Charlie Strong Impressed with UT's 2015 Haul

Texas head coach Charlie Strong had high praise for his 2015 recruiting class on Wednesday.

Here are several quotes from his introductory press conference for the 2015 Texas recruiting class.

Opening Statement:

"The twentieth hour is officially over. I cannot say enough about our staff and the great job that they did recruiting. You think about it, where we were in November, December, to where we are right now, and it's a total effort that they put into it. You go out and recruit and you get the players on campus, then our players are the ones who become the key sellers. Our guys did a great job of selling this program. What a lot of recruits want to know is basically how is Coach Strong? What's his personality like? What's Coach [Vance] Bedford's personality like? What's Coach BJ's [Brian Jean-Mary] personality like? They did a great job of just getting them out, getting them around town, letting them see the city."

"Then I think about, on Saturdays when some of our professors here gave up their day to come out and talk about academics and just really sell this program. Not only from the athletics side but a total university side, the great job that they did. Everyone joined in knowing what we had to get accomplished during the recruiting season."

Does he feel like the needs of this class were met?

"I look at our needs; we were able to fulfill our needs at each position. Offensively, we needed a quarterback, and we were able to go and get us a quarterback and get him to change his commitment. I think about our offensive line, and the offensive linemen are on campus right now. We had a 5:30 workout this morning, and it was good to see some of them running around and the way they're moving. It was a position last year that we didn't have much depth, and now we're able to add depth to that position. The wide receiver position, you think about it, you have some of those guys that are long and athletic, and you want the height outside, so when the ball goes up, we can win outside. The running back position, we've got a big powerful back, and then you have two guys that have enough speed and quickness where they can get outside. I look at it offensively, we were able to go out and get the players that we need on offense."

The Importance of Malik Jefferson

"Defense, we always talked about the linebacker position, and we talked about the secondary and to just get Malik [Jefferson] here. I made the statement earlier in December, I said that anytime you're in a recruiting process, there's got to be a player, there's got to be a marquee player – that was Malik Jefferson for us. When he got on board, it got us started. With him getting the program jumpstarted, he was able to sell the program. There were recruits that were kind of sitting on the fence, and then when they saw Malik jump on board, some of them jumped on board. Then the ones that were not trying to make a decision on where they wanted to go, he was able to sell the program. They were able to call him because so many players respected him and knew exactly who he was. I think last year with those two corners making their commitment here was big for us. You look at those players; they're two of the best players within this state. On the defensive line, we were able to go out and get us some defensive linemen that will add some depth to us."

The Importance of Recruiting the State of Texas

"Overall, when you look at this group and you look at where they came from, I think it's [18] in this state, seven or eight out of state, this will always be our background. This will always be our foundation. The state of Texas will always be our foundation, and we'll always know this. We will recruit this state and most of our players are going to come from this state. Anytime we go out of state, it has to be about relationships. When I was an assistant coach at The University of Florida, Miami was all recruited, so I knew a lot of those coaches down there already had a relationship with those coaches at Miami, so it wasn't very hard to sell when we went in to sell our program. You look at us going to get Kai [Locksley], me and Mike [Locksley] coached together at the University of Florida along with Coach [Joe] Wickline. You look at (Kirk) Johnson coming in, his father was a great player here; and coming out of California. Garrett Thomas, we knew about Garrett because I had some friends within his community. Then with [Brandon] Hodges, Coach Wickline's wife actually grew up in Aberdeen, Mississippi, so when we went in to see him, we had to go over to the fire station and were able to tell some stories."

Not afraid to go out-of-state though

"We know this – the state of Texas will always be our home ground. We will always build it from this state. There are great high school coaches in this state. That's what it's all about. We will always know this, any time we need to go out-of-state where we can get into battles, I don't mind going outside the state to get in a battle. That's what it's all about; that's what recruiting is all about. We knew we were not going to back down. We took it all the way up to the last day. A lot of times within a program, we've seen it where a lot of these guys just already made their commitments and it's filled up, but it doesn't matter. There's a lot of different ways to do things. I like to continue to battle until the end. I know this, a lot of those guys made it exciting for you because you were able to write each and every day. It didn't get very boring for you (laughs). It was a total team effort from everyone involved. It's so great to see the way we ended with this class. I think many of the top players in this state, we were able to get them on campus and sell our program and sell what we are and what we're all about. The recruiting process always starts early, but you always remember signing day is the first Wednesday in February, so you just have to battle until then. You have to continue to try to hold on with what you've got, and if there's someone else out there that you want to try to get, you have that opportunity to go get him."

