Fresno State's coaching staff led by Tim DeRuyter has been making a recruiting push in Texas over the last four years, but the Bulldogs’ pawprint is now expanding across the country - as far west as Hawaii and as far east as Florida.
Six-foot-two and 178-pound cornerback Charles Watson is one of those distant targets in 2017, out of Wahiawa (Hawaii) Leilehua High School.
“I actually really wanted that Fresno State offer,” Watson said. “I felt really good”
Fresno State’s entry into Hawaiian recruiting grounds came with some hesitancy as multiple 2016 recruits from Hawaii told BarkBoard.com. The Bulldogs’ presence in the Pacific was nonexistent until recently. Fresno State did manage to land one Letter of Intent from Hawaii with their new strategy in linebacker Tainoa Foster.
Adding Foster appears to have already had a change for the program, as evidence in Watson’s response.
“They were talking to me leading up to the offer but I wasn’t sure if they were going to offer or not,” Watson said. “I got excited when they offered. I know Tainoa Foster who is from Hawaii and is committed there. It’s always good having island people that I know there. I like what they do in the Mountain West too, so it’s exciting.”
Fresno State’s addition to the coaching staff last September is the primary reason for the Bulldogs finding more Hawaiian recruits interested in hearing from the program in Central California. Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Morimoto was formerly a high school coach in Hawaii for 15 years.
“I have a relationship with Jimmy Morimoto,” Watson said. “He’s cool and really nice. I met him when he came here. He’s from the islands and said he used to coach here so he knows how it is."
Watson is still waiting to hear from the rest of the staff, however.
"That’s the problem, I’ve only really built a relationship with him," Watson said. "I’m yet to build a relationship with the whole staff."
In Morimoto’s role, he organizes the recruiting process for the staff, and his background has given the Bulldogs an extra benefit of recruiting athletes from the Hawaiian Islands.
“We’re going to head out there to Hawaii and American Samoa because I have ties back there,” Morimoto told BarkBoard.com on National Signing Day. “Being from Maui and the 50th state, born and raised, I can go back to my roots and hopefully every year we’ll get one or two guys out of there. Recruiting the Hawaii kids, we’ve got a great reception. It will be exciting to continue doing that in the future.
“First and foremost, we’re going to start here in the Valley and then expand throughout California,” Morimoto added. “Once those are exhausted. We’ll go out of the state to find kids that are going to help us win a Mountain West Championship.”
While location will make efforts difficult for Fresno State in Hawaii, this particular recruit also once called the California home. Watson was born in Hawaii, moved to the Bay Area at about three-years-old, then returned Wahiawa around age 10.
“I will consider (Fresno State) because they are right there by the Bay Area and I have my grandma, my mom and my brother are right there,” Watson said. “It’s always good to have them come watch me play football. That’s another thing that’s weighing heavy. Maybe after I visit, meet the coaches and see how everything is, I know I’ll have a bigger interest in the school.”
Watson will have the opportunity to visit Fresno State, and likely all of the FBS programs in California while visiting his family this summer.
Though Fresno State has a new defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator in Lorenzo Ward, Watson is definitely the type of recruit that DeRuyter and retained linebackers coach Nick Toth like to have in their defensive scheme. He has similar measurables to current cornerback Malcolm Washington who is one of the staff’s most prized recruits.
Other coaching staffs are starting to buy in to tall, long-armed cornerbacks as well. At 6-foot-2 and 178 lbs, Watson has four other offers coming from Colorado, Hawaii, San Diego State and Washington State. He is also drawing interest from a long list of schools, including Navy, Vanderbilt, UNLV, California and Boise State.
“Tall and long-armed corners are becoming a big factor to a lot of defensive coaches,” Watson said. “They like lanky guys that are fast that they can build. For the most part, everybody is recruiting me at corner. Washington has mentioned me as a safety, nickel and corner. It doesn’t matter to me, either way I’m shutting somebody down.
“My hip turns are really good, I can flick my hips really fast. If a guy gets past me, my catch-up speed is really fast. I don’t really see any flaws in my game.”
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