In 12 years John Baxter has put his stamp on the Bulldog football program on and off the field. As the associate head coach he oversees the special teams and tight end positions. In his first five seasons and in 2003 he coached the tight ends and in 2002 and 2004-08 he coached the receivers. Baxter has become well-known nationally for his expertise in the area of special teams and has been a featured clinician at many of the nations biggest and finest football clinics. Baxter and Head Coach Pat Hill were assistant coaches together at Arizona in 1990-91. Hill and Baxter were selected as the Co-Citizens of the Year for the city of Clovis in 2006.
Along with his coaching duties, Baxter is the author of the highly successful program, "Academic Gameplan." His academic plan has been featured in Sports Illustrated and many other publications. His Academic Gameplan has been the main reason for the academic success of the football program during Pat Hill's tenure, which has produced a league-best 123 Academic All-WAC players. The Bulldogs NCAA APR score ranks nearly 20 Percentage points higher than the national average for college programs and is in the top five for public schools in the west and second among California public schools. Since the inception of the program, more than one-third has earned at least a 3.0 grade point average each semester and the Bulldogs graduation rates and APR have improved significantly. He has co-authored the program, "Where There's a Will There's an `A,'" which has been featured nationally on cable television.
Special Teams Success
Since coming to Fresno State Baxter has turned the Bulldog special teams unit into one of the top units in the country. In 12 seasons the Dogs have blocked 79 kicks and scored 37 special teams touchdowns. Since 2002 the `Dogs have blocked a nation's best 44 kicks.
Special Teams Touchdowns
Under Baxter's watch A.J. Jefferson led the NCAA in kickoff return average and former Bulldog Clifton Smith set NCAA and school records for punt returns, including five career returns for touchdowns. Smith was named to the 2009 NFL Pro Bowl as a rookie for Tampa Bay as he scored twice on two long returns.
In 2008, the `Dogs were the only team in the country to have four different players score a touchdown via punt or kickoff return as Rashad Evans, A.J. Jefferson, Chastin West and Marlon Moore all ran back kicks. Baxter's special teams unit also ranked in the top 15 in the NCAA in kick return and punt return average in 2008.
Since 1997, Fresno State has returned 11 punts, six kickoffs and eight blocked punts/field goals for 24 total touchdowns along with three safeties. Fresno State was also deadly on punt returns, finishing tops in the WAC and fifth in the nation in 2001.
Kicking has been a successful part of the Bulldogs special teams unit. In 2008, Kevin Goessling made the longest field Goal to win or lose a game this decade, 58 yards vs. Utah State as time expired. Clint Stitser, a three-year starter, was selected as a Lou Groza Award semi-finalist. In 2004 and 2005, the Dogs led the NCAA in fewest punt return yards allowed, with a low of 27 yards in 2004 and 40 yards in 2005. In addition, the kickoff coverage team allowed just 17.4 yards per return in 2004. In 2004, placekicker Brett Visintainer kicked two game-winning field goals (Oregon State, Rice) and was named second-team All-WAC while punter Mike Lingua displayed flashes of brilliance in just his first year.
Baxter has coached five kickers/punters, four of which earned first-team All-WAC honors: punter Jeff Roberts (1997), kicker Jeff Hanna (1999), punter Jason Simpson (2001) and kicker Asen Asparuhov (2002). Asparuhov was also a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award twice and became the first Bulldog in history to score 100 points in consecutive seasons. Under Baxter's watch, punter Jason Simpson became one of the nation's best, improving his average nearly nine yards over 2000. In 2001, Simpson finished with a 43.5 average and was a first-team All-WAC pick. He was then a second-team All-WAC selection in 2002. Simpson was the first WAC punter ever from a school at an elevation under 5,000-feet to lead the league in punting in consecutive seasons.
In 1999, the Bulldogs held their opponents to 34.1 yards in net punting and limited the opponents to just 78 punt return yards for the season, fourth-best in the nation. He also coached 1997 All-WAC punter Jeff Roberts.
Previous Coaching Stints
His college coaching experience includes stints at Tulane (1994-96), Maryland (1992-93), Arizona (1990-91, 1988), Maine (1989), Iowa State (1986-87) and Loras College (1981-85). Baxter has become well-known nationally for his expertise in the area of special teams and has been a featured clinician at many of the nations biggest and finest football clinics ... Baxter and Head Coach Pat Hill were assistant coaches together at Arizona in 1990-91... Hill and Baxter were selected as the Co-Citizens of the Year for the city of Clovis in 2006.
Born June 28, 1963, in Chicago ... married to the former Jill McBride, daughter of Ron McBride, the former University of Utah head coach and the current head coach at Weber State ... they have two daughters, Kelly and McKenzie ... Baxter earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from Loras College in 1985 and his master's in higher education from Iowa State in 1987.
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