Gus Malzahn Recaps the 2015 Signing Class (Transcript)

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    The WarBlogler
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    Opening statement…
    “First of all, it’s a very exciting day. I’m very excited about this class. I’m very proud of our staff. Our staff worked extremely hard. We added some coaches on the defensive side. Our staff really worked great together, and we ended up having a great class. We signed eight players from the state of Alabama, including Mr. Football, which is the third year in a row. One of our main goals is to win the state of Alabama, and we feel like we did that this year. We also signed 10 so far from the state of Georgia, which is also very important to us.  And then we signed eight from Florida; those are the three states that we really hang our hat on, and I thought that was good balance. I really feel like we addressed our needs. We needed some guys who can rush the passer, and we really feel like we did that. We also need some guys who can cover, and we addressed that. We needed a few wide receivers and then we needed some O-line depth, so I feel very good about that. We just received Byron Cowart’s paperwork, the No. 1 player in the entire country. We feel very good about him being able to come in immediately and help us, obviously rushing the passer. Our defensive staff did an excellent job recruiting that young man.”

    On the January enrollees…
    “Our January enrollees — starting out with Tyler Carr from Southside High School in Alabama. He’s big, athletic, tough. When you think of Auburn tough, this is what I think about. I think he’s got a chance to really help us, and he may even have a chance to play early.

    “Chandler Cox from Apopka High School is very versatile. He is going to play our 3-back position. He played a very similar position in high school. He is one of the better all-around football players in the entire country. We felt like he really fits our offense well.

    “Tim Irvin from Westminster High School down around Miami is a very good football player. He’s tough. He’s a very good tackler. Coach T-Rob had a very good relationship with him, and he came on board with us in a short period of time after his official visit.

    “Tyler Queen, a quarterback from North Cobb in Georgia — he runs a similar offense from what we do. He’s very good with the zone read. He’s a very physical runner. He’s been committed to us for a long time. We’re very excited about Tyler.

    “And then Jovon Robinson, the No. 1 junior college player in the country. He’s a big, physical guy that can run. He really has a chance be an elite player.”

    On the prospective student-athletes who signed today…
    “Our signees for today – let’s start with our punter Ian Shannon from Marietta High School in Georgia. We had a few issues last year in our kicking game. We really feel like he’ll have a chance to come in and compete for the job. He’s got a big leg. He can do all of the kicking duties, too, but really primarily we are thinking punting next year. He’ll have a chance to compete for that job.

    “Marquel Harrell from Creekside High School is a big, athletic lineman that can run. We really think this guy has a chance to be an elite player. He can play center; he can play guard. He’s very strong. He’s everything we look for in a lineman.

    “Kerryon Johnson, Mr. Football in our state, is one of the more versatile players in the entire country. With our offense, we can get very creative with him. We really think this young man has a chance to be an elite, special type player. We feel like he has everything it takes and we are very excited to add him to our offense. He will have a chance to be an impact player coming in immediately.

    “Carlton Davis, a big, long defensive back — Coach Travaris Robinson said we really need to go after this guy. The relationship with Coach T-Rob Robinson helped with him. He came on a visit and really felt at home. This guy has a chance to help us right off the bat.

    “Montavious Atkinson, from Langston Hughes High School in Georgia, has been committed to us for a long time. He is a very good tackler and a very good athlete, a no-nonsense guy. He will fit our defense very well and we think he will have a chance to help us immediately, too.”

    “Jeff Holland, from Trinity Christian School in Jacksonville, has family that used to play basketball here. We have been on him a long time. Coach Rodney Garner has a great relationship with him; Coach Travaris Robinson and Coach Will Muschamp already had a relationship with him. He is a pass rusher and we really feel like he can help us in the pass rush. He has a lot of flexibility and is a great tackler, too.

    “Darius Slayton, wide receiver, from Greater Atlanta Christian in Georgia, is the nephew of Darrel Crawford; he has a lot of family associated with Auburn. Initially, we were recruiting him as a defensive back. He felt like he wanted to be a defensive back about a year and a half ago, then he transitioned in to the wide receiver position and we started recruiting him these last five weeks extremely hard. He is a big guy that can run and we feel like he will have a chance to help us next year. We are very excited about him.

    “Jeremiah Dinson, from American High School in Miami, Fla., was one of the first names Coach Travaris Robinson brought up. Coach said, ‘This guy can really play. He can run, he can play, and he is a tough guy.’ He came on a visit and loved it right off the bat.

