"I want to welcome everybody here. I know this has been a highly anticipated day by so many folks in the Auburn family, certainly our coaches, our players and certainly the Auburn family itself, and we know that this has been a day that everybody has waited for. I want to start out and say that it was about six weeks ago that I took the job, and boy, we've had a blast. All of our football coaches that have joined me have been here that or a little bit less. We've had a great time. It has been so fun to go out in this state, and other states as well, but so fun to go out in this state right now and recruit the state of Alabama with all the great high school coaches, and rekindle so many great relationships and start a lot of new relationships with the Alabama high school coaches. It's just been fun. We've had a great time with this. It really has been very exciting. We were excited when we got here, and we are even more excited.
"Today was a big day for us. I want to thank all of my assistant coaches. I'm going to tell you what. A lot of them hit the ground running. They haven't even unpacked their suitcases yet and they were out recruiting. That's a tough transition for a lot of these guys and leaving their families. I want to thank them because they went out and worked their rear end off for Auburn University. I do want to thank them. I want to thank our players and our player hosts that for the last four weekends have taken their time to recruit for Auburn and recruit for their own football team. I want to thank them but I want people to know how hard our guys have worked, both our coaches and our players and a lot of other people that have helped so much in the process with the recruiting. I just want to thank them.
"We came in late. We had about three or four weeks to really hit the ground running and recruit. As we sat down as a staff, we talked about a standard. We talked about Auburn and we talked about what Auburn is and what Auburn stands for and the beliefs of the Auburn people.
"One of the things that we wanted to do when we went out and recruited is to make sure that we recruited the right player. That is very important to us – the right guy. What do I mean by the right guy? I wanted to make sure that we went out and recruited student-athletes. I wanted to make sure that we recruited guys that it is very important for them to be a student before they are an athlete. I wanted to make sure that we recruited guys right now that beyond a shadow a doubt had the character and the mark of the man that we are looking for here at Auburn. I wanted to make sure that went out and we recruited guys with the right work ethic. It was very important to us. With that being said, we put together a recruiting class here that again we felt like were the right people.
"Obviously, philosophically to play in this league as everybody knows you are always looking to upgrade athleticism and speed. It doesn't matter what position we were going out to recruit, that's what we did. As we looked at these guys and they were the right people, we wanted to make sure that their speed and their athleticism was something we are consistently and continuing to do, including next year, continually upgrade. We really felt like we were able to do that. It was really the first step in the foundation of what we are trying to do. To be honest with you, we don't look at the number of stars and we don't look at all the rankings or things of that nature. When we say we are looking for the right guy, what we are looking for is in two or three or four years from now is, ‘Did we bring him in here and did we develop him? Was he the right guy when we brought him to develop him not only to be the best football player but to be the best student and the best person on and off the field?'
"I think a lot of people get caught up in the ratings and I think that a lot of people get caught up in the stars and things of that nature. That's all well and good but that's not at the end of the day the tell-tail side of what Auburn's about or who Auburn's about. We feel really good about what we've signed and who we've signed. Again at the end of the day we are looking for that guy that we think is the right guy.
"In closing, we are going to go out now and re-recruit our own players. This signing day was great and this signing class that we have signed has been fun. It's really been fun. It's been a lot of hard work but a lot of fun. The kids that we recruited were a lot of fun to be around and their families were really fun to be around. This was a very exciting day and again a very highly anticipated day. Now that this day has kind of come and gone, our objective is to make sure that we come back here and recruit our own football team and get ready with the business at hand over the next several months. Again, we are proud of this signing class in terms of the guys that we brought in.
"We are very proud of our coaches on how they hit the ground running and dug up guys from everywhere to come play here at Auburn. We are looking forward to the next few months for sure. I know I can speak for my coaching staff and their families when I say that we're just very excited about this whole deal."
(On the last two or three days before signing day) "This day is a little nerve wracking because it comes down to the last two, three and four days and really two and three hours. You really don't know what is going to happen. Again, I've got to give a lot of credit to our assistant coaches that just stayed in there and fought and worked up until the last minute to see that fax come through. There were a lot of a lot guys at the last minute, you know it happens every year, that aren't sure what they want to do or where they want to go. I got to give a lot of our guy's credit because they kept fighting and we ended up signing them."
