This has been an exciting day for us and I am really proud of our coaches and our players. Our players have been tremendous ambassadors for the university. You can work someone so long and hard, but it only takes one conversation with a player that can swing them your way. We've got the best recruiters, and it starts with our players. I really appreciate our faculty. They've done an outstanding job, our academic support groups, Karen Schiferl and her staff, Dr. Wallace, Chancellor Jones, and Dr. Mullins. All of them were great. I really appreciate Pete Boone. We had a lot of coaches that were really recruited heavily by other schools. I really appreciate what Pete Boone did with the salaries for our assistant coaches. They feel good about working here. Tyrone Nix was the most sought after, and he had chances to go to quite a few other schools this year, but he didn't. He decided to stay here. Of course, Kent Austin did take a head job, but we once again finished very strong. I thought we did our best recruiting in the state of Mississippi since we've been here. Carlos Thompson, Vince Sanders, Randall Mackey, Carlton Martin, Bryon Bennett, Will Denny - these guys in state were solid as a rock. We met their families and got excited about the relationship that we will have with them forever. What really sticks out at me is Carlos Thompson's mother and father, they're just so awesome. They had grandmothers from both sides of the family sitting in the living room, and the theme song that kept coming back at me is 'It's a family atmosphere, it's a safe environment, an excellence place to get a great education.' With our facilities and the brand of football that we're playing, they were excited. You've got to give a lot of credit to Terry Price and Derrick Nix. Derrick Nix was excellent in the state this year. We are just very excited about our group, very, very excited, and there's already a sense of a real camaraderie. What I'm excited about is next year's class coming up in the state of Mississippi. Let's don't forget about Nicholas Parker. Nicholas Parker is another guy from an outstanding program. I tell you what, Lance Pogue from South Panola, Bobby Hall from Madison Central, boy they do an excellent job. We have some great coaches in the state of Mississippi and I'm just really proud that we had a relationship with these guys. I'm proud that we had the class that we signed today.
Q: Do you feel like you've filled all of your needs with this class?
Absolutely. I feel like we have one of the finest defensive line groups that I can remember signing. If you just look at their height, weight, character, speed, the playmaking ability of each one of these guys, man, we're excited to have them. So that was huge, when you look at the guys getting ready to graduate - Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott and Kentrell Lockett - these guys will be gone after this year, so you've got to reload and get ready to go. Secondary was the next line of business we had to take care of. Losing Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn was big. Those were two guys that played a lot of ball for us the last two years. We really needed to get some corners and get some safeties. I'm also excited about Brishen Mathews from Monticello, Arkansas and Damian Jackson, an older safety. I really appreciate Coach Campbell and what he did with Wayne Dorsey and Damian Jackson and the way he coached those guys. They're already working out for us and I'm excited about that. We've got some young corners, some young, good corners. It's always very, very hard and very difficult to play corner, but the thing you love about Tony Grimes, Cliff Coleman, Eric Mitchell and Curtis, they're athletic, they can turn their hips, they can run, and they're outstanding players.
Q: How much do you lean on Mississippi junior colleges?
They are always great to help fill a critical need. When you lose Marcus Tillman, Emmanuel Stephens and Greg Hardy, when you lose three seniors, you need an older guy. So you lean on that older guy that has some experience and that has played against college players. That's where Wayne Dorsey comes in or Damian Jackson, or Randall Mackey. So it's so important to have those. We've probably signed three or four guys like that a year. It's important.
Q: How was the staff able to convince Cordell Giles to commit to Ole Miss after he had been committed to Mississippi State for so long?
Cordell Giles is another young man that I give a lot of credit to Terry Price and Derrick Nix for recruiting. He is a tremendous athlete. I think what won him over was those relationships and our atmosphere that we have here. When you win back to back Cotton Bowls, a picture is worth a thousand words. It makes a difference when they get to see us playing on TV in the brand new Cowboy's Stadium and they get to see us holding up the trophy. When they get on campus, they talk with players about the gifts they received from the bowl, and all the perks of playing in a bowl game. All of that goes a long way. Sometimes is a bigger part of recruiting than anything. Your players are your best ambassadors. They tell your recruits about going to a bowl game. Pete Boone gives us the tools to be successful and keep our coaches. After having a good year, other schools attempt to take your coaches. For Tyrone Nix to turn down offers and stay with us says a lot to recruits and their parents. All of our recruits keep up with who is going to coach them. We are excited to keep our group intact, minus Kent Austin who took a head coaching job.
Q: Do you think Randall Mackey will be able to come in and play quarterback as well as learn other positions?
Right now we want him to graduate. We want him to take one step at a time. We are disappointed that he isn't here right now when he had the chance to be. He messed that up, and knows he has this chance to graduate. We will worry about that once he gets here. Hopefully he will be here in the summer working out and training. We will see how much he can learn at quarterback/
Q: Can you talk about recruiting in Florida?
We signed seven players from Florida. All of them are very good athletes. We have a really good connection through Chris Vaughn right now. He is from Florida and has been recruiting Florida players for a long time. There is nothing like the relationship and trust factor with how we are committed to our players. It goes back to Charles Sawyer and Frank Crawford who had direct relationships with the guys we brought to campus in the past. When recruits see other players from their home state and see how happy they are, they get excited about coming to Ole Miss. I was really excited about the young men we had from Florida. We go to Florida to get a lot of skill players.
