UM coach Al Golden addressed the local media about his first recruiting class with the Hurricanes. We'll be back later with the transcript.
Al Golden's Signing Day press conference
Opening statement: "Thank you all for coming out. Obviously this is an exciting day for the University of Miami football program and our coaching staff. It's a culmination of 5 or 6 weeks of intense recruiting to get to this point and I feel we've accomplished our specific targets. Namely, to make sure we secure a kicker and punter that can compete in the coming year. Speifically on defense to make sure we have linebacker depth that can come in and compete for jobs. Ccorners, defensive linemen and obviously wide receiver depth that we most certainly needed. It's a heavy defensive class. If anything, that should give you an indication of my evaluation of our offense relative to our defense right now. With one offensive lineman in this class, that should give you and indication that I'm very pleased with not only our production but the direction of our offensive line. We didn't sign but one offensive lineman [Taylor Gadbois] and we didn't sign any tight ends. So, most of our emphasis was on the defensive side.
"I would like to thank President Shalala. Kirby Hocutt, all the athletic administration, our staff, our coaches and all the support staff, all the deans and professors on campus that did an incredible job assisting us with all the students with work studies. We couldn't have done it without you. Again, it was a hectic time for everybody from where we started on Dec. 13 with three commitments and I think we were ranked 85th at the time. To come nearly 50 spaces in a short period of time, only 15 days I could go out, it's something we're proud of, and it should be a precursor of what we can do at the University of Miami moving forward."
Everyone had a year head start on you. What was it like playing catch-up in 20 days?
"It was hard. I think the thing the staff and I became maybe a little bit frustrated at the end was how many kids that said A) It was either their dream school or B) Committed to us down the stretch or gave us a real strong indication that they just loved it. But they just didn't know us.
"That was frustrating. But that will never happen again at the University of Miami. Our staff will not let it. For that we apologize to be quite all honest to all the high schools in South Florida. We will make that sure that we make that connection now moving forward. I've already entertained calls from the 2012 class today. We're going to move forward and develop those relationships and repair the ones that weren't as strong as they needed to be. That was frustrating because it is a great brand and is so much to offer young people. Many of them, you could see felt compelled to come, but there was no [long term] relationship in the end. For example, many of the kids that came on the last two official visits weekends, the first time I met them was when they came on that official visit weekend and that's tough doing business that way."
Can you talk about Gionni Paul and who was his primary recruiting?
"For us it's always about staff recruiting. Coach D'Onofrio and Micheal Barrow. But Gionni Paul to me personifies, along with Chickillo, along with some of the other young people in this class, personifies what we're looking for. Smart, tough, he's disciplined. He's plays with energy, has a motor. So we're so fortunate to have Gionni in this class. Again, we appreciative of the young people that really have shown faith in such a short period of time. That's why we'll be linked forever as our first recruiting class. Gionni is a big part of that."
A lot of coaches downplay the value of recruiting rankings. But do you have a different approach?
"I don't get into the rankings other than someone told me `coach, do your realize…' For us, if it's 33, it's not good enough. It's not good enough. We're going to continue to move forward. Someone indicated we had come up 50 spots, that's the only reason I referenced it. For us, it's not about the rankings, but just to give you some measurable of how far we came in a five-week period."
Did you feel coming in it was a dire situation?
"Well, yeah. If you take over a job and nobody is scheduled for an official visit, that's quite alarming. There's nobody scheduled in the month of January at all for an official visit. I took the job on a Monday, was processed on Tuesday, was out Wednesday and Thursday, came back Friday for an official visit weekend. We had five kids in. And then we went dead [period] for two weeks, then we were back out for three days and then went dead again. During those three days, most of the players we were recruiting happened to be at one of the two All-Star games. If you want to recruit a level of a Miami athlete, most of those athletes were in San Antonio and Orlando and off limits. All said and done, I'm excited about this group because there's something to be said for guys that want to be Miami Hurricanes. We had eight kids that flipped. Imagine where we would be if eight kids didn't flip and join the Miami Hurricanes. Then we also had other guys like Anthony Chickillo, [who] was exactly what we're looking. If you want to know what we're looking for, look at Anthony Chickillo. Tough, energy, just a football player, moxie, leadership, weight room guy. All those thing some people call intangible, we think are very tangible and they have a say in how we make our team."
What's your level of satisfaction compared to past signing days?
