Jim Harbaugh Signing Day Press Conference

New Stanford Football head coach Jim Harbaugh welcomes a public press conference. On Wednesday, he tackled questions from The Bootleg and the local media on his first class of 19 signees at Stanford. Harbaugh talked about both quarterbacks, Coby Fleener, David Green, Owen Marecic, landing Johnathon Frink and more. Also his redshirting policy, his coaches, Stanford's current players and more.

Opening statement:

"Welcome to National Letter of Intent Day.  Signing Day.  We signed 19 players today.  Recruiting is the life blood of the program.  It has to be a habit you do every day, like combing your hair or brushing your teeth.  If you don't do it every day, you start to look bad.

"We are extremely pleased with this class.  We feel it's a strong class.  We have many people to thank.  One of them is sitting here in the audience: [Athletic] Director [Bob] Bowlsby - calling recruits when there wasn't a staff here.  Nate Nelson, our recruiting coordinator.  Many of our graduate assistants.  Many of the faculty here: Dr. Bill Dement and Bob Simoni.  This list could go on and on.  Tara VanDerveer.  Dick Gould.  Many people who carried that torch and kept this being a strong class.  Our coaches went out on the road.  We had recruiting weekends.  And Stanford itself.  This place sells itself in a lot of ways.  Players from all over the country who are scholar-athletes.

"I'm pleased for this university.  I'm pleased for the scholar-athletes.  I'm pleased for their families.  Can you imagine how proud you would be to have a son attending Stanford on a full scholarship.  The tremendous pride they must have as a family.  I feel great for them.  I feel great for our admissions department.  We have really the only admissions department in the country who has not lowered their standards for football.  It's almost shameful what some other programs are doing, lowering their standards.  The bar is set very high here.  We're very proud of that, and we're very proud of the young men that we have signed for this 2007 freshman class."

Jim, what do you feel you like most about this class?  Did you fill specific needs that you guys needed to?

"I wouldn't say there are any glaring needs on this football team.  Safety, you could make an argument there.  Three top safeties are graduated.  But we attempted to get the best scholar-athletes, scholar-football players, in the country.  I think I saw a quote today that the average grade-point is close to a 3.9 in this class.  There are some really good football players.  Four offensive linemen in this class.  We have two quarterbacks.  11 players on offense, five on defense, two athletes that can go either offense or defense and one of the best kickers in the country.  We feel it's a diverse class, and it's a strong class."

Can you talk about what the process was like for you in your first round of Division I-A recruiting?

"The process really started like this:  I was hired December 19.  The number one thing you need to have for a great football program is a supportive athletic administration.  That was apparent from the time I was contacted to the interview process and when I was offered the job here.  There are tremendous resources here and tremendous support.  Pressure to win, but we welcome that.  The next thing is to hire a great coaching staff.  That was going on as we were recruiting, hiring a staff.  The next most important thing for me was to recruit the current roster.  I did not want to lose any ground with the team that was already here and already in place.  The more I have gotten to know them, I feel this is a team with talent, smarts and experience - guys who have been there before.  You can make an argument that our top two recruits in this '07 class are [Mark] Bradford and [Evan] Moore.  Bradford could have come out early and gone in the NFL Draft - could have been a third or fourth round pick.  But he chose to stay here at Stanford and get this program back to its rightful place in college football."

How much time would you say you have spent on the road?

"From December 19, we could not go on the road until January 14.  That was the first day to get out there on the road.  Every single day, pretty much, coaches were out there on airplanes criss-crossing the country.  Sort of an interesting story: my first day was to go out to Hawaii.  I went out there Sunday night, saw Matt [Masifilo], stayed about six hours, flew to Birmingham, Alabama.  Then to Baton Rouge.  Then to Chicago.  Then back here for a recruiting weekend.  That was the same thing for all of our coaches.  This is an interesting statistic, related to what I said at the top with Director Bowlsby and the staff that was in place here.  We had 20 players that ended up being admitted to Stanford and that came here on an official visit.  19 of them are here.  19 out of those 20 that were admitted and visited here signed their National Letters of Intent today.  I don't know what kind of batting average that is, but it would put you in the Hall of Fame.  That speaks for the University we have.  That speaks to the people who are here, to the players on our team, to the coaches we have and to what this place is all about.  That's exciting."

Without a defensive coordinator in place, was that an issue at all getting those defensive guys on board?  And when do you think you will have a defensive coordinator in place?

"I think there will be one in place by Tuesday or Wednesday - a week from today.  I said from the beginning with the entire staff, whether it takes a week or six weeks, we're going to get the best guys.  I'll tell you the kind of guys I want.  Guys with high character.  Guys who are technically sound.  Guys that I would want my 17-year-old high school senior right now to go play for.  Guys that care.  That's what we have so far.  There will be another addition; that will be a defensive coordinator.  We're still in the interview process for that, but I anticipate that next week."

