Coach Rodriguez Opening Statement: "A lot of (recruits) before signing day already have their mind pretty solid. Before you ask about decommitments or commitments, sometimes a decommit, you want them to decommit. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes it works out the best for you, sometimes it doesn't. We've had had it happen to us and everybody in the country has probably had it happen to them. Generally, most of the guys that commit to you early because it is just a verbal commit. Most of them are pretty solid with it, a few of them aren't. Sometimes some guys when they commit to you, that just tells you that they're really interested… it doesn't tell you that they are going to sign with you. So you have to continue to recruit them regardless."
Question: You mentioned positions that you may have a few players that you may sign later on. what positions specifically are you looking to add players at?
Coach Rodriguez: "We have a few guys that we've maybe identified. I don't know if they're still going to be out there. The key to me is not just to sign guys to sign guys. We could sign another three guys and add to your rankings sort of speak and maybe put you up a spot or two, but I think the key is getting the right guys. The right fit for the University of Michigan, the right type of quality student-athlete that we want to build our program around. We have a few spots particularly maybe in the defensive backend and at linebacker and secondary that maybe if we have the right guy, but if we don't, we don't have a big senior class coming up, we can use those scholarships for the future, and we also can use it for some walk-ons that earn it. By the way, while I'm thinking about it, I don't know how soon, but in the next several weeks we'll be able to announce several quality walk-ons that will joining our program. Some of these guys are guys that turned down scholarships to come here at the University of Michigan and I thought our staff did a nice job of that and there will be quite a few announcements in that regard probably over the next month and a half."
Question: What do you attribute to your success in the state of Florida and having as much success outside the state as you guys had?
Coach Rodriguez: "Obviously our staff has got a lot of experience recruiting through the state of Florida and I'm going to go through each one of the guys real quickly that we've signed. We've recruited down there for years, even back before other places I've coached and our coaches have coached at. So we've got a lot of coaches that have experience down there and know their coaches. I think there is a lot of student-athletes everywhere, but the quality of play of the young men in Florida is I think well documented. We were able to go down there and get a few guys. I think also the guys we have on our team now, some of the young guys on our team now did a great job of selling our program, selling our university and explained to them that maybe it is a little cold here in the winter, but you'll be okay if you come up here. We're real excited. I think with eight in this class may be the most that we've ever gotten here, but it's a primary state for us, but I want to make it clear so is the State of Michigan and some of our surrounding states. We'll go anywhere and everywhere if it is the right fit for our program. This year if you look at the places we went to, I think our staff did a pretty nice job. So with that said, I'll go through and give you an opportunity to ask more questions but I just want to…it will be very brief, you can all read, I'm sure, especially if you went to school here, but we'll go through the guys. If you have any questions as I go through them individually, you're certainly welcome to ask."
"I will start with the guys…we had seven of them enroll early in January, which is something new. I've never had more than one or two, and I think it is obviously for us…the two big bonuses about that is the obvious one is that they get to go through spring practice, they get to go to Coach Barwis' weight program and by the end of the spring, they'll be oriented to the university and our football program. The other part is that I didn't have to worry about them signing today. They're already enrolled. Going through alphabetical order here:
"Will Campbell – I think a lot of people had picked him as a top player in the state. He is a big guy. He can play on either side of the ball, but he is going to play defensive line for us. He fills a need for us. He is very explosive young man. Obviously a local guy, he's been here several times, but he loves football and he is a lot of fun to be around. It is going to be an important spring for him. He's going to be a guy that is going to get an opportunity to play right away because of need and because of visibility. So Big Will Campbell from down the road at Cass Tech, who's coached by Thomas Wilcher, who does an outstanding job there and we have several guys as you know from his team, either on the team like Boubacar (Cissoko) or joining him with Teric Jones and Thomas Gordon. Tony Dews was the lead recruiter on that. So if you guys want to talk to my staff, they're all here and you can talk to them further about the guys.
"Vlad Emilien – he is a safety out of Plantation High School. We had our eyes on him a year ago. He tore his knee up so he was not able to play his senior year, but he's enrolled early now. Knee surgery went fine and he is going through all the work outs and he's an outstanding student, a great young man and he's at a big position of need for us at safety. So we're certainly hoping that Vlad will be able to learn the system and pick things up. I think you're really going to enjoy talking to him when you meet him. He has got a big smile and he is a very, very competitive guy. Calvin Magee was the lead recruiter on Vlad."
