Gus Malzahn recaps Signing Day 2017

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Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn
2017 National Signing Day press conference
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Opening Statement… “We are very excited about this class. When you look at the overall class, it is very well-rounded. There wasn’t a whole lot of drama today and I think that says a lot about the signees’ loyalty. I think it also says a lot about our staff, who did an awesome job of building relationships. Everything went as planned today, which is a blessing.

“Once again, the state of Alabama was a priority for us. We signed 10 players from Alabama, six from Georgia and four from Florida. Those are three states that we make our living in, so I am pleased with that.

“We signed 11 on offense. Offensive tackles were our priority and the two guys we wanted from the beginning, we got. Getting two quarterbacks was a priority and also two tight ends. Defensively, we signed 10 players with four defensive backs, four linebackers and a pass rusher to replace Carl Lawson and then two specialists.

“On the early enrollees — Malcolm Askew is a defensive back and very talented young man that can run. He has a very good skill set and played offense in high school, with very good ball skills.

“Nick Brahms is a lineman, a center or a guard. He is a very tough guy that brings a physical presence. I think he has a chance to be a very good player.

“K.J. Britt is a true inside linebacker that plays downhill. He really provides a physical presence and he has the ability to make everyone around him better.

“Sal Cannella is another guy that we really felt has great ball skills and can stretch the field. We needed some depth at tight end and so he fills that need.

“Jarrett Stidham — I have talked about him before — I think he has a chance to be a very good football player. He is coming in to compete for the starting job at quarterback.

“Malik Willis is a guy that has only played quarterback for a little over a year. As a staff, we really felt that if this guy had been playing quarterback for two or three years, he would be one of the top guys in the country. He reminds me a little bit of Nick Marshall in the way he runs and the way he throws the football.

“Chandler Wooten is a guy that we identified a little over a year ago as one of the better linebackers in the country. He is a long guy that can run and he gives us a lot of versatility.

“Then the signees from today, starting with Calvin Ashley, the first fax in — he is a guy that we feel like can come in immediately and have a chance to compete. He really reminds me of Greg Robinson, when Greg was this age. The big thing about Calvin is that he stayed extremely loyal to us. He is a five-star guy and he was very solid. We really appreciate him and look forward to coaching him.

“John Shenker is a tight end that reminds me of Philip Lutzenkirchen. He is about the same size, his ball skills are very good, he can put his hand down, he can block and he does a lot of H-back stuff that we do in our offense, so we are excited about his versatility.

“Noah (Igbinoghene) — “Iggy” — is a guy that is a wide receiver. He played wide receiver and running back at his high school. He is a dynamic guy that we think has an unbelievable upside and he is extremely fast. Both of his parents actually ran track in the Olympics. He is also a young guy, as far as age goes. We think his upside is really big.

“Austin Troxell is a guy that we identified a long time ago as being one of the top offensive tackles in the country. We have recruited him for almost three years and he has a great family. We think he has a chance to be a very good player.

“Alaric Williams is another guy that has been very loyal to us for a long time. He’s a running back and slot receiver and gives us a lot of flexibility and versatility to utilize him.

“Tyrone Truesdell is a big, athletic guy. He came to our Big Cat Weekend over the summer and we kept up with him. We brought him in this last weekend, and we feel like he has great upside. He can really run and has good instincts. I think he’s going to be a very good player.

“Devan Barrett is a running back. He was the No. 1 running back on our board from the get-go. He was the one that we wanted. He’s got great vision. He’s got great speed. He’s got the ability to take it 80 yards on any play. He can stretch the field down the field as far as catching the football. I really think he’s a got a chance to come in here and compete right off the bat. I’m very excited about Devin.

“Jordyn Peters, a defensive back, has the ability to play safety or corner. He’s long. I think he is going to grow and get bigger. He’s a very good tackler and a very physical guy. I’m very excited about Jordyn and think he’s got a chance to be an outstanding player.

“T.D. Moultry — I think he’s one of the best players, if not the best player, in the state. He’s a five-star guy. He took no other visits. He was extremely loyal to us. He helped us recruit. He’s got a unique skillset. He’s got an explosiveness that very few have playing inside linebacker. He’s got the ability to rush the passer. He played in some of these all-star games and really was the best player on the field in the all-star games. We are very excited about T.D. and think he can come in here and help right off the bat.

“Anders Carlson is Daniel’s brother and the No. 1 kicker in the country. I think there are so many similarities. We are very excited to have him and I know he’s excited to play with his brother. Daniel is the best kicker in college football. I think that everyone knows that, and we think that Anders has a chance to follow in his footsteps and be one of the best, too.

“Alec Jackson, a defensive lineman from Jeff Davis, is very athletic. He’s got a frame where he is even going to grow and get bigger. He’s a very smart young man. We think he’s got a chance to really help us.

