Did you end up banking a scholarship?
Alvarez: We have one initial that we could use and we could use it for a walk-on. We have a lot of things that we can do with it, and I didn't feel like there was anybody that we wanted to use it on right now. But we have 14 slots. We ended up using the Big Ten rule to our advantage this year, where you could oversign by three. But we started out with 14.
Have you noticed that kids are becoming more in tune with weight training, with size becoming so much more of a factor?
Alvarez: There's no question they're bigger. I think programs and weight programs vary with different high school programs. I was trying to explain this to some of our coaches and some of the in-state players who came in last week. In many cases our in-state players are at a disadvantage. Some of the high school teams, players they are going against, being recruited against, have spring practice. If you're in Texas, you have an hour football class every day, year-round. Not only does your season go longer, then you have spring ball. So those guys have more of an opportunity to develop their skills and work in a weight program than maybe someone from the Midwest. Yet I think nutrition is different, I think they're more aware, there's no question they're getting much bigger and much faster.
Does having a smaller class, this year and next season, change the way you recruit? Do you become more selective?
Alvarez: We recruit on need and if we don't find what we want out of a specific position, we try to find the best athlete we can get. A couple of the linebackers we have here, we really didn't have a need for linebackers, but we felt that we couldn't pass some of these guys up. We just felt they are that good athletically, have a lot of upside, were versatile and can play a lot of different positions. So we'll start with position first and need first, but then let's try to get the best quality players that we can in the program.
What did you target as the top needs for this class?
Alvarez: Well offensive line was a primary need. Secondary, and if I'm disappointed with one thing in this class, I wanted to have one more corner. That's the only thing that disappoints me. I would have like to sign one more corner in this class. But o-line was primary, we wanted to sign a couple of d-lineman, we wanted to sign at least one tight end. Then we kind of spread it out after that. But we felt like we needed at least four offensive linemen.
How has the drastic increase in the size of receivers in the Big Ten changed your recruiting in the secondary?
Alvarez: Well in the secondary, besides size, at one point we thought, you don't look for safeties. You just go out and recruit corners then move somebody to safety. But what we've found, with the evolution of the type of defenses we're playing and everyone else is playing, safety is an athletic linebacker. He has to be involved in a lot of physical play, a lot of plays close to the line of scrimmage. So we have actively tried to locate and earmark safety-type players rather than just move a corner to that position. You are always looking for speed. Big and fast is better. And you want your corners and you want your secondary guys to be big enough where they can compete against 6-5, 6-6 and now 6-7 receivers.
Did you start recruiting with that thinking in mind this year?
Alvarez: We really made an emphasis of it this year. That's the first time. You always look for it, but you often compromise if you feel someone is a good athlete and you can always look around at the NFL and see guys that are 5-8 that are very successful, but we made a special attempt this year to make sure that we had taller secondary guys.
It seems like you got a lot of guys this year that you targeted. Did you land your top guys at most positions?
Alvarez: We did. You know, obviously we lost some very good players at the end. We were in on a lot of good players. But the majority of the ones we signed were guys that were very high on our list. I don't think that's a secret. We had a couple of defections that always bother you. It concerns you when you're counting on someone, and they've been in your count for a while, you release some other players and they defect. We were fortunate enough to have some other players that we could go to that were quality players. Not go to, but the other guys we were recruiting. But that always bothers you in recruiting. We were fortunate enough to be on enough right guys, enough quality guys that we were able to sign the guys pretty much that were on the top of our lists.
Did you get hit harder this year with decommitments than in the past?
Alvarez: I think every year we have at least one. I count two this year. Some of you, according to the paper it was three, but one of them, I never felt was a commitment anyhow (Chris Patrick). I felt we had two decommitments this year. But I think if we go back and look at it as coaches, we normally have one a year. It's really annoying. I hope that we can push for an early signing. I just don't think it's real healthy. As I told one young man, what if I came up to a recruit a week before signing day or three days before signing day and said, `You know what? I found a better player. I'm going to sign him. I don't want you now. Go find someplace else to go.' Do you think that's fair? Well I don't think that's fair. But that's basically what kids are doing to schools. They're holding them up. They're getting an insurance policy, that they have a scholarship, and then they move on.
Is the early signing period something you've made a push for?
Alvarez: I haven't pushed for it, although the more I think about it, the more I think there is a place for an early signing.
When you have a decommit, do you go back to the kid and try to talk him into committing again?
Alvarez: Well you just don't stop recruiting. You go back and find out why there was a decommitment. But in most cases we're not going to spend a whole lot of time. When you have that type of person, the thing I've found out, they normally don't pan out very well anyhow.
Did going to a bowl game help you this year or was the hay already in the barn?
Alvarez: I think we probably had maybe 15 commitments when we went to the bowl.
Have you ever had a kid that decommitted call you back and say they've changed their mind and they want you back?
Alvarez: I think Kevin Lyles probably did it four times if I can remember correctly.
Has your philosophy about playing true freshmen changed at all? You have played more in recent years, mostly out of necessity.
Alvarez: My philosophy has always been the same. If they can help you play and they're ready to play, then they should be on the field. And I tell them that during recruiting. We don't normally ever go in with people saying, he's definitely going to redshirt, because you just don't know. I would think the offensive line is the hardest place to play as a true freshmen, although I think a couple of these guys could be in the depth. I think they're probably as far along as Chris McIntosh was when he was in the depth. You get them in a position where you train them, you try to get them prepared, you get them all the reps and get them ready. But if you can hold them out, you try to. But I think out of this group, there will be at least a handful that will contribute next year. At least.
Barry Alvarez Signing Day Verbatim: Part 1
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