"Tate Forcier – He is a quarterback from San Diego. Many of you met his brother Jason when he was here a few years ago. In fact, Jason helped us, even though Jason transferred. I met Jason this past spring. He came to my office and we talked a little bit and he said I'm going to do all I can to help you get Tate. Tate was a very exciting quarterback to watch if you've not seen his film. He's not the biggest guy, but he's got a strong arm, he can run. You can look at his stats. He completed over 77% of his junior year, almost 70% his senior year. He is very accurate. He also can run very well. He makes a lot of plays, sometimes when plays aren't even there and we're real excited about him. Obviously at quarterback, we needed to create some competition and with Tate and Denard (Robinson) coming in, competing against Steve (Threet), Nick (Sheridan) and the rest of the guys, we're going to have some quality competition at quarterback. We're excited about him being here. He's in the weight program now. He's going to have a chance now that the coaches are off the road to learn the system a little bit. Tate is a very, very competitive guy as well. So we're excited about Tate and he's enrolled right now. Some people how they rank dual quarterbacks or dual threat quarterbacks and all that kind of stuff, I don't know if we could have gone out and gotten two better dual threat quarterbacks than Tate Foricer and Denard Robinson. So we're very excited about both those guys coming in and competing with the guys they have. Rod Smith was the lead recruiter on Tate. "
"Another guy that Rod Smith recruited was Brandin Hawthorne from down there in Pahokee in the muck. You guys have read some stories about the muck. They've won two straight class two championships in the state of Florida. He played outside linebacker, which he'll play linebacker for us. You can see his stats, very, very productive. He's enrolled here early and a very explosive player. He can run, loves the game of football as all those guys down in the muck seem to enjoy. He is used to having great success and obviously having Tay Odoms here year having success, kind of helped pave the way for those other guys, so Brandin is here now and we're excited about him. "
"Mike Jones – defensive back, a safety from Orlando, same high school as Greg Matthews. So we had a little in right there. Coach Rod Smith recruited him as well. He's enrolled here early. He's a very good athlete. He has a 36" vertical jump. His dad Aaron, played in the NFL and Mike is a very explosive player. He blocked a couple of kicks and he's a bigger guy at safety. He could grow into an outsider linebacker at some point, but obviously we have s"ome need at safety, so Mike will compete and play a couple of positions for us.
"Anthony LaLota – Coach Greg Frey was the lead recruiter on him. He's out of Princeton, NJ. He played at The Hun School, a very strong academic school. Anthony is a great student, a National Honor Society guy. He's new to the game. He did not play until his junior year, but he is a very good athlete. You see that he runs a great 40 time. He's got a 34" vertical leap. He was a basketball player mostly until he got into football and he's has a big upside. We're going to play him at defensive end, on the defensive line and you'll see him running around this spring and be impressed with his athleticism. Again, he is a very good basketball player, a good athlete, an outstanding student. "
"The last guy that enrolled early was recruited by Coach Smith, another guy from down there in Pahokee, Vincent Smith. Vincent will play running back for us. He will probably also learn to play some slot receiver. He had over 2000 yards rushing as a senior. I think we thought he was the one of the best running backs in the state of Florida. He's not one of the biggest guy, but he's strong and powerful and he runs hard for a little guy and teammates with Tay Odoms and Brandin Hawthorne."
"It's a great group of young men and again you have to remember that they're still supposed to be in high school, so their still growing and learning, but it is kind of neat to get them enrolled early, start on their education and be able to go through spring ball. The guys that signed today in alphabetical order:"
"Isaiah Bell – from Youngstown Liberty. Tony Gibson was the lead recruiter on him. He played for Jeff Whitaker who is a long time friend of ours and we've know for several years in Ohio. We thought that Isaiah was a guy that could play multiple positions on defensive. He's a big safety. He can play safety, he can play outside linebacker. He is 6'2", 205 pounds and a very, very good athlete. From the people who talked to him…the all star game he played in, he was one of the most outstanding players they had on defense. Isaiah Bell, happy to have him."