You have hired all but two spots on the staff.  You talked about the defensive coordinator, and then you have a recruiting coordinator to name.  Do you keep Nate Nelson on for that?

"The position that Nate is in right now is recruiting coordinator and defensive back coach.  Also a defensive coordinator needs to be hired.  Those are two spots.  Nate is here, and we have defensive coordinator to hire.  There will possibly be a secondary coach hire.  But Nate's doing a good job and interviewing well.  That process is going on.  Both of those spots will be filled by Wednesday."

What is unique about recruiting at Stanford that Nate Nelson, Bob Bowlsby and some other people had to help get you up to speed?

"I think the unique thing that jumps into my mind is that this is the only place where you can have it all.  This is the best of the best.  You can have a President of the United States as an alumni.  You can have an alumni who is a winning quarterback in the Super Bowl.  There are only four universities in America who have that, and Stanford is one of them.  You can have it all."

Six players out of last year's signing class ended up playing last season.  Do you have any anticipation of how many of these guys might be pressed into playing pretty quickly?

"We really recruit them because we think they can play right away.  Now, it's really kind of early to say who the best ones are going to be.  Any one of them could be the best recruit in the bunch.  We recruit them to play right away, and we'll make that decision at the end of training camp - whether to redshirt a guy or to play him.  Sometimes that's predicated upon injury or a need at a position, or the guy is just flat-out better than the rest of the guys.  Most all positions are going to be up for grabs in spring ball and during training camp, and we expect our incoming freshmen to compete.  Now, if they are not in the two deep - not in the first string or second string - we're not going to put them in at the end of a football game and use a year of eligibility for three or four plays at the end of the game."

Which positions are up for grabs right now?

"Pretty much all of them."

Johnathon Frink committed last minute.  What kind of work went into getting him?

"It was very competitive.  Ole Miss was after him.  You have to understand that to get to John Frink's house, you have to pass literally through Ole Miss' campus.  There was some pressure there at home.  Truth be told, John wanted to come here on his visit and had committed at that point.  But the family wanted to take the rest of their visits, and we respected and honored that.  This is where he and his family wanted to be."

What was your reaction when you saw his fax come across today?  He hadn't been public about any commitment, and you never know until you get that Letter of Intent...

"Well, you have to meet Mr. Frink and get a handshake from Mr. Frink.  I did not worry about that in the least.  To know, you need to meet Mr. Frink."

You said that you signed two quarterbacks, but Kellen Kiilsgaard is also a nationally acclaimed safety prospect.  You talked about that need on your team.  What will go into the evaluation of where to play him, given that he has so much ability at two different spots?

"Definitely, we would like to see him at quarterback when he comes in here.  Not only is he nationally acclaimed at safety and quarterback, but he's a pretty darned good baseball player as well.  He's just a tremendous athlete.  You like your best athlete to be playing the quarterback position, so he'll have an excellent chance to play quarterback.  I recall a very good quarterback who ended up being a Pro Bowl safety, John Lynch, of this school.  It's a little early to tell.  We'll see when he gets here and steps in there behind someone.  But I feel good about Kellen contributing early to our program."

How many of the kids on the current roster have you had a chance to meet at this point?

"Just about all of them.  Workouts are ongoing.  We've had 21 championship workouts so far.  Very good, very competitive workouts.  We have been meeting on Saturdays with the entire team and the entire coaching staff.  They have been in the stadium.  We have had tremendous turnout from former players, faculty and alumni.  That recruiting weekend where our scholar-athletes and their parents were out there watching.  We have had good crowds and good turnouts.  Our guys have been working hard.  We have actually had a chance to watch them run and work out."

You feel you are getting a chance to know them?

"Yes.  We know them better day by day."

Will Matt Traverso be back next year?

"We're still waiting to find out for his sixth year.  Does anybody know when we will get that?  [Bob Bowlsby: "It will be a while.  It is just going to the NCAA right now."]"

How much impact can a kicker have coming in, and how good a chance does David Green have among kickers to do that?

"David has a very good chance.  You watch his tape, and he is putting most of those kickoffs into the endzone.  I think the exciting thing about David Green is to watch him punt.  I think that could be his best position.  The only problem he had at his high school was that they only punted 13 times last season, so he didn't get a lot of game work punting the football.  But I have a feeling that might be his best position.  He is a unique guy who can do both.  He can kick field goals; he can kickoff; and he can punt."

So you don't mind having the same guy do all three?

"No, not if he is the best one doing it.  He reminds me of a guy out of Clemson named Chris Gardocki, who kicked off, punted and kicked field goals."

Jim, the list of recruits you had was maybe not your list; it was the list being worked on when you got here.  How is this experience going to be different for you next year when it is your list and your staff's list of players you were targeting?

