"I feel that our staff did a good job in evaluating prospects this year, like always. We did a good job recruiting the players and our players here on campus did their job when the prospects came in for visits."
"Overall, I am pleased with the class. Everyone in the country always feels that way on signing day. We felt good about last year's class at this time and we still feel good about the first year players a year later."
"At this stage, I see a lot of parallels between the two classes. I am not sure where this class will be ranked, as I don't put stock in recruiting rankings. I see them as being like preseason rankings; they spark interest, but they are not important. We have always believed that the end of process is what is important. I came out of Chicago last year feeling bad about our chances (talking about the Chicago Kickoff Luncheon in July, and Iowa picked to finish low in the standings). It sounded like we were up for a tough season, but the year turned out good."
"With recruiting, it's more important what they do in their last three years on campus turn out as opposed to first three months here. The bottom line is that this group possesses the mentality, character and attitude they need to compete at a championship level in the Big Ten.
Q: Was Kyle Williams the headliner of this class?
"I suppose. He received a lot of notoriety and committed to us at a fairly early pace. We have been impressed with Kyle for over a year. We got to know him through the recruitment of AJ Johnson and we were impressed with him. He is an outstanding linebacker and this last year, he did a great job at running back. I was teasing AJ that he might take his spot."
"Our plans are strictly to play him on defense. He is a big, strong athlete and is having a great wrestling season right now."
Q: You signed just one wide receiver. Is there any news on Clinton Solomon?
"I cannot comment about any prospects that have not signed. There are still some prospects out there that we are looking at right now and still evaluating. We will keep the door open, but that is a position we will be looking at a little bit."
Q: How many more would you like to bring in?
"One, two…not too many. I think we are happy with where we are at, but I think there is a prospect or two that we are still looking at."
Q: Are their players on campus right now that will be awarded scholarships?
"There are every year. Like I said earlier, we expected to be somewhere in that 23-24 range to sign. Our feeling was that we felt good about our board the way that we set it up; we liked the guys that we had and did a good job of evaluating them. We didn't want to start scrambling around."
"Our attitude was that we would shoot for 23 or 24, somewhere in that ballpark, if we came up short, we have a lot of guys on campus right now that we think are very worthy for consideration and by August they will be on scholarship. So that was one of the things that we looked at."
"Also, next year as it stands now, had we filled up this year, we probably would have been in the 13-14 range for recruiting next year, so that gave us a little reason to be very cautious in how we offered scholarships this year."
Q: Are you concerned that you landed just one receiver?
"Not at all, because I think we have a lot of good young guys on campus right now. The way I looked at it, we took a shot at some guys that we felt were very good players. If we got one, two or three of those guys, that would have been wonderful. But if it did not happen, that is OK too. Right now, the guys that we have, the potential they have in going into camp next year, I think we are going to be fine. I am OK there."
Q: What about at quarterback?
"Kind of the same thing. We finally have a group of young guys on campus that we feel good about going into this spring. We have gone three straight years with a senior. Boy, there is nothing wrong with that, but we were also looking forward to getting to the point to where we had some young guys getting the potential and growth possibilities. That is where we are at now. We looked at a couple of guys and took a run at a couple of guys that didn't work out. We knew a few weeks ago that we were out of that market."
Q: You missed out on some top rated offensive linemen like Jeff Byers and Kyle Mitchum but talk about the three that you did sign.
"We are real pleased with the guys that we got. I am not sure that I can comment on the guys that we did not get. We had some excellent guys on the list. One of the guys that you mentioned is as good a football player as I have seen in five years, so that would have been a great get for us (JM: Byers, I am guessing). I am really happy with the guys we have. I think they are going to fit in well with the way we do things. I think I feel pretty good where we stand on the offensive line, too. Not only next year, but for the long term."
Q: Can you talk about Mitch King?
"Mitch is a guy that we identified very early; we had a lot of feel for him after his junior year and he was in camp last year. Like a lot of the guys on our list, I think they have a real love and passion for the game. Mitch fits that bill. He really has enthusiasm for this sport, likes the contact and work, has great pride. I hate to single out the guys in Iowa, but I think that is where it starts and that is what we have in that group. They all fit that bill and remind me a lot of some guys we have had here in the past."
Q: What is the perception of Iowa now
"It is improving, but we are still Iowa. Randy does a great job of doing presentations for our recruits every time they are on campus. One of his lines is ‘Why Iowa?' That is something recruits have to answer a lot when they are in their communities. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of subjectivity and perception with recruiting. It gets frustrating at times. If you look at it right now, we are one of six teams that have finished in the top eight two-years in a row. If you look at the other five teams, we are keeping some elite company. But I think right now our odds of beating some of those teams are better on the field than they are in recruiting."
