McCarney: It was a priority for us. I've got two scholarship running backs on campus and only one of them has shown me that we can win with him on gameday. That's a real priority, especially in the Big 12 and with injuries that occur. You have to have depth and playmakers.
We didn't start from the beginning and say ‘let's go sign five,' but that was one of them we were going to sign a number of running backs. Our batting average was unbelievable at running back, with the kids that we went after and got. Those were guys that we targeted from the beginning. How often do you ever see that happen? We usually list 25 or 30, then prioritize and list them. The first day of recruiting or the last day of recruiting, I would have taken any of those five. We ended up signing them all.
CN: Looking at those kids on tape, it looks as if all five give you something a little different and complement each other well.
McCarney: Definitely, I think so. The only one we talked extensively about the possibility of playing defense was Brandon Gunn. That doesn't mean that somebody else won't end up there someday, like JaMaine Billups did. But he was the only one we talked about, and thought he could be a corner or safety. ‘If you get on the field quicker, would you mind doing that?' Brandon doesn't have a problem and already sees an example in JaMaine Billups. They're from the same high school and JaMaine played in two all-star games.
CN: Restocking the depth on defense became a big priority. How did you grade out on the defensive line?
McCarney: We signed one junior college player, Fabian Dodd, and three high school kids. We got two real athletic defensive ends. Travis Ferguson committed to me two years ago and Collins Eboh committed to me a month ago. He just exploded in his senior year. During his junior year you wouldn't even think about bringing him in, then he comes out and has a great senior year. He's a real good athlete.
James McGinty reminds me a lot of Brent Curvey and James Reed, only he's bigger right now. He was 304 pounds when he weighed in here last week. He even played outside linebacker and intercepted some passes. He runs to the ball well. He's a nose or three-technique all the way. I think we've got a real good athletic group coming into the defensive line.
CN: At linebacker, Tyrone McKenzie emerged as a must-get for this class but you lose him to Michigan State. However, Tim Dobbins looked real physical on tape and can contribute right away. How happy were you with linebacker recruiting?
McCarney: Tim weighed in at 247 pounds when he was on campus. We already knew a lot about Nick Frere. He led Muscatine to the best season they ever had. Both are hard-nosed and tough, but obviously Dobbins is a bigger guy right now. Both of those guys we're real happy with and there weren't any late decisions on either one of them.
We ended up signing seven defensive backs. You can look at the size, range and growth potential, and there's a good chance one or two of those guys could end up at WILL or SAM one day. It may not happen right away, but there's a chance for some of them to make a move.
We signed seven of those guys, not only because we lost a lot of senior defensive backs but because we saw some potential for some of them to play SAM or WILL. There is some real versatility with those guys we signed in the secondary.
CN: How disappointed were you with the losses of McKenzie and Trey Bennett, two prep inside linebackers that have promising futures?
McCarney: Things happen for different reasons. Because a guy visits our campus doesn't mean he was offered a scholarship. Sometimes kids talk like they've been offered and had only been on a visit. Every kid that came to our campus on a visit wasn't offered a scholarship. We visited 57 to sign our class of 28. Not every one of those kids were offered scholarships.
Kids pick schools for different reasons. Sometimes because they felt like that was a better fit. Sometimes because their opportunity at Iowa State was no longer there or was never there. Read between the lines on that. I would have loved to have had McKenzie. I think we discovered him before anyone else did. He was a running back that had a big year as a running back, but nobody recruited him at that position. It came down to us and Michigan State. In the end, probably the great year they had and bowl game might have made a difference. And traditionally Michigan State has a lot of Florida kids on their roster. But we made a heck of a run. Mike Grant's brother coaches down there and is an assistant. We made it real hard for him to say no to Iowa State, but in the end he did.