Fresno State Football

Q&A with Jeff Tedford: His plan to get Fresno State football back on track

Jeff Tedford says he's ready to take charge of Fresno State football

Jeff Tedford, a former Fresno State Bulldog football player, was introduced as the team's new coach Friday, November 11, 2016. Tedford, a former Cal head coach and current consultant for the Washington program, said he's eager to get to work.
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Jeff Tedford, a former Fresno State Bulldog football player, was introduced as the team's new coach Friday, November 11, 2016. Tedford, a former Cal head coach and current consultant for the Washington program, said he's eager to get to work.

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford has been on the job for a little more than a week, picking through a football program that fell fast and fell hard and might not yet have hit bottom. The Bulldogs, winners of Mountain West championships in 2012 and ’13 and of the West Division in the conference in 2014, were 3-9 last season and are 1-10 this season with one game to go, Saturday against San Jose State.

They have lost a school-record nine games in a row.

They are the only one-win team in the nation.

They are the only 10-loss team, as well.

Recruiting is the name of the game, but it’s what starts before, the evaluation. You have to evaluate properly first, then recruit them properly.

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford

Tedford, 55, who was hired Nov. 10 to replace Tim DeRuyter as permanent coach, is evaluating the coaches, the players, the staff, the needs, wants and state of the program.

“It has been like drinking from a fire hose, for sure, the past few days,” Tedford said. “But we’re making headway. I feel like I’m getting to know it a little better. I’m really looking forward to practice. I have a little bit of background from the game.

“If you don’t know anybody, it’s hard. (Former coach) Pat Hill was great, because he sat there at practice with me the other day and kind of gave me a little background on the kids and stuff like that. So, we just keep at it.”

Here are some highlights from the former Bulldog's resume.

The Bulldogs’ new coach worked a similar reclamation project, taking a Cal team that went 1-10 in 2001 to 7-5 in his first season, then 8-6, then to winning 10 games in two of the next three seasons. In 2007 he had the Bears one win away from a No. 1 national ranking.

Fresno State is a different challenge, though. There are only 69 scholarship players in the program at the moment – 16 fewer than the NCAA limit of 85 – and that number will drop when 13 seniors walk up the ramp at Bulldog Stadium for the last time.

“When I look at the numbers, I’m like, ‘What happened here?’ ” Tedford said. “It kind of looks like a team that has been on probation for four or five years or something.”

That does, though, make it easy to identify the Bulldogs’ most pressing need.

When at Cal, Tedford coached 40 players that were selected in the NFL Draft including eight that were first-round picks, such as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and running back Marshawn Lynch.

Tedford had that targeted walking in the door.

The Bee: So you start with the roster, evaluating the players in the program?

Tedford: That’s the first thing. What the needs are, how many numbers you have. Evaluating the commits, looking at the list of all the offers and trying to get through those two. I got a chance to meet with three recruits last weekend, which was great. Then you’re evaluating coaches or future coaches, or not. You’re making decisions on that and you’re fielding a million calls from guys who want a job or want to coach and it has been great because there have been a lot of people offering up information about recruits – former players or guys I played with that want to offer up, “Hey, we have some guys.” Now they need to be evaluated.

It feels like a one-man show right now because everybody else is busy doing their thing and I don’t want to interrupt the coaches from their preparations or making sure they give everything they have to this year’s team and these seniors, so they can hopefully go out successful this weekend. Typically, you’d have a whole staff around you. You’d say, “Lets do this, this, and this,” but I don’t really have that right now.

Did anything stand out for you in the Hawaii game (a 14-13 loss)?

Yeah, I thought the guys played pretty hard, I really did. I was encouraged to see they played hard. It was really unfortunate it ended the way it did.

A lot of the things I was doing, too, I was watching even the guys on the sideline and their body language and those types of things, how engaged they were with just the process of playing and having a uniform on.

69 Scholarship players on the Bulldogs’ roster; the NCAA limit is 85.

I have my own opinions about schematically what’s going on out on the field. That will be addressed at some point. I was mainly interested in seeing how the coaches coach, how the players respond, what’s the level of engagement, excitement, buy-in, you name it. That was really interesting.

And you saw ...

I saw a little of everything, some good, some not so good, which I anticipated. It’s interesting to see a kid’s body language and see how they’re into it … or not. It was definitely educational for me to watch that part of it.

Fresno State interim coach Eric Kiesau sheds some light what it's been like for the Bulldogs since the university announced Jeff Tedford was hired as the football team's new head coach on Nov. 11, 2016. Fresno State (1-9 overall, 0-6 Mountain West

Once the season is over, then, getting that staff together and out recruiting to your needs I would think is imperative in avoiding that “transitional” recruiting class ...