Auburn signee DeAngelo Benton played prep school football at Hargrave Military Academy in 2007.
(On how the whole DeAngelo Benton situation came about)
"It's all about relationships. We had some great relationships there that we had developed with some of the coaches and DeAngelo. But we feel like anytime we get them on campus right now and they see the pride and tradition that Auburn has to offer, we feel like we have a shot. And that's what happened — we got him on campus, we threw our hat in the ring and we battled for him. I am going to go back to our assistant coaches who kept fighting for it, and that was never an easy get — all the way up to the time we actually received the fax. So again, it was a big deal for us. We thought we were in the race, because we could get him on campus and that is how it unfolded."
(On a couple of areas of need that you had to address)
"Well you know, what we did is that we looked at our football team and really felt like offensively and defensively we had to go for the best players we could get. To a certain degree, it was like the NFL draft — you try to draft, and then you try to get the best of all the players you can get. It's not that we came in and assessed all the weaknesses on our football team; it was probably more of the other. It was probably more of, ‘We've got to go get the best twelve or thirteen guys on offense. We have got to go get the best eleven or twelve guys on defense.' And obviously there is always some means to the madness — we can't sign eight tailbacks and one wide-receiver. But again, we had to use a fine balance in there between the best players available and what we (number-wise) needed to balance out our roster. So that's how we really addressed it, and I really hesitate to stand up here and tell you weaknesses of our football team. I don't feel like I can really accurately assess that, so we just went out and tried to target our best football players."
(On the job you did at recruiting the offensive skill positions)
"I am really proud of us fighting for a lot of good football players. In the name of finding the best player available to sign at Auburn, I think those guys are no-brainers. And obviously, we would like to think that we updated our athletic ability and skill and speed at those positions. Again, I will refer back to what I said originally — those are what we feel like are the right guys. And if we develop them right and we do the things that we need to do because they are the right guys, then hopefully they are going to be very good football players here, and we are anticipating that will be the case."
(On how this class compares to the classes when you coached at Auburn previously)
"That is hard for me to do, to be honest with you. Again, I appreciate rankings. I do. I appreciate the rankings and everyone's thought on how good a class is, or how not good a class is, or how many stars they have. I feel good about the class without me comparing it, because again I think that we targeted the right people. We had to win a lot of battles. I think it would be a little bit unfair to compare some of the ones when I was here before, because I think that there were different types of guys that were signed, maybe some more offensive skill guys vs. offensive linemen — things of that nature that I think would be really hard for me to compare. I can say that I'm happy with the class, and that our goal is to continue every year to upgrade. Our goal is to make sure next year's recruiting class is better than this one. And the year after that, our goal is that our recruiting class is better than the next one. We want competition. I am happy with what I've got, and the rankings I am not even sure of, to be honest with you. But I feel like, as a staff, we got the right guys."
(On recruiting without a full staff)
"It's a challenge if you let it be one. I don't think that was really an issue with us. I've hired great guys so whoever we put on the road, they were going to go out and work for Auburn. It's like going to buy a Volkswagen vs. a Cadillac. If you believe in a Cadillac then you are going to go sell it. It didn't really matter who I put on the road, and I put on some guys that aren't necessarily going to be a part of the full-time staff when we do get that into place. Those guys that we put on the road, they believed in Auburn. They went out and they fought. So it is a challenge if you let it be, but I don't really think that is how we looked at it."
(On how you feel today, looking back on how things began for you at Auburn)
"I am really excited about the coaches that I hired, because this is not about me, and it never will be, and it never is. I am really excited, because I know I've got guys right now that are going to fight. And they are going to work. And they are going to bring back the right type of kids to the table for us to recruit. I'm really excited about that. That being said, I am excited about the result that we've had here on this Wednesday morning, and I couldn't be any more pleased with the work that has been put in. I'll put it that way."
(On continuing to bring in more recruits, as well as filling out the staff)
"There are some blocks here we're trying to put into place. Obviously, this was one huge landmark day for us and we had to make sure that we were focused. I'm not a multi-tasker, and I can't do everything at once. My biggest concern at this point was to make sure we had the right people here at Auburn that are going to play with us. That was kind of step one in the building block phase. So step two now is to make sure that we round out the staff. I don't ever put any timelines on anything, because I want to make sure I get the right people. I really feel like that has happened so far, but you can rest assured that that will be addressed shortly."