"That is just the reality of the situation. On one hand it is frustrating, but on the other hand, we are in a better position than we were five years ago. The other part of it is…if you look at guys that have come through…I don't know if anyone has had….we have had four major award winners in the last two years. Robert Gallery…four guys that have had awards of that magnitude in a two-year span is phenomenal. None of those were guys that were ‘big recruits'. I think that kind of keeps us grounded. I will throw Bob Sanders in there. He was worthy of those honors to me, but he had injury problems this year."
"You look back, three walkons go to the NFL last year. To answer your question, I think that it is improving, but it is not where we want it to be. We have to be careful, too. No matter how high we may climb that way, we still have to do a good job of evaluating. That has been our strongest point thus far."
Q: Is there a risk to chase too many ‘blue chips'?
"I think if you are not careful, there can be. The receiver situation is a good case in point. I think we were dealing from a position of strength. It would have been great to land one of the three guys that we targeted. It didn't work out. But that being said, I am confident that we are going to be OK there. We will come back next year and address that. It was like the quarterback situation. We took a shot at a couple of guys that we were excited about, that didn't pan out, but I think we are in good enough shape at home on the short term basis to be OK. Down the road, we have to be careful about that."
Q: Is Iowa gaining notoriety at developing OL's?
"I think that is fair to say. We are making strides there. The facts are the facts; we had four guys at the end of the season on NFL rosters this year. Gallery probably has a fair chance of making one next year. I think the other two seniors might be in a camp somewhere in August, there is a good chance of that, and then it's in their hands. So I think we are coming along a bit. It's running parallel with our program a little bit. It takes a while, because you are fighting perception out there. The facts don't always enter into the discussion in recruiting. That is just one of the things that happens. We just have to keep sawing away here, but I think we are moving in the right direction."
Q: Does Walner Belleus have a chance to make an impact this fall?
"Yeah. We are not real big into junior college recruiting, but we were not looking for a guy to come in and be a developmental player, that was not our goal there. If a guy is going to come in, we want him to have a chance to contribute and compete. We think Walner has that. He has the maturity and the ability, but we are also impressed with the kind of young man he is. When he came in and visited, it was a little bit like when Brad came in. He told us when he was here on campus that weekend, so it looks like a natural fit. The fact that he could be here starting classes, he started a couple of weeks ago, that gives him a chance to get in the mix and learn the defense this spring, so we saw that being attractive."
Q: Is it a worry that you landed just one player from Florida?
"One freshman and Walner is a native, also. That does not bother me. It's kind of interesting, in that we had a few juniors call in today and a lot of them were from Florida. There is that trickle down effect. The fact that we beat one of the instate schools in a bowl game, we didn't get the push out of that that maybe you would have thought. But I almost suspect that it will be bigger next year. That is kind of what happens…last season it was important to win during the season, but I don't think during the recruiting portion it was all that big. But now for next year, I think it (winning in 2003) will help us a lot with the credibility factor."
Q: Looking back at this year, will you do any tweaking to recruiting, regionally, etc?
"We will continue to look at that like we do that every year. I am going to meet with a couple of people on that tomorrow. I have already surveyed the staff for information and then we will have a large meeting on it next Friday. We do that every year. One of our hopes is to continue to be stronger in the Midwest, as that makes sense. We are starting to get better press for obvious reasons. When you win you get better coverage, when you lose you don't; that is the way it goes. I think that has helped us and I am hoping that we can become stronger in the Midwest, that is something that I would like to see us do."
Q: Did your changes for your bowl preparation affect recruiting at all?
"I don't think so. I think it's more important to win the bow. The single best thing that you can do to help your recruiting is to win games. But it takes time to move up. That being said, I am pleased, for the most part, with how this class fell into place. We missed out on a couple of guys, that is going to happen every year and it happens to everybody."
Q: Does it bother you more to miss out on a player from 20 miles away rather than 2,000 miles away? (referring to Adrian Arrington)
"Not necessarily. Everybody has to do what they think is best. That is one of the first things that I will tell recruits. When it's all said and done, football is the ultimate team game. But when its all said and done, this is one time where the kids have to be selfish. Bottom line, they have to go where their heart is and where they feel the most comfortable. Their job is to research things during the recruiting process, and it's our job to hopefully give that information out. They have to do what is best for them. I don't think that anybody owes us anything and we just appreciate if a recruit will give us time and an objective window to present what we have to present, then after that it is in their hands."
Q: Did that happen in that case?
"I guess, because we didn't get the recruit. Sometimes in recruiting, you move people a little bit, but I would venture to say, 80-85% of the recruits knew where they were going in December. You might move him a little bit, but for the most part, they know where they want to go. It usually ends up working out for the best in most instances. Things all work out."
