Welcome to the fourth post in our twelve-part recruiting breakdown series. Today will look at the #4 team in our rankings, Fresno State.
The Bulldogs have had a few different approaches over the past few years and that is the case again this year. After losing the core of their championship team, Coach Tedford aims to reload the roster with top high school talent and is blending it with junior college and transfer players who are coming in ready to play. Although they lack a true star, the top talent is solid. To learn more about the influx of talent coming in, read below.
- 24 recruits signed
- 12 high school players, 8 JUCO players, 4 transfers
- 14 offensive, 10 defensive
- 13 three-stars per 247 Composite rankings.
- Players with a composite rating of 85 or higher: 5
- Players with a composite rating of 82 or higher: 13
- Breakdown by state (excluding transfers): 17 California, 2 Louisiana, 1 Oregon
- 247 Composite Rankings (subject to change)
- Overall: 83
- Recruiting: 86
- Transfer: 75
QB Jayden Mandal
Jayden joins the roster as a talented quarterback. He is comfortable moving around the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield to find open receivers. Mandal is exceptional at throwing on the run, displaying his arm strength, and he gets the ball out quickly. He displays noticeable accuracy and he has the capability to pick up yards with his legs when he chooses. Jayden has all the tools to be great, and now needs to keep developing to put it all together.
Transfer QB Mikey Keene
Mikey comes to the Bulldogs after starting games for UCF last season. He is elusive in the pocket, keeping his feet moving and having the ability to outrun defenders to and gain positive yards. Keene makes quick decisions and displays lots of arm strength, especially when throwing on the run. He can sling it all over the field and will be dangerous in the RPO game in the team chooses to utilize those plays. Mikey should be the starter for Fresno State next season if all goes according to play.
RB Devon Rivers
Devon is a legacy playing, following in his dad and brother’s footsteps to play for the Bulldogs. He has great balance, allowing him to bounce off tackles and stay moving for extra yards. Rivers sees the field well and makes quick and effective cuts to evade tackles in route to explosive plays. He can also be effective as a pass-catcher, which adds another layer to his skill level. Devon looks like he will have a bright college career over the next few years.
RB Charles Greer
Charles is another talented running back in this class. He bursts through holes at the line of scrimmage and possesses breakaway speed once he gets into the second level. Greer does a great job staying low, which helps him keep his balance after contact and fight for extra yards. He also has impressive strength, dragging players in the scrums. Charles can definitely find a role early in his college career.
Transfer RB Damien Moore
Damien transfers into Fresno State from the PAC-12. He does a great job breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage to spring for big gains. Moore displays very good vision and makes cuts to adjust his running lane to find the open hole. He reaches top speed once he’s in the open field and can outrun defenders to find the endzone. Damien should allow the Bulldogs to reload at running back.
JUCO WR Tim Grear
Tim is a great receiver out of junior college that the Bulldogs were able to secure. He has great straight-line speed and can get behind the secondary with little issue. Grear has an advanced understanding of how to get open with his routes and releases and has solid hands as well. He makes incredible catches and controls his body extremely well down the sideline. Tim should step into a starting role next season and help replenish Fresno State’s losses at the position.
JUCO WR Artis Cole
Artis comes from the junior college level to play wide receiver. He is a speedy, versatile player who can succeed in short and deep routes. Cole is a terrific route-runner, getting open with ease thanks to his technique and his ability to set up cornerbacks. He is dangerous after the catch, changing directions quickly and finding another gear to get separation. Artis should help to fill some needs at the position.
JUCO WR Antoine Sullivan
Antoine is another junior college receiver being added to the Bulldog’s roster. He comes in with great size, which gives him the advantage on 50/50 balls. Sullivan excels at tracking the ball in the air and adjusting his body to get into position to make the catch. He changes directions smoothly with his long, effortless strides. Antoine should have no issue seeing the field next season.
TE Brock Lium
Brock is one of the tight ends in this class. He is a big, long target who runs smoothly all over the field, making his presence known as a receiver. Lium had advanced route-running ability, finding holes in the zone and changing direction easily to get open. He is very fast for his size, with his long strides and racing by defenders. Brock may need to redshirt to add weight and develop blocking skills, but he should add a lot to the passing game once he gets up to speed.