On the emotions surrounding today… "It's kind of like game day. When we talked about Fridays and Saturdays here on recruiting weekends, we said, ‘This is game day and you have to produce. You have to go in there and the adrenaline has to be flowing and you have to produce.' It was an exciting morning. I didn't sleep a lot last night, or any night before, for that matter. But it was really neat because it was kind of the culmination and this is your test. It's your exam. All the work that you put in right now; how'd you do on your exam? So there was adrenaline flowing. Again, it was fun, it was exciting. We had a ball. I'm going to say that again. We had a ball on the road recruiting. We had a ball with the high school coaches, we had a ball with each other, and we made it fun. If you can't do this and have fun, then why are you doing it? We had fun doing it. Again, it's been a whirlwind, but it's been a fun experience for us."
(On recruiting outside the SEC, specifically in Big 12/Texas territory)
"I think the first thing that's evident is how important the state of Alabama is to us. I think that's first. And then as you sit there and you look past the state of Alabama when you're getting done recruiting so many great players in this state, you have to figure out where else you are going. Are you going to Georgia or to Florida or to Mississippi? And for us, it was a little bit different this year because a lot of it had to do with pre-existing relationships, and mainly because of the timing of the whole thing. We've got some coaches who have recruited in the state of Texas who have done a phenomenal job with relationships. When that happens, because everything is about relationships, and when there is a great player right now that you have a chance to get, that maybe otherwise it would've really been a struggle, you're able to get your foot in the door. And again, when you can get your foot in the door and you can get a young man here on campus to Auburn, we feel like we have a shot. We think it's a legit shot. So that happened with preexisting relationships with some of our coaches, and we got them in here and, again, Auburn and the relationships with our coaches, I think, and particularly Auburn as well, and let's not get lost – Auburn sells itself to a large degree, we had a shot and then we were able to close the door there on it in the end."
(On the possibility of multiple recruits still considering Auburn… "I can't comment on that, but we're going to do our diligence with everybody. That's an opportunity that we think is right for Auburn, and we'll go fight for it."
(On a buzz among offensive recruits about playing for Coach Malzahn and the other offensive coaches)
"I think without question right now, one of the main selling points we had was the productivity and the effectiveness of the offense over the past couple of years. I think that was a no brainer. But again, when you sit there and talk about Coach Malzahn, and Trooper (Taylor) and Curtis (Luper) and Jay (Boulware) and those guys, and you talk about them recruiting skill positions, they're as good as it gets when it comes to recruiting those guys. And again, it boils down to personalities and relationships, and guys that want to play for role models. They see it, and the parents see it. So they did a tremendous job of getting guys here that fit the bill of what we're looking for, and again, it starts a lot with what type of offense they want to play in, and the next thing is who they want to play for. Again, I think that our guys have done a phenomenal job with just being who they are and getting these guys."
Auburn signee Clint Moseley was named Mr. Football for the state of Alabama this past season. <> On taking a different direction in recruiting Clint Moseley… "First of all, we're always looking for winners. It's hard to win state championships; it's hard to win one. And you're looking at a guy who's won three. He won a couple of them in baseball. He's a great athlete. He brings a lot of winning to the table. And again, you start talking about the mark of the man and the right personality and all of the right things that you want for Auburn right now, and he's exactly what we envisioned. He's a quarterback that has won. He's got all the things that we're looking for to be able to handle this offense. So we're really going to go after those guys. We're just thrilled to death. We think that was a great signee. We're looking forward to watching him come in here and compete."
(On Moseley and Tyrik Rollison being two different kinds of quarterbacks)
"We're looking for upgrades in athleticism and speed and things of that nature. Some guys, when you compare them, in this case quarterbacks, position-wise, you know one guy may be a little better at certain things and the other guy may be better at certain other things. But when you throw all the ingredients in of what you want to compete at that position, they both came out two great quarterbacks that we think have an opportunity to come in here and learn this offense and compete for a job. And that being said, again, Tyrik is probably better at a couple of things, Clint's probably better at a couple of things, but at the end of the day, they were the right fit."
(On the importance of signing Eltoro Freeman and having him at linebacker)
"It's really huge. You talk about an excitable guy; he's exciting to have around. He's what you're looking for at that position. He's physical, he runs well. He's excited about being at Auburn and I think it's huge that you get him here in mid-year, and that gives him a chance to get him to defense, and Coach Roof is going to do a great job working with him and getting him prepared to fit in this defense somewhere and challenge for a job. Obviously, when they come in in January, their chances of playing certainly go up some, compared to if he didn't come until May or June."
(Did anything surprise you today, either way?)
"I don't think so. I really don't. Nothing surprises me with this day. We got the ones we had hoped to get, and the ones that we didn't get, best of luck to them. Again, we're going to focus on the ones we did get because we're really proud of those guys."
(On anyone in this class having a chance to play right off, based on talent and team needs)
= "I really hesitate to answer that question, too. I hope they all do. I really do. There's not one guy we recruited and said ‘Hey we want you to come in and redshirt.' Our deal is we want you to come in and play, and if you're not ready, we'll redshirt you. I think that really opens the book for everybody. There are very few competitors in high school that come out and say, ‘Hey I want to come out and go there and redshirt my first year.' That's not really realistic with the way they think, and they shouldn't think that way. We really just say, ‘Hey look, we want you to come here, and if you're the best guy, you're going to play.' Playing a true freshman, or playing a junior college guy; that won't be the first time that has ever happened. We want to open the book for them and give them some hope and give them the opportunity to know that they have a chance to come in here and win a job. And if they do that, that's great, and if they don't and they need to be redshirted, then that's fine, too. But it would be really hard for me to say that right now, and say that with any level of certainty, that's for sure."
(On anyone who may not have been as highly recruited who might surprise people)
"No there's not. To be honest with you, I really don't pay attention to that. I really don't. Again, he either fits Auburn or he doesn't, and it's like the guys on our team. You're either on our team or you're off our team. And I feel that same way with the recruiting class."
(On recruiting speed with signees like Dee Ford) "Yeah we did. I think, again, in the name of speed, we'll always be looking to upgrade there. We think that at specific positions, we feel like we did that, with no more than three years, but we feel good about where we went in that direction at linebacker. Yeah, with Dee, at linebacker, and in the secondary."
(On signing Emory Blake and DeAngelo Benton)
"Again, when you're talking about two very highly-recruited guys, you really don't know until the fax comes through and you know it's done and it's locked. Again, I think we all know and we've all been doing this long enough to know how that works on Signing Day. I'm never going to say that we were 100 percent confident that either one of them would come through, but we always knew we were in the mix and that Auburn was something that they were highly considering. But again, until you get it, you don't know."
(On the importance of the junior college transfers still having three years of eligibility.)
"I think it's huge. To me, it's huge. If you can get a junior college guy that has three years, then the first year, they get used to playing in the league and their eyes are big. The second year, they really feel like they've weathered the storm and they really feel like they get college football. And then if you're fortunate enough to get a junior college young man who is, at that point in time, 22 years old, or 21, or sometimes even 23, I think their third year, they really feel like they've got it. And that's where you see great, great jumps in improvement. And it doesn't meant that they're not going to do that their first or second year, but just in my experience, with three-year junior college guys, their third year is a huge, huge difference between the second and the first."
(Do you see Nick Fairley more as a defensive lineman or offensive lineman?) "Defensive, definitely. He's a great defensive player."
On assessing DeAngelo Benton from a skill standpoint, because he didn't play last year… "Coming out of high school, he was one of the top receivers in the country, and he was a great player. Again, when you talk about your staff going out and really just trying to find guys wherever they're at, there are always different circumstances with all these guys out here. That's one of the things that I keep bragging about – our guys going out and finding these guys. He was one that we found. He looks like he could step in and play today, physically. He hasn't taken a step back. He's a couple of years older, and probably a couple of years wiser. But I think physically and mentally, he's ready to play football again. All you have to do is put on his senior year highlights and say ‘yes.'"
(On filling out the staff, position-wise)
"Again, we're going to address that shortly. There haven't been
any concrete decisions made yet, but we certainly have a direction that