"For us, I love, I think the coaches feel the same way, we love the expectation. To do what we did in a short period of time, but we want more, and we know we're not done. We're still recruiting. This class is not complete. So we know with one or two more of the right guys here, it could finish off on an incredibly high note. But irrespective of that, you have to understand whether its the graduate assistants, the operations, the coaches, the administrative staff, it was an incredible job to pull this off in what was two official visits weekends when no students were around and two when they were around. My hat goes off to those guys. I'm greatful to have them on the staff."
We've seen other teams with lesser recruited classes suceed. Where does player development factor in with this recruiting class?
"It's always the acquisition and development of talent. You just said it. You can't win without talent, but you also have to have a plan in place for which you develop talent. I think we have that and we'll continue to do that. We've had a great response already in three short weeks with our current student athletes. They know it's different. They've embraced the change and they've really responded. I know I speak for all the staff, we just can't wait to be around them. Because there is talent on campus. What this group [coming in] is going to do, will be a blue collar unit. It's going to be a group that will challenge for jobs in certain areas, raise the intensity and the performance and execution of the guys that were in place. And obviously they're going to have a chance to compete. This is going to be an interesting spring for us. And when these kids start to come about, it will make for great competition, improve our team."
If someone was going to rank you as a recruiter for UM, would next year's class be your first true measuring stick?
"You can measure me right now, you can measure me right now. Measure me today. Measure me next week. Measure me next year, four or five years from now. Because we're here only to do it one way. And if you could see the energy that everyone in this building put forth to get this class. Again, I'm talking turning eight kids, flipping eight kids. There are a lot of schools that can't do that in three or four years. We flipped eight kids from Jan. 2 on. That's something I'm not afraid of. You have to be the judge of how you think we did, but I am grateful for what the coaches did in a short period of time."
Was there a common thread in how you flipped them?
"Long before I got here -- incredible tradition from a football standpoint, whether its players in the NFL, national championships, whatever the case may be, bowl games, BCS bowl games, award winners. You couple that with an incredible Coral Gables campus, international city, world class city right next door, the No. 1 institution in the state of Florida, top 50 institution in the country. The difference is they reacted to our core values, they reacted to our people, the way they were recruited, that was the difference. It has nothing to do with the previous staff. It just has to do with a transition class that was tough on a lot of people. It's not just tough on the coaches and the current players. It's tough on recruits. And a lot of kids just got lost in the shuffle. As you guys know what precedes the transition is the tidal waive. What precedes it is the drawback. That's kind of what it was. They could sense something was happening to that staff and the previous coach. A lot of them either pulled back -- on both sides -- the coaches and the prospects. So, when we kind of re-ignited that relationship, I think a lot of them were very excited about that."
How much were you blown away by that talent you did recruit? Were you stunned those players weren't recruited by the previous staff?
"Uh? I'm very excited about the talent of some of those kids."
You had to do a lot of evaluation on tape instead of in person. Did that make it more difficult?
"It's a little bit harder and that's why we proceeded with so much caution early on. I think I said this to you the first week in January. It's not so much the ones you don't get; it's making sure you get the right ones. I really believe that. You don't want to be there on Aug. 8 saying `Does anyone know why we recruited this kid?' Is it because he was offered by eight other schools? Does anybody know if he fits in our system? So again [the credit] goes to all the staff here that took their time and evaluated. To be honest, we probably had spots for a couple of more kids but we didn't want to drop down, didn't want to lower our expectations. So we stayed at a high level and wanted to battle it out from there on."
What was it like when you realized Jalen Grimble had chosen you?
"Big Jet [Jethro Franklin] was [pounding his chest]. [Jethro] had a great relationship with that family. If we didn't have that relationship, which happened in a lot of cases. We didn't have a previous relationship the kid may not be here. But the relationship plus what we offer at the University of Miami, which I think is unique, enabled that young man to come. What a great family. We're so pleased to have Jalen with us."
Normally, you would have seen all of these guys in person?
"Yeah. I’m used to seeing kids in camp. I’m used to seeing kids play basketball and those types of things. Our last four years at Temple, 78 percent of the kids that we signed attended the camp. So obviously you have a chance to evaluate them in the camp. There’s nothing like seeing a student-athlete live. There’s nothing that compares to it. If you can take that, plus the academic transcript, plus the film and then the intangibles, you have a chance to mitigate risk."
How hard was it to recruit with such a short time period while you were hiring new coach? How did the process work?
