New Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter knew what Bakersfield has to offer long before he made his first public appearance here Wednesday.
After all, DeRuyter's quarterback, Derek Carr, and half a dozen other Bulldogs hail from Bakersfield, and he plans on keeping that pipeline flowing freely in the future.
"Go back to David (Carr), Derek, Phillip Thomas; we've got a lot of guys from this area that are past Bulldogs, current Bulldogs, and we're going to continue to mine this place," said DeRuyter, speaking at Stockdale Country Club before an appearance in front of Bakersfield West Rotary Club. "We absolutely have to have Bakersfield guys come up the 99 (Freeway) to be at Bulldog Stadium."
DeRuyter, who is from Long Beach and was the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M before moving to Fresno, was in the Central Valley less than a month before he made his first foray into Bakersfield, swooping in to sign Ridgeview defensive back Shannon Edwards after UCLA asked Edwards to take a grayshirt year.
"I've recruited from San Diego on up to Seattle, so I knew the kind of programs here in Bakersfield," DeRuyter said. "When I was at (Nevada), I knew the kind of players that came from Bakersfield and played against me.
"And now I look at our roster, and we've got some dynamite ones. It's a natural sell, right up the road, and we've got to continue to make inroads here and make sure these guys know, we've got a major Division I program right up the road where they can fulfill all their dreams as a football player and student-athlete."
But the locals who will have the most immediate impact for the Bulldogs as they move into the Mountain West Conference next fall are already in Fresno. The list starts with Carr, a Bakersfield Christian graduate who was a second-team all-Western Athletic Conference selection after a sophomore season in which he threw for 3,544 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
"There's obviously the natural talent, but above and beyond that, he's an extremely sharp young man, a tremendous leader with tremendous character," DeRuyter said. "He's exactly the kind of guy you want to build your football team around."
DeRuyter, who also has coached at MWC stops Air Force and Nevada, acknowledged the job former coach Pat Hill had done in mining Kern County for talent and in leading Fresno State to a decade of success, but he said he has introduced some philosophical changes that could benefit Carr and the offense.
"We're going to be fast, physical and fantatical," DeRuyter said. "We're going to be an up-tempo team and play with our hair on fire."
That's also good news for Highland product A.J. Johnson, who had 154 receiving yards as Fresno State's fourth wide receiver last year but should move up the depth chart after the Bulldogs' top two receivers departed -- Jalen Saunders, who transferred to Oklahoma, and Devon Wylie, whom the Kansas City Chiefs drafted.
"A.J. has done a nice job this spring," DeRuyter said. "He's a guy who's really starting to come into his own. I think this offense is really going to fit him."
As for Carr, DeRuyter compared him to Brett Favre and former Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who moved from receiver and was then drafted ninth overall by the Miami Dolphins in last month's NFL Draft.
"Both those guys are tremendous athletes; like Ryan, if Derek wasn't our best quarterback, he could probably line up at receiver," said DeRuyter, who mentioned Carr ran a sub-4.6 second 40-yard dash. "... A lot of similarities. I don't know if (Carr) is a top 10 pick just yet, but he definitely has the potential to a Ryan Tannehill."
On defense, Bakersfield High product Phillip Thomas will be a key. He missed all of last season with a broken leg and dislocated ankle. The safety made 64 tackles and three interceptions as a junior in 2010.
"He was a little tentative early coming off the injury, but as he got more comfortable, he really affected our offense by the way he played (in spring practice)," DeRuyter said. "He really made some explosive plays, and I think he's going to have a major, major impact for us next year."
DeRuyter also mentioned several other locals on his roster:
* On Matt Akers (Liberty), a senior defensive end who started all 13 games and made 2.5 sacks last year: "Matt is a great kid. He's done a lot of really good things for Fresno State. His skill set doesn't match up perfectly, going from a 4-3 to a 3-4, but we're going to find roles for him -- some on offense as a fullback and some as a pass rusher."
* On Patrick Su'a (Highland), a backup linebacker who also has seen time on special teams: "One of our most talented linebackers. He's a good-sized guy, can really run. Early on this spring, he was slowed a little by learning the (new) system, but he really came on."
* On Kyrie Wilson (Ridgeview), who redshirted his first season on campus last year: "A tremendously talented young player we think has major upside. We keep finding guys like him, things will be looking good for us."