Wednesday February 5, 2014Quotes From Will Muschamp's Signing Day Press Conference
Head Coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Wednesday regarding the Gators’ 2014 signing class.
“It's a great day here at the University of Florida, a lot of hard work put in by our staff. I don't think people realize the contribution it takes from everybody. It's a total team effort on campus, professors, our administration, our academic people do a fantastic job. When a young man comes on campus for an official visit, all of the people that have to contribute to make that a special experience, and our people do it the best. Our travel people do an amazing job. All of our pilots, you guys seem to track pretty well, but they do a phenomenal job, but it takes all these moving parts to make things work the right way. So we got a great staff. Our staff did an outstanding job.
“You know, we had a miserable fall, and to have the staff come together, three new coaches in Kurt Roper, Mike Summers and Coleman Hutzler come together and change a little bit, not philosophically, but schematically offensively, adjust some things that we need to do in midstream as far as some of the guys we were recruiting and to put together this class I'm really proud of that. I don't know where we ended up as far as any rankings and all. You all know me, I don't get overly concerned with that. I was watching ESPN this morning and somebody said Tom Luginbill was the number one ranked junior college player when he came out. I intercepted Tom Luginbill, (laughs) so that'll tell you how important those rankings are, and I texted him this morning just to remind him of that. (Laughs).
“But hey, just really pleased with these guys and what we were able to do roster wise, and I'll cover the signing class here in a second. Just some updates, Cody Riggs and his parents came to me and he's going to finish up in May and transfer to another school to finish his last year of eligibility; wanted a fresh start. And I appreciate his contributions to Florida.
“Matt Jones had his second surgery on his knee today, and it was 90 percent healed. They feel very comfortable that it's way further along than they thought it would be at this time and feel really good about him progressing well. He still won't go through spring, and still, the only three guys that are totally out of spring right now are Matt Rolin, Jeremi Powell and Alex Anzalone. So guys are working hard in the off season program. Very pleased with how that is going at this time.
“Some other guys will be limited in spring, but no one is going to be totally out other than those three at this time that I know of.
“As far as the signing class, we have nine guys on campus I've hit on before, Taven Bryan, 6'5, 260 pounds is exactly what we wanted as far as a big athlete. You watch him go through the off‑season program, he's explosive, he's got really good flexibility in his lower body. He's got a great motor, a great work ethic. We are extremely pleased with him so far in what we've been able to see.
“Duke Dawson, again, another guy, 5'11, 190‑pound, bigger DB that can go line up inside, can line up at corner, can line up at nickel, can do a lot of different things for us and as far as covering down, DeAndre Goolsby, a 6'4, 240‑pound tight end. He's a really good athlete. You watch him go through the off‑season program, really looks good in movement, his movement skills. Will Grier doing an outstanding job. You see he's got all the intangibles to be successful as far as the leadership things and positively affecting guys around him.
“Kavaris Harkless, all three offensive linemen that are heading here we're really excited about, 6'5, 6'6 kid, he's got a lot of length. He needs to continue to build on his body, but is going to be a guy that's going to be a really good player for us.
“Nolan Kelleher, another guy we're real excited about, 6'6, 305, that really shows some good movement skills out there. Brandon Powell has been slowed a little bit with a foot issue from high school, but when he's been full speed, he's been outstanding. He's a dynamic guy, stick his foot in the ground, change direction; really pleased with his movement skills.
“Drew Sarvary has done a nice job coming in here, 6'6, 318; and then Jalen Tabor, the 6'1, 190‑pound corner, that's what they're supposed to look like. He's got really good movement skills, and a guy that watching him move around has been exciting.
“You know, again, you look at this class, 15 kids from the State of Florida, 14 big‑to‑mid‑skill kids. We're getting our numbers back on the offensive line. We're right at 15. You'd like to have 15 to 17 offensive linemen on scholarship. That's a developmental game, but that's a huge developmental position, and that's where you've gotta have guys in your program, so it's good to see that.
