Paterno Talks Recruiting

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno spoke with the media about the 2006 Nittany Lion recruiting class. Find out what Paterno had to say in our FOS audio files and via the written transcript from PSU sports information.

Paterno comments: Part 1
Paterno comments: Part 2

The PSU Sports Information Transcript:

Joe Paterno Press Briefing

February 1, 2006

I’m not much for talking about recruiting, but I did think it would be good, that when I talked to some of the guys to make sure everybody understood, a year and half ago, I said to everybody that if I could keep my staff together, I’d think we would be alright and they went to work and we got some kids last year that obviously helped us win some games last year and this staff went to work this year and I think we have a pretty good group. How good…. That’s the game you all have to play, I guess. I think we have some people I feel can help us not necessarily next year but eventually, and I think a lot of the credit to the fact that we’ve been able to do what we do, to kind of get some of the kids that we got was because I think that they had a sense that the kids on our team, they worked to help us get them, and the sense of family, there’s something there, we’re not even trying to promote it that way, but I think there was some kind of identifying with that. I feel pretty good about the recruiting. We have one or two other guys we wish we could get, but don’t ask me who because I’m not going to tell you but, I think overall it was a good year for us and we’ll see what happens.

1) Please comment on the job Larry Johnson did (in recruiting players for this class).

Larry did a great job, a super job.

2) Why is he so successful?

Larry has such a great reputation from where he’s from. People don’t realize that he was a principal down in that area and he also won football championships and he also won two state track championships, Larry’s a excellent coach and a wonderful person. He had two boys go through our program so I mean the sense of family would eminate obviously from him because so many of the kids who said they’ve decided to go to Penn State have mentioned the Penn State family, and I think that when you look at Dick Anderson’s has had kids go here, I’ve had five kids go here, Brian Norwood’s got a kid on the team, so I think there’s a feeling here for parents it’s a comfortable place for their kids to go.

3) Is there a secret to keeping all the players who commit?

There’s no secrets to this thing. No, I don’t think there’s any secrets or anything like that. I just don’t know. We pecked away at a couple of kids we thought maybe we’d have a chance to expose them more to Penn State they might want to reconsider their decision and fortunately we got some kids. I don’t know why we’ve been able to hang onto kids. We’ve tried to stay close to make sure once they were committed we were still interested in them and their families and so far it’s worked out.

4) How much does having freshmen contribute help in recruiting?

That really doesn’t come up, at least it may come up, but not with me. Most of the time my conversations with the kids are what we can do for you academically, this is the environment you’re going to be in, this is this and that. Now whether some of the kids saw some freshman play here last year, they identify with it, a lot of kids assess the opportunities at other schools if you’re going to play a certain position you look to see what the depth is and all that stuff. I personally don’t think that’s the way to pick a school because you don’t know. There’s people that play the roster game. I’ve never really liked to do that and I try to tell our coaches not to get involved in the roster game. Some kids like you and some kids don’t.

5) Is it time to sit back, relax and enjoy this class or get back to work?

We’ve got get to work, we’ve got to get a good winter program and the whole bit. I mean, what is there to enjoy? I don’t even know who can play. You guys are telling me who the good ones are. I try to put the TV set on over lunch to see what the stock market is doing and I get ESPN and they’re telling me who’s good and I’m looking at guys they think are great who I wouldn’t even recruit.

6) What are your thoughts on all the televised announcements by recruits?

That’s something I think the NCAA probably ought to think about. I don’t know. Kids enjoy it. I’d rather not get into that.

7) Do you like the balance you’ve assembled with the last two classes?

I think when people talk about whether you had a good class, it depends on what your goals were to start out with, and our goals were obviously to fill in some positions and I think in most cases we did that. Now if the people we evaluated are as good as we think they are and they can fit into those positions well dovetail one class into another one I think that’s important I don’t think you just recruit to recruit, you don’t go out and recruit five wideouts if you’ve got five great ones I mean that kind of thing so I think you try to be intelligent about what you want to do. You want to put a squad together that’s competitive in the league our in and the certain types of players you make lack due to graduation or something so you go out and they don’t want to do the five priorities for you so hopefully we’ve been able to fill in what we need.

8) Do the “recruiting experts” know what they’re talking about?

I think there’s not a black and white kind of answer to that. In some cases there are obviously some great football players out there, some great high school football players that just jump out at you. When they start evaluating the entire class, somebody’s No. 1, somebody’s No. 8, somebody’s No. 12, I don’t pay much attention to that.

9) How did all the winning this past season impact this year’s recruiting?

Well, I think when you win it always helps.