"Jeremy Gallon – recruited by Rod Smith. Again, when I say that this guy is recruited, really it was a group effort by most of the staff on most of the guys, but the lead recruiter that kind of started the relationship and if it was an offensive guy, the offensive staff got involved and a defensive guy, the defensive staff got involved. Then I got involved in all of them. Jeremy Gallon was one of the most productive players in the State of Florida the last three years. He's another smaller guy, but he played quarterback, running back, he played safety…for us we're looking at him as a slot receiver and probably also play him a bit returning kicks. We thought in watching his film and the people who have covered Florida football said he was probably one of the most productive guys in the state. He was in one of those all star games and had a great week at the all star game as well. So Jeremy Gallon is from Apopka. Coach had an outstanding football team. They went to the state semifinals in the big class and Rick Darlington was his coach and did a great job. "
"The next guy, we needed to get a kicker with K.C. Lopata and Jason Gingell both graduating, obviously kicker was a need position. Brendan Gibbons – lead recruiter was Tony Gibson. Brendan was here at the summer camp that we had and so we were able to see him live in person. He's a left footed guy, a very strong foot. We thought he did a nice job in camp. He had a great senior year. Another guy who performed well in the all star game and won the Lou Groza as one of the top high school kickers in the country. So very excited about Brendan. He has got an opportunity to come in and compete right away as a freshman. We never guarantee guys that they'll play. Just so anybody asks, but we do tell them that if we are recruiting you, we think you have the ability to play and we're going to give you that opportunity. If you're good enough to win with, you'll play, if you're not then we have to help get you there. A lot of these young men are going to have that opportunity, obviously they all do but some of them because of graduation are going to get a lot of reps early and Brendan is certainly one of them. Another outstanding and well thought of in his community."
"Tony Dews was the lead recruiter on the next guy – Cam Gordon. He's an instate guy from up the road in Inkster. He was coached by Greg Carter. They've done an outstanding job there. Obviously you guys that follow instate, know that they were in the state championship game. He played receiver, he played safety and he played linebacker. We are going to give him an opportunity to compete at received when he comes in. He's a big physical guy. He's 6'2", 210, an outstanding athlete. We thought he was one of the best players in the State of Michigan and I think Cam has got a great future here. "
"Thomas Gordon – another guy from Cass Tech down in Detroit. Tony Dews was the lead recruiter there. Again coached by Coach Wilcher. He played quarterback and had a career at quarterback there. We had him at camp and so we were able to evaluate him at safety at camp. We think he's going to be an outstanding safety prospect. He can tackle. He's a physical guy. Again, we thought he was one of the best players in the State of Michigan, a very, very good athlete. He can play a multiple number of spots for us on defense. "
"Teric Jones – was the last guy we got from Cass Tech in Detroit. Again, Tony Dews was the lead recruiter. He is a very fast guy. He was one of the fastest guys in the combine with over 1000 kids last year down in Texas. He followed up with an outstanding senior year. We had an opportunity to have him in camp as well and he's going to play both the slot receiver position and probably also get reps at running back. So Teric is a very, very good athlete, a very fast guy and we're excited to have him join his teammates up here. "
"From Arizona, Taylor Lewan – Coach Dews was the lead recruiter on him. He was a guy that kind of popped on the scene late in the recruiting circles. He is 6'6", 270 and we noticed him obviously a few months ago and got involved with him after we watched the film, how physical and aggressive he was. It was his first year playing offensive line. He transferred to the same school that Craig Roh was at. So I think that helped both of them, but we were able to see Taylor and this guy is physical, he can run and is aggressive. He has that type of body that we like to build our offensive line with. He's 6'6", 270 and is probably going to be 290-295 in a year. He's got great feet and runs very well and we thought he was one of the best tackles that we saw on film all year. So we're very excited about Taylor and I think he's going to have an outstanding career here. His dad Dave had a little bit of ties in the Big Ten. His father was an offensive lineman at Minnesota, so he knew a little bit about Michigan and what the Big Ten is all about. "
"Denard Robinson – he is a quarterback out of Deerfield Beach. Tony Gibson and Calvin Magee were kind of the lead recruiters on Denard. He is a very good athlete. He is coached by Art Taylor, who I think has done a tremendous job down there at Deerfield Beach. He's one of the fastest guys we've signed. You can see it on his stats that he led his team to the state semifinals his junior and senior year. He's a guy like Tate that took command of every game that he played in. That's the thing that excited us about Tate and Denard is that those are guys that kind of when you watch their film, watch the game film, they kind of took charge and controlled the game. He threw for 1800 yards. He rushed for almost 500 yards. He is a very, very explosive athlete. He's got another guy from his school Adrian Witty coming here and its great that those guys as good friends, but they are both outstanding players in their own right and great young men. So we're very excited Denard. He will come in and compete, as I said with Tate and Nick and Steve and David and the rest of the guys at quarterback."
