Christmas might be two and a half weeks away, but Jeff Tedford already has a present sitting under the tree.
All Fresno State’s new head football coach has to do is unwrap A.J. Greeley.
You remember Greeley, right? The Edison High product was a plum of the Bulldogs’ 2015 recruiting class, a rare local athlete who chose to sign with his hometown school rather than get lured away by Pacific-12 offers.
Only Greeley never played or practiced with the Bulldogs, unable to score high enough on the SAT or ACT to satisfy NCAA requirements.
Greeley enrolled at Fresno City College, which in itself isn’t unusual. Rams coach Tony Caviglia runs a terrific program. But Greeley took the unusual step of accepting public responsibility for his academic woes that left him ineligible to play for the Bulldogs.
In a Twitter post last January, Greeley warned those following in his footsteps that if they’re not serious about their education, “then colleges and coaches aren’t going to be serious with you.”
Fresno is my home, and I want to play for my home town.
The 19-year-old has since backed up those words by cracking the books.
Already more than halfway toward his associate degree heading into next week’s finals, Greeley is on course to graduate in May and fulfill the three other “prongs” (satisfactory progress toward a bachelor’s degree; a minimum 2.5 GPA; requisite English, math and lab sciences courses) that would make him eligible to play at a four-year school next fall.
And the four-year school he wants to play for most is the one he committed to during his junior year at Edison.
“It would be great to go back to Fresno State, yes, but there’s new coaches and no one’s reached out to me yet,” Greeley said.
The coaches who recruited Greeley to Bulldog Lane and kept in touch have cleared out their offices. But it’s not as if he’s a stranger to the new occupants. Defensive backs coach J.D. Williams unsuccessfully recruited Greeley during his previous stop at UNLV. (Williams had more success with Edison’s Leevell Tatum and David Tate.)
So the new regime knows about him, or should.
One reason Fresno State hasn’t reached out to Greeley could be his less-than-stellar 2016 season at Fresno City. He showed up out of shape, some 30 pounds overweight, which prevented him from cracking the starting lineup at cornerback until the final three games.
When I spoke to Greeley, prior to an intense workout supervised by his father, Adrian Greeley, at a gym near the Tower District, he told me he weighed 205 pounds. Ideally, he’d be 195.
“He’s grown up a lot,” said Dad, who has coached youth and high school football in the Fresno area. “I’m impressed with what I’m seeing. He took responsibility for his own actions. He’s matured. He’s a young man, and he has a big blessing in front of him.”
If Fresno State doesn’t reach out, it would be their loss.
Adrian Greeley, A.J.’s father
That blessing is college football. Greeley sounds intent on transferring to a four-year school, preferably at the FBS level, rather than returning for his sophomore season at Fresno City.
It’s kind of a tricky situation because right now he’s a little off the radar. Colleges may have forgotten about him, or don’t know he’s on course to be eligible next fall. He’s not even the top recruit in the Rams’ secondary; that would be Craig Williams Jr.
“The recruiting process is going slow,” Greeley said. “That’s why I put it out there on Twitter and social media. I will get my AA in May.”
Greeley says he’s received calls from a few schools, FBS, FCS and Division II. Just not Fresno State. He’s pretty much ruled out a return to Fresno City, even though a strong sophomore season would make him a sought-after midyear transfer. (Of course, that would also use up another year of college eligibility.)
“He could have some doors open to him that aren’t open to him now,” Caviglia said.
The door Greeley wants to open most is the one that leads into the Duncan Building. He wants to become a Bulldog (again). And the Bulldogs would appear to be in need of Greeley’s services. Starting cornerbacks Tyquwan Glass and Jamal Ellis were both seniors, leaving behind a few promising youngsters (notably Juju Hughes, Mike Bell and Jaron Bryant) but also much uncertainty.
During his career at Edison, Greeley drew raves for his length (6 feet), technique and toughness.
During his career at Edison, when he was a team captain for a Tigers squad that won the Central Section Division I championship, Greeley drew raves for his length (6 feet), technique and toughness.
Which is why Oregon State, Washington State and Colorado of the Pac-12 all offered.
But Greeley wanted to stay local – and still does.
“Fresno is my home, and I want to play for my hometown,” he said.
During his short time as Fresno State coach, Tedford has emphasized recruiting local talent and young men who want to become Bulldogs.
Here’s someone who satisfies both.
“If Fresno State were to offer him, he’d go,” said Dominique Young, Greeley’s girlfriend of two years and a fellow Fresno City student.
“He followed the coach (on Twitter), but they have not followed him back. He’s contacted the coaches, and they have not contacted him back. It’s not like he’s losing hope yet, but it’s getting close.”
Christmas is getting closer, too. Except this gift could be unwrapped any time Fresno State and its new coaching staff so choose.