TE Richie Anderson
Richie is another player the Bulldogs signed to restock the tight end position. He is a high energy play on either side of the ball, going full force once the ball is snapped. Anderson does a great job getting open on his routes and his wide catch radius makes it difficult for defenders to stop him. He is difficult to bring down after the catch due to his size, dragging defenders with him and running over would-be tacklers. Richie should get in the mix sooner rather than later for Fresno State.
JUCO TE Jake Tarwater
Jake is another tight end, this one from the junior college level. He is an athletic, well-rounded player who can fit into any type of offense. As a receiver, Tarwater can run every type of route, has a large catch radius, and piles up the yards after the catch. As a blocker, he is physical as he initiates contact and can slip out for a reception on play-action. Jake should carve out a role next season in some form with the Bulldogs.
OL Edward Fonua
Edward was a late signee in this class, coming to play the offensive line. He has impressive strength, knocking defenders to the ground on a regular basis. Fonua was also athletic enough to play defense, thanks to a quick burst and noticeable agility. He is utilized best on screens and in the run-game as a blocker. Edward likely needs to keep developing and would benefit from a redshirt year, but projects well for the future.
JUCO OL Hayden Pulis
Hayden is a JUCO player that Fresno State was able to sign. He gets to his blocks immediately, initiating contact and driving defenders out of the way with his lower body strength. Pulis is at his best as a run-blocker, driving linemen back and opening up big holes. He displays good footwork in pass-protection, sliding into position to negate defenders. Hayden looks competent enough to land a role on the field next season if things go according to plan.
JUCO OL Caleb Barajas
Caleb is another junior college player as the Bulldogs attempt to restock and improve the offensive line. He is a great run-blocker and is mobile, able to get out in front of the play to make a big hit. Borajas imposes his will on defenders, driving them back and out of the play with his strength and momentum. He can also hold his own in pass protection, keeping up with rushers and moving his feet well. Caleb plays tackle but can likely also slide over to guard if necessary.
JUCO DT Dupre Mendoza
Dupre hails from junior college and now is joining the Bulldogs. He is a force on the defensive line, pushing blockers out of the way and executing his will as he blows up plays. Mendoza does a great job reacting to plays as they develop and getting into position to make a tackle. He is incredibly strong and initiates a strong interior pass-rush. Dupre should help to build depth along the defensive line next season.
DL Mordecai Hines
Mordecai is one of the many in-state recruits in this class. He is an energetic player, flying around the field to make plays. Hines beats blockers off the snap and gets into the backfield with ease, creating havoc for the quarterback. He uses his long arms to get hold of the QB or ball carrier and doesn’t let go. Mordecai has a lot of upside and he is a good bet to reach it during his time at Fresno State.
DT is one of the spots that Tedford and the staff needed to reload at. Leonard Payne transferred to Colorado, and David Perales is off to the NFL. The rest of the DT position is a bit inexperienced, leaving an open window where Hines could slot right into playing time, similar to how Gavriel Lightfoot did in 2022.
DE Isiah Chala
Isiah joins the program as a defensive end. He has ideal size for an edge rusher, using his long arms and quick feet to get into the backfield without an issue. Chala reacts to plays as they develop and constantly gets in the proper position to make a tackle. He is a disruptive player, blowing up runs in the backfield and forcing quarterbacks to run out of the pocket. Isiah should have no issue getting onto the field once he adjusts to the speed of the college game.
JUCO DE Ezra Christensen
Ezra was a highly sought-after player who ended up signing with the Bulldogs. He is an explosive player who races into the backfield to cause havoc. Christensen is extremely strong, bull-rushing his way through offensive tackles on his way to making a sack. He wraps up well once he gets his hands on a player and plays through the whistle to make an impact. Ezra figures to compete for a significant role next season for the Fresno State defense.
