Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tuberville touts 'excellent' class, staff's evaluation of talent

From his signing-day news conference at noon today

NOTE: At the time of the news conference, Auburn had not yet received national letters of intent from four commitments: wire receivers Harry Adams and Damion Allen, all-purpose running back Onterrio McCalebb and athlete Brandon Smith.
Also, running back Enrique Davis, a 2007 Auburn signee and former Auburn commitment for 2008, had signed with Ole Miss. Defensive back George Baker, another former Auburn commitment, signed with South Florida.
High school senior Robert Quinn, a four-star defensive end who had Auburn among his finalists, signed with North Carolina.

---Opening statement:
"It’s been a good day for us. Today is an exciting day for us and all college football coaches around the country. Signing day is an accumulation of a lot of work, a lot of time and effort out of a lot of people … our coaching staff, our administration, everybody here on campus, our professors, everybody that gets involved with our student athletes when they come on campus. We’re proud of the efforts that everybody has put forth. This has been an excellent year. We’re excited about the class that we signed. We still have a couple out there that I won’t be able to say anything about because we have not received their letters. They should be on the way. You have to receive a fax before you can talk about them.
"We set out in a lot of areas in the Southeast to try to improve this football team. In terms of certain positions, we always look for defensive linemen, linemen in any area. This year we also looked for cornerbacks. We graduated three. Some of these young men that we signed this year will have the opportunity to come in and play. We also were looking for quarterbacks. Being in a new offense, we needed to broaden our horizons in terms of guys that can run this type of offense, and we were very successful in that. We also signed four wide receivers, which at times we’re going to have to be in a four- and five-wide receiver set. So it was good in those regards.
"We were very excited about the reception that we had all across the South of parents, coaches and recruits of having us in their homes and their schools, and it was an enjoyable recruiting process. Our coaches worked hard, and I think this class is an accumulation of a lot of hard work from a lot of different people, not just a few.
"Having two new coordinators, a lot of people will say, did that set you back any? I really didn’t, because recruiting basically is done in a short period of time of during the season and getting your guys lined up in terms of the guys that you want. I thought that Paul Rhoads (defense) and Tony Franklin (offense) did a good job of helping out in the end and pointing out facts of what they thought would help in terms of the guys that we need to run the positions that they’re going to coach, whether it’s on offense or defense. The big area, again, was offensively and making some changes in terms of philosophy in terms of what we’re looking for in terms of recruits.
"Unfortunately, sometimes when you do that, you have to switch gears and change some ideas of who scholarships you’re going to offer to, when you change in midstream like that, so it didn’t really hurt us. I didn’t think it affected us much. I thought that, if you look at the list that we’ve got here, we’ve got a lot of good linemen. We’ve got a lot of speed, tremendous speed, probably the fastest group that we’ve got. This is the most defensive backs that we’ve signed since we’ve been here, and that’s a very important area for us this year and the next few years.
"A lot of these guys will have the opportunity to play next year. We give them all the opportunity. Last year was the first time we ever played a significant amount of true freshmen. I think last year we played up to 15 at some point during the year. I’d look at the same … we’d like to say 15 of these are going to play, but you have to wait and see in terms of how they come in in terms of being in shape and ready to play this caliber of football.
"We signed eight linemen, six defensive backs, four wide receivers and three quarteracks, two running backs, two tight ends and two linebackers. You can’t spread it out much more than that.
"I thought our coaches did a great job in state. This is probably the most that we’ve ever signed in the stae of Alabama in one year. We signed nine players, and I think it’s an excellent group, not just of athletes but also students, guys that can come and make it academically and get a degree and also play as a member of a team, a group that wants to win and win championships. We’re going to have good football teams for the next coming years. This group will help this team become better, and that’s what you try to do every year, try to be improved in certain areas but also improve in the areas of character and attitude, and I think this group is going to be very good at that.
"It was a good year, excellent year, and we look forward, hopefully, this afternoon, to adding a couple more to this list that will even make it better. Questions:"