Q: Are any of the recruits going to come to Iowa City this summer?
"We have had a lot of inquiries about that, some of the guys have asked questions about that of the guys out East. They go to school a lot longer; they go til late June. But there are a lot of them that anxious to get in here and get going, which is fine with us. But we try to let them do what they want to do. I think the most important thing for all of them is to enjoy their senior year; they only get one crack at that."
Q: Are there any other players in this class besides Belleus that might play next year?
"I think there is always that window and possibility. It's hard to single guys out, but that is there. The defensive backfield is a possibility, but we are counting on Walner to give us some help there. It is usually easier on defense. We have some good players that have graduated and some good seniors, so we have to keep the farm club going and move things along."
"We are not counting on anyone. We are at that point now where we are not counting on one guy to come in here and save our football team or save the season. That being said, some of them will have a great opportunity. You can look at our depth chart and see where there are some holes. It is going to depend on how they make the transition in football, which is usually the easiest, but also academically and socially."
Q: Back to recruiting rankings, you don't place much importance on them.
"It is like pre-season magazines. I think they are great, though I don't take the time to read them. But people are talking about them, talking about football. The next subject will be the NFL draft. I think it's good that people are talking football all year round. But the bottom line is, and we saw this on Sunday night, the great thing about football is it's more about the sum of the parts; how people come together and fit together. You have to have talent; there is no question about that. But teamwork is more critical than the individual part of it. That is how we have done things. We have had some guys come in and work hard and win some pretty big honors. That is what we are about. Our staff does a great job of developing players. Not only in football, but the total package. You have to have the right guys, and I think we have them."
Q: Is it good to land kids that have a chip on their shoulder?
"That kind of helps, sure. We are all kind of mutts for the most part. We have a few thoroughbreds, but not too many."
Q: Talk about Brandon Myers and getting him late in the process
"Recruiting is subjective as heck. We had our eye on Brandon all the way through. We were very impressed with what he had seen on tape. The key point was that Reese saw him play basketball recently. The report that he gave to me was that he was impressed with his athleticism, but also his competitiveness on the court. Sometimes, that is how you evaluate players."
"I will never forget a guy we looked at, Scott Davis, back in the late 1980's. We had Scott in camp as a 220-pound lineman and he was an excellent field event guy in track. I will never forget looking at his tape. I was disappointed, but you kind of go back to the other intangibles. I am not suggesting that Brandon is not a good football player, as we think he is. But the thing that pushed him over the top was Reese seeing him play basketball. He told me about that, Eric has had strong feelings for him as a tight end all the way through. We are just excited and we feel he has a great future here."
Q: Do you have an evaluation check list that you use?
"Yes and no. There are certain requisites you try to meet in terms of size and speed. It is tough sometimes. A lot of intangibles go into evaluation. You try to get a feel. Some guys are obvious as they just jump out at you, but other guys are more of a sense or feel. Sometimes when we meet them, that has a lot to do with how we mesh or don't mesh, and then watching kids play other sports is helpful. All that being said, this is a very imperfect science.
"A good friend of mine, Phil Savage of the Ravens, was here a year ago at the Michigan State game and he said ‘I don't know how you do it.' They spend so much money and time in the NFL and have all of those tests, he said that he does not understand how we offer scholarships based on the limited window of time. There is a lot of truth to that, but you just try to do your best and find what fits you. I think we are doing a pretty good job of that. "
Q: The players that you are bringing in now, they were not here when the program is down. Is it easier to sell them and is it harder for them to understand how far the program has come?
"I like it a lot better this way. Five years ago, we were selling hope. We were saying, ‘Hey, come to Iowa, you have a chance to play earlier.' That was realistic. But we were selling hope. Having been here in the 80's, I could talk with conviction that we had a chance to get the program where it had been and belonged. The nice thing now is that we can sell the fact that we have done it, we can't guarantee that we are going to do it again, but we have at least had some success and were confident that we would. We plan on continuing that."
"The culture has changed. It's a little bit like our football team. We were improving in 2001, 20002…getting over the hump is one thing, but now how do we deal with the success."
"Perseverance was one thing we had a lot of practice at that. Dealing with success is the next lesson that you have to learn. Sometimes that is a little bit tougher. The parallel I am trying to draw is that it's real important for the young players coming into our program now understand the sacrifice that has been made, the commitment that the players before them have had. Every senior class to come through here has been totally committed."
"We try to make sure that our young guys as to how things have been accomplished here. It is all about the effort that the players put into it. I think those guys sense that when they come on campus. They sense how things have turned here and now its their obligation to pick up the rope and keep pulling."
