Troy Clardy: I'm sure you have to be very pleased with this year's recruiting class, especially considering the circumstances surrounding this class, with the previous regime setting the table for you and you guys having to go from there.
Walt Harris: Yeah, it was a big job. It was kind of a whirlwind. Our assistant coaches that were already here, and more and more of them as they were hired on - they did a tremendous job. Tom Quinn, who is our recruiting coordinator, really did an outstanding job directing us and directing the recruiting process. I think we had a real solid year.
TC: Let's talk about the class in a bit more detail. Defense seemed to be the name of the game with 10 of the 16 players coming from that side of the ball. Talk about the things you were able to accomplish with this year's defensive signees.
WH: Well, we have some guys that will be graduating and have played a lot of football for us on defense. So we tried to upgrade the depth of the young guys so we can have some options to go to in the future. Maybe some of those young men might have a chance to play this year, which will be very exciting.
TC: What's your redshirting philosophy?
WH: I think you always have the philosophy that talent will go past experience in every situation if you give the talented player experience. We played young players all the way through my time as a head coach, and that will continue. It's a lot to expect of a young guy who doesn't really know what college football, Division I-A football, is all about. But some of them are blessed and come in with a great attitude and great preparation and can play.
TC: Obviously when you're Stanford you have to cast the net a bit wider because the pool isn't as large as it is for most other schools, and you also have to have a more nationalized recruiting effort. What are some of the things that you and the coaching staff tried to do to sell Stanford to the kids that you wanted to get here?
WH: You know, this is such a great university that it sells itself. And when these young men came on campus, the faculty was very, very involved in the recruiting process. So were our players and our assistant coaches. Those three areas did an outstanding job of selling this school, which is very easy to do. And I think that whatever success we had, it's based on those two factors.
TC: Maybe it's a bit too early to ask this question, but what are the preliminary areas of emphasis for the 2006 recruiting class?
WH: We're going to try to look hard at receiver, quarterback, cornerback, and running back.
TC: Let's talk about the coaching staff you've assembled here. What sort of qualities were you looking for in your coaches, and what kind of style do you think this staff is going to take with the kids starting this spring?
WH: Wow, that's a lot of questions! [Laughs] We're just going to be who we are. Who are we? We're a coaching staff that has some older coaches who have gone through a lot of football seasons and bring a tremendous amount of experience. We have some middle-range coaches in terms of experience and youthfulness. And we have some younger guys. I think the challenge at Stanford University is for us to enlarge the pool as best we can of the number of athletes who can qualify and get into school here. When one young man doesn't qualify then we need to have another good football player that is able to qualify. I think sometimes we get caught short and don't have enough in the pool. Our focus during certain times of the year, and even during the fall, is going to be on being a very recruiting-oriented staff, and we're going to try to do a bang-up job that way.
On the field, I think we're going to have an intense group of coaches that are very, very detailed. We'll expect the players to do it the right way, dot all the I's and cross all the T's, and to play with an enthusiasm that doesn't beat itself.
TC: You had said during your introductory press conference that you were also going to be the quarterbacks coach. Now you're also going to be the offensive coordinator as well. How did you reach that decision, and what are some things that form your offensive philosophy?
WH: Well, that whole "offensive coordinator" thing's a little overrated, honestly. But it's not because someone on our staff isn't going to have a lot of responsibility. Tucker Waugh will coach our receivers, and he'll have a lot of the responsibilities of an offensive coordinator. Tom Freeman is our run-game coordinator and coaches our centers and guards. He'll have a lot of the responsibilities in the run game and in pass protection. But I've always been the coordinator. Whether we had one or didn't have one, I've always been the guy that kind of oversees things. During the game I call the plays because I coach the quarterbacks. I think that the guy coaching quarterbacks has the best opportunity to give that quarterback the best chance to be successful. He does touch the ball every down, and we need to make sure the ball stays in our hands and that we get in the endzone.
TC: You spent so many years at Pitt, and you brought that program back to be one of the major players in the Big East. With the rise of that program and the tough year you had personally last year, what did you learn from that whole experience at Pitt, and how has that shaped the coach you are today?
WH: What I learned is to never doubt our young kids. They have a burning desire. If you get them on your team, if they believe in you, and if they want to play for you, their ability to get things done is unbelievable. We had a very young football team last year at Pittsburgh. People doubted us the whole way through. The doubters started before the season, and things mounted as the season went on. But we had a group of players that wanted to win for each other, for themselves, and also for our coaching staff. We were able to kind of put it together when we started getting more experienced. We had a good run at the end of the season. We won a bunch of big games - Notre Dame, West Virginia, Boston College - and I think it's all because we had the kind of kids who had the talent, who wanted to win, and wanted to do the little things that it took in order to win football games. And we did.
WH: I think they're still going through the process of learning to be a quarterback at the Division I-A level. I think our young quarterback at Pittsburgh, Tyler Palko, struggled like they struggled. But he was able to get to the other side because of what happened to him during the season. My goal is to try to get these young men to the end of the process so that they can have some success. Obviously they've had some challenging days on the football field, and I'm going to work very, very hard, along with the rest of our coaches and our offensive line and our defense, to give these quarterbacks an opportunity to have success.
TC: So after the coaching staff finishes getting assembled, what's on the table for you next? You gonna take a week off and a deep breath before spring ball gets going?
WH: Well, we're going to work on our winter program. We've always had an exciting, demanding winter program, so that's our next order of business.
-- Got a thought on this column or on Stanford sports? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org! The ones I like best will end up in my next E-Mailbag.
Troy Clardy is a reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, which airs Saturday mornings on Fox Sports Net Bay Area. Clardy hosts "Stanford Sports Weekly", which airs Wednesday evenings at 8:00 PM on KNTS (1220 AM) in San Francisco.
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