Fresno State’s JUCO transfer Josiah Freeman offers significant upside in 2023, and can be obtained virtually for free in drafts right now
This is what you want, this is what you get
– Public Image Ltd, music band
Today is the day CFF managers’ dreams come true. The most anticipated crossover in the game right now: VolumePigs collaborating with C2C? What could be better for your CFF informational and entertainment needs? As the English post-punk band PIL said on their hit song ‘The Order of Death’: this is what you want, this is what you get.
Fun fact: PIL actually repeats that phrase twenty times in a row to open the song. I respect the persistence and commitment to the message, and I plan to embody these traits today. I bring forward to you a player that I have conviction in for 2023: Josiah Freeman.
If you’re unfamiliar with my content at VolumePigs, I generally begin the analysis of each article with a focus on the coaches and system. While I find myself on a different platform today, this article will be no exception. So let’s hop right in.
Coaching & System
The Fresno State (FSU) program is one CFF managers are intimately familiar with. The Bulldogs have averaged 30+ points a game for four seasons in a row and with three different OCs. Apparently, there’s just something in the water over there in central California (or maybe it’s the fact that there is no water). CFF managers everywhere are hoping the trend continues in 2023.
Current FSU head coach Jeff Tedford is in his second stint (2022-present) as the Bulldogs’ lead man. He coached FSU from 2017-2019 during his first run and returned to the helm to take over upon Kalen Deboer’s hiring with the University of Washington in 2022. My immediate question as it relates to this article when assessing Tedford is: what is his history of production at the WR position? To address the said question, I did the reasonable thing and consulted chatGPT. Here is the answer I received:
Silly me for forgetting that chatGPT is only trained on data up to 2021. That’s okay, though, as I actually already have the 2022 data from my previous article on Luther Burden. Last season, FSU leading WR Jalen Cropper caught 84 passes (on 114 targets), 1,093 yards, and five TDs. So, if my math is correct, in three of the four seasons that Tedford has been head coach at FSU, there has been a 1,000-yard receiver.
When assessing a coach’s track record with WR production, it’s also helpful to obtain information on the type of WRs that were the most productive in the system. Again, I consulted my trusted partner:
It sounds like Johnson lined up all over the place, and — while by default may have been a boundary receiver — was deployed wherever he could do the most damage on any given play. Jalen Cropper was used similarly, albeit under a different OC than was there in 2017 and 2018. This leads naturally to my next point.
OC Pat McCann was added to the Fresno State coaching staff late in 2021 to lead the wide receivers and serve as the team’s offensive pass game coordinator. After just one season with the Bulldogs, he was announced as the program’s offensive coordinator in the 2023 off-season.
During the 2022 season, the Bulldogs’ offense was pass-heavy, leading the Mountain West in total passing yards (3,788), pass completions (336) and pass completion percentage (71.04). Fresno State was second in the conference in total passing offense (averaging 270.6 yards through the air per game last season), passing yards per completion, pass attempts, passing yards per attempt, and passing touchdowns.
As mentioned, during McCann’s first year with the Bulldogs, WR Jalen Cropper became the first Bulldog since 2018 to have a 1,000-yard receiving season. He finished the year with 1,086 yards and five touchdowns. First-year Bulldog Nikko Remigio, who transferred in as a graduate transfer from Cal, was second on the team in receiving yards with 852 on the year. Remigio had a team-high six receiving touchdowns last season. Cropper (first team) and Remigio (second team) were both All-Mountain West selections in 2022. Continuing the trend of having at least two receivers selected as All-MW talent, the Bulldogs have had at least two in each year since 2020. That’s a pretty good track record at WR.
Lucky for us, the entire starting three (Cropper, Remigio, Pope) of FSU’s WR core have departed the roster this offseason, and WR4 Josh Kelly decided to transfer to Washington State. This means that there are a lot of opportunities for new (lesser-known) names to step in. In turn, opportunities for us as CFF managers to capitalize on hidden value in drafts.
Coming back to McCann, his track record prior to FSU is also intriguing. Before joining the Bulldogs, he coached at the FCS program Eastern Washington in various capacities (WRs coach from 2019-2021, pass-game coordinator/offensive coordinator 2021). His 2021 unit averaged 555.7 total offensive yards per game, 400.54 passing yards per game, and 44.0 points per game, leading the FCS in total offense that season. The Eagles’ leading receiver that season was Talolo Limu-Jones, who finished with 71 receptions for 1,122 yards and six TDs receiving. The WR2, Andrew Boston, caught 69 passes for 969 yards and seven TDs receiving.
