Rich Rodriguez: “Normally that is the case when you have three guys from the same school, but this process happened so late that it may have been a little bit of a factor but not as much as normally. I think they were all really independent in their decisions and probably because we were so late in the process on a couple of them.”
Question: What can you say if anything about (Terrelle) Pryor not signing today?
Rich Rodriguez: “Can't say anything. The only thing I can talk about are the guys that signed on this list, and I am excited to talk about them, as they are Wolverines.”
Question: What about the quarterback position then? You know you needed quarterbacks. You only signed one quarterback, is that a concern?
Rich Rodriguez: “We are still recruiting, as I mentioned offensive skill players.”
Question: Can you talk about how quickly you think might….
Rich Rodriguez: “Not only with Justin as far as learning the system but how quickly all these guys will. Again that is our jobs as coaches. We have to… it is kind of simplistic… but as a college coach, you have 2 main jobs recruit quality student athletes in your program and then develop them once they get here. Developing is a big umbrella. There are a lot of things that take place in that developing and all these guys, as quickly as we can for them as far as strength and conditioning and getting that and then when they get here this summer and them working out with them teammates. That is the thing that is nice now is that you can bring your signees earlier for summer school or for summer workouts and that gets them at least a head start on getting the type of conditioning that they need to be to play at this level.”
Question: With the players that were onboard when you signed on here, what was the emphasis to put them at ease with your staff?
Rich Rodriguez: “Well I think with the commitments that were already here… and somebody told me that and I don’t know if this is a fact… but usually when there is a transition in the staff, you sometimes lose as many as half of the commitments. Obviously we were able to secure a lot of them. Sometimes it is a parting of both ways. Sometimes they don’t feel that they fit the system and sometimes the coach doesn’t feel that they fit, but what we try to do is say listen, ‘obviously the main reason you committed was because of the University of Michigan.’ But there are always…lets not kid ourselves… there already is some involvement with the staff. When you are recruiting a young man or a woman to come to play at a college, those personal relationship that a coach deals with the student athlete plays a part in their decision and that is a fact. That is why it is going to be a heck of a lot easier for us to recruit in the future than it was in three weeks. Coach Carr and his staff did a nice job and then we tried as much as we could in the last three weeks to get those guys to know us and develop that relationship and I think we were able to do that.”
Question: How antsy do you get with space remaining on your roster sort of speak? You say you got 21 out of 25…
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah you know, we are not going to be at the full 85. I think we actually got 26 to 27 openings and you can only sign 25 in a year. So we will not be at the full 85 next year. It is probably similar to a lot of transitional places. When I went to West Virginia 7 years ago, I think we were 5 or 6 short of the 85 and it took us two to three years to get those numbers right. I am hoping that we won't lose any more of our upper classman, but I can't guarantee it. Like I said, I am not going to lock the doors from inside out. We are going to be demanding and work hard, but the players so far in the program have bought in. I have been really pleased with their attitude. It has been sensational and they are working hard and they have had some tough workouts but it is fixing to get tougher and I hope they all hang in there. But we are not going to be able to fill to 85 this year but hopefully it won't take us 2-3 years. We are hopeful by this time next year we will have the full roster of 85.”
Question: Coach, can you identify which players on this list had not committed to the previous staff?
Rich Rodriguez: “Ya’ll can look that up. I don’t know. Well there was 13 or 14 or something like that. We took the job. I wanted to recruit them all as if it was the first time that they had ever talked to the University of Michigan, because obviously it was a lot of new coaches. There were some new philosophies coming in. So I didn’t want to assume anything. So we took the approach with all that this was the first time that the University of Michigan has talked to them. But as I said, the staff before did a nice job of selling the University of not just the football program, but the academics, the social aspect, living in Ann Arbor… everything that is the University of Michigan. A lot of these guys knew about and I think that helped us secure this class. I don’t get into, in case somebody asks, where were we ranked at nationally. Recruiting itself has almost become its own season and the interest in it…I mean look at how many cameras and how many of you are writing notes on recruiting. I mean how many of these guys are going to be All-American and All-Big Ten players. You would like to think all of them but inevitably it doesn’t work out that way. So I don’t get caught up in the rankings as much. I like to watch the film, meet with the young man, watch them play if we get a chance and then try to develop them once we get them. You don’t have to have a top five recruiting, a so called top five recruiting class to have a top five program, but it does help. A lot of times those rankings are close. Sometimes a five star guy is a five star guy and sometimes a five star guy is maybe really a two or three star guy. And a lot of those two star guys really turn out to be five star guys, but a lot of times those recruiting rankings, some guys are overinflated and some guys are underrated.”
