Feb. 5, 2014
SAN DIEGO -
Head coach Rocky Long
On the recruiting class:
"Well as it is at every Division I institution across the country, it's National Signing Day. Every coach is happy with their signees right now because we haven't actually seen them play on our practice field. We've seen them on highlight tapes and playing everywhere else, and they're awful good players. We'll see how they do when they get here."
On signing defensive end Christian Heyward:
"The history with Christian is we recruited him heavily out of high school. We thought we were going to get him. Toward the end, he decided to move on to someplace else. When he decided (USC) was not the right place for him, he got in contact with us. He'll have two years to play two (seasons). We expect him to be here the first session of summer school. He's finishing up his AA degree at junior college right now, and we expect him to be for the first session of summer school and he'll be able to play immediately. He'll be a defensive lineman, and with the addition of him, we've got some real size up front if we want to use it."
On if they got everything they wanted:
"Well you're never completely happy, but we went into it with a couple positions, and I don't want this to reflect on our recruiting classes of the past, but we recruited seven junior college players to fill holes of seniors that left last year, because at those positions, we're not sure if those freshmen are quite ready to play. They're going to be really good players down the road. We're always going to take a few junior college guys, but we probably took more than we normally would (this year), and that's so we don't drop off this year to next year. But other than that, we have a formula. I think everybody does with how many scholarship players they want at each position, and that's how we recruit, to fill those spots."
On the kickers they brought in:
"We have two kickers (in the class). We have one high school kicker and one junior college kicker. We know the high school kicker has a lot of ability and he might be our kicker next year, but it's hard on freshmen to be put in that kind of position. So we also have a junior college kicker who has been kicking there for two years and has a little more maturity and was 20-of-21 in field goals last year."
On if the team's recent success played a factor in their recruiting:
"I think our success over the last four years and being in bowl games for four-straight years has added the availability of recruits that we didn't have available to us in the past. It does not mean we got them all (to sign), it means we got in more homes of high-caliber recruits than we have in the past. So it has helped. I think the biggest factor of us improving our squad and improving our recruiting is our players and our program. I think our coaches did a nice job. I think they evaluated well and recruited well. But the people that sell our program are our players, and they did a great job of letting the recruits know they feel good about our program. It also allows you to recruit players that fit our personality because right now we have players that believe in what we're doing, know how we do it and believe it's the right way to do it. So your recruits will be the same way because players don't lie to players. They're not going to come here if they don't want to work at that pace and that hard, and don't want to compete in practice."
On the three quarterbacks they're bringing in:
"Because of attrition, we want to have five quarterbacks in the program. Adam Dingwell is not going to play next year. He had his back operated on over the break, and he has a chance to graduate in May. With the pain of his back injury, he just decided to graduate and move on with the next stage of his life."
On if their redshirt freshmen would be ready to step in if needed:
"I think all the freshmen in the program have a chance to compete for a lot of playing time. That's why we have spring practice. Some of them, personally, I don't believe are mature enough to handle that right now, and some are mature enough to handle that. But they surprise me every year. Some of the ones I wasn't counting on turn out to be stars for us, and the ones I was counting on kind of show immaturity. But we had to gain some depth in certain spots, that's why we recruited those junior college players."
On if Christian Chapman will stay at quarterback:
"He's a quarterback, and we thought he was the best quarterback in the county. If you count Christian Heyward, we signed six guys from San Diego County. Five years ago when I first got here, I heard all kind of complaints about us not signing local kids. Signing six kids from the country in one recruiting class is pretty significant."
On what's helped them sign more local players:
"The success of our program. All of a sudden, right now, it's OK to come here. We compete, we beat people we're not supposed to beat and we go to bowl games."
On Christian Heyward only wanting to transfer to San Diego State:
"I believe if Christian Heyward were a freshman this year, he would have come here. But at the time we were recruiting him, that was the first time we had been to a bowl game."
On the running back situation:
"We recruited one extra running back than we would have. We were going to recruit two running backs anyway, and we ended up recruiting three because of Adam (Muema's) departure to the NFL. Now, we have some other running backs already in our program and we hope one of them steps forward. We've got a really good speed guy that can make you miss and outrun you, but we need a guy that will pound it (inside) too."