“Two quarterbacks, two slot receivers in Ryan and C.J., a little different than what we've signed last season. Alvin is kind of similar to them, but good change‑of‑direction guys. You know, Ryan caught over 100 passes, and C.J. was as competitive a guy in the state championship game as you'll ever see, three touchdown catches in the state title game there for South Dade.
“And right now up front defensively as far as tackle, nose, buck and defensive end, that combination of guys, we're at 16. You'd like to have 17 in a perfect world. So it's right at the numbers we need to be at as far as those things are concerned.
“But really pleased with where we are.
“I do want to congratulate Dan Quinn winning the Super Bowl there, defensive coordinator for two years here at Florida, an outstanding coach, and a great friend. And he did a phenomenal job up there at Seattle. Marquand Manuel is also on the staff, a former Gator; Percy Harvin, a former Gator, and Earl Thomas, a guy I coached in college, and I'm really proud of him and the year he had. He's up for Player of the Year in the NFL. So that's a heck of a deal. And also congrats to Lerentee McCray and Bubba Caldwell, two guys, former Gators that had really good years there for Denver.
“And also Mike Peterson will be joining our staff full time in the weight room, February 24th. Mike was a graduate assistant ‑‑ undergrad, excuse me, finishing up school this fall and played 14 years, I believe, in the National Football League and came back, and Jeremy has been great to all of our former players to be able to come back, finish school; and he's one of those guys, got his degree in December. We looked around in the coaching ranks, and we had an opportunity in the weight room, and to be able to hire a guy like that, former Gator, knows how it's going to be done the right way. That's invaluable for our players. So great to have him on staff. So I'll open it up for any of your questions there.”
Q. I don't know how much you want to get into detail, but the recruitment of, first of all, J. C. Jackson, who was this soft verb or whatever that means, and Andrew Mike, who now is for Vanderbilt earlier this week. Can you just talk about both those guys?
“ You know, J.C., it's amazing, I don't really follow the Internet much, but there's so much hearsay and as much information there is out there, in my opinion, there's a lot of misinformation. I get tons of phone calls about, well, I heard this, I heard this. I mean I can't keep up with all the what‑I‑heard stuff. I have to go off fact, and I go off talking to Lisa, his mother, and Chris, his father, and J. C. Himself, and I deal with the family and I talk to them. And certainly I don't think our season helped, but I think that he saw his best opportunity to come in and play corner at Florida. You know, seeing Marcus and Loucheiz and Jaylen, our three top corners leaving and moving on that were upper classmen, seeing his opportunity here to play here at Florida, it was something he was excited about.
“I know he looked at some other places, no different than a lot of kids do, and I encourage kids to do, to go make sure they're making the right decision, to go take a look at another place. And so, you know, again, I never ‑‑ we never felt it was that much in the balance, maybe as what a lot of people seemed to think. We never felt that way. And you never know, pat, till you get the facts in. Any coach that tells you they know what was going to happen, they can't say that.
“Andrew Mike, a young man that was from Arizona. Coleman Hutzler had ‑‑ we recruited the state of Arizona. He had no chance to get him at New Mexico. He had a bunch of PAC‑12 offers, but Joey McGuire is a really good friend of mine, coaches at Cedar Hill High School in Texas, and he coached the Semper Fi game and he coached Andrew Mike, talked to Andrew and his parents, Stephen and Edda, kind of where the recruiting process was with Andrew, was probably go to go to Washington. Sarkisian left, went to USC, got lost in the shuffle there, didn't really know what he wanted to do. Joey called me and said you need to take a look at this guy. We put the tape on him. Coleman had a background with him, Mike Summers knew about him when he was at USC, and we really liked what we saw, the length and the athleticism and the girth and the size potential as much as anything. So just a guy that we kind of lucked into, to be honest with you, we're really pleased with.”
Q. Will, a Top 10 class coming off of 4 and 8, how were you guys able to pull that off and what does it say about your staff and the program?
“I think our staff has done an outstanding job. At the end of the day it's still the University of Florida. It's a Top 10 public institution. It's a big‑time degree. You're going to get a great education. It's one of the few places in the country ‑‑ and I tell parents this and I tell recruits this ‑‑ where you can realistically win a national championship on and off the field. You're going to get a great education and you can win big on the field as well, and that's what we plan on doing.
