Q&A with Coach Matt Lubick

In this Devils Digest interview ASU's recruiting coordinator and safeties coach gives his impressions of the 2008 class, discusses various recruiting topics and responds to the comments made by Mike Stoops. Lubick also talks about the safety position and his expectations for the group this season.

DevilsDigest: Coach, Scout.com ranked ASU's recruiting class 16th in the nation, other services have ranked it lower than that. As the team's recruiting coordinator, how would you assess the 2008 class?

Matt Lubick: "I'm extremely happy with the class, from the standpoint that we set some goals, and some parameters a year ago. We talked about the things we wanted to get done and I feel that we accomplished them. The biggest thing we wanted to address with this class is to increase our athleticism. When you go recruit you always try to upgrade and I think we've done that. I think we increased our speed too at every position."

"Another thing we did, and I like that Coach Erickson does that – we got the 27 best players we could possibly get but still stay within our numbers. That's one thing coach does a good job of – a lot of teams will locked into this specific parameter based on numbers. They'll say ‘we have to get four offensive linemen no matter what. Once we do that we're done.' We put rough parameters of what we want, but the overlying principle is that we want the best players and hopefully they fall within these parameters."

"For example, we wanted four offensive linemen, we signed five and we think we got five good ones. One area we did better than we planned too was at defensive line. We signed more than we thought we would get, but we were happy with that because year in and year out that's the toughest position to find guys at."

DD: You arrived at ASU about a year and a month ago. Can you talk about the transition of arriving at the very tail end of the 2007 class, putting the finishing touches on that group and then immediately turning your attention to the 2008 class?

ML: "The class last year was basically a salvaging class. The bottom line in recruiting is building relationships with the people that are involved in the decision making process. It's hard to do that in two months. Also by the time we (the new staff) got hired, we had to change minds. We were able to do that with a couple of guys, but that's not an easy thing to do."

"With the 2008 class we were able to have an even playing surface with our competitors, from the standpoint of identifying talent, getting a broad base to choose from and weed it down to players that we believe could help our program and fit in it. We were able to develop relationships and the longer you can develop a relationship, the better the relationship will be – not only with the kid, but also with the coach, the parents, the family…that's the key for recruiting. The more you know a guy, the more trust he has in you – that translates to a guy feeling comfortable enough to make a decision to come to your school."

DD: Even from the outside looking in, there always seems to be a perception that it's easy to recruit at Arizona State with everything the school has to offer. From a recruiting coordinator standpoint, have you found that sentiment to be true?

ML: "Arizona state has no question tremendous selling points, and the one thing I would say that we're in a conference that has a lot of other schools with tremendous selling points. Some of the things that I think separate us from other schools are that we're in a great location, we sell the weather, the coaching staff, our campus in broad spectrum as for as our size, our faculty, and our academic standards."

"One of our biggest things that we have a lot of people comment on is our academic standards and our academic support staff, which is the best I've ever been around. Jean Boyd, Corrine Corte and all those guys are parents away from home. It's not a 9-5 job for them – they work around the clock. They treat the players like they would treat their own sons and daughters. When players' parents come down here, they feel that genuine feel from those guys. They feel that their son will be a better person and succeed because he's working with those guys. The parents just feel confident."

"Our players are some of our best ambassadors. When the players host those recruits and they're happy that carries over to the recruits. The recruits that come out here see that the players are happy. The players love the school, they love the coaches, they buy into what's been taught and win football games…you can't hide that stuff. Our players do a great job selling the university, showing that they're having a good experience and that translates in getting those guys."

DD: As you went through the recruiting season, do you think the recruits were receptive to ASU right off the bat because of Coach Erickson and his staff's pedigree or did recruiting pick up momentum only as the season went along and you were off to an 8-0 start?

ML: "I think ASU has a great name and when we got out and identified juniors and sophomores in the spring, our name can get us in the door with anybody. Especially in the Western part of the United State with players that are familiar with ASU. There's no question that the increased success (wining games) and the more we were in people's living rooms definitely steam rolled and had more players showing interest, and maybe getting a guy or two that we wouldn't have gotten if we didn't have success. Winning is a big allure in recruiting."

DD: When you recruit players what intangibles you look at aside from the obvious measurements like height, weight, 40 time and bench press?

ML: "Character is equally as important. There's a direct correlation between character and success. Character tells you how coachable is the kid, if he's a team player, what's his work ethic like. To me you can have great height, weight, speed but if you're missing good character, you won't be a good player and you won't make it in our system."

"Another thing that's strongly related to character is academics. If you don't do a good job in the classroom, you won't make it in here because the NCAA requirements are getting tougher and tougher. The importance of academics isn't only to survive in football, but also to what you want to do later in life."

"Another thing I look at is how they are on film. If you're not a playmaker on film, then you won't get recruited. Each position has its own parameters. For example, offensive linemen – the guys that will fit in our system are knocking other guys off the ball, finishing blocks, playing hard every play with lots of emotion and are athletic."

