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Feb. 5 Football Signing Day
Complete transcript of Kyle Flood's press conference on 2014 recruits
COACH FLOOD: Good afternoon. This is always one of the most exciting days of the year where we get an opportunity to introduce 26 new people official y into our program. Some of them have already been enrolled. But today we get to talk about them a little bit.
And I think I'd be remiss if I didn't start by thanking Tariq Ahmad, Director of Recruiting; Kevin Caldwell, Assistant Director, and Drew Robinson, and real y all the recruiting staff who do such a great job throughout the year because there really are no days off in recruiting.
Now we just cycle on to the next recruiting class. But today's the day to talk about this group, 26 players: 11 on offense, 14 on defense, a critical player in the special teams as a long snapper. We have, as well, eight players from the state of New Jersey, seven players from Florida, two from Pennsylvania, three from New York, and six players from nontraditional areas.
With that, I'd open it up for questions.
Q. In general terms, there's been a lot of already outside criticism about the class and decommits. How do you address that?
COACH FLOOD: I don't know that I would address it at al . But I would say this: The last 14 months have created a lot of chal enges for us here at our university.
And we've come through those now. And these 26 players that are committed to playing in our program believe in our program and believe in this university.
And now we get to go forward as a family and turn the page for the first time looking towards the 2014 season, our inaugural season in the Big Ten, and real y move on to the next chapter of Rutgers football.
We've got new coaches already in place. We've got 26 new players now in place. For me everything is about looking forward.
Q. Could you talk about -- you mentioned the nontraditional recruiting areas. Five of these players are from Big Ten country, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota, and how you were able to balance that with keeping -- almost like any other Greg Schiano class, the emphasis on New Jersey and Florida?
COACH FLOOD: I think recruiting always begins with the state of Rutgers and the state of Rutgers always begins in New Jersey. There's some real y fine footbal players, the Defensive Player of the Year in our state, Sidney Gopre from Weequahic High School is a tremendous playmaker on defense.
We've got some defensive linemen from the state of New Jersey that have joined this class. Eric Wiafe was already enrolled from Egg Harbor Township. Kevin Wilkins, the number one heavyweight wrestler in our state, is going to be an excel ent defensive tackle. Donald Bedel from Rumson Fair and Jimmy Hogan from Ramapo, defensive end bodies. I think somebody before earlier in the day asked: What was one of the goals of this class?
And I think, in col ege, when you're recruiting a class that's this big, it's going to have a little bit of everything. But certainly we were not naive to the fact that we felt we needed linemen.
We needed to build depth up front on both sides of the bal . And the opportunity to sign six defensive linemen and four offensive linemen, I feel we've done that and quite a few of them from New Jersey.
And Florida has always been a good area for us. No doubt. A guy like Josh Hicks, running back fromPalmetto High School, I would put his film against anybody's in the country. I think he's an elite level player and somebody that can have an immediate impact on our program.
But your question was a little bit more about the nontraditional areas and supplementing. And I think that has probably the biggest impact Big Ten has had on us in recruiting.
I think it's given us access to other areas and given us openings where there's going to be some players every year from our nontraditional areas that want to be part of a great university like Rutgers and want to be a part of a great conference like Big Ten and have an opportunity to play for Big Ten championships.
Q. When a kid does give you a verbal commitment, what does that mean to you?
COACH FLOOD: I don't think there's any gray area in the definition of the word "commitment." I think what's happened in col ege athletics right now is in recruiting we have a flawed system. And there's some real y good people like Mack Brown who are leading the charge to try to rectify that situation.
But when you live in a world where you hear words like "soft commitment," I don't really know what that means. Or on the other side of it words like "committable offer," I don't real y know what that means.
And I think we've put these young people in a very difficult position, and I think at times we put the coaches in a difficult position.
So when you ask me what the word "commitment" means, "commitment" means commitment. It means I'm committed to you and you're committed to me. When players commit and then they decide to look at other places, I think what happens is it forces the schools to look at other places.
And I think the story has been kind of relayed incorrectly, and I haven't real y spoke on it, but people said did you pull a scholarship offer. I didn't pul any scholarship offers. When a player commits to us, we take a scholarship and we put it aside. When that player decides to visit other places, wel , then we have to look at other players. So at that point it's back in play.
Q. It's fair for you to say that, listen, if you're going to look elsewhere we've got to look elsewhere, too, that's the conversation you'll have with a recruit?
COACH FLOOD: Absolutely. I don't know how it could work any other way. And as I've told many a recruit, some day when you get engaged to who may be your future wife, if you give her a ring and say, hey, listen, I would love to marry you in a year but, don't worry, I'll date a few other girls along the way, I'm not so sure that would go over sowell.
Again, that wasn't the way I went about it. But if you want to try it, feel free.
Q. When you're dealing with the kids, do they lean on this excuse, do you think, that this is a huge decision, obviously, for a kid. It can make or break their life on or off the field. Is that always sort of the fallback: I just want to be sure; I just want to be sure? Is there ever a way to fix something like that, the uncertainty in a decision like this?