“So we had a rough fall, but I think also, you know, recruiting is so ‑‑ being here and building those relationships now for sometimes with some of these young men for two years, two and a half years, they also saw us win 11 games the year before, and they understand that; and they are close to our program, and I think they kind of understand where we're headed with the program and they're excited about our future.”
Q. Getting Treon this class, how much of an advantage is it having two really good quarterbacks in one class?
“Well, competition is the best motivator, and there's no question those guys will both work. They're both winners. Treon won two state championships there at Booker T, one of the best high school programs in the country. And I've known his father, Ice, for a long time. He does an outstanding job. We're excited about Will on campus and Skyler and Jeff, and you want to have four quarterbacks on scholarship. Then you want to sign one every year because of the attrition sometimes you go through at that position. But having both of those quality players is exciting.”
Q. And can you go into detail on why Cody chose to leave the program?
“I don't know. I met with his parents, and again, we wish him all the luck.”
Q. Tight end was a difficult offensive position last year, but three in the class. Two‑part question: Can somebody at this position maybe play right away, and with the new staff and the tweaks you're making, will that become more of an offensive position in your plans?
“ Well, I think it was a very offensive position when Jordan Reed was here. It was an offensive position last year. So I think from the standpoint of those three guys coming in, athletically, Cyontai is a guy that we targeted. Brian White was actually watching another player practice last spring and just kept noticing this guy's athleticism. We challenged him to come to camp. He came to camp and had an outstanding camp, and a guy that showed all the athleticism and ball skills to be really, really good. And then the growth potential on that, now, when he committed to us, I want to say he was probably 205 pounds and now he's about 225, 228 pounds, and he's going to continue to grow because he's a young 17. So I think that that's exciting.
“DeAndre Goolsby is a guy we targeted early on. Derrick Lewis went out and evaluated him in the last spring evaluation, really liked his movement skills, his growth potential, his toughness, his point of attack and those things, and excited to have him on campus and a guy that can do some different things for you. And then Moral Stephens is a guy that we didn't think we were going to have room for. He came to camp. He did an outstanding job in camp. We really liked him, and then when we had some attrition, it opened up a spot for him, and we're really happy to have him. He's a guy that vertically down the field can really make plays on the ball. He's playing in an All‑Star Game, I believe today, in Dallas as a USA versus the world team or something like that, but he's a guy that we're excited about.”
Q. Where do you envision Deiondre Porter playing right now?
“Deiondre is a guy that we knew about down at Tampa Jefferson High School, and I love being able to sign guys that are quarterbacks to play different positions. We had Earl Thomas was a high school quarterback, LaRon Landry, Corey Webster, because when you play the quarterback position, you have to be able to communicate with the other guys; you have to obviously have some sort of leadership abilities to affect other people, and he's a guy that has that. He's really a fun young man to be around, watching his tape at quarterback. And then he ran 10.7 last year in the 100 meter. So he's over six foot, about 170, 175 and a guy that we think will project very well to the defensive back position.”
Q. How did the addition of Kurt Roper change, if at all, the way you looked at personnel in the last month or so?
“It did. You know, No. 1, at the quarterback position. We needed to be able to be more mobile at that position, to be able to be a dual‑threat guy that can throw it and run. And we wanted to be able to add a running back with more movement skills as far as a guy that can play in the slot and at the back position to be able to match up one on one in more situations, and then recruit more of a slot receiver, a true slot that can win in some matchups inside. So being able to have Kurt, I think, certainly helped solidify things with Ryan and get C. J.”
Q. And it seems pretty certain you're going to need playing time out of freshmen in the defensive back field. What do you look for from those guys just to see who can kind of get a step up on the others?
“Well, to me they're going to have plenty of opportunities. They need to step in and make plays. Our track record speaks for itself. You know, you look at Marcus Roberson and Pop Saunders and a lot of guys that we've played as freshmen. Aaron Williams when I was at Texas played Gideon, Earl Thomas. So those guys, we'll be ready to go. We got 29 practices in August, and our players will do a very good job this summer of managing those guys.