"It was difficult, certainly. We were trying to do so many things at once, whether it was establish the organization, evaluate the current players, recruit, set the staff. We were doing so many things. It’s so much more critical to be patient and get the right staff here. And I can tell u whole-heartedly we have the right staff. We have an incredible staff….we were willing to sacrifice a little bit to get it right the first time."
What were your emotions today?
"We were excited. There was a moment there where [with] maybe one or two other kids we go over the top. We were really close. We were in it and we’re still in it with some of those kids. It’s not over yet. But I think I speak for all of the staff. This has been physically taxing. Not that it’s not normally physically taxing, but this was get back in town Friday morning, try to see a couple of local schools because we want to build and repair relationships with the local schools, get over here by noon, have a new official visit starting, end that at noon Sunday and then go right back out. Not even have a chance to go home and sleep in your own bed Sunday and then go out Monday morning. We would go right back out and we did that for 31, 30 days straight now."
Are you going to be able to take a break? You must be exhausted.
"I’m not worried about this. I’m worried about my wife that’s sitting over there. You put me behind the eight-ball. I’m going to have to negotiate. But no, there’s got to be time. Family’s important to us. A lot of these coaches, and I know this personally, a lot of these coaches did research on me, and what’s important to me. What are my core values. That’s why we were able to put this kind of staff together. Thye understand family is important to us. But I think they also know these next 3 months it’s going to be a little catch-up. We’ve already had a junior day. When the official visit weekend ended on Sunday, we had a walk-on day. Our hope is that we’re back to where Miami should be, come the middle or end of June."
How important is it to recruit in central florida?
"It is important to us. All of Florida is vitally important ot us. We’ve got to get back to our roots and Central Florida is a big part of that. We’re going to get back to being really strong in those areas. We’re talking right now about which areas we’re going to allocate. Not only do we have all nine coaches within two hours of where we are right now, which is what we call the Eye of the Storm, we have all nine coaches in-state, which is really important to us. If we take care of our home state, we’re going to be in great shape. We’ll have all nine games in the state and all nine guys here in the eye, which I think is a departure from what they’ve done before. We want to make sure we get it right here. There are too many kids signing late, too many kids that are the next Ed Reed or the next Ray Lewis who was the last player taken, or the next Reggie Wayne. There are too many of those kids locally to go all over the country when they’re right here in our backyard. We want to make sure our central focus is here and then go out of state to get kids that want to be a part of this tradition, this great city of Miami and attend a top 50 institution."
You said it was important to sign a quarterback, that it kept you up at night. You don't have any right now.
"We’re still actively pursuing quarterbacks. I’ve got to be careful here because you guys know some of them haven’t committed yet. We want to make sure we sign the right guy that can fit our system. We want to be sure we sign a guy that matches our core values, that’s a leader. I still think we’re going to do that. We’re just trying to be patient there. I hope u can understand -- we don’t want to just take a guy to take a guy and we don’t want to drop down. We have a plan. We have a specific mold we’re looking for and I still believe we’re going to fill that need."
How do you feel about football players playing other sports?
"I’m ok with it. I want kids who want to compete and have the discipline to do that. There’s so something to be said about the type of athlete they are if they can do that and perform like Travis [Benjamin] is doing right now [in track]. Why wouldn’t u want Travis on your team?
"Is that going to be a deal-breaker? If you say you don’t want a Santana Moss or Travis Benjamin on your team to run track and play football -- I’m all for that. Not to mention we’re pretty good in those sports. If it helps them, that’s great for the University of Miami. I’m also of the beliefe we’ve become to specialized in high school sports. I really believe you can learn a lot and develop if you’re playing multiple sports."
Going back to evaluating film, are you a big part of that?
"In person validates or invalidates the film. The in-person is a supplement to what you see on film. But ultimately u are what u put on film. We say it all the time to our players. Why wouldn’t we say it to our recruits. You are what u put on film. Coach Parcells used to always say, ‘What you say you are is your philosophy, but what we see on film is your identity.’ And that’s the truth.
"But toughness is also part of our profile and foundation. The only way to really measure that is when they’re in pads and they’re competing."
What did you like about Eddie Johnson?
“This is a real hard-core linebacker group that we brought in. Eddie Johnson is a physical kid, 230 pounds. So he’s ready-made. That means he's not one of these 195 pound or 200 pound linebackers. He's a weight room guy. Clearly, he’s made a lot of sacrifices in his life to get to that point in terms of social things because clearly he, like Gionni and Denzel are really weight room guys that really get after it. So we’re excited about him. He can run and strike. He can play multiple positions. He plays running back on offense. So he’s a big athlete that we could put at multiple positions. He probably has third down value as a rushe as well."