---Enrique Davis recruitment?
"Recruiting Enrique was one of those deals where, as I said earlier, we changed our style of offense, and I think that was the main thing. He wanted to go somewhere where he could possibly be on a two-back team, which we’re still some two-back. But, as I tell all of these young guys when we’re recruiting them, you’ve got to do what’s best for you. Don’t do what’s best for the school. You’ve got to do what’s best for you, because it’s hard I terms of academics, and when you throw the athletic part on top of that, it even makes it harder, and you want to enjoy the situation that you’re in. If it’s not a hundred percent, we don’t want them to come here, because it’s a challenge in all areas. Enrique is a good young man. We’ll get to play against him now, and we know how good he is, and we look forward to that."

---Class not ranked as high as those in couple of years?
"Yea, the last two or three years – and we don’t look at rankings, as you just said – but the last two or three years, we’ve been very high in the rankings. I look at players that can fit in what we do and how we do it. We do a tremendous amount of evaluating, and this was a year where a lot of people were desperate in recruiting, it looked like, because we got bombarded with a lot of guys that we had committed, and they come in and obviously try to take them away. Some we held onto. Some we didn’t. But it’s a challenge to fight the media hype of a lot of guys. Again, we’re not going to sign someone just because they’re ranked real high. We have signed the Sen’Derrick Markses and Courtney Taylors and Devin Aromashodus, those guys that have been great football players that were one or two stars, and we’ve got several this year we think are going to be great football players. But again, we evaluate not just on athletic ability, and that’s what most of the star rankings are. They’re not looking at character and attitude, and we put just as much an effort to judge those players on that as we do athletic ability. And I know a lot of people look at that. Last year, we had a year where again it was ranked very high and national stats. This year, we won’t be ranked as high because we don’t have as many high profile guys, but again you’ve got to take what you feel like is going to make you a better football team. I think this team can win championships, coming up. I think this group can help win championships and can be a great group at the end of their third or fourth year. That’s the thing I look for. I look in recruiting in terms of, are guys going to be with us three or four years from now, not one or two years. If they’re with us three or four years from now, they’ll be much better players and much better for their academics, and it will all work out. This is a team sport. That’s how we judge it by character and attitude. Obviously, you’ve got to have speed and athletic ability, and you have to have potential, and we’re not going to sign one unless we think they have potential, but if they don’t have those other two, they’re not going to make it here. They won’t survive. You’ve got to have that attitude, and you’ve got to have good character."

---JUCO quarterback Chris Todd?
"Chris Todd will make an immediate impact. He knows the offense. He’s a big guy. He can throw it. He’s got good touch on the football. Talking to Mike Leach at Texas Tech, he had to make a decision back when Chris was there, there was a young guy that he had to make a decision on whether Chris was going to be the starter. The other one was a year advanced and more experienced, and Chris decided at the time to try to go to a junior college and try to go to another four-year school. Fortunately for us, he came to our place. Again, he brings more experience than what we have, but we’ll have a lot of competition at quarterback this spring. We’ll have four quarterbacks that will go after it. They’ve got a lot to learn in the next three weeks, and when we start spring practice, it should be fun to watch them run this offense."

---JUCO DE Raven Gray?
"Raven Gray is as good a defensive lineman as we’ve ever signed. He was a guy that went to junior college, and even though we put him in a junior college, a lot of people continued to recruit him, and he stuck with us, and we’re proud for that. He did have a knee injury during this past season. He’s had surgery with Dr. Andrews. He’ll be fine. He won’t go through spring, but he’s got a lot of quicks, a lot of speed. He’s a guy that’s going to be an impact player for us. Sometimes you sign guys that you know are going to be good football players, but you don’t know how far they can go, but Raven is going to be an impact player. He’s a guy that can make plays, run people down from behind, bull rush offensive linemen, but he’s got a lot of speed to go along with it. He’s going to be an exciting guy to watch."