“You know, you look at Vernon Hargreaves, one of the better leaders on our football team, and I certainly see his leadership ability in the off‑season program. So I think that we'll be fine.
“I think, again, the way I go back and look at it, I like to coach guys that are really, really talented and maybe a little green on the experience side than the other ones, so we'll coach the ones that are really good.”
Q. Gerald Willis talked about enrolling early. Obviously he wasn't able to do that. Does he have far to go as far as academically?
“No. I don't know ‑‑ I can't remember exactly. It was very close, but no, he's fine. Should be fine.”
Q. Coach, obviously offensive tackle is a premium position, and seems like you guys honed in on David Sharpe early, and there was a time that maybe looked like he was going to go elsewhere and you were able to pull him in. How big was that for your staff and how special do you think he can be down the road?
“Well, he's a really good athlete. Like a lot of big guys sometimes think they're a basketball player coming through, until he bought into it. Tony Boselli is actually the offensive line coach there at Providence under Bobby Raulerson, and he was a guy that bought into the football side of it and he bought into the physicality of the game, and you combine that at athleticism at 6'5 and a half, right now he's probably 318, 325, something like that, and he's got great feet. You can't coach that. So he's a guy that I think, again, he will continue to improve, and his best football is ahead of him, because he's still very young at the game. He hasn't played a lot of the game. But we felt pretty good about David the whole time.”
Q. And then you came into last season talking about the middle of your defense and how that was something you had to replace in the starts at defensive tackle. With you losing Dominique Easley and Damien Jacobs, how big was it to pull in Clark and Holley?
“Well, absolutely. You know, really excited about Leon Orr and Darious Cummings, two seniors coming back, and the three young guys, Jay‑nard Bostwick, Caleb Brantley and Antonio Riles are all three guys that have all the athleticism and the girth to play the position and be fine, and certainly adding those young guys coming along, and Khairi Clark is a 6'2, 6'3‑and‑a‑half, 320‑pounder that moves very well. He's got really good lower‑body flexibility, so he can change direction. Gerald Willis is a guy that can play in, but he can play multiple positions because he's got enough girth to play inside.
“Thomas Holley is a 300‑plus‑pounder that plays on Abraham Lincoln's basketball team in Brooklyn, which says a lot to be on that starting five where I think three guys are signing Division I off of that team tells you what kind of athlete he is. There's no question you can never have enough defensive linemen.”
Q. How would you rank this year's signing day in terms of stress or how tense is that room this year compared to other years as a head coach?
“It's the same every year to me. Until you get all the faxes in and all. Most times, it's funny to watch these ‑‑ they film these staff rooms and the staffs all cheer when they get the ‑‑ most of the time you know. You know if you're getting them and you know if you're not.
“If you haven't talked to them in 48 hours, you're not getting them. So that's kind of ‑‑ that's an indicator. If you're on the phone that morning with mom and dad and brother and uncle, you're probably going to sign them. But still, you never know. It's always a little stressful, a little anxious.”
Q. Will, was it tough building a relationship with Dalvin Cook and seeing him improve academically, and also, Ermon Lane and see them flip their commitments?
“We'll talk about the guys that are here. Those are two good kids, and they'll have successful college careers. We're going to talk about our players.”
Q. How do you think you guys recovered at the play‑maker position on offense?
“I'm excited about Brandon Powell, a guy that's got great speed, he's a dynamic guy with the ball in his hands, a guy that was on our radar. We were really going in the class wanting to sign one back, and you've gotta continue to recruit because of things you never know may happen.
“And then at the receiver position the two guys we signed, you know, one of them caught over 100 balls, and the other guy you'll line up and compete against anybody. So I'm excited about those two guys.
“And the tight end position I feel pretty good about, and in the quarterback position I feel very comfortable.”
Q. Heading into the off season, what makes you ‑‑ or into spring and everything ‑‑ confident that you guys can turn this around in one off season given really the areas that you need to improve in the most or kind of the ones that are hard to kind of do in one off season, offensively?
