New head coach Tim DeRuyter announced his first
assistants on Jan. 4. Not shown above is defensive
backs coach Tim McDonald.
Dalton Runberg / The Collegian
New Fresno State head football coach Tim DeRuyter has put together nearly all his coaching staff puzzle pieces that he hopes will form a picture of future Mountain West Conference championships.
The initial hires, which were made public on Jan. 4, focused primarily on the defensive side of the ball, an area the Bulldogs have severely struggled in over recent seasons. Since 2007, Fresno State hasn’t finished better than third in the Western Athletic Conference in total defense, including sixth during Pat Hill’s final season leading the ‘Dogs. DeRuyter was especially optimistic during the press conference announcement of the potential of his initial understudies.
“You’re going to find out we’ve got great breadth of experience, great men of character, guys that I know personally, have known for a long, long time,” DeRuyter said. “Some of them, most of them, but guys that are going to come really attack this job with passion.”
DeRuyter handpicked his inaugural staff members from various institutions across the college football landscape, and even a local product that has made a name for himself on both the professional and high school levels.
Leading the offensive side of the ball will be Dave Schramm, the former running backs, quarterbacks and tight ends coach at Pac-12 competitor Utah. Schramm, who will double as the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach, was described by DeRuyter as running a fast-paced attack as well as assisting in recruiting duties.
“I didn’t think we could get a Dave Schramm when he’s at a BCS school, but I reached out to him and laid out our vision, and you’re going to see a guy who’s unbelievable on the field, demands from his players, recruits his tail off,” DeRuyter said. “He’s a great one.”
Joining Schramm on offense as an assistant is Phil Earley, who is expected to head up most of the recruiting coordination, but three assistants remain to be filled on that side of the ball. Reports have surfaced that the positions are filled, but official notification has yet to come from the athletics department.
DeRuyter, who has an extensive defensive background including 16 years as a coordinator, two of which were at Texas A&M, moved quickly to fill out the vacancies to lead the struggling unit.
The most familiar name of the four defensive assistants is local football legend Tim McDonald. A former NCAA All-American safety and 13-year NFL veteran, McDonald is taking over the defensive secondary, a unit that ranked second-to-last in the Western Athletic Conference this past season. Although reluctant at first, McDonald decided to jump ship from coaching Edison High School and join DeRuyter in Fresno State’s first season with a new head coach since 1996.
“Tim and I had some discussions, but it was a tough decision for him,” DeRuyter said. “He loves what he’s doing. I had to do a lot of arm-twisting to get him to come here, but laid out a vision of how important he’d be to our staff and I think he loves this community and wants to be a part of Fresno State.”
Joining McDonald on defense will be Nick Toth, DeRuyter’s linebackers coach during his tenure at Texas A&M, as well as Pete Germano from Ohio University and Jordan Peterson, a defensive back for the Aggies from 2006 to 2009.
Although DeRuyter assembled the crew in what he described as “a crazy couple of weeks,” the final pieces fell into place just minutes before the first-year coach took the podium for official announcements.
“We’re still going to hire three more offensive assistants but these guys are fired up, ready to go,” DeRuyter said. “They totally believe in the philosophy of where we’re going and our going to do great by our kids.”
With the coaching staff hires nearly complete, DeRuyter has been using a good chunk of his first month at the helm nailing down recruiting as National Signing Day looms on Feb. 1.
With the recruiting experience from Schramm and Earley, DeRuyter stressed bringing in the right players, not necessarily honoring all 21 available scholarships immediately.
“We may not sign all 21 scholarships, which is what I think we have available right now on Feb. 1,” DeRuyter said. “I would much rather make a one-year mistake and face that guy four years than make a five-year mistake with a guy who’s not the right fit.”
DeRuyter said he was in the process of reviewing film in an effort to see what areas should be addressed immediately. While not offering specifics on targeted players, he said that he is looking for players that “attack with speed.”
Fresno State has seen some of the premier high school athletes from the Central Section commit to schools other than Fresno State, sometimes intraconference rivals. With an added emphasis to keep Valley recruits near home, DeRuyter plans to lean heavily on his newly assembled staff.
“When you get guys on our staff, with their connections, in the Valley, Dave’s recruited up and down the coast, Tim being right here, we’re really hoping to capitalize on their experience and their connections,” DeRuyter said.