    “Javarius Davis, from Ed White High School in Jacksonville, Fla., is one of the faster players in all the country, I believe a 10.3 guy. There aren’t a lot of 10.3 guys running around. He is going to be a great cover guy, he also returns kicks, and we really think this guy will have a chance to help us right off the bat.

    “Jordan Colbert, a big defensive back playing safety, is a 6-foot-3 200-pound guy from Griffin High School who has been committed to us for a long time. He did a very good job of helping us recruit over the past year. He has the physical set that he can play right off the bat; we are very excited about him.”

    On the situation with Byron Cowart…
    “It just didn’t get faxed in until just recently, but we felt very good about it all along. I know the media, the uncertainty, and all that, but we felt good about it the whole time.” Were you in contact with Cowart all day… “Yes, we were in contact.”

    On the class giving Auburn flexibility defensively…
    “Well, Coach Muschamp, he’s got the ability in our defense to do all that. And he’s handpicking these guys to fit his defense. He’s very excited about that; we got some guys that can help us immediately. Like I said, the big thing is rushing the passer. I think everybody saw that last year as a deficiency. We’ve got Carl (Lawson) coming back but we got three guys that we feel like next year can help us rush the passer. Then we talked about covering. We’ve got to have some guys in the secondary that can cover. Coach T-Rob went out and he already had relationships with some guys and felt very good about them coming in, so we’re feeling very good on the defensive side of the football after this signing class.”

    The impact of Coach Muschamp and Robinson…
    “Well, I’m glad they’re on our side, I’ll tell you that first of all. Will Muschamp’s one of the best defensive minds in all of football, not just college. He’s got a great reputation. He sent so many people to the league, he’s been a defensive coordinator in the league, he can help guys get to where they want to get. He’s a very upfront guy and he’s a very honest guy. That attracts the right type of people. And of course, Coach T-Rob is very good with the relationships, and did a very good job for us.”

    Can Cowart be an immediate impact guy…
    “Yeah, I think so. You’re talking about the best player in the country, so, yeah, he’ll have a chance to compete and a chance to be on the field immediately with his skill set.”

    The needs at defensive end…
    “We didn’t have Carl Lawson this year and we had a couple other injuries too, so I thought it was very important. That was one of our priorities – get some guys so we can rush the passer with just four guys and not have to blitz. We were able to do that two years ago. We weren’t able to do that this past year, so that was definitely a focus. We’re very excited about these guys that signed today.”

    The offensive line signees…
    “Coach Grimes is very excited about this group. They are all, first of all, high-character guys. They’re big and athletic. The old days of just getting a big guy that can’t move, they’re about done. All these guys can move; they’re athletic. A few of them are here early and it’s always good for offensive linemen to get that extra strength and conditioning in. We’re very excited about this group.”

    Re-stocking at wide receiver…
    “We thought it was important. We lost a few guys right there, especially with Sammie Coates leaving early. Darius Slayton is a big, long guy that can run — he can really run — and he attacks the ball. Ryan Davis is a guy that played quarterback. We’ve had numerous guys — the Quan Brays, Darvin Adams, Kodi Burns – that have played quarterback that came in our system and really flourished. There are a lot of guys that have transitioned well in our offense.”

    On how modern day recruiting has impacted how to go about recruiting…
    “It seems like every year you flip on TV, and there’s more switching and all that. I’m very proud of our staff, not just this year, but really the first two years. Once a guy commits to us, we’ve had very few people decommit. I would probably put our record up against any other team in college football, and that’s a tribute to our coaches developing relationships. It’s also a tribute to our coaches identifying exactly what they want out of that position, our coordinators knowing exactly what they want, and being consistent with it. So I think that definitely says a lot about our coaches and our program, and the goal is to continue that.”

    On a proposed early signing period…
    “I’m fine with the way we’re doing things. From a coaches’ standpoint, early signing period, you have two of these. Sometimes everything that goes with it is a little bit of a challenge, especially if it was at the end of a season and you were trying to compete for championships. It could be a little challenging. I like the way we’re doing it now.”

    Plans for Kerryon Johnson…
    “He’s going to play running back, but he’s very good at the wildcat. The last guy that I saw with his skillset and could do what he can do is Darren McFadden. He’s got the ability to run the read zone back there. You can put him out split out and he can jump just about anybody. He’s got a unique skillset and we expect him to play right off the bat, but not just play — he has a chance to really help.”

