Fresno State is expecting a sellout for its game on Saturday against Nebraska, and the Bulldogs will be using that as a selling point for a large group of high school recruits invited in on unofficial visits.
"This is a big weekend for us," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "I think (the atmosphere) is going to be fantastic. We're going to have a full crowd here. It'll be electric. It's everything we want to sell football-wise about our program happening right here in front of them, so we want to get as many of the players who are our top guys right here on campus."
Under NCAA rules, coaches and school officials cannot comment on recruits until after a national letter of intent has been signed and validated, but on the guest list are players not only from the Valley but up and down the state and more than twice as many as they had for any game last season.
Edison High linebacker Vance Sams confirmed he will be at the game.
A year ago, the high-profile games on the Bulldogs' schedule were played on a Thursday night (Rutgers) and a Friday night (Boise State), making it difficult get high school players to those games.
This game against Nebraska has had a circle around it for a while, and the Bulldogs' staff is hoping to take advantage of the energy in Bulldog Stadium.
"Within our conference nobody has as good a game day experience as we do. Nobody else has the Red Wave. Nobody else has 42,000 crazies going nuts for Bulldog football and we want guys to experience that for themselves and not just listen to us talk about it," DeRuyter said.
During the unofficial visit, the recruits will get some face time with DeRuyter and the position coaches and also check out the program improvements made over the past year.
"We do have some new toys to show them when they hit campus," said Ron Antoine, the Bulldogs' outside receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. "Our weight room has been renovated, our training room is now open. Last year, that was opened during the season, so we got to show it off at the Nevada game, so the people who came out to the early games missed it. This year we have those bells and whistles, the renovated Ricchiuti Center and our locker room.
"Now we have a few more toys to show and it's going to be good for the kids to come up and see and the good thing it's all right there, centrally located, you can get to it quickly, show people a glimpse of our athletic facilities and get them excited about Fresno State and hopefully we get them back."
But the main selling point will be Bulldog Stadium, and that atmosphere.
In the Mountain West, attendance at home openers has been mixed. San Jose State had only 10,371 for a game against North Dakota, in a building that holds more than 30,000. UNLV had 17,289 for a game against Northern Colorado in a stadium that holds 36,800. Boise State did not sellout, attracting 34,910 for its home opener and what was a conference game against Colorado State. San Diego State had 30,761 for its first home game, well short of a sellout.
"We want to let people know that Fresno State has the best atmosphere in the Mountain West and to emphasize that," Antoine said. "We did that in video form, using YouTube and using our own website, and let people see what it looks like in Bulldog Stadium. For me, a guy who played against Fresno State, when we came in, it was usually the biggest crowd that we would see in our conference, even at home when we were good.
"This was the biggest crowd you had to face and the crowd with the most intensity. We want to show that and I think the interest from the people who want to come to a game and see what it's like, we are going to have quite a few people here."