"I can exhale. They all came across the fax. All the ones are in that are supposed to be in. It's a great class. A big-time core class, of achieving our objective, to really fortify our line positions. We targeted our linemen early in the process, actually about this time last year, we were able to come through and get most of those guys to come on board. They hung on there with us and made it all the way to the end. I'm very pleased with this class. We got some pretty good athletes that have a chance to help us on either side of the ball, guys like Christian Ramirez and Jeremy McGee and Alterraun Verner, dual athletic guys that can do some good things for us and play numerous positions. We have a couple of guys in our line positions that can do that as well, with Darius Savage and Andy Keane. We feel like it's a very productive class for us to really make a big step of improvement in the core of this program."
Could you talk a little bit about Nick Ekbatani?
"He's done a great job here already. He entered the school here in the winter quarter and is full-fledged into the off-season program. We start spring practice here in a couple of weeks. He's doing a tremendous job. He's been an excellent student, particularly at Harbor College when he was there, and has seemed to have made an easy transition into UCLA. He's full-fledged into everything and he has an opportunity to help us this year. He played tackle a the junior college and he'll be utilized here at tackle, and can give us some depth after losing Ed Blanton and having a couple of injuries to guys like Tony Lee, who won't be ready for spring, and Chris Joseph. We're excited that he's here, to kind of get himself established."
Any disappointments? Anyone that didn't sign that you were hoping would?
"No. Not really. The class is just what we targeted. There are always recruiting battles along the way, but we anticipated those battles in certain areas. The objective was really to attack the line positions. Remember a year ago we had a big run on linebackers, so that wasn't a big, big concern this year. I think our issues were the line positions, both offensively and defensively, to get a couple of receivers with play-making ability, like Terrence Austin Dominique Johnson, to get some athletes on either side of the ball, like the three that I mentioned. The biggest issue was to try to get the line positions, and we accomplished that."
What do you like the most about Andy Keane, and what side of the ball do you see him playing on?
"Andy's receptive to either side. He may help us defensively first. He's receptive to doing that. That's the flexibility he has. When we recruited him, in the process, he understood that there were opportunities on both sides, and we'll just see how that works out. It's hard to just say, ‘He's going to be this or he's going to be that.' Especially with those guys, and how fast these guys can keep up with how we do things, particularly on the line positions."
If you had to name a freshmen or two that you think might make an impact next year, could you do that?
"No. You guys ask that question every year. It's never an easy thing to tell, because there's always a surprise. We didn't, for instance, think that John Hale, who was one of our last scholarships a year ago, would be as big a factor as he was this year for us. You can't predict that. I'm going to go with the same statement again. They're all going to have an opportunity to showcase what they can do, and see how that measures up with what we currently have in the program, and then if we feel there are some guys that can help us we'll definitely utilize their ability."
Who are guys most physically prepared to contribute soon?
"Again, that's hard to tell with line positions. You can't really judge it by size. There's the strength factor, too. We might have guys that are 300 pounds, but if they don't have the strength to battle with most of the guys they compete against then that weight doesn't mean anything. Again, we can't determine that. We do feel we have some guys that have a chance to help us. It's really going to depend on how well they start to train and develop between now and the time they get in here this summer."
Is Terrence Austin the most polished or accomplished receiver you've recruited since you've been here?
"He is. He is definitely the most polished receiver who will probably step foot here, and probably just acclimate himself pretty quickly. Again, it's a learning curve with our offense. In our offense, he's going to have to learn how we do things, and spend a great deal of time working out with our guys. He has just a good opportunity to come in and showcase what he can do with all the other talent that we have here. The good thing is that we have Junior Taylor back from last year, and Joe Cowan. So we have a couple of seniors, so he can be molded and groomed in the process of learning our offense. In answering your question, he is probably the most polished receiver we've recruited."
"Very importnat. You just never know how that situation is going to turn out with Justin. Kai is the best kicker I believe out there. He's proven that. He has a great track record, and great training from his coaches. He was very important to get, given that situation, of course. He's ready regardless, whether he's going to be the guy next year or whether he made me redshirted and Justin's back re-instated in the program. We'll just have to see."
Was there some talk about Christian Yount gray-shirting?
"That's still a possibility. We'll just have to see how things work out through the next quarter and a half. He's a very talented kid, probably the best out there, too. I think special teams are very important, and we spend a great deal of time staying strong in those areas. We've allowed ourselves to do that, with both he and Kai joining our program."
With all these linemen, is it possible to call this the best class you've recruited?
"It is the best class we've recruited to date. We accomplished our obective. We needed to get the core of this program in better shape and we accomplished that. These guys coming in, this is my full, solid class of guys. Twenty-two guys, with Nick already being here. We're very pleased with this class."
Did Alterraun Verner make you sweat a little at the end?
"No, he called me Sunday and told me about the visit. Most guys are intrigued about what Oregon looks like. But he knew this was the place he was committed to, and there was no other indication."
Will Christian Ramirez get a shot at tailback?
"He will get an opportunity to help us at tailback, or at safety. It just depends on where we think we need his help the best. The great thing about his possibility as a tailback is his size. That's what I'm excited about . He's 6-2 ½ or 6-3, and 200 pounds, and gives us the size factor we were looking for in a back. With Chane Moline coming in and giving us that size too, we have a couple of guys that have the potential to help us there. Then quite possibly he may stay at safety, which is a position that we primarily recruited him at because of our depth there. We'll see how things shake out. He's one of those things that are flexible to do either one."
Did you use all of the scholarships you had available? Or did you leave a couple open just in case?
"We've accounted for everything we needed to account for, that's really what we were concerned about today, getting the ones that were committed to sign and that's what we were able to do. We always have the ability for something that happens late. We've done that for the last two or three years. Those type of guys you never can really count on. The guys we were counting on were the ones we're talking about right now. We'll see if anything else happens."