DD: What trends have you noticed overall in recruiting over this decade?

ML: "The time involved in it. In recent years recruiting has become a year-round process and you never get a break from it. You start early when the players are sophomores and the longer you can foster a relationship with the kid the better. You also have to recruit during the season and that's the biggest thing people struggle with. You have to prepare for a football game, prepare a game plan, do everything in your power to be successful on Saturday, but at the same time you have to take time out of you week and balance it. You have to make contact with all the recruits and make them feel part of the season. You have to always show interest and cultivate those relationships. That's the difference between a good recruiting staff and a bad one – being able to balance that."

"When you're recruiting a player, you have to treat him like he's the only player that you're recruiting. That takes time. You have to know everything there is to know about a kid – who's important in the decision making process. Again, all that stuff takes time."

DD: There has been some talk in the NCAA to possibly allowing high school players to have the option to sign on the mid-year transfer date if they don't want to wait until the February signing date. What are your thoughts on this?

ML: "I have mixed feelings. If you do allow that, it's the same thing – it puts more pressure on you during the season, which may take away from your time with your own players and help them be successful. On the other hand, all these guys that are making early decisions sign early and can't change their minds."

DD: How much of an impact has the text message ban, implemented this past August, had on recruiting?

ML: "Text messaging is a great tool, but I can see how it can get abused. It's so hard to monitor. It's a great way to communicate. It's easy and it's fast. The way it can get abused is when you have kids that don't have great cell phone plans, and they get 100 texts a day from schools all around the country and now they suddenly used their text message allotment."

"The other thing is the timing of it. There's no time constraint with text, so you could be texting a kid in the middle of math class, and a high school kid would rather look at a text message from a high school coach instead of solving an algebra problem. So when it becomes a distraction in school or a financial burden – you can't have it. But if you can regulate it to a point where you're not affecting a kid's school and it's affordable, then it's a great way of communication."

DD: What is your reaction to the comment made by Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops who said that it's easier to get into ASU than it is to his school, and that ASU "…has turned into a JC (junior college), and we're a four-year college."

ML: "Arizona is the same way as we are. You sell what you the university has to offer. When you say bad things about other schools, that's just evidence that you don't have enough good things to say about your school. I've never had any experiences with Arizona or any other school in our conference, using negative recruiting against us. And we wouldn't use negative recruiting ourselves."

"I think Arizona is a good football program and the fact that we're right down the road from them means that we will compete against them in recruiting. So now it's a matter of can you develop a relationship with a recruit that is stronger than the other school? We're gonna continue to compete against them, not only in recruiting but also on the football field."

"But I have the outmost respect for the University of Arizona and I still think they respect us."

DD: What are the current goals of the 2009 recruiting class?

ML: "We're constantly trying to upgrade our speed. The number one thing we want is speed at every position. We are gonna have fewer scholarships. It's kind of hard right now to talk about the needs of 2009, just because we want to see how spring ball goes. We want to see how some of the freshmen in our first class have matured and if they're ready to play. That kind of determines where your needs are at."

DD: Max Tabach was the only true safety who signed with the 2008 class. Can you talk about his skills?

ML: "He's a very intelligent and physical football player. He has great character and it's important to him to be a great player. He's already shown good work ethic in the brief time that he has been here. He has all the intangibles we're looking for to help us in the fall."

DD: Troy Nolan was one of the leaders of the defense in 2007. Can you talk about the season he had?

ML: "I think he had a great season and a lot of people didn't know how good he would be (came off a redshirt year where he was injured). He played every single football game, was very durable and was a leader by example. He was versatile and we could do a lot of things with him. He can play in the box like a linebacker, but he was also one of our better guys in coverage. His performance spoke for itself – he got second-team all-conference."

"At the same time what makes Troy so good, is that he's a perfectionist and has that thirst to be even better. He watches more film than anybody and isn't satisfied about what he did last year. That's they key for being a good player. He knows he can play better and there's no question that he has tremendous upside. He's his own worst critic. He's a great example for all the other guys."

DD: Can you touch on the play of Jeremy Payton and Rodney Cox?

ML: "Payton played well at times. He battled through some injuries, which kind of hampered his progress. He needs to be more consistent, which he understands. He did have a knack for making plays, but we have to make him a little more durable. He's a competitor that loves to play football."

"Cox is a great story. Cox is a guy that jumped over a lot of guys in the depth chart and that was all through determination and hard work. Through his work ethic and intelligence he started to understand the defense better and become a starter and play very well. He's put himself in a position to start for us next year."

DD: Looking forward to spring practice, the safety group returns a lot of experience, with Tabach being the only newcomer. You're probably expecting this group to perform even better than last year…

ML: "I do expect a lot out of them because they're an experienced group. I do expect a lot of improvement, not being content and having the desire to get better. They have the ability to be one of the strengths of our defense and now they have to go out and do it."

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