Question: Can you talk about Justin (Feagin) as a passer?
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah, he can throw the football. Again, I’ve got to see him in person and I was not able to watch him in person because we got on recruiting late, but he can make all the throws. I know everybody is concerned about the quarterback position because that is the focal point of everybody’s offense, but we will be okay. Like I said, I am excited on Justin joining the fold… and no matter who the quarterback is, they got to learn our system and we have been running this system for 16-17 years. We have enough capabilities in our offense to adapt to the ability of our quarterbacks.”
Question: You said you couldn’t say anything specifically (unsigned players) but can you give us an idea how close, how that time table can be here, do you feel good about any of those guys?
Rich Rodriguez: “The only thing that I will say is that we are still recruiting people. We will still recruit them until as long as we need to recruit them. Last year at the other school that we were at, we recruited a young man until March 30th, the day before the last day you could sign. Noel Devine signed I think on the day before the deadline, so we had a busy spring. This is a tough decision for a lot of young men. It is something that is not easy to make, you can imagine that. If they are not sure; they want to make sure that they see everything and to have all their questions answered. This is just the beginning date. Now normally 90% of the guys sign today, but that is not always the case.”
Question: Can you speak for a minute about the emphasis that you place on speed?
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah. You know every coach wants speed. If you can't catch them, you can't tackle them and if they can't catch you, they can't tackle you. We got to get faster. That is a pretty obvious thing. We graduated probably our fastest guys or some of our fastest guys from our team. They either graduated or they moved on to the NFL. So we have got to have an influx of speed. I like guys that can run at all positions, even the kicker. I have been getting on Zoltan (Mesko) our punter. He is committed to doing it. He said, ‘Hey coach, I am going to be able to run as fast anybody he got’, I don’t know if he says that. I want everybody to be able to run. All the players, everybody has got to be run and run fast. We will get faster. We are working on speed training now and hopefully this class will address and the next class will address it as well.”
Question: You mentioned that 13 or 14 of the previous commitments stayed, is that what you said?
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah there were like 13 to 14 guys that were committed prior to me getting the job that are on this list.”
Question: Which ones would you say were sort of specifically recruited to your offense style?
Rich Rodriguez: “All of them. Every one of them. What did we sign…21…21 guys were recruited to our system that is pretty good, 100%.”
Question: Rich, do you think that (Michael) Shaw is going to be a running back primarily for you or how do you see that?
Rich Rodriguez: “He is going to be athlete. He is going to play several positions. In our offense, we don’t sometimes like to pigeonhole some of the great skill players into this is all you are going to do. Steve Slaton in the past, he played running back, he played slot. We just tried to get him the ball. Noel Devine played both. We just try to get them the ball. I think that if you got a guy that is explosive, you try different ways, creative ways to get them the football. In a spread offense, it is easier to do that. You can get a lot of touches to your most explosive players by the design of the offense.”
Question: You mentioned recruiting battles and negative publicity, I assume you meant the stuff out of West Virginia. How much did that effect… were kids asking you about it?
