Welcome to the third piece in our twelve-part series that hopefully makes the dead period go by a bit quicker. The aim of these articles is to provide a detailed look at what each team has done thus far on the recruiting trail, and what work still needs to be put in before NLI day in February. One team a day will be featured, in order of where they fall in their current MWCConnection ranking. Today looks at Fresno State.
3rd in the MWConnection Recruiting Rankings
Fresno State barely experienced any drop off from last season and in some ways were probably better. Even after losing their DC and their defensive line, their defense still topped the Mountain West. They had an early season hiccup in Minnesota, but never wavered after that. Yes, they lost to Boise State on the road mid-season, but it was a hard-fought and well-played game. Other than that, they made easy work of most of their conference schedule and took down UCLA. The Bulldogs even avenged their loss to the Broncos in the conference championship game and took down another PAC-12 opponent in Arizona State in their bowl game. All in all, it’s safe to say it was a very successful season for the Bulldogs.
Their offensive scheme is common but they run it as effective as anyone. They run a pro-style with a three wide receiver base. 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 base scheme the Bulldogs run, 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 blitz, 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 Road So Far:
The Bulldogs signed 13 players last Wednesday, and have another three verbal commits who have yet to sign. They brought in 6 players on offense and 7 players on defense. As one would expect, 10 of the 13 signees were local, from the state of California. They also brought in one recruit from Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas. 3 players come from the junior college ranks while the other 10 are traditional high school players.
Cropper is certainly the headliner on the offense and in this class. He is a superior talent and one of the biggest gets in the entire conference. Wide receiver was a big emphasis in this class in general, with three other guys joining Cropper. Junior college player Wheatfall will join Cropper in offsetting the loss of Johnson. Kelly and Glaspie will be able to come in and develop behind them. The Bulldogs also brought in immediate and impactful help in the tight end game. A pair of top JUCO players at the position, Pauwels and Rodriguez, will both step in and contribute right away thanks to their size and ability.
Looking at the other side of the ball, the focus was on linebacker and defensive back. They picked up signing day announcements from LBs from Bailey and Bridges, who both bring great size to the position. Carroll is a bit smaller, but may end up surprising people at the position. At DB, Deven Jarvis stuck with Fresno State after considering Boise State and it’s a boon for the Bulldogs. Strong looks like a big get at safety and Myles and Jordan look like athletic fits in the backfield as well.
Number who signed in December: 13
Number who will enroll early: 3
The Road Ahead:
Top Targets Remaining: RB, DL, perhaps OL
First things are first for Fresno State. They have three verbal commitments who did not sign last Wednesday. They need to ensure all of them do, especially Dixon, who could be an impact player at running back down the line. They also have a DE (Colby Warkentin) and LB (Luring Paialii) who they should lock down as well.
The Bulldogs have certainly addressed their biggest needs this year and went heavy on quarterback, OL and DL last season. It probably still wouldn’t be the worst thing to attempt to balance the classes a bit by taking one or two players on each side of the line.
Between this class and last class, Fresno State has brought in players are pretty much every position to restock the cupboards. That could allow them to spend their remaining spots (assuming they have them) on more of the “best player available” options as opposed to having to address a need. It will be interesting to see what they do, if anything, or if they are content with securing their final three commits. Either way, they definitely stepped it up a notch in year two of recruiting under Tedford.
Coming tomorrow: UNLV