Q: What’s been your impression thus far of the five true freshmen you landed in your first full signing class?
“It’s a great group. That group has the potential to be special. They’re all a long way away from where they need to be obviously. They don’t come here ready to play. But the natural ability of those guys is really high. Their work ethic and passion for the game is high. We think that group’s got a chance to really be something.”
Q: How have they started bonding with each other?
“As a class, those guys get closer together. They’re hanging around with each other more than anyone else.”
Q: What role did you play in essentially recruiting Jerald Hawkins and Vadal Alexander to return for another year?
“Those were our two biggest signees of the last class. Nobody recognized that on Signing Day, but for those two guys to come back, that was the biggest thing that happened to us in recruiting this year.”
Q: How much has William Clapp improved from his first year on campus to now?
“He’s a quick learner. He was able to step in last year, and even though he didn’t play, we kept him on the ready list because we knew he’d be in position to help us this year. His knowledge of the game is much higher. His confidence is much higher too.”
Q: What makes you so confident that he can handle starting center duty as a redshirt freshman?
“He’s a guy that could play center or guard. He’s got really good short area quickness, which is very important for a center. He’s not only got the brain for it, but the communication skills. Some guys are intelligent but not able to process things quickly. He’s got that. He has all the things you’re looking for.”
Q: How about Ethan Pocic? He could realistically start at all five positions? What makes him the type of lineman that can handle that?
“He’s got an unusual combination of size, flexibility, quickness. He’s got the physical skill set. Some tackles that have that height and length don’t have the flexibility to bend and get low like you have to at guard or center. He has that, but he’s also got the feet and the length to play on the edge if we needed him to. More than anything, his intelligence, reliability, focus, passion, that’s what allows him to be really good.”
Q: Who are some of the guys in contention to be the sixth or seventh linemen in the rotation?
“It’s too early to say that. There’s a lot of competition going on with some of the young guys that have been here but haven’t necessarily played, even the true freshmen that just got here.”
Q: Does Maea Teuhema have the potential to play as a true freshman?
“I hate to single any one out, but I’d say Maea has done a great job. He is who we thought he was when we recruited him. I can see two or three of those freshmen being in the depth chart somehow, whether that’s in a backup role, challenging for a starting job or just barely being on the travel squad.”
Q: What did you do this summer to help keep Chidi Valentine-Okeke on track to not only make it to campus, but to show up ready to work?
“I just talked to him all the time. There was work he was doing to get himself in position to be here. It was just encouraging him, because it’s difficult to be in a signing class, and all the other guys are already here, and people you know that are other places have gone on and you’re still sitting back at home. And for him, he wasn’t even really at home. I was just encouraging him to hang on and stay positive to know it would all work out. It was a pleasure because he’s a joy to be around.”
Q: Just what do you think of his story? For a kid to come from Nigeria and only a couple years later, he’s here at LSU playing SEC football.
“It’s unbelievable. I have a great appreciation for that. I’ve never been to Nigeria, but we adopted a child from Ethiopia a few years ago. I spent 10 days over there. To imagine what it’s like for someone to come from Africa to the United States and leave your family and start fresh, then to hear all the other steps that have taken place along the journey. It’s incredible. His faith and strength have grown. He’s going to have unbelievable success and a really cool story to share with people down the road.”
Q: Did you have to recruit him any differently because of his background?
“Recruiting is all about relationships, so that part wasn’t any different because we were still building trust. What was different was his familiarity with college football in the US. But he had some key people around him that helped him find the place he wanted to go. He wanted to go one of the upper-tier schools in the SEC, so he was able to narrow his list to those types of schools, and we were fortunate enough to be on top.”
Q & A: Jeff Grimes
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