“Well, again, I feel very comfortable about our starting five right now, just looking at what you would say your five or six best players on the offensive line, I think are very good football players when we're healthy, and I feel very comfortable at our quarterback position. I feel very comfortable at receiver position, all those guys being a year older.
“Quinton Dunbar has had a great season. Get Andre off the injury. He continues to progress like he was going into last season. We didn't get a chance to see that.
“You know, the tight end position, those guys need to step forward, probably have some young guys help us out there to be able to take the next step. We may be a little bit more 20 personnel or 11 personnel. You're looking at Gideon or Hunter being a fullback that can be a move guy as opposed to maybe a tight end from a blocking standpoint, unless we make some strides at the position.
“So we may have a young guy helping us there. But I think Kelvin Taylor is a good back. I think Matt Jones is a good back, I think Mack Brown is a good back. I think that, again, we get those guys back, we'll be ready to go.”
Q. What do you like about Justus Reed and what does he bring?
“Justus, again, another guy that we said, you know, in order for you to get offered, you need to come to camp; and he came to camp, he verticaled 36 inches; he broad jumped over ten feet. He's a very explosive guy. He weighs, I think right now, probably 215, 218. You gotta look at two years from now. Probably would be best for him to redshirt. And he's going to be a 235‑pounder and be able to carry that, and then he's got the explosive power to go with that. So that's kind of what you're looking for, especially at that position, a guy that's kind of a hybrid outside linebacker, defensive end. But he shows natural ability to flip his hips in the rush. He does some things you can't coach or it's very difficult to coach and get a guy, but he's very fluid in his hips and being able to flip his hips in a rush to rush passer, and we worked him out hard and we're excited about him being a Gator.”
Q. Will, you talked about Thomas Holley is relatively new to football. How raw do you think he is and how gifted, how talented is he?
“Well, I think he's very talented, and again, I think the basketball a lot of times is your best evaluation, to see a guy run up‑and‑down the court, change direction, sync his hips, explode off ‑‑ you see him come quick off the floor, have a lot of hand‑eye coordination to be able to use their hands in the pass rush and things.
“I think a lot of that translates to football. That's one of my best evaluations. I love to go see a kid either wrestle or play basketball. And we saw him do that. It's been a year now. It's been a while. But a guy that's got a lot of athleticism. But I like guys like him because, again, he's just going to continue to get better and better. The more times he sees blocking schemes, he reacts to those. He's going to continue to improve, continue to get better as opposed to maybe some players that have been playing their whole life, they've been in a weight program since the seventh grade and now you're going to get him to college, how much better is that guy going to get? He's kind of plateaued; he's not going to get a whole lot better, and some players you gotta be careful about where they are in their genetic ceiling is kind of maxed right now and his is nowhere near.”
Q. Also, with Cody Riggs being a starter last year, are there a couple of guys who really have an opportunity there, like Brian Poole, Marcus Maye, some players that you kind of look to to step into that void?
“Right. I think at the safety position, Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye, and Marcus started some games for us last year. Keanu Neal continues to improve. Marcell Harris is coming back off his knee. I think he moves around well. Javare Gorman has been a guy that's played a bunch of football for us and played well for us.
“Nick Washington is a guy that really can line up at safety, corner nickle. He's very intelligent, very smart, a lot like Jalen, can do a lot of different things for us, can be a cover corner outside, can also line up inside and play very intelligent. Brian Poole is a guy that can play multiple positions and played very well for us at the nickel position last year, going back and watching the tape and the cutups of him.
“So I think there are some different guys. Watching Duke Dawson's movement skills, he's a guy that can play a lot of different spots. He can play corner, he can play nickel, he can play inside if he needs to, but he's a guy that can do some different things as well.”
Q. Coach, with Gerald Willis, you mentioned he's a guy that can play inside, outside, kind of like Dominique Easley. Is that a role that you think he can fill and how quickly do you think he can get on the field?
“We'll find out when he gets here. He's a guy that's real mature. He's handled his business there at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans, he's worked hard academically to get to where he was. He's right at that cusp of they played to the state championship game there, but a guy that, again, you look at all the ‑‑ he's got good flexibility in his lower body. He's an explosive guy, he's got good girth; he can play blocks. He really uses his hands very well, better than most high school defensive linemen. He really uses his hands. Those guys will be given every opportunity to step in and help us.”
