The transition from junior college football to Division I can be easy for some players, difficult for others.
Unlike when high school football players make the jump and adjust to a different style, JUCO players most of the time have a head start by already playing in a collegiate game.
Sometimes, though, the biggest changes aren’t even on the field. For Fresno State defensive end Claudell Louis, the leap after his time at College of the Sequoias stood out in one major way: time management.
“You really have to really make a schedule how you want to use your time because you don’t want to fall behind,” the senior said. “Everything is on the schedule and you have to be early because if you’re late you’re going to forget.”
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At fall camp, Fresno State has 16 players on the roster who’ve played at the JC level. Fourteen are prohibited from talking to the media until they have played in a game for the Bulldogs, per team rules.
Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said the best way for JC players to start the transition is to transfer mid-year in time for spring football.
“Our year starts in January, starts in the weight room with coach (Joey) Boese and (offseason conditioning) and you get immersed in the culture of Bulldog football and see how we run our program throughout the summer,” DeRuyter said. “Some guys get here in the summertime it’s a little bit harder. It’s just that chemistry that has to happen with the football team.”
Our philosophy has been to use a junior college player to enhance our team right now.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter
Junior defensive back Stratton Brown, who played in 12 games last season, pointed out that learning new terminology was also significant but “the biggest thing is the strength and conditioning – it’s the real deal.”
“In JUCO, I could go out and ball and not worry about lifting,” said Brown, who played at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, before transferring in early 2014.
Tony Caviglia has sent his share of players on to D-I programs as a JUCO coach for 18 years, including the past 15 at Fresno City College. He said for players to continue progressing they have to enjoy weight training. That’s one reason he likes to run his program much like a D-I program – so players can be ready for the next level. He pointed out that former Rams defensive lineman Wyatt McBee, now with the Bulldogs, always participated in off-season programs.
Caviglia also noted most JUCO players are being recruited to fill a specific roster need and are expected to play immediately.
“Most junior college transfers being recruited to Fresno State are quality players, athletically … many of them have had 22 games under their belt,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting adjusted to Fresno State’s environment.”
DeRuyter agreed that there’s nothing like experience.
“Guys physically and mentally mature two years out of high school versus right out of high school, those guys have a chance to play earlier,” DeRuyter said.
JUCO, you’re not on scholarship. You have to take care of yourself. No one cares if you make it out or not.
Fresno State defensive back Stratton Brown
Louis, after playing in all 14 of the Bulldogs’ games last season with one start, said he feels a special link with other JUCO players entering the program.
“I tell them what they have to do,” Louis said. “I have to get them under my wings and make sure they’re doing the right thing, I have to teach them what I did because next year they have to grow up and teach the next guy.”
JUCO players at Fresno State
- K Jimmy Camacho, Riverside City College
- DB Stratton Brown, Snow College
- WR Josiah Blandin, Long Beach City
- S Alan Wright, Blinn College
- DB Isaac Brutton, College of the Sequoias
- LS Christian Samarzich, Fullerton
- LS Justin Verrell, Bakersfield College
- OL Brendan Bailey, Cerritos College
- DL Tyler Roberts, College of the Desert
- OL Jacob Vazquez, Butte College
- DL Claudell Louis, College of the Sequoias
- DL Wyatt McBee, Fresno City College
- DL Patrick Belony, Antelope Valley College
- DL Gabe Newman, Diablo Valley College
- DL Nick Kristofors, Santa Rosa Junior College
- DB Tyquwan Glass, Mt. San Antonio College