"Craig Roh – he was recruited by Tony Dews, was the lead recruiter on Craig. He's a defensive end, 6'4", 230. He may actually be bigger than that right now. He's a very fast guy. Probably for us, we have him rated as one of the top defensive ends on our recruiting board. He's got a great motor. He was actually picked I believe by somebody, Gatorade Player of the Year in the State of Arizona. I think that he every bit warranted that. I think he's going to be a guy that's going to grow to 250 some pounds and be a great pass rusher for us. He's an outstanding student, when you get a chance to meet him, you'll see his intensity and how consciousness he is. I think Craig Roh, if we called him and said, ‘Hey Craig, we want you do these 10 things today to get ready to play at Michigan'. He would do those 10 things 10 times over. He is one of those kinds of guys. I'm really, really excited about Craig. I think he's got an opportunity even though he is a young guy to make it an immediate impact hopefully and he'll be I think have a tremendous career. He had a little bit of ties with Michigan. His dad played basketball over at Grand Valley State, so he's got a lot of family on the western part of the state, so he had been to Michigan a few times on unofficial visits and we are happy to have Craig onboard with us. "
"Michael Schofield – a big offensive lineman from outside of Chicago there in Orland Park, IL. Coach Frey was the lead recruiter there. He played both offensive and defensive tackle. We are looking at him as an offensive tackle. Same kind of build as Taylor Lewan, 6'6", 270. He played multiple sports, track as well. He played basketball when he was a younger. He's another guy that is going to fill out. He is a very aggressive, physical player and real excited about him. Him and Taylor will both be the kind of guys that will play tackle for us and grow into the type of players that we want. Mike Schofield is going to add to our class. We were fortunate to have all our offensive lineman back and doing a great job in the weight room and last year's class, I think had six offensive lineman in it and this years class has three. So the foundation that we are building up front, I think is the key to our offense and I know Coach Frey is probably one of the happiest guys here because he's got all those guys for several, several years. "
"Fitzgerald Toussaint – Fitz was recruited by Tony Gibson. He's a running back. He will probably play running back and will also return kicks and eventually he will learn to play the slot as well. We thought Fitz was the best back if not the best back in the State of Ohio his senior year. He got over 2200 yards. Again coached by Coach Whitaker, again who is a long time associate of ours and I think Fitz is going to be a guy that is going to be very excited. He's not the biggest guy at 5'10", 185, but he's very physical. He does all the things that we want in a running back. I think that he is going to have an opportunity to make an immediate impact. "
"JT Turner – defensive back from Massillon, OH, Washington High School, great tradition there. Both Coach Tall and Coach Gibson were the lead recruiters on him. He was a guy that played corner and safety and he will probably wind up playing both for us. We have a need at both positions and JT can play either one of them. A lot of people had him rated as the top player in the State of Ohio, so it is pretty neat for us to have what many people consider to have the top player in Ohio, top player in Michigan and top player from Arizona all in the same class. JT again was another guy that played in the all star games, stood out a little bit and the coaches talked about his versatility and the guy is going to have an impact for us in the secondary right away. "
"Quinton Washington – lead recruiter on Q there was Coach Gibson again. Big offensive lineman, 6'3", 315. When we went back and looked at our rankings as far as offensive lineman at the guard position, Quinton was one of the top ones that we had on the board. So we were able to get him. If you look at him, he was also selected as the lineman of the year in the State of South Carolina and he was runner up for Mr. Football in his whole state and that is probably rare for an offensive lineman to do that. He's a great young man. I think he's going to have a chance. He's got great size. He moves his feet and probably will learn to play both guards positions for us. So big Quinton Washington was a nice pickup for us and again that's why Coach Frey is so happy. "
"Adrian Witty – Coach Gibson was the lead recruiter on Adrian, same high school Deerfield Beach playing for Art Taylor. Probably over looked a little bit in my opinion. If you watched him on film, this guy was as productive as any defensive back that we saw on film. I'm glad that he was overlooked because that gave us the lead in on him. I think Adrian Witty can play several positions. He can probably play corner, could probably play safety. He's very physical and I'm really excited about him. I told his coaches, I think we got the most underrated player in that whole part of the State of Florida in Adrian Witty, so really excited about Wit coming here. "