Q: Do you feel that you lost any recruits that could have made the team better next season?
I am really happy with the way things worked out. This class is one of the highest ranked that we have ever been associated with. It is early, and you won't know for a couple of years what the results will be, but we are excited. This group has great character and it gets me excited. There are always one or two you thought you had, but you go as hard as you can and compete as hard as you can. We show them everything we have to offer, starting with the atmosphere, education, and how safe it is here. All of that is very impressive, along with what we have done on the football field for the past two years.
Q: What do you think about people saying you could not recruit?
We have a good recruiting staff. We work very hard at it, and I appreciate the organization starting with Chris Vaughn. Derrick Nix deserves to be the recruiter of the year in Mississippi. Terry Price needs to be in there too along with Tyrone Nix and James Shibest. Ron Dickerson signed Dwayne Dorsey who was highly recruited. We have a good group of recruiters who are passionate about it and who do it the right way. I'll be honest, I am really glad that it is over today.
Q: Last year you said you needed another strong class. Do you think this class qualifies?
It keeps taking us to another level. We are in the most competitive league in America. We are ranked around fifteenth in the country. As you know, in the SEC, we have Alabama, Auburn, LSU, etc, so it is very competitive. We have had a lot of juniors already calling in for next year. I am excited about recruits from Mississippi that are going to be seniors [in high school] next year that are excited about Ole Miss football. I think it takes us to another level. This is a critical year because we lost 24 seniors. We had to have a good class this year. We had to have these guys in our program to start training them. This is a critical year, and I think we accomplished that.
Q: Talk about some of the high school seniors that are going to play next season.
We tell them all to 'come get on the bus'. We tell them all to come start. It depends on who is going to be the most mature and who is going to handle the terminology the quickest as well as the mental aspect of the game. It is a big step from Friday night football to Saturday, and not everyone can do it. We have been averaging about six or seven true freshman that play every year, and we will probably need that same number.
Q: What drew you to Cedric Smith and Martez Eastland? Do you count Matt Hall as a recruit?
I don't count Matt Hall as a recruit right now. He was not released and is walking on as of right now. I am glad he is working out. He cannot play next year, but I am glad he is here. We will let him keep working out and keep training. He will be a great scout team tackle for Tyrone Nix and Terry Price. They were always on our list, but we did not think we had a scholarship for them at the time. When you are trying to sign three cornerbacks, and you bring in ten to visit, you cannot tell all ten that you have scholarships for them. You have a pecking order like they have a pecking order. We try to be very honest and upfront with them. We were upfront with these guys and I think that is what won them over. Tyrone [Nix] had a great relationship with the coach, and Cedric [Smith] was always very high on our list because he is so physical. He is the corner that is so physical that he is on kick-off teams, punt teams, and he will really hit you. He was highly recruited, so we are very fortunate to get a guy like Cedric [Smith]. It is the same thing with Martez [Eastland]. He had places to go. He had other offers. He came to Oxford from a small town, and fell in love with this small town. He fell in love with this atmosphere. I love what we do Fridays because it is real life. The recruits get here and see our players working out. They become focused in on them and see how their bodies change. They see what they get to eat and how they get to lift and run. They start thinking that they can go to college here. Martez [Eastland] was in the same situation. We needed a fullback/tailback, especially someone who is as physical as he is. We did not know if we had a scholarship for him early on, but it worked out.
Q: Who were the guys that Derrick Nix was responsible for recruiting in state?
Bryon Bennett, Cordell Giles, Carlos Thompson, and Vincent Sanders.
Q: This is your third year at Ole Miss, did you notice anything ratchet up in terms of head-to-head recruiting in the state of Mississippi?
No. We got excited about recruiting. We got excited about the Cotton Bowl. We got excited about getting back in the living rooms. We got excited about our players talking about who they're going to host for the weekend. That's what its about. It's about trying to win a championship and get to Atlanta. Really, you have blinders on, and I don't worry about anything else.
Q: Did you find that you had to explain any events that happened on campus in the fall?
What are we rated? By the time we had in home visits, we didn't have to explain anything. Not one time.
Q: What is the status of Mike Thomas?
He's in school. There is a group of guys that are in school that I really haven't mentioned except for Damien Jackson and Wayne Dorsey.
Q: What is it going to do for Chase Hughes to be here during the spring? Do you think he can contribute if he does get healthy?
I always worry about a senior leaving high school because I know they're worried about things like missing their senior prom, but, with the situation that we're in with Daverin Geralds, we did not get his year back. It's critical when you lose John Jerry, Reid Neely, Daverin Geralds, it is critical. Also, he is coming off of minor shoulder surgery and rehab. We have the best doctors and he is in the right place. Not only physically with him and the rehab, but mentally with the playbook getting out there and getting reps in spring practice. He is second team by the fall, so he is going to get plenty of reps.
Q: Focusing on next year, this year you went heavy on defense, are you going to go heavy on offense next year?
We're always going to try to sign four or five offensive linemen, and four to five defensive linemen every year. We are always going to try to do that. We are going to focus on receivers and running backs. We have to sign a quarterback or two. Right now we have two scholarship quarterbacks on campus and a third coming with Randall Mackey. Most schools have four or five [quarterbacks] so that is a number that you are concerned with because of injury. You reload at different places, but that is the basis for our plan.
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