It was one of the more miraculous turnarounds in recent college football memory. From 1-11 in 2016 to 10-4 in 2017, a season that included a Mountain West West Division title, a berth in the conference championship game and a Hawaii Bowl victory. What Jeff Tedford was able to accomplish in Year 1 at Fresno State was simply amazing. The big question heading into 2018 is, “Can he do it again?”
Hailed by some as the “dumbest coaching move in Mountain West history,” Tedford’s hire came as a surprise to some, but Bulldog fans are surely excited for what the 2018 season has to offer. That’s because Tedford welcomes back eight starters on offense and seven on a defense that finished 10th in the nation in scoring allowing just 17.9 points per game. The defense, led by coordinator Bert Watts, is one of the big reasons why the answer to the question is, “Yes, Tedford and Fresno State can do it again.”
THE QB WHISPERER
While the defense is getting much well deserved attention – leading tackler Jeffrey Allison was first-team All-MWC and was one of just 15 FBS players with more than 126 tackles in 2017 – it is Tedford’s ideas about offense and quarterback play that make him exceptional in his field.
Tedford took Oregon State retread Marcus McMaryion and turned him into one of the nation’s more efficient and proficient quarterbacks. McMaryion started six games as a redshirt sophomore at Oregon State in 2016. With a depth chart full of capable signal-callers, McMaryion decided to make the move back home to Fresno. The 6-foot-2-inch, 195-pounder showed up for fall camp ready to compete for the Bulldogs starting job. And compete he did.
McMaryion took over the starting quarterback job in Week 4 and wound up an All-MWC honorable mention selection. He completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 2,726 yards and 14 touchdowns. At one point during the season, McMaryion went 149 straight pass attempts without an interception. For the season, he threw just five. It’s the kind of play that is normally displayed by Tedford-coached quarterbacks.
Tedford is known throughout the coaching community as a quality mentor of quarterbacks. He has turned out two Super Bowl champions – Aaron Rodgers and Trent Dilfer – and a number of others who enjoyed plenty of success at the college level (Kyle Boller, David Carr, Joey Harrington, and Akili Smith to name a few).
The 56-year-old Tedford did an admirable job with McMaryion who returns for his senior season in 2018. Tedford will also return starting RB Jordan Mims, two starting wide receivers in KeeSean Johnson and Jamire Jordan, and tight end Kyle Riddering. Johnson caught 77 passes for 1,013 yards last year and he, Jordan, and Riddering are also seniors. With three starters returning to the offensive line, Tedford’s offense should be even better in 2018.
The Bulldogs 2018 schedule is daunting with trips to Minnesota and UCLA before a home date with Toledo, a perennial contender in the MAC. Still, Tedford and Fresno State should be able to run through the MWC schedule once again. They face an equally capable defense in Wyoming, which will be breaking in a new quarterback, at home. November will likely decide the Bulldogs’ fate as Tedford and company play at Boise State on Nov. 10 and at home against San Diego State the following week.
With a sound defense and an improved offense, there is no reason why Jeff Tedford and the Fresno State Bulldogs cannot repeat their successes of the 2017 season.