Signing Day Q&A with Mark Richt

Read on to see everything Miami coach Mark Richt is saying about his recruiting class.

Head Coach Mark Richt – 2017 National Signing Day Conference Transcript

February 1, 2017

 

Opening Statement…

“I’m very excited to announce our class today, our 2017 recruiting class. Before I do that, there’s a lot of people I want to thank, so if you could bear with me, I wrote down a few names and have a few groups of people that have made this thing work. It’s just amazing how many people that get involved in this recruiting process. I want to start with President Frenk and the leadership that he has given this university and the strength of our university, our academics – it’s a very easy sell when you bring student-athletes on our campus and just get to see the beauty of the campus, and also get to see the way our university is ranked among other universities across America in so many different areas, and overall. For just a great job of leadership of this university, I want to thank Dr. Frenk. Then Blake James, our athletic director, and the rest of his administrative staff - I can’t tell you how much cooperation I’ve had with him, and just to be able to pick up the phone or go by his office and talk to him about things we might need, or ways we can become better, and his willingness to do everything that he possibly can to help be great, I want to thank him.

“Our assistant coaches obviously – they’re the ones that get on the road and do the pounding the pavement, so to speak. Maybe even more so, their wives - our coaches’ wives - in just trying to hold down the fort while everybody is out there doing their job and taking care of business. I want to thank the coaches’ wives as well. Our graduate assistants, our quality control coaches – it’s kind of like all hands on deck in every area of our program, and recruiting is a part of that as well. Our recruiting and player personnel department, headed up by Matt Doherty - just a great job by them. Just their title lets you know that they’re in the heart of all of our recruiting. Football operations, Don Corzine and his group. David Case and our equipment staff. I know you saw pictures of the players that have come on our campus and put on the gear and got a chance to see all the other things we had. But when they put that uniform on, you can just about tell who’s coming. They don’t want to take it off. It’s an awesome job that they do. Gus Felder and our strength & conditioning staff, and also Kyle Bellamy, who heads up our nutrition – those guys do such a great job of obviously developing our players, but obviously in the recruiting process, letting young men know what’s going to happen once they get here. Vinny Scavo and our athletic training staff. So many questions that parents have about, ‘what’s going to happen to my son if he gets hurt? What about the physicals? What about if something happens with dental work?’ Whatever t might be, there’s just so many things Vinny and his staff take care of for our players, and they do such a great job of explaining that to our recruits and their parents. That’s awesome. You can add the Lennar Hospital and its staff. That new hospital is beautiful, it’s fantastic just to know your student-athlete or your son, when they get here, has that hospital right across the street from us, it gives people peace of mind and they’ve been very gracious to host some of our events. It’s been wonderful there. Dave Wyman, Demetrius Darden and our academic support staff. They do a great job explaining everything academically to our student-athletes, our recruits and their families. Shirelle Jackson and the student-athlete development office. “What’s my son going to do besides play football and academics? Is there anything else?” We have life skills, we have community service and all the things we do that really enhances the holistic approach to these student-athletes that we bring here at Miami.

“Our professors, the University of Miami faculty, the deans of schools – I can’t tell how many times professors have sat down with families and young men to just take an afternoon or breakfast time out of their life to sit there and talk to our student-athletes and prospective student-athletes…I can’t thank them enough. We have such an intimate group of professors and deans and all that. We’re not a huge university – we’re a small private institution. Because of that, our student-athletes and our prospective student-athletes understand how easy it is to get to know your professor, where in other places, there’s so many kids in class you can’t even see your professor half the time. We love that. Drew Rossetti and the video department, there’s so many things that he has done to help us prepare for our weekends. Leo Ramos and our graphic design. Our compliance staff - Craig Anderson and his group.

“And our current Miami players. How many times do young men come on campus and they see everything that we show them, but then they spend time with their player host and the player hosts are our current players. It takes a sacrifice. You may give up your Friday night or your Saturday night or sometimes we have player panels where kids will come in the afternoon, they might help us demonstrate strength and conditioning. Our current players are really bought in to helping us be great. I want to thank our current players for that. Our fans. You can’t create excitement without fans. Our fans are very rabid. They love this university, they love this team and they create a lot of excitement around recruiting. They create a lot of excitement at our ballgames, when recruits come to a ballgame and see our fans respond to players, it’s just paramount. Just a lot of people to thank, even our custodial staff who keeps the building clean when we bring our prospects on recruiting weekends. Almost every weekend is a recruiting weekend. There’s official visits and unofficial visits. Almost weekly, there’s somebody coming onto our campus to spend time.

