Mel Kiper Jr., creator of ESPN’s NFL Draft rankings and contributor since 1984, recently released his 2018 first-round draft projections and many Bulldog fans are wondering what could’ve been.
Forty-five miles separate Fresno State and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft — Josh Allen. The Firebaugh native grew up in a Bulldog home, went to Fresno State football camps and dreamed of donning the red and white for the Bulldogs, according to Brandon Foster, a writer for the Casper Star Tribune in Wyoming.
Although former head coach Tim DeRuyter amassed a .500 record over four-plus years, his inability or unwillingness to recruit local talent not only cost his team during his tenure, but also today under head coach Jeff Tedford.
Allen broke onto the national scene with a stellar 3,200 yards along with 28 touchdowns. His brilliant season led the University of Wyoming to a Mountain West Championship game in 2016. Fresno State on the other hand watched it all unfold on television.
A single victory came for the Bulldogs in 2016. The root of their issues: the quarterback position. DeRuyter had the privilege of having Derek Carr early in his tenure. But what about after? A revolving door that included Brian Burrell and Zack Greenlee among others.
Even though Allen had more than 3,000 yards passing and an incredible 33-5 touchdown to interception ratio in his senior season at Firebaugh High School, not a single offer came his way.
According to Bill Magnusson, Allen’s high school football coach, he pointed to his frame as the reason for not receiving offers and after a conversation with then-Fresno State offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, his suspicion was confirmed.
“He said, ‘Well, we’re kind of looking for a little bit bigger guy,'” Magnusson said. “Josh (was) 185 pounds and 6-foot-3. He said, ‘If he’s 6-3, we kind of want him to be about 210, a little more physical, a little more muscle.'”
“… I was telling him, the reality is, when this kid gets his man muscle? He’s going to hurt people. He’s doing things with a 6-foot-3, 185-pound body that if he ever gets to 220, he’s going to be the most dangerous QB on the planet.”
Allen decided to take the rejection and go to Reedley College for a year. Although he wasn’t a starter right away, he became one of the hottest commodities in California and still Fresno State failed to act. Instead of driving 45 miles, the Fresno State staff at the time found it convenient to focus on Texas, primarily.
Josh Webb, a writer for Athlon Contributor Network, detailed a conversation he had with DeRuyter about his preference for out-of-state recruiting.
“The Lone Star State is another reason DeRuyter finds himself without a job. Fresno State prides itself on being the Valley’s team and that practice disappeared with DeRuyter’s hiring. Fully believing that Texas athletes were superior to any from a different state — I know this because he told me as much — DeRuyter focused his recruiting efforts on Texas and pretty much ignored all of the local talent. Valley high school head coaches said they never even saw or heard from DeRuyter until the final year of his coaching tenure, and that was after Bartko took away DeRuyter’s ability to run the recruiting ship by hiring Jimmy Morimoto from UNLV.”
The Wyoming scout who spotted Allen, David Brown II, formerly coached at Fresno State and remembered him from their youth camps years before.
Allen might’ve needed a year to develop physically, according to Alex Gutierrez, Allen’s former quarterbacks coach, but to disregard him in completely was a fireable mistake. And rightfully so, DeRuyter lost his job.
The 2018 NFL Draft is just another reminder for Fresno State. Whether Allen’s name is called No.1, which is the prediction, or anywhere in the first round, the fact that we missed out on one of the best players in the country — not once, but twice — should send shockwaves through the Central Valley.
Allen wasn’t the first and he sure won’t be the last, but his rise to stardom proves there is legitimate talent in the Central Valley. It’s up to Fresno State to find it because if not, we all know there are schools waiting and willing to give our kids a chance.