“Tray Leonard, a defensive back from West Palm Beach, is a guy that has been on campus a few times and really connected. We felt like he really was an Auburn-type guy. We really watched him. He was committed to another school for a while and he came on board with us. We think he’s got a very good skill set. He can run, he’s long, he’s a very good tackler and he’s kind of one of those mature guys. I think he’ll have a chance to come in here and help right off the bat, too.

“Carlito Gonzalez is your prototypical safety. He’s very physical. He can run and has a nose for the ball. He plays fearless. He’s been very loyal to us, too. He’s been through three different defensive back coaches and he didn’t flinch. He stayed with us. I’m very excited about Carlito.

“JaTarvious Whitlow is a guy that really has been on my mind for a while. He came to camp this summer and just had an outstanding camp. The defensive coaches were kind of looking at him as a safety and the offensive coaches were looking at him as an athlete, receiver-type, and when Chip (Lindsey) got here, we pulled up the film again, not just his game film, but the one from the summer camp. We just felt like we needed him to be a part of our offense. He’s got a very good skill set. He’s got very good ball skills and we’re going to play him at wide receiver starting out.

“Bill Taylor, our long snapper, is a big, physical guy that can tackle. When you can find a guy that can snap it consistently and accurately, and tackle – those are hard to find. We’re excited about Bill.

“Our last one is Big Cat Bryant. Big Cat is a guy that we circled in. We’ve recruited him for a long time. He is Montravius Adams’ cousin. He is a pass-rushing machine. He’s an Auburn-type kid with a great family and great support system. We are just excited for him.

“Overall, I look at this class, and they are very athletic and have a lot of character. The academics are very important to them. I’m very excited about this. I’ll say our staff has done a super job at developing relationships, identifying talented kids that have great character. We’ve got guys that can really come in here and help us right off the bat. I’m extremely excited to have this class signed and here.

Was recruiting in the state of Alabama a big emphasis… “It has been since I’ve been here; we really try to stay in our state. I think there are some great players, the coaches here are just unbelievable, so signing 10 I think is very good and very exciting.”

On difficulty of recruiting in this geographic footprint… “Auburn’s a great place; it’s a special place. The guys that fit at Auburn know it right off the bat. We’re a relationship staff and a relationship school. If we can develop long-term relationships with guys and people that football is important to, academics is important to, getting prepared for life is important to, they fit here at Auburn. It’s just a matter of identifying those type of guys and developing long-term relationships, and we think we can compete with anyone on the recruiting trail.”

Importance of getting pass rushers… “Big Cat is a pass rusher, there’s no doubt, and Coach Garner did a super job of recruiting Big Cat. T.D.’s got the ability to rush the passer; he showed that during the all-star games and Travis Williams did a super job of recruiting him. Those two, and I think Chandler Wooten too, can rush the passer, and that’s the name of the game. If you can rush the passer by just rushing four and not having to blitz, that’s where great defenses start.”

On the running back recruits… “We looked for that versatility — guys that were bigger, could run, could catch the ball out of the backfield, and both of these running backs that we have are 200-pound type guys. They both can run and they both have very good ball skills.”

On taking two tight ends… “We only have one guy on scholarship at tight end, so we felt like we needed two tight ends. Coach Lindsey likes to use a tight end. We’re going to throw the ball more to the tight end, so that was the thinking behind that.”

Will Chip Lindsey utilize the tight end more… “I’ll take you back. C.J. (Uzomah) and Philip (Lutzenkirchen) here were pretty good at tight end. Charles Clay played for us at Tulsa. But Chip is definitely a guy that is going to utilize the tight end. He is very strong in the RPO world, he’s very strong in the straight drop back world, and that was kind of a complement to our run game that he is going to bring. I would definitely expect more balls to the tight end.”

Does he expect all signees to qualify academically… “We’re planning on everybody qualifying. I think everybody has the last three or four years, so it goes back to our coaches doing a good job of identifying the guys that have great character and everything that goes with it.”

On Rodney Garner… “I think it says he’s one of the best defensive line coaches in all of college football, if not the best, with his track record, and he’s a great recruiter. And the reason he’s a great recruiter is he works with honesty and integrity, he develops relationships and he he’s very consistent. He’s one of the best in the country.”

On John Samuel Shenker’s versatility… “His versatility is what stood out to us, and, of course, we kept up with him throughout the year, and then when Chip got here, that’s the first guy he wanted to see. He reminds us of Philip (Lutzenkirchen). He’s got that same kind of skill set that you can split him out, he can put his hand down, you can put him at H-back, and he’s physical enough at the point of attack to be effective, too.”

Will Shenker’s versatility help him stay on the field… “There’s no doubt. Trying to keep the same 11 on the field and try to utilize all of the formations is definitely what we’re looking for.”