Rich Rodriguez: “Lets be honest, I mean there was something in the paper about it every day. That made it more difficult for obvious reasons. I am sure that in the future that every one of you here will have nothing but positive things to say and you will never have anything personal dealing with the head football coach to write again. Thanks, boy that was an easy thing (laughing). I am glad we got that cleared up. Now we will never have to worry about that. I understand that we live in a sensationalist society and it is almost a National Enquirer type of mentality amongst some folks that like to read certain articles, but it didn’t make it easier. Some of these guys and their parents never asked a thing, but some of them did. I addressed it honestly and as quickly and painlessly as I could. I wanted them to get to know myself and not just….I will tell you and even though this is not a knock on any of you all print media or news media, I have been too busy to read the papers, so I don’t know a lot that has been written. Sometimes I get told things by my lawyer or my family or whatever, I have tried just to do my job and not be too concerned about what was being written or said, so everybody could move on. I think it was for a lot of the players, I didn’t know what they said or heard, we stayed focused on the University of Michigan and moving forward and taking that approach and I think that it worked pretty well for us.”
Question: Do you think other schools used it against you?
Rich Rodriguez: “I am sure. Every year there is an amazing recruiting story that comes out. You are like, to what depth will people go to in signing a young man. Our coaches, they are going to present the facts and do comparisons because that is recruiting, we are not going to negative recruit and knock a particular coach or player down. Now we will compare systems and all that. You have all heard the story, there is a guy that I guess thought he was going to California and California wasn’t recruiting him and then we had a recruiting story this year where a prospect was getting called by a “so called” former player of mine and said things that wasn’t in the best light. Well it turned out that that former player had no idea who he was talking to because we asked him. He said he didn’t know who the guy was and never called him, but somebody impersonating him on the phone. Now isn’t that awful that somebody would call and impersonate a player. There has got to be a law against it or something. But we have dealt with that, dealt with that in the last week. Somebody impersonating a former player and calling somebody. Now that is sinking to new depths. I could tell you recruiting stories every year and my staff could about some things that we don’t think that are very ethical. You deal with it in coaching and you try to deal with it the best that you can.”
Question: Coach, how do you and your staff deal with players that have verbally committed elsewhere, because a couple of these players did commit at one point?
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah. There is probably verbally committed to us and went somewhere else too.”
Question: How does that work from your perspective on what is fair and what is ethical?
Rich Rodriguez: “Well, I mean sometimes coaches will tell you when somebody verabls that just tells you who got to beat to get them. I think sometimes young men verbally commit without visiting another campus or seeing other options and coaches know that. The only time it really creates tough situations is like the night before they tell you they are coming and then the next morning they tell you that they are not. That makes it tough and difficult, but that is understood in our profession. If somebody verbally commits and we know they are solid, they can make it known they are solid. They won't talk to you. They won't visit you. If somebody verbally commits to your institution, but they continue to visit, that verbal commitment is not a real solid verbal commitment. That is like I guess, you say you are engaged to someone, but you continue to date. Your fiancé ain’t going to be very happy. So those things happen and those things are pretty much understood. That was understood with our commitments. We are committed to you, you are committed to us, but if you shop around, then that commit is not really solid on either end and you deal with it.”
“I would like to see an early date and it has been talked about doing something in around the 3rd week of December when the junior college signing date is, so you can sign. Like basketball has an early signing date. Football I think would have an early signing date in December, so that those kids that then know they are solid at a place, they can go ahead and sign and get it out of the way. Then for the rest of them, the coaches would know who is left. To me it makes too much sense, so I don’t know. I am on the board at AFCA and we have talked about it for years and hopefully we can get that done. There are always going to be signing day surprising but that would clear up a lot of the mess.”
Question: Just a follow-up on the negative stories that have been out there, in retrospect, is there anything that you look back and felt you could have done differently?
Rich Rodriguez: “Today’s press conference is about these 21 young men. It is not about Rich Rodriguez and the transition and whatever happened. That is that.”
Question: Would it be easier for these guys to compete for starting jobs next year since everyone has to learn a new system?
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah that is a good point. That has been brought up to a lot of the players, really everybody is in kind of a “rookie” mode in this years class, because everybody is learning the system for the first year. Now obviously the upper classmen that we have, they have got 1) game experience, which is very valuable and 2) they are going to have 15 practices in the spring ahead of this class, but other than that, it is wide open. I have watched a little bit of film from our team last year, but not a lot and I will watch a little bit more. Just so I know what we have at certain positions and what some of there abilities are, but I am wide open. Everybody has got to earn a spot. There is nothing guaranteed for anybody. The approach with our players…they have already probably figured that out and they will figure it out this spring. It is wide open and it will stay that way. It will be 2 years from now, a guy that starts on Saturday, might not be starting on Sunday. He may start on Monday, but not on Tuesday. You have got to earn your spot every day, but the best players and most competitive guys want that anyways. So it won't be an issue I think at all with our guys. You are right, it is probably a lot more wide open this year than it will be in the future.”