    On linebacker signees…
    “Darrell Williams and Richard McBryde — both of those guys Coach Muschamp feels really good about. They are long guys, they are physical guys, they’ve got instincts, and they are both tough. That was definitely something we needed.”

    On Jason Smith’s flexibility…
    “We are going to start out and he is going to have a chance to play quarterback; that is what we recruited him out of high school. He went to junior college and he is going to start out as quarterback, but he is athletic enough that if it did not work out, he would play some other positions. We are very excited about Jason. We think he has a chance to be a real special player.”

    Can Smith run the wildcat…
    “We got numerous guys that would fit that mold; Kerryon Johnson would be a guy. Jason Smith is dynamic with the ball in his hands, wherever that is. His mindset is to compete for the quarterback job, so we will see what happens.”

    Will Ian Shannon compete at punter…
    “Well, that would be the best case. Daniel Carlson did a wonderful job at doing all three. That is tough to do long-term, so the plan would be (Shannon) to come in and have a chance to win the punting job. We will see. We have a lot of confidence in his skill set and his ability or we would not have signed him, but he is going to have to earn it.” Status of Jimmy Hutchinson… “He is going to have to compete for the job just like any other position.”

    Benefits of enrolling early for Jovon Robinson…
    “I think it is very important. The fact that he has a spring under his belt, to get with Coach Horton and develop that relationship as a coach and a player, and learn the blocking scheme up front, and to get with Coach Russell to get his body in shape. He has got a real chance to be a special player. He is a big, physical guy. He has all the attributes that it takes to be a very good running back.”

    Was he was nervous about the Cowart situation…
    “No matter who it is, waiting on the fax to come across is tough, but like I said earlier, we were in communication and we are glad it’s official.”

    On Prince Tega Wahogho…
    “You see him and he has the “wow” factor. He is 6’7” or 6’8” and 250 pounds. It is his first year to play football, but you turn the film on and you see great potential. Coach Garner and Coach Muschamp have seen that. He is a driven young man and a focused young man. There are very few, if any, that have his skill set. I think he has a really good chance to be something after he gets more experience learning the game and everything that goes with it.”

    On Chandler Cox and the 3-back position…
    “It’s very important; that’s like another quarterback. We have given that position a lot of flexibility, like Jay Prosch and the impact he made just in one year. Chandler is a very tough, physical guy and he can block, and he has wide receiver-type hands. His high school coach played him at running back and quarterback, because he can run the football. He is old-school — you turn on his film reel and he runs through people. It is impressive and he will fit in well with Auburn-type football.”

    On if he plans to add more signees…
    “Yes. There is always a possibility.”

    On having his new staff members for a full year of recruiting next year…
    “Well, it’s exciting for me because a new defensive staff comes in and with three new coaches as well. The way we were able to finish was very impressive. I think with a full year of developing relationships at the same place, we are going to have a real chance to do some really special things with our staff.”

    How this year feels compared to last year…
    “We were very excited a year ago. From a coach’s standpoint we are always thinking about the needs — what are we in need of for next year? We felt very good that we addressed a lot of those. This year, it feels very similar. There are some really strong impact players, Byron being one of those, that we feel like could not only be on the field next year, but be an impact on the field. This is a class we feel like will help us get into a position to win some championships, which obviously is our goal every year here at Auburn.”

    On being able to get kids from Alabama, Georgia and Florida…
    “We kind of hang our hat on those three states. With the Florida ties we now have on our staff, that’s a state we feel great about. I’m proud of our entire staff for helping with these three states. They put in a lot of work. With signing day, you just see the signing day. What everyone doesn’t see is the year or two before, building these relationships and putting in the work.

    “I’m going to end with this — we got some excellent players, as far as physically. When the film comes on there is a “wow” factor. I feel good about this class from a character standpoint. That is very important. We see that these guys are committed to us and stayed committed to us. They didn’t do all this ‘round the world’ stuff that you see a lot of other places; from a head coach’s standpoint, that means a lot to me. You win with talent and character here at Auburn, which is why we are so excited.”

    Auburn grad (B.S. in C.S., 2004), loving husband, and semi-new dad that believes Auburn should and could go undefeated in every sport, every year.

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