On JaTarvious Whitlow… “First of all, he’s an outstanding athlete. He’s a good character person. When guys come to camps sometimes you just get a feel, and so he was on my radar after camp really all year. It was really just a matter of trying to figure out where he fit, and when Chip got here we looked at our whole board and what we have and all that and what we needed to go after, so he just fit. He’s got a lot of playmaking ability, he’s a big, strong guy that has a lot of athletic ability and he’s just right down the road.”

Will Brahms and Troxell play this season after injuries… “I would like to think so. Rehab is going very well for them and I think they will be ready to go once they get here in the summer. Of course, obviously, Nick’s (Brahms) here but I think he’ll be ready to go in the summer and Trox (Auston Troxell) will be ready to go in the summer. I expect both of them to be ready.”

On Austin Troxell… “I want to say something about Coach (Tim) Horton, too. He’s one of our most consistent recruiters and just does a great job developing relationships. That’s the third player out of Madison Academy and that’s a very good school. You know Trox is a guy who is very physical. He’s got that physical mentality. He’s very athletic, he can bend, he can finish. We think he’s got a chance to be a very good player.”

Will Calvin Ashley contribute quickly… “He’ll be here in May. I look back at Greg Robinson — Greg was in a similar situation and you think you do the right thing by redshirting and he was here for two years and he was the second pick of the draft. You look at each individual different, but Calvin right now has a very similar skill set and in a very similar spot as Greg was. I think from a coaching standpoint, you kind of learn through each process. My mindset is he’s going to come in here and compete and we’ll see what happens. I think that’s what he wants to do — in fact, I know that’s what he wants to do. We’ll let him compete and see what happens.”

On the offensive linemen… “We got three guys that are very, very talented guys and Brodarious (Hamm) is another talented guy that will be with this class. I’m really looking forward to him participating in the spring and expect him to be ready to go. So really, that is four. We’ll see where the next class goes, but I feel good where our offensive line is as a whole.”

An emphasis on recruiting linebackers… “That was definitely a point of emphasis. When you think about linebackers and safeties, most of those guys play special teams, so that definitely helps with your special teams, too. We’ve got some quality depth at linebacker, plus we got these three guys coming in, and Travis had an excellent year with our linebackers, on the field and recruiting. So it’s good.”

On not having any drama today… “When you go to bed last night, and you look at the guys who’ve been committed, it felt as good as you can. Any time you develop long-term relationships, it makes you sleep better at night. It went exactly as expected and there were a couple that obviously signed today. There wasn’t a lot of drama, and that says a lot about the class that we’re signing, the type of people they are.”

On Big Cat Bryant… “Every time he’s been on campus, you could tell he fit here. It was a great feel and talking with him, we always felt like we had a good chance. Last night, we felt like he was coming here, and this morning we felt the same. He’s a big-time player and he’s got a chance to really be a special player. You fight hard (for) the guys that aren’t committed. You go down to signing day and especially with our need for a pass rusher, that was extra special and big for us as a staff. It was the icing on the cake to this class. He was the last one to send his stuff in and commit. It was a good end to a good day.”

On bringing in fewer JUCO recruits… “This is the fourth or fifth class, so we’re starting to get more stable. Our program, as far as depth-wise, we’re starting to develop the depth through high school players. Any time you take a junior college player, you feel like you have a need and you bring him in and they compete for a spot. But that really has more to do with the stability of our program. When I say a well-rounded class, I think it talks about the depth we have on our current team. There aren’t a whole lot of areas that we’re desperate to have guys to come in and play immediately. A lot of these guys will play, but I think it just kind of speaks to where we’re at from a depth standpoint and a program standpoint.”

On signing fewer interior defensive linemen… “We got (Tyrone) Truesdell and Alec (Jackson); those are the two guys that’ll play inside. What’d we lose, four seniors? And we signed three, two inside and one edge guy. A couple of these linebackers are capable of rushing the passer too, so that was more by design.”

Timetable for Tashawn Manning’s return… “We’re hoping, and I’ll tell everybody the day or two before spring ball, but I’m hoping both of those guys (Manning and Hamm) will be able to go through spring. They’re off to a good start right now. Both of the guys are very athletic and we feel like they can help us. I’ll give you an update a couple of days before spring, but I would like them to go through it.”

On having an elite kicker… “It changes everything. When you’ve got a kicker and they’re dominant like Daniel is, it just changes everything the way you approach coaching the game. His brother, we think, has the same kind of talent, so it’s real exciting.”

On Alex Medary walking on… “As far as the history goes with Herb (Hand), there’s no doubt. His dad was part of having the emergency surgery and helping him and saving his life.”

On Sean White being ready to practice in the spring… “I like the fact he has that goal, and things are going a little faster, healing better than we originally thought. I probably can answer that a little better when we get to a couple of days before spring. But I do like his mindset.”

Now that you’ve read all of that, you can watch him say it here.