"We take them right through what the five years have been. I think right now, everyone lives in today. We try to take them through the whole process. We are very proud of what we have done, and we want the recruits to understand that and let them see that good things can happen if they come here. They can be part of something pretty good."
Q: Can you talk about the job that Eric Johnson, your recruiting coordinator, did this year?
"It is a very tough job. I kind of count on him to see every guy. I do a decent job of that most of the season, but then come December, they fall apart for me. You have a few things on your agenda. He is one guy, and then we rely on the guys in the office. Three guys have to stay home if I am on the road. We will frequently call them to compare this guy and that guy and have them look at the tapes and make a committee decision if we have to make a quick move on something. Eric does a great job of coordinating that stuff and making sure that people are doing things the right way. It's a tough job."
Q: Is it tough to finish #2 with a recruit?
"Carl Jackson told me back in 1982 or 1983. We lost a young man named Carter Hill. He chose Texas and he was from Naperville. His dad had played at Texas. He was my guy. I had been focused on him for four or five months. That was back when kids did not commit early. You guys can't remember those days, right? Back when nobody did anything until January. We walked out and Carl said ‘better to find out now than in February.' I learned a great lesson there."
"But coming in #2, you may as well come in #22 because it does not really matter. But you have to take the chance. You are not going to have something happen if you don't take the chance."
Q: Talk about Matt Kroul. Is he a fullback or a linebacker?
"We are not quite sure. There are a couple of guys on our list that are like that. But we just know that we like Matt Kroul. He is a football player. Matt is a tough kid, playing fullback and linebacker. We really fell in love with Matt two years ago when he was at our camp. He is doing a great job in wrestling right now. I think he carries about a 3.99 grade point average. He gets that from his mother, by the way. We are really glad to have him in our program. He is a tough guy."
Q: Do you discuss position changes in recruiting process?
"What do you think? (Laugh). No, I am just teasing. Basically, we let guy's come in and play where they want to play. We discuss things with certain guys. Andy Brodell is a good example. He played running back primarily at Ankeny. He was in our camp working at receiver, but I am not sure that he is not a free safety, either, so we are not quite sure where his best position will be. We have agreed that he will start at receiver, but it's like anything else. The important thing is a guy being here and working hard. All of that stuff works itself out."
Q: How did you find Rashad Dunn of Georgia?
"That is what I said. He is about 30 minutes from Richie Williams and not that far from Eric McCollom. He is just across the border. I had to look at the map. I was not sure where in the heck I was, Ron was driving."
"It was a shot in the dark. They sent the tape out after the bowl game and we fell in love with it. The next question is ‘what is wrong here'. The tape looked too good to be true. They may have advertised their shot a little taller or a little heavier; I think we have him listed at 260, but I doubt he is that. But he will be; there is no question about that. "
"I was really impressed with his explosion and athleticism. He looks like he plays with a passion out there. He looked like our kind of guy, and then when he came on campus, we really were impressed with him. Ron when down there and saw him before that. He had a great feeling. We feel good about that one."
"I figured he would show up here at 6-foot instead of what they were advertising. He was not quite as tall as they said, but he is plenty tall enough to play here."
"Lucas Cox was the same kind of guy. We looked at his tape. We got it late and liked it, and I am thinking that this guy is being under-recruited. So we had Ron, Norm and Reese look at it, about five or six guys, and we all saw the same things. So you go with what you see and believe. Ron went in and spoke with him and saw him play basketball and that is it, case closed. We love the guy as a kid."
Q: Are you more confident taking kids like that given your track record?
"We were never worried about that. We didn't have much choice five or six years ago. No matter what happens, we are not going to change the way we go about things. You have to go with your gut and go with what you see. Knowing that it's a given that you will not always be right. We certainly have good feelings about these guys."
Q: This is your second straight strong showing in New Jersey
"That was one of our goals from the start. Darrell's background out there has helped us, but I would have hired Darrell if he was from Montana or wherever. I wanted him to be on our staff and we were very fortunate that we were able to get him. He has done a great job recruiting out there. He has great ties."
"Recruiting is kind of funny. Bernie used to go out there and when recruits come from an area and do well, success breeds success. Darrell has done a great job there just like he has on out team. He has been a great addition to our staff."
General comment on recruiting
"All but one of the guys on our list was a captain this year. I did not know that. I just surveyed the information today. It was not by design. I am not surprised. I am not wild about being away from home, as I would prefer to sleep in my bed every night. But one of the enjoyable things is making home visits and getting to see not only the prospects, but see how they interact with their families. It's one thing to meet a guy on campus, but when you meet him in his home environment, you feel even better about the guys."