It will be a challenge and the reason it will be a challenge is because they moved the (recruiting) dead period up. The dead period starts on Dec. 12 and you don’t get to do anything again until Jan. 12, and when you have a 14-day period like Fresno State to keep a job posting open, we’re going to be right up against that time.

By the time you can start hiring, the process of getting guys here, now it’s almost Dec. 12 and you can’t be out. That has been a hindrance. You’d like to at least have another week that you could be on the road and get some guys in here. We’ll probably have some visits in here with kind of a skeleton crew, really, and that is going to put a lot more pressure on January (recruiting). But it will give us time to kind of get internally what needs to happen and get our plan organized so when it does come we’re ready to hit it and we’re organized and we know exactly what we’re doing.

You have to limit your recruiting misses, your recruiting mistakes. And it’s not just as a football players, it’s about everything. It’s about, ‘Are they our kind of guy? Are they wired into who we are?’ You do the proper research. That’s why it’s hard to do it really quick.

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford

You’re going to have about two weeks in there before the end of the season and the dead period starts. Do you use coaches on the staff now for that?

I’m going to start making decisions right then on coaching staff. We might have some guys here and we might not. The number of guys we can have here to recruit can vary. That’s kind of part of the whole process of evaluation. I don’t know for sure until that time comes.

Is there an interview process, or do you just make a decision and move on?

We’re going to talk. I’m going to sit down and visit with each one of them this week and kind of get their input on things – do they want to be here, do they have other things going on? What has been interesting, though, has been watching practice last week and then watching the game and kind of being around it a little bit, you get a chance to see them at work. I’ll sit down and talk to them this week and interview them that way.

The jobs have been posted – position coaches last Thursday, coordinators last Friday. They close on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 ...

I told the coaches, because of the timelines, that we’re going to open everything. We weren’t going to be specific about that position coach or that position coach or that position coach; we’re opening everything just in case, so that we’re not behind the eight ball with the timing. They all understood that. They all know the process here and they get it. They understand timing and all that.

I want to make a decision as quick as possible, for our future and if there are changes for their future. I don’t want to drag it on where people are in a situation where they’re kind of lame-duck … type of thing. That’s not good for anybody.

From 2002 to ’11, Cal had a 1,000-yard rusher nine times including seven seasons in a row. That list includes Marshawn Lynch, J.J. Arrington, Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best.

The recruiting part, fascinating. At Cal, you had a lot of players who were lightly recruited, not million-star recruits, and they made it to the NFL. The evaluation process in there, identifying more than recruiting ...

When I look for a coach, I’m going to look for guys who connect well with the players, who are great evaluators and then masters of their craft, great teachers that are positive and poised and create a great environment and have a great trust level.

But, the first things are connecting with the players and being good evaluators. I think that’s important, to build relationships and those things, because recruiting is the name of the game. We were very fortunate at Cal to uncover some guys, especially early on JC guys, that were great players and not just great players but great students, great kids, the whole bit. We were really fortunate to do that. That really helped us turn the corner a little it. We were heavy JC guys the first couple of years and then we got off of it. But initially we needed some help, some major help, so we went and got it.

First of all, we identify, “OK what are our needs? Do we have immediate needs or can we go high school?” We felt like there were some places at Cal that we really needed JC help and then went out and found it.

But the evaluation part, that’s key. You have to limit your recruiting misses, your recruiting mistakes. And it’s not just as football players, it’s about everything. It’s about, “Are they our kind of guy? Are they wired into who we are?” You do the proper research. That’s why it’s hard to do it really quick. You need to get a lot of information on them. In my opinion, if you’re doing a good job recruiting you know every single thing about them. You talk to their counselor, their English teacher, the guy who works on campus. “What kind of kid is this?” The whole bit. That’s a big part of the evaluation. It’s not just watching tape and saying, “OK, this guy can play.”

That’s hard enough, to know how his athletic ability is going to transition. But the other piece of it, knowing he’s going to be a great guy when he gets here, is going to be accountable, he’s going to be a leader, he’s going to have a great attitude. Those are the things that you want to uncover and that takes a little while.

That’s the question. What are the key points there? What do you look for? Everyone asks those questions, but when you look at what happened here, they had a lot of attrition. Guys have fallen out of the program. Some of them were for good reason, a medical issue or a family issue, but some were just because they would choose something else ahead of football.

Yeah, I think that’s obviously a problem. I don’t know the history of it so it’s hard for me to say. All I do know is it seems there has been a lot of it. When I look at the numbers, I’m like, “What happened here?” It kind of looks like a team that has been on probation for four or five years or something. The lack of scholarship numbers … people have left and it hasn’t necessarily been because of academic eligibility issues, people have just left.