"The last one didn't get his letter of intent in, but it wasn't because he had something planned. We felt pretty comfortable that he was going to come – Je'Ron Stokes. Lead recruiter on Je'Ron was Tony Dews. He's from out there in Philadelphia, Northeast High School. He's another guy that we had our eye on for quite some time. He is a very productive receiver. We think that he can play both inside in the slot ad outside. He's got good size, has got great ball skills. He's got a lot of experience in a similar type of system. Je'Ron can also return kicks. We're really excited about him. It is a position of need for us. We need guys that can play both inside and outside receiver position and we think he can do that. He's a fast guy, again, he played in an all star game and I think he had an outstanding week there and I think he is going to have a great impact on our program."
"Now that is a thumbnail sketch. The other thing I wanted to mention with all these guys and all coaches will tell you that that all those guys made official visits, so we had a chance to get to know them a little bit. We were able to make visits to their home, to their schools. So we feel really good about the guys we have and what type of people they are. I like having them over at my house and not because Rita cleans the house up when they come over, but you get to see them in a relaxed atmosphere and they are able to spend times with our family and then we get to go see them in their environment. I really like these guys as people first. Obviously as athletes next. I think you'll see the same thing with them. They're young guys and all that, but I think there the type of people you want in your program and that you can build your program around, both as players and as people."
"I would be remiss if I didn't thank, which I did at lunch the people that have helped us. It was a tough year and it is always harder to recruit off a tough year than it is off a good year. You can sell opportunity but it is tough. The people, our fans, the people that support our program, the people in the community that saw the recruits when they came in – that's what makes this place special. Whether it is them stopping at the store to ask for directions or they go to the ball game and the students are nice to them. That makes a big impact in recruiting when they can feel that sense of family that every coach wants to preach at. The coaches families, I thought did a great job. Rita did a nice job cleaning the house up and getting that ready for them, but I thought everyone of these young men that we mentioned, because all coaches in programs talk about feeling comfortable and feeling that they can feel at home with the coaches and their families and I really think our staff was able to do that and the people in this community were able to do that naturally. They're smart enough to figure out when you're putting on a show and we don't put on a show. We just be ourselves and allow these young men, I think in particular, at least mentioned to me said coach, ‘The University of Michigan and the way we felt comfortable around the people there that's what makes the difference'. That's been important and also the facilities that we got. The things that are being built. They can see there is progress being made."
"We had a tough year on the field, but I don't think its going to last and I think these players saw that. The work that our players are putting in and the support we got from the administration is that we are going to keep getting better and better. Our players did a terrific job. When they come to visit, as you all know, we purposely have them spend a lot of time with our current players. They spend more time with them than they do with us on a visit and that's by design, because I want them to know what it is like to be a student athlete here. We don't tell our players what to tell them. Honestly, hey if you can sell the program that would help, but we just kind of turn them loose and our players did a great job of helping these guys. Our best recruiters a lot of times are our players. Some of these guys that enrolled early did a nice job of trying to get some of their teammates to come with them. All in all to over come a tough year on the field, to have what I think is an outstanding class is pretty exciting. If we do our job on the field and continue to grow, recruiting will hopefully become easier and easier. You have to deal with a lot of negative recruiting when you don't have a good year but that's part of the territory. As we become more successful and have such a great product to sell, it'll get easier and easier."