“With that, I guess I’ll just open it up to questions. I know you all know the list of people, of our players. I’ll just say this. We have 24, I think it is, in the house right now, counting the guys that are already here at midyear. I think it’s 16 out of 24 are from the state of Florida. One of our junior college kids, Jhavonte Dean, didn’t play junior college ball in the state, but he’s a local kid. He’s an in-state guy and actually a south Florida guy. If you count him in the 16, two-thirds of our [class] is from the state. Because of our national brand, and because of popularity of our program, we can attract great plyers outside the state. I’ll say one more thing before I open it up: we really hit, across the board, all the position needs we have. There’s at least one guy at every single position across the board. We feel real comfortable that we hit the number. There’s a couple spots we may look into the possibility of graduate transfers or someone who might transfer before it’s over, so there are a couple spots available, which I think is a smart thing to do, the way recruiting goes nowadays. We do have a space or two left for that type of thing. Other than that, I thought we nailed it and we’re very excited about this class. With that, I’ll open it up.”

 

On adding speed at the wide receiver position in Mike Harley, Jr. and Jeff Thomas…

“As you mentioned - Harley and Jeff Thomas, we also have Evidence Njoku. He’s pretty fast too. As of right this second, Deejay Dallas, we believe, will start at the receiver position. There’s always a chance - he’s so versatile, he can really probably play three different positions for this team. We did need speed. We know Ahmmon [Richards] can really run on the edge, and we have some other guys in the program that run well. If you have a superfast guy on this side of the field and you don’t have much speed to balance it, then guess what? The defenses starts to tilt towards the speed and all of a sudden you get guys double-covered and all that. But if you have speed on each side, you have speed in the slot, you have speed at tailback, it’s hard to just sit there defensively and try to shut a guy down. We’re excited about that. But not only are they fast, they’re very skilled, they can make people miss. I think they’re very legitimate receivers. They’re not just fast guys that happen to play football. They’re football players who happened to be fast.”

 

On if there is added boost when players make their commitments on national television…

“These guys pick their own timetables as far as when they announce. We don’t. We don’t say, ‘Hey, do it signing day for extra good drama’ and all that kind of thing. When you have good news like that, on a day like today, when fans aren’t 100-percent sure – and I’ll be honest with you, we’re never 100-percent sure until the fax or I guess nowadays email or even a picture of the NLI come through - it’s good to have that positive momentum on signing day.”

 

On putting a fence around south Florida in his first full recruiting cycle…

“Everybody talks about putting a fence around south Florida, but if you put a fence around it, there might be 120 guys that are going major Division I - guess what? You can only take 15 or 20 a year, on average. You can’t get every great player in the tri-county area. It’s impossible. The goal is to get the ones you want or at least a high percentage of those. Some kids want to stay at home. Some kids want to leave. There’s a lot of different dynamics to the whole thing. But when you have that many great players in your backyard, you have to make sure you are creating those relationships with those kids as early as possible. People will say, ‘you had a whole year to recruit those guys.’ That’s true, but guess what? You start recruiting kids in the eighth grade, ninth grade, 10th grade, 11th grade…it’s not like we had a full year. You really need a recruiting cycle, nowadays, [which] is three or four years long. There’s a lot of seeds that have been planted with young kids. I probably went to close to 20 youth parks, maybe up to the eighth grade, maybe, and just trying to spread the love right away because it takes a lot of time to create those relationships. Because we’re close to so many, it’s easy for them to come on campus - come watch a basketball game, come watch practice, come hang out for no good reason. It’s not that hard to get in the car and come see us. Because of that, we want to continue to get all the young great talent in this area to feel comfortable around us.”

 

On the addition of quarterbacks Cade Weldon and N’Kosi Perry and how the race will unfold…

“The quarterback position, talking about having two that we’ve signed, one is already here in Cade Weldon and N’Kosi [Perry] on the way - both of these guys are very talented guys. They’re quality quarterbacks that are athletic. Sometimes you have quarterbacks who can run, but they’re a runner who can throw decent. These guys are true quarterbacks who happen to be able to run well, which is a nice dynamic to have. It doesn’t mean you have to have a guy that can run like a deer to be great, because it’s has been happening for years without it. But I do like the fact that they can move. Like you mentioned, Cade is in town and he’ll get a chance to compete this spring. He’ll be in practice, he’ll be in the meetings, he’ll do all those things - he’ll get about as many reps as everyone else on scholarship this spring. It’s a wide open competition. I absolutely don’t have a front runner, in my mind. You would think I would after being here a year, but it’s as wide open as it can possibly be and my guess is it’ll go well into the summer and fall camp before we figure out who it is.”