"It's the same.  It's Stanford's list.  It's our program's list.  I think that the best thing we have here is our University and our players.  Our guys are articulate, successful guys.  I can tell you that in more than a dozen homes I was in, families commented on that.  To go into our locker room and be around our players was different than going into some other schools they had visited in the fall.  It's just that encounter in the locker room.  Our guys are our best recruiters.  Boy, they feel good about this program and feel successful about the football program.  Then they go out and go back to their hometowns and their home states and help recruit guys.  That will be our best recruiting tool."

What kind of tight end is Coby Fleener going to be for Stanford?

"Well, Coby is a really young looking guy.  Coby is not shaving yet, I don't think.  [laughs]  He's a young looking guys, but you watch him block and he's effective.  He's effective as a blocker.  Then you watch him pass catch, and he's special.  He reminds me a little bit of Doug Jolley, the way he gets out in the passing route and can get vertical.  He can get vertical down the seam, and he can get vertical to the corner.  He's going to mature.  He's going to put on weight.  I think he has a chance to be the type of tight end who can do both really well - block and catch.  The one thing you look for in a tight end is to do one of the really well.  Either be a great blocker or be a great pass-catcher.  I think Coby has a chance to be one of those rare guys who can do both."

Do you have any two-sport guys on this list?

"Kellen."

From the in-home visits you did and talking to guys on the phone, was there any one guy who sticks out as just a really difficult recruitment that you felt you all had to fight tooth-and-nail to get that Letter of Intent?

"They really all were that way.  You have to understand that you go into a home and talk about a parent's most prized possession - a 17-year-old or 18-year-old son that they are going to drop off at your doorstep.  That responsibility is something that we take very seriously as coaches here.  Like I said before, guys who really care about players not as an ends to a means but as people and what they are going to do for the next four to five years.  Helping them be successful both in the classroom and on the field where they can play, play a lot, play well and win.  Hopefully they're going to live another 65 years after that.  It's a really big responsibility, and our guys take it seriously.  I want to return that young man the same quality young man that his parents dropped off at our doorstep.  That's something we take seriously.  You have to work hard to convince the parents."

Jim, how would you evaluate L.D. Crow as a quarterback?

"I think L.D. is a very polished quarterback for being a senior in high school.  He has been in a college-style, pro-style system.  I think he throws a very catchable ball.  He is accurate.  And I think he is a very good ballhandler.  He does just enough to make guys miss and can get out on the edge and throw on the run.  I'm excited to work with L.D.  He and Kellen are different guys."

Does your system favor a certain type of quarterback over others?

"Well, I think the most important thing for a quarterback in our system, before you start talking about size, speed and arm strength is leadership.  He has to mentally be a quick-minded guy.  He really needs to answer those mental and leadership questions before you start talking about anything else.  Next is accuracy and throwing the ball with great location.  He has to be accurate in practice and accurate in games.  He has to put the ball in the right location.  That's what we look for.  Next would be timing - if he has a sense of tempo and timing to get the ball out of his hands.  He is not going to take the sacks and negative plays.  His most important job is to take care of the football, and that goes to decision-making.  There are a lot of things you want from your quarterback.  You want him to be the hardest worker on your team.  You want him to be mentally and physically tough.  Those guys come in different sizes and packages.  It's not necessarily that a guy has to be 6'4".  He could pretty much be 5'9".  Those intangibles are what you look for first.  I think we got two pretty good ones in these guys."

How does T.C. Ostrander fit that bill?

"I have enjoyed working with T.C.  T.C. is hungry.  That's the one thing I like about T.C.  He is hungry.  He's been here, going into his fifth year.  He wants to perform well, and he's working at it.  He has been very hungry to pick up the offense.  He wants more.  I just emailed him something off the computer now because he's been on me.  'Give me more [fingers typing on table].'  That's a good sign.  The thing about being a coach of a position - I'm the head coach, but also the quarterback coach - I look at all of those guys and want them all to be successful.  You want them all to be the starter.  You coach them all up to be the starter.  But there is only one football.  You want them all to have that opportunity, so I'm pulling for them all right now."

In that same vein, is it a challenge when you sign two quarterbacks in one class?

"They're going to compete.  When you get two good ones, I think it is a plus for your football team.  Go battle it out.  Iron sharpens iron.  The guy who doesn't want to compete - you worry about that guy who asks, 'How many quarterbacks are you guys signing?  Two quarterbacks?  I'll go to this other school.'  But both of these guys are competitors and want to compete."

Fullback is not as big a part of college football a lot of places today, and you guys signed a true one in Owen Marecic.  Why go out and scholarship a fullback for your system, and what is he going to bring to help fill that?

"Well, the late Bo Schembechler would be rolling over in his grave if he looked down and saw our team not playing with a tight end or a fullback at times.  You look at most NFL offenses, and they have a fullback on the roster and in their system.  They definitely play with a fullback.  This guy is a hammer.  He will hit you.  He jumped right off the tape - very physical.  There are times when you want to run the football, and you want to bring in that fullback for protection, goalline situations and short yardage situations.  I think Owen has a chance to be a prototype NFL fullback down the road."


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