McCann appears to be an up-and-coming offensive coach at the collegiate level, and Tedford’s recent comments about him are encouraging:
Through all of our meetings last year, he was very instrumental in all our game plans . . . He has a really good feel. I don’t know what kind of play caller he’s going to be. We’ll find out in the spring about that . . . But I know he has a very sharp mind and obviously knows our offense very well, knows what we’ve been successful with. Plus, there’s some additions. Anytime you have a new coach take over, you know what we do, plus you can take from where you’ve been before that had success, and you can implement some of that as well.
McCann’s own comments this spring suggest to me that he is going to be taking his aggressive approach from EWU to his play calling this season:
If you were to ask me what I took from Eastern Washington, it’s an attitude and a mentality drive thing . . . At Eastern Washington, we had an attitude and a mentality that we’re going to be good on offence.
When asked about his style of offense at EWU, he had this to say:
You have to do what you need to do to get your best players the ball . . . That just happened to be throwing the football at Eastern Washington a lot of times. It’s not that we were necessarily Air Raid, throwing the ball all over the place. Conceptually, we were very similar to what we are here. We were probably a little more up-tempo, so we ran more plays in a game. That’s probably the biggest difference, and I think it’s probably less about being up tempo and just the play-to-play operation, operating a little faster.
Of note, McCann himself put up a 1000-yard season in 2008 while playing WR for Western Washington (catching 58 passes for 1,057 yards and 11 touchdowns), which, coincidently, was the school’s final year of college football before shutting down. I take this as a good omen for things to come for FSU’s WR unit in 2023.
Speaking of, it’s about time we dive into the man of the hour.
6’3, 200-pound JUCO transfer WR Josiah Freeman
In the 2022 offseason, Freeman chose Fresno State over offers from Nevada, North Texas, Utah State, Western Kentucky, New Mexico, Texas State, Toledo, and Valdosta State. That’s a lot of programs with interest in Freeman. It’s no wonder, as he finished his 2021 season catching over 866 receiving yards and ten TDs in (from what I can tell) seven games at Hartnell College. I’m going to assume 2022 was essentially a redshirt year, as Freeman did not register any stats. Even if he were in the rotation, it would have been difficult for him to see reps behind the likes of Cropper, Remigio, and Pope. As mentioned above, the elder heads of the roster have since moved on, and with that, a massive production vacancy is left behind.
At 6’3″, it seems likely that Freeman will be playing on the boundary. That’s good news (or at least, not bad news) because the HC has a history of strong boundary receiver usage (2017-18, 2022); I’m counting Cropper in there as he saw snaps all over the field.
OC McCann’s leading receiver in his final year at Eastern Washington — Talolo Limu-Jones, is listed at 6’2″ and 215 pounds. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Limu-Jones was probably playing the boundary often that season. Ditto for their WR2, Andrew Boston, who is listed at 6’2″, 200 pounds. While Cropper is more on the average side (6’1″) in terms of WR size, there seems to be a pattern of larger-size WR usage for McCann’s system. Freeman fits the bill to a tee, and he has shown an ability to be productive in the JUCO ranks. Add to that HC Tedford’s track record with 6’1″ 200-pound KeeSean Johnson while at Fresno, and the recipe looks spicy for Freeman in 2023.
- The first concern is the QB position. The most productive returning QB is rising-junior Logan Fife, who operated in relief when starter Jake Haener went down with an injury. Fife completed 84 passes on 120 attempts (70%) for 892 yards, throwing two TDs to six INTs in five games. The completion percentage is good. However, the TD-INT ratio is extremely concerning, as is the pedestrian amount of pass yards. Encouragingly, Fife’s two passing TDs came in the last two games of the season, suggesting that there was at least an upward trajectory. Former UCF QB Mikey Keene also transferred this off-season. His track record in 2022 is better, as he threw 60 completions on 83 attempts (72.3%) for 647 yards and six TDs to an INT in only four games. However, his numbers from the 2021 season as a starter for the Knight were just okay.
- Freeman is making a big jump in the competition level. Even though he was prolific in the 2021 JUCO season, there has to be concerns about his ability to translate to the FBS-G5 level.
- It remains to be seen if new OC Pat McCann can continue the success he saw as OC at Eastern Washington now in the same role with FSU.
- Another player that caught my attention this offseason is former Cal RB Damien Moore, who transferred into FSU as well; the Bulldogs could be leaning more run-heavy in 2023 than in the past if the QB/WR positions aren’t up to snuff.
- Despite the fact that Freenan’s profile is exciting, it is not a foregone conclusion that he’ll be WR1 on this team, as he has no history of production for the Bulldogs in his career thus far.
To conclude, I think there are a lot of aspects to like about Freeman’s CFF profile. As with every profile I do, there are concerns as well, and I think a late-round evaluation is a fair one for Freeman. While this article won’t help with this — it appears that many in the CFF community are not aware of Freeman’s existence, he can likely be taken at any range in a re-draft. I think he’s a steal of a pick rounds 15+ for the upside he offers.
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