On if the letters came in as he expected:
"No it never comes as you wanted. We had a couple coaches here at 4:30 this morning because we were expecting a letter of intent from Georgia. That one didn't come in until 9 a.m., so we had coaches here from about 4-7 a.m. without getting any letters of intent. But they all showed up mostly. There were a couple that didn't, and that happens all the time to a lot of schools. Things always work out for the best. If everybody would have signed with us that we thought had a good chance to sign with us today, we would have had a whole string of issues. It worked out just perfect, as it usually does."
On if Jabril Clewis will stay at wide receiver:
"I don't know where he'll end up. He'll start at wide receiver and I think our players do a great job of recruiting and telling (incoming recruits), `You'll get to play where you want to play, unless it's going to help the team. And if it helps the team if you play (another position), then you'll get moved.' I'm sure our players told him that."
On being able to keep their early commits:
"I think a lot of that has to do with, when we host those camps, the coaches do a great job of evaluating their athletic ability and we're able to start the recruiting process early. And if they feel comfortable here and have had a good experience, I think it gives us a leg up on recruiting. If you develop a relationship with a recruit early on, and it's a good relationship, those guys are likely to hang in there with you. The ones you get later are unlikely to hang on with you if (another school) comes in that they like."
On fighting off other school down the stretch of the process:
"I don't really believe it has anything to do with the coaches. I think the coaches do a good job of recruiting every year and they do a good job of evaluating every year. What I think it's a sign of is No. 1, the players in our program. If they develop a good relationship with the players in our program, they're less likely to change their mind. And then our recent success over the last four years has made it less likely that they'll change their mind."
On what grade he'd give this year's recruiting class:
"How about I grade it three years from now, and we'll see how many are playing and how good they are. There's a whole bunch of scouting services out there that will rate your players for you. How many five-star recruits are on the Denver Broncos active roster? One, so that tells you how much those stars mean."
On where he sees the guys recruited as athletes fitting in:
"After we get done with spring practice, we'll determine where those guys will start off in the fall. After spring practice, if we don't think we'll have enough quality safeties, they'll probably start off at safety. If we don't have a running back that takes charge and pounds the ball, they'll start at running back. So how spring practice goes will determine where we start them when they get here."
On if it's hard to recruit kids as athletes:
"It depends on his personality. The hardest position to recruit as an athlete is a quarterback. Because you're honest with them, and you tell them if they come here, they're going to play a different position. And then someone else will lie to them and tell them they're going to be a quarterback, and two years later, they're playing what we told them they're going to play anyway."
On if he planned to recruit quarterbacks, offensive linemen and kickers:
"With quarterbacks, if they don't see themselves playing here, they're going to transfer. So we've a couple quarterbacks over the last couple years transfer out. With Dingwell's back forcing him not to play, we needed depth at quarterback and we needed competition because we don't have an established backup. We lost two senior offensive linemen, and we were not happy with our consistency on the offensive line (last season). That's why there's two junior college offensive linemen showing up, not that they're better than the guys we've got, but competition makes everybody better. We lost five seniors safeties, so instead of counting on guys that haven't played much in the past, we've brought in a couple junior college safeties with a little more maturity. It doesn't mean they're going to be the starters, but competition is a wonderful thing. Brandon Porter will start at the Aztec position."
On if playing on the scout team helps players down the line:
"I think the only thing scout team helps you develop is techniques and a willingness to stick in there. It doesn't matter who they're immolating. Scout team is a rite of passage. It's a very important job, you have to realize it's important and hang in there until it's your time to play. And a lot of kids aren't willing to do that."
On if the quality of players coming in has improved:
"I think in certain situations we're a little bit better. I think the biggest thing with special teams is we're getting a little bit better athlete in the program, so there's a chance for us to be good in special teams. Now the biggest problem last year were the kickers."
On competing for players with Fresno State and San Jose State:
"I think our security back into the Mountain West made us stay closer to home. Last year because of the question of what conference we were going to be in and thought we were moving to the Big East, I think we expanded our recruiting areas and got guys from a whole bunch of different places. So we put more effort into California this year."
On if he's happy this is all over:
"I think all of the coaches are happy that it's over. Not that they don't appreciate the pursuit and competition in recruiting players, but after a while, it's time to move on. It's time for those guys to decide where they want to go. So I think every coach that ever recruits is relieved when it's over."