Today, in the first of a three part series, Petercuskie talks about the linemen and linebackers as well as the overall importance of bringing in a class that can get it done in the class room in addition to playing the game of football.
Moving to the offensive line, you got Alex Barr who was a Vanderbilt commitment and then Joe Thuney who seems to have a lot of upside. What did you like about those two?
Well, we got one who is just a really big young man. Alex Barr, he blocks out the sun, that kid. He gives you the flexibility that he can play guard in this system but he can also play the right tackle spot.
The thing that stands out about him is his size and toughness. He's a guy that really competes and works hard to finish everything he starts in terms of his blocking, angles, staying with a guy down field and he's on his feet.
With Thuney, I think he's going to be the sleeper of the class personally. I think the kid has a tremendous upside. He's very, very athletic. He's a little under sized but he's going to grow. He's got big bone structure. He has tremendous hips. He can get down in position because of his flexibility which is tremendous in terms of blocking and he's another great student.
He can be a left tackle or he could be a center. He's got the athleticism and the intelligence to play the center position for us which is a critical spot. He's got the athleticism and I think the length and eventual size to play left tackle, too.
Looking at your defensive linemen, you've already got McKay Frandsen in and then could you talk about the others, Dave Mann, Carlos Gray and Mike Rose?
Well, I think McKay is a very mature kid. Obviously he's married so I don't know if you guys knew that. And so he has a great deal of maturity and a great deal of focus. From his stand point I think it was a pretty easy transition (to the D-1 level). It's never easy but it could be the easiest one because of the maturity level.
We're anxious to get him out there because he's done a great job in the winter program. We're anxious to get him on the field and see what he can do.
The two defensive ends we looked at, both David (Mann) and Mike Rose, they're both guys that we feel can rush the passer. They're both guys that have some speed off the edge. Both guys have some length to them and consequently, that's why we liked them.
Carlos (Gray) is the big, prototype defensive tackle that we like on the inside. He's very athletic for a kid that size and we don't just look for size, he also has to be pretty athletic and I think Carlos is that.
Is there any chance Carlos could end up getting a look as an offensive lineman?
No, we like him on defense right now. I mean, I never say never because you don't know how things are going to pan out but right now Carlos is going to be at that defensive tackle spot.
Ty McGill, he was another player that surfaced a little bit later and you were able to land.
Yeah, Ty really had a good tape his senior year. He was very active and a high motor guy which we like. He does a really good job with his hands and when we saw his tape he was making plays. He's a very productive guy.
Can you talk about your two linebackers, Brandon Pittman and Michael Peek?
You know, Brandon is a guy that's been around here forever. I think as long as we've been around, he's been around. I think the thing about Brandon is he has outstanding speed and the ability to play out in space for us. And as you guys know, that's a very, very important characteristic at linebacker.
And then Peek came on the scene late. He was a very active kid inside. He's very tough, has good speed and finishes all his plays. He's another high motor guy and an intense young man. So when we got his tape and looked at him we said this was a guy that could play in our system.
Would Peek compare to anyone you've got so far? Would he compare to a guy like Audie Cole?
You know, Audie was a little different in that, when he came in he was a quarterback. He played a little bit of safety in high school but not much. He was a golden glove guy which made a tremendous statement about his toughness. So, Peek is a true linebacker. He's played linebacker which is a little bit different animal there.
As a whole, coach O'Brien mentioned the academics of this class may have been as good as any class he's had. Can you talk about that a little bit more?
Yeah, coach O'Brien has always put an emphasis on academics for us because he builds his program based on longevity... having kids stay with the program for four or five years.
The hardest thing is, you have a really good athlete or really good football player who academically may be a question mark- and not that you don't take some of those guys- but you want to keep those to a minimum because you can't have a lot of attrition from year one to year five. If you do, it's difficult with the total number of 85 to field a group of scholarship players on a two deep level.
So that's why it's important to him and he always talks about being a champion in the class room because if you're not, you're not going to see the field. If you're not a champion in the community and you're in trouble, you're not going to see the field.
And that all leads to the attrition and again, back to the number of 85 scholarship players, some folks look at that as a lot of players but when you're building a program, it's really not that many. If you're losing 5, 6, 7 a year, it just doesn't seem to work.