COACH FLOOD: I think there's a lot of conversations that happen, and I've heard a lot of things over the years. And what I've said to every player before they've committed is I've said: Hey, unless you're sure, don't commit. Somebody like Josh Hicks has been committed to us for two years. Two years. But he was committed.
He felt like this was the right place for him and he never wavered. Somebody like Betim Bujari,
already in our program, was very similar, very early commitment. And we've had other players in our program that committed real y towards the end of the recruiting process. Guys like Darius Hamilton and Savon Huggins who did take multiple visits. So the only way to get it right is to ultimately real y be sure.
But from a functional standpoint, this is my own personal belief, that real y the only way that you would kind of clean it up a little bit would be to have an early signing period the way basketbal does. But we don't have that right now.
Q. You leaned fairly heavily on true freshmen last year. Can you tel yet how many from this class might be able to contribute immediately, not necessarily looking for specific names, but in general numbers?
COACH FLOOD: It would be tough for me to give numbers, but I would say this: The six players who have enrolled early, five of them will be eligible to play next year.
I would say that they would have an advantage. And I think they're one of the strengths of this recruiting class as wel , to have five players that enrol ed early. A guy like Marcus Applefield, on the offensive line. An area where we absolutely need to build depth. Eric Wiafe on the defensive line. And Kam Lott in the secondary. They'l have an opportunity to help us right away.
And certainly Alan Lucy, our long snapper from the state of Virginia. We have scholarshiped him in anticipation of him coming here and helping us early. Now he'l have to earn that job.
Q. When you look at the receiver position, what are your thoughts on not bringing one in, or could some of these athletes you have signed up end at receiver?
COACH FLOOD: I think they could. I think they could. The other thing I would add to that is T.J. Johnson is going to play wide receiver this spring. So we've moved him to offense. I think that will add another athlete for us over there, another long body who can run and catch.
And I think a guy like Dre Boggs is somebody certainly who can play on both sides of the ball. And you watch his highlight film, it's pretty spectacular.
Q. You were talking about kind of the, I guess, the many problems involved with the whole recruiting process in terms of commits and al that stuff. Aside from an earlier signing day period, is there any benefit to maybe not taking commits as early, if you know that players haven't had a chance to go on official visits yet or if they haven't had a chance to see anything other than your school. In-state players usual y don't have that opportunity until during their senior season. I mean, it creates a perception problem if they decommit and it also seems like they don't have a full opportunity to see things for themselves either.
COACH FLOOD: I think you said the problem. I don't see -- when you asked the question about the recruiting process, I can tell you what the issues are, I don't necessarily see them as problems. That's really what the process is right now. It is what it is until the rules change.
We go through a lot of checkpoints before we take a commitment from a player. And when a player says they want to commit, I take them at their word, unless they give me reason not to. And if they gave me a reason not to I probably wouldn't take their commitment at that point.
But I don't know if there's a correct answer to that. I do know -- I'm not saying that I know that an early signing period is the answer to it. I just know that it would clean it up.
Q. Kyle, you've said before that the star system for rating is imperfect. What does this class or
members of this class have that the star system doesn't necessarily measure?
COACH FLOOD: Someone would have to tel me how the star system measures for me to answer that question. I don't know that. What I do know is this: The way the star system has portrayed the past hasn't real y come to fruition.
I think we have ten two-star players that are currently in the NFL. I think ultimately recruiting is about relationships, recruiting is about finding the right players and the right people. The right players for your system, the right people for your culture for your university. And when al those things fit right, then that player is going to get better throughout his career. And I think that's what recruiting is.
You are doing the best job you can as a recruiter to say, okay, here's where this player is right now when he's in high school, how much better is he going to get in our system, because how much better he gets in our system might not be the same as how much better he gets in another system.
And so when you ask me that question about this class, what I would say is with this class, with this group of 26 players, I'm really excited about how much better I think they can get in our system and real y excited about how good they are right now on film.
Q. Going back to the recruiting in the Big Ten region. I know one of the reasons Rutgers went to Florida was such a depth of talent there that the schools in those states just couldn't take everybody. There were guys there for the taking and you proved that with the results from some of those players. Is there that depth of talent in those areas now that Rutgers can go get one kid from that state, one kidfrom this state, one kid from another state?
COACH FLOOD: I think there is. But I think recruiting starts at home. And our traditional recruiting area has to be our primary focus every year. Now, that traditional area includes Florida. It's not necessarily close by geography. But we have such a significant amount of players on our team from Florida, theyfeel very much at home when they come here.
And the other thing I would say to you from recruiting over the years is there are -- different parts of the country tend to travel more than others. There are certain parts of the country where the high school talent might be rich, they don't general y migrate north in terms of coming to school. There's always an exception. But in general they don't. You've got to find the areas not only where there's talent where that talent is going to be wil ing to travel.
Q. What are your thoughts on adding two quarterbacks technical y in this class? And what do you see from Philip Nelson, and what do you see from Gio Rescigno?
COACH FLOOD: I think it's two completely different situations, I think with Gio coming in as a freshman excited about his athleticism and leadership characteristics. He's a tal , long, athletic body. Throws the bal well and can really run very wel also.
