: At this point, 5 recruits have confirmed they will sign next week.
Number Expected to Enroll Early: At least 1 player is excepted to enroll for the spring semester.
Top Targets Remaining: DT Matt Lawson, DT Niti Liu, RB, OL, S
The Road Ahead
Moving forward, the Bulldogs could use some additions to their defense in this class. While it is unknown how many spots they are taking in this class, their recent offers last week to some 2019 players may suggest the don’t have many spots left. They appear to be loading up on DTs in this class, as they recently had Lawson and Liu for visits either on campus or in home. If they can spare it, a RB and 2-3 more OL players would be helpful, as would a safety or two.
In an ideal world, the Bulldogs have room and land the two DTs listed above, as well as a RB, another TE to replace the recently decommitted John McCartan, as well as two OL commits and a safety.
In the real world, OL is their biggest remaining need, then a TE. Perhaps they aren’t taking a RB or S in this class. But landing those two DTs, even if they aren't technically a “need” would make their DL in this class outstanding, as good as their WRs in this class.
As stated before, the Fresno State coaching staff has carried their great year off the field and into recruiting. Those committed have completely bought in and they have quality talent coming in. While there may be some holes in this class, there are also positions that will be stacked for years to come. The future is bright in the valley.
Up Tomorrow: SDSU