Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford went far afield to find a defensive coordinator, on Wednesday hiring Orlondo Steinauer away from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
Tedford was not available when the hire was approved by the Fresno State human resources department late in the afternoon, but it is an interesting move. In Canada, the field is longer, wider and deeper in the end zones, teams get three downs to make a first down not four and they spell defense with a “c” and not an “s,” as in defence.
Steinauer was the Tiger-Cats’ assistant head coach and defensive coordinator and after graduating from Western Washington played for 13 seasons in the CFL spent three years as the defensive backs coach at his alma mater before moving back to Canada. He was a defensive backs coach for the Toronto Argonauts from 2010 to ’12 with a brief stint as their defensive coordinator in 2011 and has spent the past four seasons with Hamilton.
He will take over a defense that last season ranked seventh in the Mountain West Conference in total defense and scoring defense, allowing 415.1 yards and 30.9 yards per game.
First 5 sign
And he got a little help on Wednesday, as well: Tedford and the Bulldogs signed five players at the start of the mid-year junior college signing period including two cornerbacks (adding to a thin position group), a quarterback, a tight end and an offensive lineman.
The Bulldogs signed cornerbacks Matthew Boateng from Arizona Western and Sherman Coleman from Cisco College in Texas, quarterback Jorge Reyna from West Los Angeles College and tight end Gunner Javernick from Ventura College and re-signed offensive lineman Quireo Woodley, who was part of the Bulldogs’ 2016 recruiting class.
Moving forward, we’re going to look at the places we’re a little low on the depth chart. We’re going to start focusing on the defensive line and we have been, but it will probably be more of a combination of JC and high school kids.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford
They are the first recruits signed by new coach Tedford, and all are expected to compete for playing time starting in spring practices. The Bulldogs have not yet set dates for those 15 practices, including a spring game.
Reyna, who is only 6-feet tall and 208 pounds and led the state in passing, was the first player to commit to Tedford.
“I like a lot about what he did,” Tedford said. “His fundamentals were great. He’s very confident. He’s very competitive. Those are very strong traits that I believe in, in a quarterback. He throws the ball really well, throws balls around the field and he has enough athleticism that he can make plays with his legs. I felt like he’s very accurate throwing the ball. His ball finishes. He has a lot of zip on the ball. He can put touch on it when he needs to and so I was just really impressed with how he threw the football and how he competed on the field.”
69 Players that Fresno State had on scholarship at the end of the 2016 season, 14 fewer than the NCAA maximum
Quarterback play obviously was one of many issues for Fresno State in going 1-11 last season, the Bulldogs completing only 51.9 percent of their passes with a passing efficiency rating of 109.06, the lowest in the Mountain West Conference.
Chason Virgil started the first nine games before he was benched for graduate transfer Zach Kline. The Bulldogs also have freshman James Quentin Davis and junior Christian Rossi in the program.
“It will be a wide-open competition and obviously they’ll be coming in with the same amount of experience in our terminology, which is none right now, so they’ll be starting from zero,” Tedford said. “It will be very competitive and that’s the way it should be. We’ll go through spring and summer and camp. I have no idea when I’ll name a starter until I’m able to see them and be around them a lot more on and off the football field.”
Filling a need
Boateng (5-11, 170) and Coleman (5-9, 160) also fill a glaring need.
Fresno State lost both starting cornerbacks in seniors Tyquwan Glass and Jamal Ellis and the depth in the position group has not been very good.
Javernick (6-6, 250), Tedford said, is more of a blocking tight end to help in the run game.
Woodley (6-4, 312) signed a national letter of intent with Fresno State in its 2016 recruiting class, but spent the fall semester at Fresno City College finishing up academic work. He is the one player committed to the Bulldogs and former coach Tim DeRuyter that Tedford kept – the others have been cut loose to find opportunities elsewhere.
Fresno State had only 69 players on scholarship at the end of the season, and will sign a full class of 25 in 2017.
“Moving forward, we’re going to look at the places we’re a little low on the depth chart,” Tedford said. “We’re going to start focusing on the defensive line and we have been, but it will probably be more of a combination of JC and high school kids. We’ll continue to look at secondary players. All positions are really … offensive line, we’re probably going to take five guys there. Really, it’s every position. We’re going to have to manage our numbers really well – we only have 25 scholarships. But all positions are still on the board for what we’re looking at.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada