Kelly Excited About Recruiting Class

The Central Michigan University football program recently signed a class of 25 recruits. Technically, it was Chippewa head coach Brian Kelly's first class since arriving at CMU last January. He talked about the 2005 class and many other aspects of recruiting with Chippewas Insider.

Chippewas Insider sat down with Central Michigan head coach Brian Kelly this week to talk about recruiting and the upcoming Indiana game. The following is a transcript of that interview.

1) Chippewas Insider - "Although Division I-A football allows for 85 scholarship players, establishing a walk-on program can provide additional help. Please elaborate on the walk-on program you have established here at CMU."

Brian Kelly - "Well, they (walk-ons) know they're going to have a fair chance. They know they're going to be treated the right way, that we will develop our players to the level necessary for them to compete for a scholarship. In some programs, walk-ons are afterthoughts. They're guys just to hold the bag. They're guys who are just going to fill out the roster. Here, we needed them in that first (2004) class to really help us in building this program. When we looked at recruiting, because we got in here late, we actually spent, in some instances, more time on the walk-ons because we had more time. There was no signing date we had to worry about, these kids were still out there. So we actually had more time to recruit walk-ons, in a sense, than we did scholarship players. The scholarship situation in 2004 was just hang on to what have. Walk-ons, we spent time recruiting those guys and (freshman defensive tackle) Ronnie Ekdahl (of Midland Bullock Creek High School) would be the one guy who's shown that he has a chance to be in our three-deep. In terms of three, I mean third defensive tackle on the field and that's incredible for a walk-on."

2) Chippewas Insider - "Talk about your scholarship players in the class of 2004. Who has a chance coming into spring ball to really make a name for himself?"

Kelly - "I think on the defensive side of the ball, two kids that we redshirted out of Washington County (Ga.) High School who I think are going to be really good players are Antrione Archer and Chris Boss. Both of these defensive linemen have the ability and have shown us that they are going to compete and be on the field for us next year. Those two guys are going to contribute defensively for us. On the offensive side of the ball, I think one of the guys who we were fortunate to be able to redshirt was (offensive lineman) Andrew Hartline. This young man is arguably one of our better linemen. He just brings so much to the table in terms of athleticism. He's the profile that we're looking for. If you wanted to profile an offensive lineman in my system that's the profile - leaner body type, 275 pounds, loves to play, very bright, moves his feet well. I think he's the prize of that freshman (2004) class relative to playing this year. He's going to be a starter for us."

3) Chippewas Insider - "You just signed the class of 2005, which is receiving rave reviews. Talk about this 25-man class."

Kelly - "I think it starts with balance. We signed 12 on offense, 12 on defense and one specialist, so first of all, great balance. Secondly, the back end of our defense. The safety and corner position needed to be addressed for a number of reasons. One, we were graduating some players there, but two, we needed to upgrade our safety play. We've currently moved Isaac Brown down to linebacker. As you know, he was a starter for us last year. Mike Thomas was our other starter and he's graduated. So, it is a wide open situation and that's why we were able to attract the likes of a Josh Gordy, the likes of an Aaron Carr, in particular, two kids who had opportunities maybe to play at a Big East or Conference USA school. These kids are going to come in and have an opportunity to start as true freshman for us."

4) ChippewasInsider - "How about on the offensive side of the ball, who stands out in this class?"

Kelly - "I think where we really needed some immediate help was at the tight end position. We graduated Tory Humphrey who played a great deal for us and Dave Kurzen, who really finished strong for us. We brought in two that fit the system who really stood out. Frank Zombo, who was the Macomb (Area Conference Red Division) Player of the Year and Allen Ollenburger, two Michigan kids who will come in and have a chance to compete right away. Whether they play or not, you know, we feel real good about some of the moves we made with Jacob Brown moving to tight end, having Troy Peyerk back and Dave Condeni, but I think we really solidified our future at the tight end position for the next four or five years with those two kids."

5) Chippewas Indsider - "The one specialist you signed in this class is placekicker Rick Albreski and you also added three quarterbacks. Talk about these two key areas."

Kelly - "Well, as you know, Rick was a necessity within this class. He is one of the more talented kickers if not the most talented kicker that I've recruited. I've been very fortunate to have great kickers in my time as a head coach and I recognize the importance of that kid. Rick Albreski really brings us an incredible upgrade. Those are two fine kids (Mike Gruzwalski and Ronald Budd) that we had in our program last year, but they just lack in some of the areas talent wise. "Gruz" (Gruzwalski) is a great kid who's going to compete and Ronnie Budd stepped in against Western Michigan and kicked one of the bigger kicks of the year obviously. But Rick just upgrades that position. He'll have an opportunity and we expect that he's going to win that position. So, he's a star in the class for us and we went out there recruiting a kicker for those particular reasons because we needed to upgrade personnel wise.

"At quarterback we signed three kids that arguably, anyone of those three kids could be our starter. I mean they are that good, all three of them. I don't think I've ever had a situation where you've got a kid like Duane Brooks who is the (Class) 5A Player of the Year in Irving (Texas). You've got a kid like Sean Price who was the (2003) Illinois Player of the Year as a junior. And then you've got a kid who is kind of flying under the radar in Dan LeFevour. He's a kid who was a running back for three years. He really wasn't a quarterback until the sixth game of his junior season so he didn't get a lot of exposure. And then he played in an offense that wasn't a high profile offense. I think we really got a steal there with Dan LeFevour. Now, the other thing is LeFevour can play another position. If down the road he's not a starting quarterback he'll be a nice tight end for us. If Duane Brooks is not starting quarterback for us he can be a great corner for us, so we've got some flexibility with taking three quarterbacks."

6) Chippewas Insider - "You also signed three running backs in this class, Clifford Gilliam, Anthony Boykins and Ontario Sneed. Tell us about these players."

Kelly - "Yes we signed three. Those two kids (Gilliam and Boykins) are the smaller version, the Jerry Seymour type. It seems like the prototypical back at Central now with Jerry Seymour is 5-6. So, the two kids from Texas are prototypical in that sense. What they do is they bring breakaway speed. If you do not fit the play the right way defensively, they'll go the whole distance. It won't even be a question mark in this league, those guys are gone and you won't catch 'em. We also wanted a bigger back. We wanted somebody who could pound the ball between the tackles and that's where Ontario Sneed comes in. He's 6-foot, 200 pounds. He's going to be the Terrance Jackson, a big back, a physical guy. We were looking for a bigger back, a more physical guy that we could put in there in certain situations and really grind the football. So, we took three tailbacks, which is kind of unusual, but with the loss of Spencer (Lewis) next year, obviously he's going to be a senior, and Jerry will be in his senior year, we really felt like three was where we needed to go."

7) Chippewas Insider - "When you talk about closing out this 2005 class, was there any concern in the final week before signing day of some BCS programs, such as Purdue, coming in late and offering a player like Rick Albreski?"

Kelly - "Well they (Purdue) did, but they didn't come in until it was so late that Rick had made up his mind. He had already made plans roommate wise with Sean Price. A lot of things had already fallen into place for us. I'd like to say that we fought off Purdue and we did, but because it was so late, so many things had already gone into play that there was a comfort level there with Rick. I think if it had happened earlier we would've had a hard time holding on to him quite frankly. If it had happened in December or early January, it would have been a dogfight to keep him away from Purdue, but because it happened so late we were able to hold him. We did lose one to Houston in Chris Mitchell. You know that's right in his back yard. When Houston came in with a scholarship it was hard for him to turn down a place where he grew up. I think the one that we're most excited about holding on to is Daimyeon Hoskin. That was a virtual day-to-day situation where everybody was in on this kid. I know you hear coaches talk about all the time, hey, we stole him from so-and-so, but we literally had to hang on for dear life there because he was offered many other scholarships. I'll tell you this, (CMU assistant) coach (James) Lott did a tremendous job, our players did a tremendous job on the recruiting weekend because he fell in love with Central Michigan. So, holding on to Daimyeon Hoskin really changed the dimension of this class and we were able to pull that off."

8) Chippewas Insider - "It seems like recruiting never ends. This weekend is Junior Day when you will have more than 100 recruits on campus from the class of 2006. Talk about the importance of Junior Day."

Kelly - "Here's the process. As you know, we signed seven this year from the state of Michigan. All seven of them were wrapped up before Christmas and part of that is because of the seven, four of them were at our junior day in February. So this marks the progression for us in really solidifying our face in the state of Michigan. These aren't kids from Texas, they're not kids from Florida, they're not coming in from Georgia. They're coming in from Michigan, maybe a little bit from Illinois. So this is our opportunity to begin to sow the seeds with this 2006 class and the junior day really gives us that great advantage. Now, we always work it around a home basketball game. We give them an opportunity to get immersed in Central Michigan and as I said, last year, four out of the seven players were up here that actually signed with us. That's incredible. So, this is a big day for us."

9) Chippewas Insider - "You now have two recruitng classes under your belt at CMU and are already beginning to work toward 2006. Is your recruiting philosophy being implemented as you had planned?"

Kelly - "Oh yes. When you look at your board, and our board being the names of the players and the program, we look at first, do these players fit Brian Kelly's profile? So, when I got here, those players had already been recruited, they didn't necessarily fit my profile. Some did. Some didn't. This class fit the profile because I gave our coaches, the assistants, the charge to go out there and meet this profile. And that profile is really in depth. But as you can see, it's great athletes who love to compete, that we will develop. They're not 300-pounders right now. They're 265 pounds. Adam Antonides. He's going to be a 290 or 300-pounder. Daimyeon Hoskin is 205 pounds but he'll be 255 pounds coming off the edge. So, the profile is that leaner kid that we're going to develop who is extremely athletic and loves to compete. That's what you'll continue to see reflected in our recruiting classes. And it will be based on freshman. It won't be based on junior college players or transfers. We are not anywhere near where we can start taking junior college players. When we are MAC Champs and playing for bowl games, then maybe you can bring in a transfer or two to kind of top the tank off. But as you're developing a program you've got to bring in the freshman and that's what you'll continue to see year after year."

10) Chippewas Insider - "One final question. For the first time in history, a Big Ten school, Indiana, will be playing at Kelly/Shorts Stadium this fall in the home opener. Talk about the preparation for that game."

Kelly - "Obviously we're going to be a lot better prepared than we were last year at this time. We were in a situation where we had to put the best face on what we had in front of us. We had to be extremely positive. I'd rather be positive and fall short than be negative and not get our kids to enjoy their experience. Our seniors enjoyed their senior year, it was a great experience for them to be part of this transition. I think now where we are is that we can be brutally honest with our kids. We can be really frank with our kids and say look, here's where we are. We are better prepared to compete with Indiana this year than we were last year. Does that mean we're going to win the game? I don't know, but I'll tell you what, we'll be better prepared to compete with Indiana and they have to come to us. We don't have to get on a bus. We don't have to drive there. They've got to come here and play in Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Obviously, it's a great opportunity for us and we're bringing in a team that we're going to know something about because we know what (IU head coach) Terry Hoeppner's going to do. He's going to run the same system he ran at Miami of Ohio. So, all those things will play into it being an exciting opportunity for us against Indiana, one that we feel really confident going in against them."

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