A funny story involving Ryan Newsome

"I just think about [Ryan] Newsome, and I tell his story. It's kind of a funny story. I don't know if he'd want me to tell it, but he has no choice right now. It was a week ago, last Thursday night. At 1:30 in the morning, he called me and said coach, I'm coming. I said, are you sure? He says yes, I'm coming and was going to make his announcement the next day. The next day at 10:30, I get a call and he says Coach, I'm kind of confused right now. I don't know what I'm going to do, but you'll know when I set up to have my press conference. I said okay, that's fine. He goes to the podium, and he announces UCLA. I thought, wow. We kind of sat on it for a day or two. I thought let's just sit on it for a day or two, and I'll give him a call when I think it's the right opportunity. Then I make the phone call to him, and he said you know what Coach, I'll open it back up. I said okay. Last night he called me, and it was midnight. I said okay, now we're an hour and a half earlier. Are you sure this is what you want to do? He said yes, Coach. I said are you sure because don't wake up tomorrow morning and say Coach, I'm not sending you the paper, I'm sending it somewhere else. It was great. His family was good. Sometimes we forget that they're 17 and 18, and they make a decision. If you just keep battling with them and sell your program and sell what you have, then that's really the only thing that you can do. Our staff was just relentless. We had guys who just kept going and going, and they were not going to take no for an answer. You can't take no for an answer until the fax comes across your desk or it goes somewhere else. You can't take no. You just have to keep battling."

Strong wasn't concerned about not getting a QB

"I don't think we had a concern that we're not. You think about it, we had one committed for a long time, and then we lost him there a couple of weeks ago. Even when Kai [Locksley] made his announcement that he was going to go to FSU, we kept recruiting. That's what you have to do. We just knew we had to get us a quarterback. We had to because we were going into spring ball with only two, and we knew that we needed another quarterback to add some depth. I'm very pleased with him. Kai is a young man who is very athletic and a guy who can beat you with his feet while he's throwing the football. We still have some work to do. I haven't had a chance to really get in there yet and to really work with him, but we're pleased with what we have."

Will Kai Locksley compete right away?

"With only two being there, you would figure that. You've got the two with Tyrone (Swoopes) and (Jerrod) Heard right now, so he'll be in the mix."

Does he anticipate getting a graduate transfer at QB?

"When you talk about the grad market, you don't know because they have to contact us. You really don't know because you don't know what's really out there right now in the grad market. There's got to be someone that's going to fit your needs. When you're talking about just recruits and what we were selling offensively - if you look in this state right now, most of the offenses, 98 percent of them are spread. A lot of the young men that come out of these programs are spread when you look at the skill position, look at the quarterback position. What we're thinking about is we know we need to open it up some. You think about the last time within this program that we have had a big time quarterback. It may have been Colt (McCoy). You also think about the skill position, and I think that's what we forget a lot. When you have someone that can win outside where you can throw the bubble screen or you can turn around and hand off for the hand sweep, where you can get the guys on the corner, or you can throw a hitch out there and you make a guy miss. That's when you know you can get yards and you can take pressure off the quarterback. We have to improve at the skill position and the quarterback position."

How much will the offense change next season?

"We have to tweak it. We know this. I look at five games last season where we scored 20 points or less. We know we have to get better, and we have to tweak it some. We have a lot of time to sit down as a staff and decide what we're going to do there."

The headaches caused by social media with recruiting

"Social media will be the downfall of society. Sometimes that's the only way you can communicate with recruits is through social media. They won't answer phones but you can direct message them and they'll hit you right back. It's amazing how many people are tied into it and just read twitter accounts and facebook and what's really going on. It has really just opened it up."