---How many players do you expect to place in junior colleges or prep schools?
"We’re going to have four or five of these that will go to junior college or prep school. You’ve got to do that. There’s not anybody on this list or anybody’s list that’s qualified because the 16 core courses (new rule) has really tested the limits of counselors and superintendents and principals and all of these kids. You know, they’re scrambling, and it’s a new rule. We don’t know what’s going to be the impact of it, but it’s out there for these players to reach. I’m not saying it’s not a fair rule, but it’s going to be a challenge. Fourteen core courses was tough. Sixteen is going to be even tougher, and I hope we stop there, but it could change in a few years. We don’t have any control over that. A lot of these guys are still working on completing their four core courses. Also, there are several that are still short on the test, but there’s several more that they can take between now and August first."

---Defensive linemen who can have an immediate impact?
"I think Freddie Smooth, I don’t like signing guys that are 300 pounds to think that they’re going to come in and play early, because I think sometimes they have a lot of work to do in terms of getting in shape. Freddie is not one of those guys. He can carry 300 pounds, actually 305. He’s got excellent quicks. Just talking to his coaches and the ones that played against him, he’s got a great first step, and that’s what you look for in a defensive tackle. So I think there’s no doubt, with us losing a Pat Sims early coming out in the draft and Josh Thompson graduating, I think he’ll have a definite chance to play early.
"Jomarcus Savage is a guy that can play inside and outside. We’re going to try to play him both. I think playing defensive end early for him is going to help him because losing a couple of guys. The way he plays with his hands, he’s got quick feet, but he’s a very good hands player. He knows how to use his hands and get off blocks. I think he can help."I think the guy that you didn’t bring up is Andre Wadley. He reminds me of a bigger Quentin Groves. He was one of the top D-linemen in Mississippi, and he’s a great young man. We’ve recruited him for two years in terms of just watching him and evaluating him and knowing the coaches that coached him. I’ve known them now for 13, 14 years. They’re really high on him. His brother was Johnny Jones, played at Mississippi State, and so he comes from a good background. He knows football, knows high school football, knows college football. He understands what he’s getting into, so we’re excited about our D-linemen.
"Cameron Henderson, too. He reminds me of a younger Raven Gray. Cameron is tall, 6-6. Those guys are hard to find. They’re hard to find in terms of being the size that you want them to be in high school that they’re going to need to be in college to play and to be beneficial in terms of playing defensive line in this league."

---Defensive backs have early impact?
"At least two of our defensive backs are going to have to play because now everybody’s playing a lot of the four- and five-wide receiver sets. Last year, there were times during the games where we played almost the entire games with five defensive backs on the field at the same time. So that was a big area of need for us. It was good to have guys that committed early for us, because we didn’t have to – we didn’t quit in the recruiting process; we just quit evaluating other guys. I think Hood, from Phenix City, Roderick Hood’s nephew, is really going to be an excellent player.
"All of these guys, defensive backs, we evaluated in our camps. I think it’s important for us in our camps, and has been for the last few years, to evaluate them and to know just exactly what kind of player that we’re getting in terms of speed, quickness. Can you play press man? Can you play zone? We really evaluate them hard in our camps, and it really helps in the evaluation process and in the recruiting process, knowing what they can do and their strengths and weaknesses and being able to sell them to the point that, hey, you can come in and play early. This is what you can do, and we need you to do it."