Question: Did you use that as a big selling point for this class?
Rich Rodriguez: “Part of it. Yeah I think part of it. Part of it too was the in formations, offensively anyways… going to a spread offense. We needed a few slot receivers and some guys that fit that system sort of speak. So that was a selling point for some of these guys for sure.”
Question: Did you find this recruiting process any different now that you got the Michigan name to use?
Rich Rodriguez: “A little bit, yes. I think it is well know and documented that Michigan has a national name and we can nationally recruit. Obviously you want to recruit instate and you want to try and get the best players in state that you can, but we can also recruit nationally and go into anybody’s living room or any school in the country with that Block M and get immediate attention. I think our coaches have found that out. I have found that out. I kind of thought that coming in. That makes you excited for the future. Michigan is a national school. We can recruit nationally.”
Question: Rich, you said a couple of guys from last year’s team would probably not be back because of injuries. Did you get that situation straightened out?
Rich Rodriguez: “Yes, I believe, I don’t know if it is finalized yet, but Antonio Bass, who was a tremendous athlete who just had obviously a tragic knee injury and really feel bad for him. I believe he is going to be medicalled and Chris McLaurin, a tight end is going to be medicalled as well. These are great young men and you really feel bad for them because they just had injuries that will not allow them to play. But as long as they stay here and get there degree and the University will assist them in every effort that we can.”
Question: They will still remain on scholarship?
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah. It is on a medical. Correct.”
Question: Rich, I saw a picture in the paper maybe a week or so ago that you were recruiting for the first time as a Michigan coach against Jim Tressel. Any comment or anything you can say about what you guys talked about or anything?
Rich Rodriguez: “No just small talk. We were both there on a recruiting trip and I have known Jim for quite some time and just said hello and he asked about the family and that was it.”
Question: On recruiting Ohio:
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah and I think Ohio has always been a bordering state. You recruiting areas, you obviously you have to focus on your instate and then any state that borders you, you want to see if you can get a few guys. There is a lot of great football players in the state of Ohio, just like there is a lot of great football players in Michigan. We were able to get a handful. I have some contacts and my staff has a lot of contacts in the state because we have recruited it for many years.”
Question: You guys got two out of Florida that is the first time Michigan has gotten two out of Florida since 2000. Is that going to be a priority focus going down there?
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah we will be down in Florida a little more often. We have had great success here recruiting California, still going to do that and Texas, Fred Jackson has done a great job in Texas and he will continue to do that. A lot of guys on our staff have Florida recruiting connections and Florida recruiting ties and that will be another main focal point for us. There are a lot of great football players in Florida and a lot of those guys will leave, particularly to a place like Michigan. So yes, we will be in Florida and be in Florida quite extensively in the future.”
Question: You signed a lot of offensive lineman. Can you clarify, there has been some speculation about guys that are not coming back from last year’s team… offensive linemen.
Rich Rodriguez: “Yeah and Greg (Frey) is probably the happiest guy. He
has got 6 more big bodies to work with, but the 2 other offensive lineman that
were seniors that are graduating and are not returning is Alex Mitchell and
Jeremy Cuilla. Both those guys are seniors and are going to graduate this year.
The rest of the guys are all working out pretty good. I am excited about that
group. I think we got a nice group of offensive lineman. They are going to be
young but we also have a nice group coming in. Normally we will carry about
16 on the team. I think we are maybe at 15 right now on scholarship. Every coach
at this level has a certain number at each position that you have 16 offensive
lineman and 10 receivers and so many running backs and so many defensive lineman.
To get those numbers right and in the right personal group usually takes two-three
years and it may take us a couple of years to get that right but we will get
it right eventually.”