10) How much did all the returning players help with recruiting this class?

Well as I said earlier, I really think the fact that so many of our kids really like each other, they’re comfortable with each other, they’ve got some goals, to be a good football team, as well as kids who go to class. I haven’t had many problems with some of these young kids. People who have similar interests gravitate to them. There’s no question the type of kid we have has had an influence on the type of kid we’ve recruited.

11) With more players leaving early for the NFL, is it more important to find impact players who can help right away?

I don’t really think that way. We look at kids we think are good players; good enough to play at Penn State. And eventually could be good enough. I think you’ve got to be awfully careful when you start projecting guys who are going to be impact players right away because you think you’re going to lose somebody three years from now. I bet that never comes up. If it comes up once I’d be surprised.

12) How many visits did you make compared to past years?

Head coaches can only visit a player once. I probably visited everybody but a couple. And I visited a couple we didn’t get. I like to visit the kids. I like to visit, particularly if I can get in their homes, to get a feel for where my support is going to be in case I need some help with the kid. There’s no utopia. There’s ups and there’s downs. And when there are downs you’ve got to have some people that can help you get them over the downs. So I like to get in the houses. Probably about as many as I usually do.

13) Can you appreciate the star power of Joe Paterno when you visit someone’s home?

Star power…It’s nice to hear it but I don’t believe it.

14) Do you have one or two living room secrets you can share?

I sit down and tell them and say hey, ‘this is what the situation is. I’d like to have your son. We think we have a good situation for him. Do you have any questions?’ and then we go from there.

15) Have the parents’ role changed in recruiting?

It depends on the kind of kid…If you’re fortunate enough to go after somebody where’s there a solid home, the parents have a great deal to do with it. There are situations where there isn’t a solid home. You’re literally trying to find out whether the high school coach is someone who can direct them. But I think in most cases today, the parents are a little bit more…we talk about all this other hype…ESPN…and all the other recruiting stuff, I think the parents are much more…Internet…I don’t have any of that junk…websites...all that kind of stuff. I think they’re so much more aware of what is going on. “I saw on a website that so-and-so said this and so-and-so said that.” I think the information and education of everybody involved…It’s amazing. I’ll go into a high school and people will say, “ I heard you’re getting this guy.” I’ll say, “how do you know?” “It was on a website.”

16) Has your message in the living room changed much over the last 40 years?

It may have. I don’t think so. I think it’s been pretty consistent. This is what we have, are you comfortable with it. Do you have any questions?

17) Please talk about the job Mike McQueary is doing as recruiting coordinator.

Mike did a good job, I just want to be careful. Because as good a job as Mike did, there were some guys on the staff that just did a tremendous job. You mentioned Larry Johnson. There’s an awful lot of guys that plugged away…I don’t want to get into one guy or another guy because I don’t think that’s fair. We had a lot of guys really work at it. As I said, a year and a half ago I felt if I could keep the staff together we could get this thing straightened out and obviously we’re in a position where we could maybe be a pretty good team for awhile.

18) How often does the subject of how much longer you’re going to coach come up?

I tell them I don’t think I can go much more than 10 years (laughter). It really doesn’t come up much and that’s a reflection on the quality of the staff. And the quality of the kids that are here and the program you have. The academic support people…when we bring kids in they spend time with them. The strength training coach. I think the quality of all the people around here have made it less important for them to know how long I’m going to be here. I think there’s been less than of that.

19) Will you sit down with any fourth or fifth year seniors to discuss whether they’ll be back?

I haven’t really gotten to that yet. I have to sit down with the staff and just figure that out. That will be up to some of them, what they want to do. We have some kids that have graduated and they have another year if they want to play who are talking about going on to graduate school. Before I really know what’s going on I don’t want to highlight anybody.

20) Do you get more excited over some recruiting classes than others?

I don’t get excited until I see them out there and somebody hits them in the mouth.

I just wanted to make sure that I highlighted the fact that there were some factors, number one was the coaching staff and what a great job they did. I didn’t want that to slip away from the whole thing. The last two years they’ve had to fight their way back into things. And they did it. I would have been remiss if somebody hadn’t said Larry Johnson did a great job. I would have felt bad about that. And the same way with the effort the squad made to help. That’s basically all I wanted to do. Not necessarily to praise the quality of the recruiting class, although I think it’s a good one. I just wanted to make sure that everybody that I thought the guys did a great job and when I say guys, I mean everyone in this building. Secretaries in here at 8 o’clock on a Sunday night trying to make phone calls to make contact so I could get ahold of somebody and things like that. They were all involved with it. Hopefully it turned out as well as some people think. We’ll find out.

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