Q. Fans want these big splashes on signing day. With your policy of not oversigning, how important is it to get guys committed early in the process and how successful do you think you've been doing go that?
“You need to know where you are, and you've gotta have some hard conversations, and you don't get into much of the fanfare of signing day and all that. You need to know, to be fair for the University of Florida, I need to know where we are with a young man. And that's to be fair to our program and what we need to do moving forward, and sometimes people work with you a little bit and sometimes they don't, and that's part of it.”
Q. And you might have mentioned this, but is Jeff still good to go for spring?
“Jeff Driskel? Yes. He is doing very well. He has started some jogging, and he's doing very well. We moved it back to March 19th, which I think gave him another 10 days maybe. He would have been cleared before the previous date, but we felt like just to give him another week, Tyler Moore another week, Chaz green another week, just a couple more guys ‑‑ Chaz has been cleared for everything, but a couple more guys a little more time.”
Q. Quincy Wilson seems to have stayed on a lot of these recruits. Is he one of your biggest recruiters this past year, and how vital is it to have these commits that are staying on these other guys when you can't?
“These guys play it. They go out there to Oregon in the summer, and they go to these different combines with each other. They take these different unofficial visits together, and they form a bond and relationship with each other. And more than anything, these guys want to play with each other. They want good players. They want to play with each other. So there's no question that the camaraderie they build helps us or other schools if they're going with the other schools. But certainly he did a fantastic job of holding some guys together.”
Q. Can you talk about what you like about Dorsey, the kid out of Raines?
“Yeah. Travaris is a powerful guy. Two years ago we were looking at him, he has a really good lower body, punch and power. You turn the tape on, he gets movement all the time up front. But a guy that's ‑‑ he's a 320‑pounder, guy that's got some good length on his arms. I think he has 34‑inch arms. So he's got some reach up front to be able to push the pile inside, a square guy that gets a lot of movement.”
Q. What did you feel like your biggest priorities were position wise in this class and do you feel like you met all of them or do you feel like you came up short anywhere?
“No. I feel like going into it, secondary was going to be, with Marcus and Loucheiz, and we sort of anticipated that. You lose Jaylen as a senior, so we felt like we needed to continue some length at the corner position especially, and sign those guys; and athleticism. So we were able to get that. That was very pleasing. I felt like we needed to athletically improve ourselves at tight end. And I think we took some steps there.
“Again, on both lines of scrimmage, I think you need to sign three or four guys a year, depending on what fits your depth and your quantity at each position you're looking for. To be able to sign two winners at the quarterback position, I think is always huge to be able to do that. And I think Brandon Powell is a vertical speed guy that can change a scoreboard quickly. I think both receivers are guys that are going to be exciting for the Gator fans to watch.”
Q. You talked about how you'll always be able to get kids here because it's the University of Florida and it sells itself, but it still is about relationships, and I gotta imagine it was maybe a little bit harder for you guys to sell yourself as a staff after this season than maybe other years. How were you able to work through that and still convince kids to believe in you guys?
“I think a lot of hard work, and again, we're talking about a season. We're not talking about seasons. And you know, we won eleven games the year before, a lot of those guys we were recruiting then, and they saw that and they saw us go through that time period. But then they come up and they see our weight program, they see our training program, they see our academic programs on campus, and that's very attractive to a young man. It's very attractive to a young man's parents to have their son in that environment, and a lot of it's not just the young man. A lot of it is the parents.
“Chris and Lisa Jackson wanted their son to be here. They felt like it was the best opportunity for their son to be at the University of Florida, to be in the academic resources that we have here at Florida, to be coached by some coaches that know a little bit about secondary play because of the track record that speaks for itself.
“So I think there's a lot of things that were very, very positive regardless of the outcome of the records we had in the fall, which was very disappointing. All right. Thank you all.”
Q. Are you guys completely done?
“Yeah, at this time. We're always recruiting, though. (Laughs)”
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