 

On the difference in recruiting student-athletes to a small, private school like Miami…

“When you have a private school institution, a private school education, people pay a lot of money to get a lot of value. When you’re at a private school, just like if you go to a private school in high school, you tend to have certain things you might not get at a public university or public high school. One of the things, I think, that people pay for and the value of education is the number of students in the class. If you average 18 to 24 students in a class, that’s a great ratio. It’s just like our strength program - if you lift 60 guys a time with five coaches, that’s about 11 guys per coach. But if you lift 20 guys with five coaches, that’s four guys per coach…hat’s a great ratio. The same thing is true educationally. If you have a small classroom setting, you have a chance to actually get to know your professor. You might ask your professor for help and not just rely on a tutor in a certain class. Of course, the beauty of the campus and the fact that we’re in south Florida, I call it ‘paradise.’ It’s a beautiful place. Beautiful weather. That’s why everyone wants to live down here.”

 

On keeping spots open for potential additions to the class, including high school or grad transfers…

“Sure. If a high school player hasn’t signed at this point…no one has to sign on signing day. They can sign tomorrow, they can sign a week from now, they can enroll in school in August if they want do. We have space if there are guys still out there who have interest in Miami, we would entertain that and we welcome the opportunity to have them join our team. I think it’s healthy to have one or two at the end of your class, because things do happen. Sometimes the ability to have space for another guy to join your team - whether it’s a high school kid who didn’t sign or a graduate transfer or whatever it may be, even a walk-on you might be able to put on aid and those types of things.”

 

On the addition of local offensive linemen Navaughn Donaldson, Corey Gaynor and Kai-Leon Herbert…

“We thought we did great with our offensive line. The whole class we’re excited about, but we just felt there was a tremendous need to get our numbers up at that position, but also bringing in guys we really thought could help us be great. All three of those guys are guys that will compete for playing time right now. I say right now, [I mean] this season coming up. There’s no doubt in our minds they have the skillset eventually become a starter and be great before this thing is over. It’s hard to be a really great offensive football team if you can’t provide space for your runners and time and space for your quarterback. I feel like we’re well on our way to having that group be special for us in the near future.”

 

On the difference between recruiting in a time crunch last year to a full first year….

“A year ago, we were just trying to see who was committed, trying to see who was still on the board as far as the previous staff. Of course the recruiting staff was still here, and they were holding things together. There were some assistant coaches that were still here and they were working. They were continue to recruit these kids. I gave credit a year ago, I’ll give credit again - they did a very nice job of recruiting that class last year. Some guys fell by the wayside in the transition, and we added a couple here and there, but there were some tremendous football players already committed, that when we made our evaluation, we agreed that they could help us win and we continued to recruit those kids. Some of them just had a true love for the university, some felt like they were excited about the possibility of what we might be able to bring as a staff. It was very good.

“This year, obviously having a lot more time to get into the high schools, spend times with the high school coaches in our tri-county area and in the state, and all the other places we went to, just try to help them understand what we’re about, and getting faith in confidence that if they send their young men to our school, they’re going to get everything they need. And a chance to get to know these players more. There were some NCAA restrictions on guys being able to come to your campus. A year ago, a kid could only go to one event – one football game, basketball, baseball, track…if they wanted to come to a sporting event, they could come to one. That was it. After that got lifted, that allowed us to bring guys to every home game if they wanted to come, come to basketball games, come to baseball games. Getting them on your campus is huge. The previous staff was fighting with one hand tied behind their back. This is the first year we’ve had 85 scholarships. We were at 80 a year ago. There’s a huge difference.”

 

On if he noticed any difference in recruiting with the addition of new coaches in the state of Florida…

“Not really. I think we’re always going to be an exciting place for young men to go. I don’t think we’ll have any trouble attracting guys to our school. As I said before, there’s such a large talent base in this area, I think there’s enough talent for all of our state schools to have success. There will be battles, for sure, but I think if we do our job the way we should, the University of Miami will have great, great classes in the future.”


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