I don’t know the answer to that. You try to find out. I guess there are numbers reasons why. But in my opinion that’s the root of everything – recruiting and making sure you’re finding the right fit so you don’t have that. It’s either it was the wrong fit, the trust level was not there. … I don’t know what the reasons were and I’m not going to go back and try to judge that. It is what it is. But I know going forward that if we do our job of creating an environment that’s healthy – and I’m not saying it wasn’t before – our approach is going to be hopefully to limit the amount of attrition that goes on.

How do you know when you have that right guy, though?

It’s getting to know them. That’s why I say it’s going to be hard to do this in a month or less than a month, when you spend two years recruiting a guy. We’re going to do it in a month, to try to get all that information. You have to make sure you’re asking the right questions. Get to the right people and asking the right questions.

It’s not as easy as throwing tape on and saying, “Wow, that guy is a good player.” There needs to be some research done, some work done, and that takes time. That’s why you need a staff around you. You have your troops out there doing it. For me to do it all by myself right now … I’m trying to figure certain things out that I can control while still making some recruiting calls here and there, as many as I possibly can, to find out that information. But, it’s a process.

Fresno State, it’s recruiting the type of player you had so much success uncovering when you were at Cal. That component is probably more important here than other places, just given the level of players on the recruiting lists ...

That’s exactly right. And I’ll tell you the truth, I think your team should be made up of two- and three-star guys anyway, only because there are plenty of really good players. Alex Mack, our center at Cal, he was a two-star guy. There are plenty of people like that you go recruit that are really good players and they’re really good guys and they have a chip on their shoulder and have something to prove and the five-star guy has a totally different outlook on things than that. You can get a really good team based around two- and three-star guys, for sure, even no-star guys or unranked guys.

I’ve had a lot of really good players that are in that category. It all has to do with the attitude and the accountability, the discipline and the work ethic. Uncovering that is the thing, but typically the recruits will kind of tell you who they are. You just have to listen. You can’t put on the rose-colored glasses. Sometimes as a coach when you’re out and about you want that guy to be your guy. You signed this many guys this year and that coach signed that many guys and that coach signed that many guys … you’re fighting for your guy.

When I look for a coach, I’m going to look for guys who connect well with the players, who are great evaluators and then masters of their craft, great teachers that are positive and poised and create a great environment and have a great trust level.

Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford

But that’s not really what it’s about. You don’t put those glasses on and not see something. “OK, well, he has this and this going on with him, but I choose not to see that. I only want to see this.” Well, that’s why it’s important for a staff to be connected and to know it’s all for one reason, it’s all for the program.

I don’t care if you don’t sign anyone this year. If you happen to have a guy and it just didn’t happen, then it didn’t happen. That’s really not what it’s about. It’s not about the egos and who is going to be recruiter of the year and all that stuff. You need to have everybody going in the same direction.

With where this program is now – 69 players on scholarship, about to go down to 55 with the seniors leaving – do you see going heavy JC this year?

Sure, there will be some of that. That’s what makes it so critical. Right now, I’m really going to spend a lot of time on it this week: who are the midyear guys? There’s stuff you need to get done for midyear guys. And, we only have one more evaluation to go. We’ve used all of the evaluations, so I can’t go see anyone. We have one more evaluation to go out. They’ve used them all year. Now, the contact period is starting pretty soon, so it starts over. But as far as evaluations, me going to a game this weekend, we’re out of evaluations. You get 42 and we’ve used 41.

You’d better pick that one evaluation well ...

I know. That was the first question I asked this morning. How many evaluations do we have left? One. Oh, OK. I need to know exactly who is playing this week and where we can best go. Last week, there were no real games for me. (Schools are allowed to make one trip to a high school or JC during the evaluation period). Everyone had already seen all the teams that were still playing. I was looking to go to a game last Friday night, but there was none that I could go see.

In Tedford’s first six seasons at Cal, the Golden Bears saw season ticket sales jump from 16,200 in 2002 to 41,336 in 2007.

But we’ll be all right. We’ll get it cranked up here. I’ll do a lot of stuff over the phone and if I can get out this week, if we pick a spot … we just have to figure it out.

When you look at Fresno State and where you want it to be, can it turn some of the top-level players here, keep them from going Power Five?

I think you can have that, but it really depends on who it is and what their history is with Fresno State. If we get to the point where we get back to the top, when we do get back to the top, the stadium gets built, it depends on what happens with our alliances with conferences, all of that stuff, but you’re always going to have guys like that. There are probably some teams that we’re never going to beat in recruiting. That’s just the reality of it. When I was at Cal, there were teams. I don’t think we beat Stanford ever on a recruit.

