Fresno, Calif., is tucked away in the San Joaquin Valley, 2½ hours from the nearest major airport, and the local college football team plays most of its home games at around 10 p.m. Eastern time.
It’s easy for most of the country to lose track of what the Bulldogs accomplish, and coach Tim DeRuyter said he thinks that’s why Davante Adams hasn’t received more recognition for putting up the nation’s best receiving numbers.
He was named a first-team All-American by Sports Blog Nation and a second-teamer on at least three other teams. But Adams also was left off some teams altogether, received a third-team honor in one, a fourth-team notice in another and a honorable mention on yet another squad.
Impressive, sure, but not the across-the-board recognition that might be expected for someone who caught 122 passes for 1,645 yards and 23 touchdowns this season.
Adams is “a team guy, he doesn’t complain about it outwardly,” DeRuyter said. “When you lead the country in touchdown catches, and you lead the country in receptions and the other one you’re second in, you would think that would count for something.”
Adams will have the chance to showcase his skills at 12:30 p.m. Saturday before a national audience on ABC when the No. 21 Bulldogs play Southern California in the Las Vegas Bowl.
An outstanding performance at Sam Boyd Stadium against a USC defense that allows just 21.3 points per game could ensure Adams joins the conversation of top receivers.
And then maybe he will be regularly mentioned among the nation’s best next season. That is, if Adams, a redshirt sophomore, opts to return to Fresno State rather than turn pro.
He has discussed his future with DeRuyter and will ask the NFL Draft advisory committee to evaluate his prospects. Adams (6 feet 2 inches, 212 pounds) has motivation to explore his options considering senior quarterback Derek Carr will be gone, and duplicating the statistics he posted this season might not be so easy.
“I not really worried about that right now,” Adams said of his potential NFL future.
DeRuyter said he doesn’t want to see Adams leave, but would support him if that’s the decision.
The coach at least has one more game with Adams on his team. And with Carr.
Adams and Carr have a friendship that goes beyond the typical quarterback-receiver relationship. The two room together when Carr’s wife, Heather, isn’t on the trip, and they are regular visitors to each other’s homes.
“We’re always together,” Carr said. “I think we’re better friends off the field than even on the field.”
Both players are helped by Fresno State’s wealth of talent at receiver.
Josh Harper (79 catches for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns) also is over 1,000 yards, and Isaiah Burse (94-987-5) should hit that mark Saturday.
“It’s hard to double all those guys,” DeRuyter said. “Not only are all those guys good, we’ve got a trigger guy that can figure out coverage and knowing where to go with it. Derek’s done a terrific job with that. He understands our offense so much better this year, and we’ve put a lot more on him.”
Even though having a top-notch quarterback and so many quality receivers opens up the game for Adams, he still has to make the plays when given the opportunities.
And make the plays he has.
“Things worked out a little better than I expected, but I’m blessed to be on a team like I am,” Adams said. “My quarterback’s great, and the other receivers take a lot of stress off me. So I got put in a real good situation.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.