This might be the biggest get for Fresno State, and the one with the highest potential outside of Keene or Clark. The Dogs will need someone to fill the void left by David Perales and Leonard Payne. Devo Bridges did a great job this season as a hybrid DE/DT, and Christiansen also appears to be a player that can play that same role on the line.
LB RL Miller
RL is a talented linebacker who committed to Fresno State in December. He is a high-energy player who gives max effort on every play. Miller has tremendous game speed and flies around the field to get into position to make a play. He reads the quarterback well, jumping routes in coverage and wrapping up on tackles due to his positioning and technique. RL should develop into a quality player for the Bulldogs.
Transfer LB Tuasivi Nomura
Tuasivi is another PAC-12 transfer who will be playing for Fresno State. He is a tough, physical player who routinely makes big tackles to blow up plays. Nomura reads plays well and sheds blocks to get into position to make a tackle. He can also drop back into coverage, and he stays moving to react to the plays. It is easy to see Tuasivi stepping into a large role right away next year.
Fresno State does have a good linebacker room, especially with Levelle Bailey and Malachi Langley coming back for 2023. Nomura will also have former USC LB Raymond Scott to compete against, and the hopes are still high for special teams ace Tyler Mello to break into the rotation. His heavy hitting and tackling ability will probably lead to direct playing time on special teams, but we’ll see how big of an impression he can make on Tim Skipper.
DB Brandon Ramirez
Brandon is a talented player the Bulldogs were able to secure. He was a great high school running back, but will be playing defensive back in college, utilizing his speed and vision to boost the secondary. Ramirez can cover a lot of ground in a hurry, making him an ideal fit to play safety. He is a violent tackler and can stop ballcarriers in their tracks in the open field. Brandon will need some time to adjust to playing only defense, but his talent will get him on the field in no time;
DB Justin Johnson
Justin is a talented player who Fresno State was able to flip. He is a violent hitter who is able to make plays all over the field with his speed. Johnson can line up as a deep safety or in the box and can cover just as easily as he can blitz. He is a physical tackler, capable of stopping ball carriers in their tracks with the force behind his hits. Justin may see time as a true freshman and is expected to have a productive career.
DB Ah’marion Ashley
Ah’marion is another high school recruit who signed with the Bulldogs in February. He diagnoses plays well, allowing him to jump routes and make an impact on a play. Ashley can blitz effectively and is at his best tracking the ball to come down with an interception. He is able to player cornerback or safety, but profiles best as corner thanks to his coverage skills. Ah’marion will need to keep developing but is a nice talent Fresno State was able to secure.
While Fresno State has struggled to make positive inroads with Edison High School in town, it’s hoped that Ashley will help open up the next generation of local recruits to stay home and play for the Bulldogs.
Transfer DB Dean Clark
Dean is another transfer in this Fresno State class. He is a very sound tackle, squaring up well and making physical hits in the open field. Clark roams the field as a deep safety and gets his hands on the ball to prevent completions. He also helps out in the run game, filling gaps and preventing explosive plays. Look for Dean to be on the field in some capacity for the team next season.
Coming in with experience, Dean looks slated to take over the spot vacated by Evan Williams as the former captain has now transferred to Oregon. He was a tackling machine at Kent State in 2021, which was quite similar to the role that Williams held. Dean seems to be a bit better as a pass defender, while Williams did his best coming up to defend the run.
Team Writer Thoughts:
Mike: Johnson, Grear, Ramirez, Miller
Matt: Keene, Christensen, Grear, Miller
Talented enough to play right away:
Mike: Johnson, Grear, Ramirez, Miller, Mendoza
Matt: Keene, Christensen, Grear, Dean
Mike: Hines, Chala
Matt: Hines, Founa
Mike: Defensive Line, Tight End.
Matt: Defensive Line, Running Back
There it is for the Bulldogs. It’s an interesting class, and the success of it ultimately depends on how many of the plug-and-play signees make a meaningful impact next year. The core of the high school signees will likely be a year or two away from contributing, but because Coach Tedford is trying to reload immediately, the class will succeed or fail based on the older players. With that being said, there is a good chance it all works out, especially with the track record of the coaching staff being able to develop players.
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