The Fresno State Bulldogs did a lot of winning this season with the Mountain West Conference championship, the Las Vegas Bowl and a school-record 12 games, and coach Jeff Tedford and his staff will take a next step in keeping that momentum moving and at a good clip on Wednesday, the start of the early signing period.
The Bulldogs could sign as many as 14 players to national letters of intent with solid commitments including wideout Jalen Cropper (Buchanan High), cornerback Randy Jordan (Tulare Union) and defensive end Colby Warkentin (Bakersfield), as well as junior college tight ends Raymond Pauwels (Glendale, Ariz., College) and Juan Rodriguez (Butte College) and wideout Keric Wheatfall (Blinn College, Brenham, Texas).
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Fresno State also has commitments from linebacker Kyvin Carroll (Benton, Ark.), wideout Jamal Glaspie (Culver City), safety Reggie Strong Jr. (Orange Lutheran), cornerback Myles Martin (Vista Murrieta) and cornerback Deven Jarvis (Bishop Amat-La Puente).
Tedford and the Bulldogs’ staff are not allowed to comment on prospective student-athletes by NCAA rules. The school plans a news conference for Wednesday afternoon, after most if not all of the prospects have signed and returned their offers.
But the class when complete addresses immediate needs going forward with the addition on Monday of Wheatfall and the tight ends Pauwels and Rodriguez, who made official visits and made commitments on the only recruiting weekend Fresno State had between its win at Boise State in the conference title game and its bowl win over Arizona State.
The addition of Cropper, also, is significant, said Brandon Huffman, national recruiting editor for 247Sports.
“They’re doing work,” Huffman said. “They’re bringing in local kids and some key local kids, too. That has been Fresno State’s problem forever. You not only lose Fresno kids to the Power Fives – you can understand that. But when you lose Tyler Horton to Boise State or Andre Chachere to San Jose State, they couldn’t even keep the Mountain West kids at home.
“They knocked out two of those with one stone in Jalen Cropper., keeping a Pac-12 kid at home. I think Travis Brown and Derek Carr are the last ones I can remember, and obviously those guys had ties to Fresno State with their dad and their brother (respectively) in the program.”
The Bulldogs lose 28 seniors including eight from their wideouts position group, impacting all three receiver positions, which makes Wheatfall, Cropper and Glaspie important additions.
KeeSean Johnson departs as the all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards with 275 and 3,463, and that group also includes Jamire Jordan, Michiah Quick, Justin Allen, Delvon Hardaway and depth in Nanami Parker, Anthony Grayson and Brian Burt.
Johnson this season had 95 receptions, Jordan had 27 and the group combined for 144, which is 85.7 percent of the total by players at the receiver positions.
The Bulldogs will have Derrion Grim returning as a senior, and he had 20 receptions this season. But the rest of the group lacks experience, though not talent.
Chris Coleman caught four passes in his redshirt freshman season, and Fresno State also will have Patrick Elima-Jeune, Zane Pope, Ricardo Arias and Emoryie Edwards back.
Edwards was expected to see the field as a true freshman this season before he went down with a foot injury in fall camp.
The addition of Wheatfall gives the Bulldogs an older receiver who played two seasons of football at Blinn College and as a sophomore averaged 17.0 yards on 47 receptions. Wheatfall also caught six touchdowns for a team that rolled up 499.2 yards of offense and 41.4 points per game.
At tight end, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Pauwels and the 6-4, 240 Rodriguez add size and physicality to a group that loses seniors Kyle Riddering, David Tangipa and Gunner Javernick.
Jared Rice will be back for a senior season after catching 55 passes for 664 yards and three touchdowns. Rice is about 230 pounds and the position group also includes Cam Sutton (6-6, 222), Austin Alexander (6-5, 228) and Daniel Moraga (6-3, 240).
Pauwels caught 56 passes for 612 yards and one touchdown in his sophomore season and is a first-team all-Western State Football League selection. He is rated the No. 7 junior college tight end in the nation by 247Sports.
Rodriguez caught 14 passes for 325 yards (23.2 yards per catch) and two touchdowns and is rated as the No. 5 JC tight end, again by 247Sports.