Q&A with Coach Matt Lubick

Coming into a new job, less than two months before signing day, is far from being the ideal situation for a recruiting coordinator. Yet Matt Lubick and the coaching staff ultimately landed a solid 2007 recruiting class. Coach Lubick, who's also the team's safeties coach, talks about the class, shares his recruiting philosophies and takes a look at his position players coming into spring practice.

Devils Digest: Coach, can you talk about the two safeties that were signed in the 2007 recruiting class?

Matt Lubick: Oliver Aaron - "Not sure if we'll play him at linebacker or safety. We'll start him out at safety. The way he is physically will determine what position he will play at. I'm real excited about him, because he can run. Out of the whole class we brought in, you can make a case that he was the most impressive player on tape. He's a good sideline-to-sideline player, great flexibility, and a tall guy that plays with great range. He's a real explosive player."

Colin Parker - "We're excited about him. He committed to the last staff and stuck with us which shows a lot of character. I saw one game film on him, I hadn't had a chance to see as much film on him as I did on Oliver, but I know he's a good football player, a team leader. I met him and he's a great kid and I'm excited to have him."

DD: With Coach Craig Bray coming in as a defensive coordinator and bringing with him a new philosophy, what kind of role do you expect the safeties to have in this scheme?

ML: "They have a critical role from the standpoint that they make all the adjustments on defense. In the scheme we run, they're involved in both stopping the run and defending the pass. They're kind of the quarterbacks of the defense. So not only do they have to be great athletic players, they need to be smart players. They need to be able to recognize formations, and communicate adjustments to the rest of the defense. So a lot is asked of the safeties in this defense."

DD: In the previous scheme, the safeties didn't have the traditional strong and free safety roles, but rather just ‘right' and ‘left' safety. Under the new scheme will this remain the same or change?

ML: "That's a good question. Right now we'll just play ‘right' and ‘left', from the standpoint that we want to evaluate both guys and see which guy has better range, better man-to-man coverage. So all the safeties will have a chance to play the same roles. Now, if we find that one player can do some things better than others, we'll put them in the right situation. So for example, if we have a guy that's better in pass coverage, he'll be the deep safety."

DD: How much chance did you have so far to evaluate the safeties from last year?

ML: "I saw a lot film on Josh Barrett; I watched all his games from last year. Jeremy (Payton) and Ryan McFoy didn't play a lot but I had a chance to evaluate them too. I saw some good things from these guys and things we need to work on. I'm excited about the athletic ability and talent from those guys."

DD: When you look specifically at Josh Barrett, a solid player who's a fifth year senior, he probably makes your transition on the field that much easier?

ML: "No question. My philosophy is the better the players – the better the coaches. The thing with him is that not only is he blessed with a lot of talent; he knows that he can get better. When you have an attitude like that, you can really progress. He's taken a leadership role and has a lot of football to still play, knowing that he can get better."

DD: Let's shift gears and talk about recruiting. It was obviously a challenge assembling this class in a short amount of time before signing day. Besides that obvious challenge, what other obstacles, if you will, did you have as recruiting coordinator?

ML: "Convincing players that the old staff wanted that they're still wanted here and still have the same opportunities as before. With so many early commitments, we were recruiting some players with the mindset of changing guy's minds and that's tough. When you recruit a player that already committed to another school, that's hard. When a person decides to choose a school, he feels very good about it. Our argument with them is: ‘You didn't have a chance to look at us and we'd love for you to take a look at our place. We did change some minds and some of them I think are real good players too. We're very excited about the players we got here, especially the way we finished up."

"All things equal, there were a couple of guys that if we were there the same day the other team was, we would have a good shot at getting him. Also, coming in late we didn't have a chance to generate a big ‘number list.' What I mean by that is that the more numbers you have on recruiting the better off you are. Normally if you lose out on a recruit, you have others in that position that you go after. We didn't have that luxury."

"We're gonna always shoot for the best recruits. We're not gonna back down from any school. But if you don't have those guys, you better make sure you have someone behind them. We were pretty lucky in the fact that we didn't lose any of those guys that committed to us in the last week (of recruiting season). We didn't have those numbers to back them up."

DD: Coach Erickson alluded in an interview that he never knew the good perception Arizona State had as a school with out of state recruits. As recruiting coordinator what was your experience with this issue?

ML: "When I talk to high school coaches in California, there's some type of allure about Arizona State. Everyone says that it's a ‘sleeping giant.' I don't know what that means but I know there's good tradition here, there was some success in the past and they're high expectations and that's good because that's what we have."

"I think the weather, the fact that we're close to Southern California, we have great facilities…I think there's a lot of good things about Arizona State in general. The fact that we had success here in the past proves that it can be done here. It's not a hard place to recruit to. People want to come here and we have the resources and other things in place that allow us to compete in recruiting against anybody out there. We believe our product is as good of a product to sell as anyone else's in the country. You have to have that in recruiting."

DD: You and the rest of the coaches are already busy evaluating 2008 prospects. Now that you have a benefit of a whole recruiting cycle, how different do you anticipate that class to be than the 2007 one?

ML: "Like you said we already started the evaluation process and started ranking guys on our list. In recruiting the sooner you can start building a relationship the better chance you have of getting a player. The more trust that kid has in you, the more time you have to give him information about the school. Recruiting these days has become a big media frenzy with the Internet, early star rankings, and early commits. But the key for us is how well we can evaluate (prospects) and determine how a player can best fit in our program."

"A good example is Oregon State. When we went to the Fiesta Bowl and were ranked 4th of 5th in the country, there was not a top 50 recruiting class before then at the school. After the Fiesta Bowl, that class was 13th in the country. That goes to show you that all that media frenzy is a lot of perception and isn't always accurate. We had a lot of players that weren't even ranked (as prospects), didn't have any other offers (other than Oregon State) that went on to become first round draft choices. Coach Erickson has made a living on picking out guys that others pass on, and not worrying about necessarily who else is recruiting that player. We need to find the best player for us. He's big on recruiting speed and that's one thing we're looking for in the players we recruit."

DD: There's so much talk about protecting your home turf, especially when it's a state like Arizona, which produces more Division I prospects than any other school west of the Mississippi aside from Texas and California. As recruiting coordinator, getting the home talent must be high on your list…

ML: "We've already evaluated the top juniors in Arizona and that's always gonna be our top priority. We're gonna give the first opportunities to the kids in-state. That's what we're gonna target first and spend the most time on. There's enough talent in the state to build a foundation for the program and you have to go to other areas to supplement it. That's one thing that makes this job so appealing – we have a great home base. We're in an hour radius from a lot of good players here."

DD: Going into spring practice, what are your expectations from the safeties as a whole?

ML: "First and foremost, understand what we expect and how to practice. We ask for all out speed and effort on every play. From a coverage standpoint, we'll cut some things back but they'll still have some of the coverages they had in the past. That way they're not worried about coverages, but focusing on studying and learning offenses. The coverage is second nature. We'll play faster because the players won't worry about the assignment. They'll have to play fast, not worrying about making a mistake. We'll get the other stuff corrected but playing fast, aggressive and fly to the ball is some of the things that we want them to do."

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