With Philip, he's a little bit more of a known commodity because he's been starting in the Big Ten for two years at Minnesota. Now he's not eligible this year. So he's going to have to learn the offense, learn the system, learn about our culture as a footbal team, learn how we do things.
And I think as he does that over the next year it wil be an advantage for him when he gets an opportunity to compete for the job.
Q. When you see those eight kids from Jersey, what do you have to do differently, just fluke this year to get that number a littler higher than where you want it?
COACH FLOOD: I think every year is different. I don't know what the number would be that I would want. Ultimately, I want the right players for our program. I want players that are excited about being here and representing Rutgers University. And there's some really talented footbal players in
Some years it's been more. I don't know what the goal number would be, but I know this: I am real y excited about these eight players from New Jersey and the other players in this class that are excited about playing for Rutgers University.
Q. What impact do you think the new coaches will have going forward on recruiting?
COACH FLOOD: I think they'll have an impact. I think they'll have an impact. And I think one of many things that are exciting as we turn the page towards next season is the university giving me the resources to go out and get the finest coaches in football and the finest minds.
I think when you have resources like that it can lead to continuity. When it leads to staff continuity there's no doubt that helps you in recruiting.
Q. You mentioned that a bunch of challenges over the past 14 months have kind of been developed and you guys had to overcome that. Combined with I guess the high profile decommitments you had and the coaching changes, how did that al come to affect this recruiting class?
COACH FLOOD: You'd have to ask the recruits. I don't think of it like that. When we go forward in recruiting every day, we are out there trying to get the most talented players that fit our core values, that fit into our system and fit into our university.
And then once we sign them, they're the only ones I think about. Because it's only the players that you sign at your university do you get to develop.
So the players that may have gone other places, that's not my concern anymore. My total focus goes to these players.
Q. Kyle, it seems more than ever now there's a premium being placed on getting big, rangy defensive backs. How much of that was appealing with a guy like Saquan Hampton who is 6'1", 6'2"?
COACH FLOOD: Sure, Saquan Hampton. Isaiah Wharton is another tal , long guy. Darian Dailey is a long arm guy. And certainly popular with what just happened in the Super Bowl. I know a lot of people have talked about it out a lot in Seattle. I'm going to talk to Dan a little bit about that in the off-season, because he was coordinating that defense. I'm looking forward to that.
But I think if you're going to play against big, tall physical receivers, you better have physical corners. Are they al going to be over six foot? I don't know that. I don't think the average height for a corner in the NFL is over six foot. I don't lead myself to believe that.
But we've added some tal , long bodies. But what I've noticed since becoming a head coach and being more involved in special teams is this: Those tal , long bodies, guys like Brandon Jones, Marcus Cooper and Logan Ryan, they don't just help you at corner, they help you in special teams. And that's kind of the unwritten story of needing those type of bodies on your team.
Q. From a defensive perspective, a lot of the players you've had in the program have fit in the league that you've played in in the Big East very wel . This year was a little bit of a different look to the league. A lot of passing offenses you hadn't seen before. As you go into the Big Ten, how much when you put together this class, do you look to the types of teams and the offenses that you'll face in thatleague?
COACH FLOOD: I think from a personnel standpoint, we lookinward first now. We know what our struggles were last year. We know where our inexperience was last year, and I feel we're going to
learn from that and we're going to be better from it even though it wasn't always enjoyable to go through it.
But I think we look inward in our system, because we feel our system of defense played at the highest level can compete with anybody in the country. And I think it's proven that over time. So we're not going to overreact to maybe our youth from last year; we're going to do a better job doing what we do.
We have gotten bigger over the last couple of years, because I think we've had access in recruiting to some bigger guys, but we have not sacrificed athleticism. And I think that is the key to everything. If you just go out with the mindset you're going to get bigger, you can get bigger and get less athletic and ultimately it's not going to be a positive.
Q. You suggest you weren't real y concerned with the length of the coaching searches, do you think that affected the recruits? I know some of the recruits said there was some uncertainty there.
COACH FLOOD: You'd have to ask them. I don't think you could put a timetable on finding the right people. And I am real y excited about the people that are in our program right now.
I had a chance to talk to a couple of people for the last position over the last 24 hours, and I feel like that wil hopeful y be resolved in the next couple of days and then we'l have our ful staff together, and we'l be able to go forward.
Whether it did or didn't would not have affected the pace of the search. That is all about finding the right people. And I think what the fans, what the university, what everybody will come to appreciate as we get closer to nextseason is that all these coaches were worth their weight.
Q. I believe this may be a nonsequitur, but why do col ege programs still use fax machines today for signing day?
COACH FLOOD: I did get that question on another interview today, why do colleges use fax machines today. I don't know. The players would tel you I'm trying to eliminate paper from the program even though I've got a couple of pieces up here today.
Maybe there's just something about having, being able to hold it in your hand. Maybe it's a scanned document on the computer just wouldn't feel the same.
Q. Have you tried anything else? UCLA just went to electronic or whatever. Have you thought of anything else?
COACH FLOOD: We have not. We have stayed with the fax machine.
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