A new early national letter-of-intent signing period for high school football recruits awaits approval by the Collegiate Commissioners Association, which is expected in June. Fresno State is prepared to pounce.
It is a change that first-year coach Jeff Tedford said could benefit the Bulldogs.
In addition to the early signing period, starting next year recruits can make official visits in April through June of their junior year in high school, rather than the start of their senior year.
“They change the rules, you have to abide by the rule and try to use them to your advantage,” Tedford said. “Early visits will definitely be a part of next April, May and June, because those are the months that they go through, so we’ll plan on that.
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Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford produced eight first-round NFL draft picks and had 40 players selected overall in his 11 seasons at Cal. The list of first-round NFL selections includes quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the list of 1,000-yard rushers includes J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best, all players he recruited.
“Then early signing for this year, if it does go through like that, we’ll make sure that we have people lined up early enough on visits to where we have a pretty good idea what guys are doing. I think it’s good. I’m in favor of it.”
Fresno State under former coach Tim DeRuyter didn’t bring in a lot of recruits on official visits during the season, which was part strategy and part scheduling. The Bulldogs from 2013-16 played three home games on Thursday and five on Friday nights, conflicting with high school schedules.
But with the coming rule change, one of several passed last week by the NCAA Division I Council (the commissioners group would create a new signing period), the Bulldogs will look to get more recruits on campus earlier in the process. They do catch a break this season – and in selling tickets – given that all six home games will be played on a Saturday.
“I think it helps,” Tedford said. “I’d love to have early signees. It really kind of has people commit to who they want to go to, and I think it gets rid of a lot of the nonsense that goes on later of de-committing and this and that and the other thing. When that starts (happening), it’s a nightmare for everybody. People know who they want. People know where they want to go. Boom. You’re done. And then you keep recruiting some more.
“You’ll know their decision instead of playing that game on and on and on. You’ll know where some people stand earlier, whether you have to adjust and go after some other people or what have you, it will give you some idea of what’s going on earlier.”
The Bulldogs, who do not finish spring practices until April 29 and will not hit the road for the spring evaluation period until May, have done the homework to make it work.
I think it helps. I’d love to have early signees. It really kind of has people commit to who they want to go to, and I think it gets rid of a lot of the nonsense that goes on later of de-committing and this and that and the other thing.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford
Spring evaluations, when coaches are allowed to visit high schools, meet with coaches and administrators, and watch practices or workouts, started April 15.
“We’ve watched a lot of tape,” said Spencer Harris, the Bulldogs’ director of player personnel. “We know exactly where we’re going to go in May, who we need to see, who we need to evaluate further, who we need to just keep recruiting. We’ll be ready to go in May when spring ball ends, hit the road and get after it.”
Tedford, who had a strong track evaluating and recruiting record when he was the head coach at Cal and had some big hits with lightly regarded prospects, was bullish on the number of recruits he would like to secure during an early signing period.
“I’d like to commit them all early, if we could. If we’re at that point,” he said.
While basketball has had signing periods in November and April, football has had one – the first Wednesday in February.
“I love the early signing period,” Harris said. “It will give us a chance to lock down our guys in December and in January when the bigger schools are looking to fill some spots they can’t come searching through our commit list, because that’s the first thing they’re going to do. We can do a really good job evaluating and recruiting and getting commits in the boat and then if (a Power Five program) comes in it’s going to be tough to hold on. This will give us a chance to sign those kids early and get them locked in and ready to go.
“If we do our job from February to December and get guys on official visits during the season and in early December and they’re into Fresno State, we can lock them in and move forward.”
Et cetera – Senior Malik Forrester played at nose guard last season, taking on a lot of double teams. But with the change to a 4-3 front from the 3-4 the Bulldogs had played the past five seasons, the job description has changed and he is all in favor.
I’m happy. I’m definitely not satisfied. It’s consistency. Consistency is better than rare moments of greatness. That’s what we’re looking for.
Fresno State defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer
“Less taking on blocks and more shooting the gap and making plays,” he said. “I feel like I was always a 4-3 type of guy. The 3-4 is a little tough, especially coming out of JUCO and never ever playing in it, but I had to make do.”
Forrester, who is 6-1 and 315 pounds, didn’t get a chance to use his quickness on the field much while occupying blockers but tied for fourth on the team a year ago and led defensive linemen with five tackles for loss.
“I feel like I can use my real speed now, just get off the ball and make a play,” he said.
▪ The priority this spring for defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer was setting a standard, defining expectations.
“It ebbs and flows. (Wednesday) was a great day – we were able to turn the ball over a little bit. But the offense got the best of us the practice before,” he said. “It’s really not about offense and defense, it’s about are we getting collectively better?
“I see that we are. I really see progress. Guys are buying in. They’re flying around, having fun. We got the spring-break blues out of our system and we kind of set the standards. The standard is not set by the coaches, the standard is set by the players and once it’s on film, now, they’re held accountable.”
But, nine practices into spring, there is a plus there.
“I’m happy. I’m definitely not satisfied,” Steinauer said. “It’s consistency. Consistency is better than rare moments of greatness. That’s what we’re looking for.”
▪ Offensive lineman Quireo Woodley sat out a second consecutive practice because of illness.
▪ Receiver Jamire Jordan, who has not participated in any contact drills following offseason hip surgery, is expected to be cleared after spring ball.
“I’ve just been working to be back for the fall,” Jordan said. “If everything goes according to plan, I should be back no problem.”
Jordan, who last season averaged 15.8 yards per reception, 11th best in the Mountain West Conference, anticipates making up ground from the lost practice reps in the Bulldogs’ new offense very quickly once he is cleared.
“In summer, being able to go out and run the routes full speed I should be right back in it,” he said. “I’m still in the meetings and stuff so I know the playbook, it’s just actually running it now.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
- Saturday, April 22: Spring practice No. 11: 10:35 a.m.-12:50 p.m., open to the public
- Saturday, April 29: Spring Preview, 10:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m., open to the public
- Saturday, Sept. 2: Home/season opener vs. Incarnate Word, kickoff TBD
- Saturday, Sept. 9: Game at Alabama, kickoff TBD
- Saturday, Sept. 30: Mountain West opener vs. Nevada, kickoff TBD