Now, when I first got to Cal we were recruiting against Mountain West schools and then over time we were beating USC and we were beating Michigan. Our competition was all of a sudden everybody. Alabama, Florida, Florida State, USC, UCLA, and we were winning a lot of recruiting battles. I think there’s a certain reality that you may get a guy like that every now and then, but I don’t think its necessary to build your program on those guys, either.

Can Fresno State follow a similar path and be in those conversations?

It’s going to take awhile, but I think it would be possible. It’s all perception. It’s all what you’re building. It would take a while to get this program back to that level. You have to have a packed house. You have to have great energy. I think you’re going to have to have a new facility. All of that is going to have to be built. There’s going to have to be some bells and whistles to it. There’s going to have to be a buzz here and you’re going to have to have some success before you’re able to do that.

But that’s not even all that important, really, I don’t think. Like we talked about earlier, I don’t think you need to have the five-star guy here. There’s no reason we have to compete with Oklahoma or Miami or whoever. Now, Pac-12 guys, yeah. I think there will be times we’re competing with some of the Pac-12 schools, for sure. But to me, that’s not even relevant, to tell you the truth.

We’re going to recruit the guys that we need to be successful. Who we’re competing against, that really, to me right now, is not relevant. It’s getting the right guys.

So the plan now is to just crush January?

Yes. Every weekend for visits are going to be critical in January. If we’re fortunate to get some stuff done in December – and we need to get some stuff done – but the reality would be that January is going to be critical for us. Things are evaluated. There’s a plan. We’re hitting the ground running and boom, boom, boom, boom. We’re knocking it out.

You watch all the tape, have all our team evaluated, knowing what that is, knowing what our numbers are, making sure that everybody has got their transcripts evaluated, so we’re doing as many things as we can do everyday.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada

FUTURE FRESNO STATE NONCONFERENCE FOOTBALL GAMES

2017

  • Sept. 2: INCARNATE WORD
  • Sept. 9: at Alabama
  • Sept. 16: at Washington
  • Nov. 4: BYU

2018

  • Sept. 1: IDAHO
  • Sept. 8: at Minnesota
  • Sept. 15: at UCLA
  • Sept. 29: TOLEDO

2019

  • Aug. 31: at USC
  • Sept. 7: MINNESOTA
  • Sept. 21: SACRAMENTO STATE

2020

  • Sept. 12: at Colorado
  • Sept. 26: at Texas A&M

2021

  • Sept. 4: at Oregon
  • Sept. 18: at UCLA

2022

  • Sept. 3: SACRAMENTO STATE
  • Sept. 17: at USC

2023

  • Sept. 16: at Arizona State

2025

  • Aug. 30: at USC

Jeff Tedford’s coaching record

Year

School

W

L

Pct

AP preseason rank

AP high

AP post

Bowl

2002

Cal

7

5

.583

23

2003

Cal

8

6

.571

Insight Bowl-W

2004

Cal

10

2

.833

12

4

9

Holiday Bowl-L

2005

Cal

8

4

.667

19

10

25

Las Vegas Bowl-W

2006

Cal

10

3

.769

9

8

14

Holiday Bowl-W

2007

Cal

7

6

.538

12

2

Armed Forces Bowl-W

2008

Cal

9

4

.692

21

Emerald Bowl-W

2009

Cal

8

5

.615

12

6

Poinsettia Bowl-L

2010

Cal

5

7

.417

2011

Cal

7

6

.538

Holiday Bowl-L

2012

Cal

3

9

.250

Totals

82

57

.590

Fresno State football coaching history

Coach

Seasons

W

L

T

Arthur Jones

1921-28

36

26

7

Stanley Borleske

1929-32

16

17

2

Leo Harris

1933-35

18

9

1

James Bradshaw

1936-42, 1946

59

18

5

Earl Wright

1944

0

6

0

Alvin Pierson

1945, 1949

7

14

2

Ken Gleason

1947-48

6

12

3

Duke Jacobs

1950-51

7

11

1

Clark Van Galder

1952-58

46

22

2

Cecil Coleman

1959-63

37

13

0

Phil Krueger

1964-65

10

10

0

Darryl Rogers

1966-72

43

32

1

J.R. Boone

1973-75

10

24

0

Jim Sweeney

1976-77, 1980-96

143

75

3

Bob Padilla

1978-79

7

15

0

Pat Hill

1997-2011

112

80

0

Tim DeRuyter

2012-16

30

30

0

Eric Kiesau (interim)

2016

0

2

0

Source: Fresno State Note: No games played in 1943

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