Is Devonaire Clarington a difference maker at TE?

"The thing about Clarington is that he is just long and has speed. He can played defensive end and tight end, so you know he's an athlete. He can run away from people. You are going to have to have someone stretch the field. He's one of those guys where he can just get down and knock people off the football."

On Chris Warren

"The thing about Chris is that he is just a big, strong back. Last year, he would have a game of 200 yards, 300 yards. He didn't have to run over people, but he had enough speed and quickness to get outside and run around them. It's just so hard to say who is going to play right now, but he'll have a chance to come in and play."

On Holton Hill

"If you look at Holton, he's a young man that has great size and in that range of 6-foot to 6-1. You like those big corners because they can body up the wide receiver, so when jump balls come, you hope they can go up and defend. He can cover and he's long. You are looking for those long guys instead of those shorter ones. I like big defensive backs because I know he can be physical enough where he can make tackles but also can tackle."

What message does he try to get across to recruits?

"I'm very simple. When I go into a house, I talk about our mission. Our mission number one is to see the young man graduate. Number two, we need to go win football games. I told them the standard here is never to go lose seven games. That will never be what we are looking to go get done here. The third thing is to talk about making them a better person. I talk about the core values all the time because I know that's how a lot of them are raised. I tell them that they have a chance to walk into the best program in the country, but you have a chance to put your footprint and handprint on it and watch it change and be a part of that change."

Talking about other linebackers besides Jefferson

"Starting off with [Breckyn] Hager, the thing I like about him is his size. His dad was an unbelievable player her and his brother had a great career at Baylor. I can remember going in on the home visit and just looking at him and thinking he's going to get bigger. He's just sitting there foaming at the mouth saying give me more coach, what more do I have to do. Just knowing that we are going to get everything out of him because he's going to come in here and work. It's great to have someone who had a chance growing up to watch this program and know what it's all about with the pride and the tradition in this program. When you look at [Anthony] Wheeler, he's a big back that can play inside or outside. Very athletic. When you need a guy to sit down in the middle, he can do that, but if you need him outside to rush, he can do that. Cecil Cherry is another big backer inside. You like Cecil because he's a guy who can hunker down. We lose Steve Edmond, so we got a big backer like Cecil. The thing I like about Cameron [Townsend] is that he's a speed guy and a guy who can go cover. A lot of times in a nickel coverage, you need a cover guy and he can go cover. But he can run and go hit the football."

How he was able to flop P.J. Locke from Oregon

"P.J. Locke is someone who early in the process that we had recruited. When he made a commitment to Oregon, that's when we got Jamile [Johnson] so we thought we got our safeties. The thing about this whole process, whenever Coach [Vance] Bedford would go out recruiting in Beaumont, he'd go by and sell and say 'you never know what will happen.' [Locke] is a young man that grew up loving The University of Texas. In his room, there's a banner than says 'Hook'em.' When coach [Bedford] was growing up, he knew a lot of people in Beaumont, so I said, 'hey let's take a swing at him.' Who knows, what do we have to lose. We've been told no before. We made a swing at him. At first he wasn't interested. That's why you just keep recruiting and recruit until the ninth hour. That's a young man that can play the safety position where we need some help and someone – once he develops – will be a really good player for us."

On the offensive linemen coming in

"You look at Connor [Williams], a big body that's very athletic that's played tight end. We're going to look at him at the tackle position. He's going to put on some weight. Right now, he's at 285 and doesn't even look it. With an offensive lineman, if you get a tight end or defensive lineman, you know they have a lot of skill and are very athletic. When you look at Garrett [Thomas], he's another big body. He has to get stronger, but it's great that he's in school now and he's going through winter conditioning. He's only going to get bigger and strong. Then you look at Brandon Hodges and Tristan [Nickelson] that are two junior college players that have played. It's all about the linemen just now redefining their body, reshaping their body, and getting bigger and stronger. Once we get into spring ball, we'll be able to teach them what to do."


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