---Wide receivers?
"Yea. This offense, as we all saw up close and personal less than a month ago in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, we’re going to throw the ball. You still have to run the ball to win. We’re going to run it more than 50 percent of the time, but we’re going to have a lot more plays. We averaged 56-60 plays per game last season on offense. In the bowl game, we had 93, and it gives you more opportunities to get the ball to certain people. We needed to have speed in certain areas.
"Philip Pierre (Pierre-Louis) is not a big guy. He’s a guy that’s got tremendous speed, and we think he can come in and help us next year playing inside and outside receiver. It really doesn’t make a difference in this offense how big they are. It’s just, can they use their quickness to make somebody miss? It’s like a running back in the backfield. That’s a lot of what this offense is about, getting the ball to the wide receivers and short passes and making somebody miss, so Philip Pierre is one of those types of guys. We think he’s going to be a heck of a football player for us.
"The guy that we’re excited about --- and we waited late to offer him because in the past people have noticed how well we’ve done winning football games in this conference; I think people realize how well our coaches evaluate, and they do a great job of evaluating players --- and we knew that this young man could play. We waited late to offer him a scholarship, we felt like, to keep the wolves off of him, so to speak, but we offered Derek Winter less than a week ago. After that --- he had one scholarship offer; after that, he got four scholarship offers from Division I schools after we offered --- we still have to fight them off in a short period of time. But Derek Winter caught close to 170, 180 passes in two years and he was one of the best receivers that I’ve seen play in this offense, which is the spread offense, which he played in. He’s made acrobatic catches, made a lot of people miss, caught a lot of deep balls. He’s one of the few guys that we didn’t evaluate in our camps. We did evaluate him in games and off the film, but he’s a guy that I think can really come in an play early. He’s got that type of talent. Very fortunate to get him. I thought the way that our coaches handled it in terms of recruiting and waiting a little bit late I think gave us a little better opportunity to get him to come to Auburn because there would have been a lot more interest had we offered him a little bit earlier. But he is a good player."

---Recruiting in general?
"Nah, it really doesn’t make any difference. I learned a long time ago and learning under guys that I’ve worked for – Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson – winning takes care of recruiting. It really doesn’t have anything to do with how you recruit. It depends on how you play the game, the type of offense and defense. How much fun the players think they do and how much opportunities they have to come in and win but also have to play early. I think that’s a big factor. We had several players that we recruited this year that we knew we probably wouldn’t have a good chance to get them because it was going to be a couple of years before they got on the field. Having good classes the last few years, it kind of put a negative thought into a lot of players’ minds, recruits’ minds, knowing that, ‘I’ll have a better chance at another school to play earlier, but if I go to Auburn, it’s going to be a little tougher.’ But you know, that’s part of it. We had people telling recruits that, which affected it, but in the long run, you go out and recruit guys that want to come to at your place, try to get them to come and let them know what they’re getting into. Don’t sell them a dream. Sell them reality, and if you do that, I think it gives you a better chance to be successful."

---Recruiting high-profile players?
"I think a little of it had to do with what I just said. We’re going to have a pretty good team next year. We have a lot of guys coming back. A lot of the more high-profile players think, ‘I can go to this place and play sooner,’ which is fine. That’s happened for us before. Like corners for instance, we were able to get some corners pretty early to commit to us because they saw the need that we had. Next year, it’s going to be a little bit more difficult for us, because we’re going to have a lot more younger corners. You try to balance it out. You try to also go after players that you know you have a chance to get sometimes. There might be a high-profile guy that you might think you can get, but deep down, if you’re going to waste a lot of time on that guy, you can be spending it on somebody else that you might think you have a better chance to get.
"There’s a lot of cat-and-mouse games in this recruiting that you have to play. The big thing about our staff is that we’ve had a consistent staff. Recruiting is a small part of a coach’s job. The number one thing about a coach’s job is evaluating. Anybody can recruit. You’ve got to be able to evaluate and be able to pick the guys that can play, not whether you think they can play. The ones that can do that usually have more success. We’ve had pretty good success with some pretty good players and supposedly average players over the last few years that I would argue with about that.
"But again, it’s been a good day for us. We finished up. Tomorrow we’ll start on next year. It will be 364 days before the next year, and we’ll see what we do next year, but we feel like we have an excellent class. I’m looking forward to putting these guys together starting in June and start build them with the other players and getting ready for next season."

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