How did you deploy Art Kehoe in recruiting?
“I think the kids gravitate towards Art. There’s a real connection that Art makes with people, period. Forget about just offensive linemen. And there’s a genuineness there. When we had a chance to sit down, not only his energy and his passion and his love for this place but there was a genuineness there and a good-hearted person would fit in perfect with where we’re at. The new kids have responded well to him. His reputation precedes him. I think they know they’re in for a spring, the Tazmanian devil coming through. But I think they get it. They’re responding well.”
Is there comfort now in the thought that you’re on a level playing field with everybody else?
“Yeah, perhaps. We don't think we're quite level yet. It's time to get back to work. There's probably a sense of relief, you're right, because it's been a no break zone for quite a while. The coaches probably feel that way too. We can't rest too long, we have to get ready for this next group. We have a couple of junior days and spring ball coming up, but it'll be great to be in here working with our kids, have one or two prospects watch spring ball. We can’t wait for that and we can't wait for the camp, because when high school coaches and the high school community see the type of camp that we are going to administer, they're going to love it. Just as they did in Philadelphia. We went from no camp to 1,868 campers in four years which was the No. 1 day camp in America. And we didn’t have nearly the setup that we have here in terms of field space and the tri-county talent level.”
What do you think about South Florida talent level compared to what you had in Philadelphia?
"The number of kids that come from down here and play Division I football is the reason why as we’re developing our recruiting philosophy we want nine guys just in the three counties, really in four or five counties within two hours we’re going to have nine guys. That says it all. Like this year in Connecticut. There’s seven players probably that go Division I. Miami Central had 17. How can we identify and evaluate all those kids. If there’s 350 or 400 kids that sign Division I scholarships in Florida, we only need 18 to 20 a year to be a great team. Not to compete, but a great team. So let’s get it right at home and go from there."
You lowered the camp price to $55. What did it used to be?
“It was $390. Let’s be fair, it was apples to oranges. It was a overnight camp. It’s as much a civic thing as anything.We are the University of Miami, the University of all of South Florida. And we want to make sure we are giving kids an opportunity to learn, to be exposed to the University of Miami, our mission on campus. And clearly we want an opportunity to evaluate to see which ones are good enough to be Hurricanes and who wants to be Miami Hurricanes. We're going to keep that price low. It's $40 through President's Weekend, then will go up to $55. It's not a money maker for us. It’s about getting to know the high school coaches, giving kids an opportunity. The camp is designed so if you don't get a scholarship offer from Miami – FIU, FAU, Bethnue Cookman, MAC schools, a bunch of 1-AA schools – all those schools will be here and represented so there's a safety net in there. It's not just going to benefit you if you want to go to Miam, but it will benefit you if you want to go to one of those other institutions as well."
How many scholarships do you have available?
"It’s fluctuating. The reason I’m saying it’s in flux is because we’re getting medical reports back on our current kids – is there someone that has to be declared a medical? Other kids have other interests, whatever the case may be. So it’s in flux. It wasn’t going to be a big class to begin with but we are only going to have room for a couple of more and we’ll have to see how that shakes out here.”
Is Kevin Nelson returning to the team?
“I’m not going to comment on that right now. It wouldn’t be air to him or his family or for our program to comment on him right now.”
What do you get for $40 at the camp?
“You show up at 8, you get introduced to the staff, we break you down into groups and you do a bunch of drills on offense, then you do a bunch of drills on defense, then you have a chance to go to lunch on campus - inside, a barbecue. We'll finish up with some one on ones and some competition at the end. It's really an 8 to 4 deal. We coach the heck out of them. We have it down cold. We’re going to develop them. They're going to learn. Hopefully, the goal is to get them back again. We have six of those dates in June."
Any interesting stories with kids you flipped?
“Gionni Paul probably is our favorite. He didn't' want to talk to us to getting a tattoo. I told my wife about the tatoo and I said `I think we'll get this LOI a few days from now.’ It's a great story because the kid wanted to be a Hurricane. We faced a lot of`You weren't recruiting me,’ during the recruiting process`We just kept saying, ‘We weren't here, There’s nothing I can do about that. Just give me an opportunity.' Jalen Grimble is a big story. He’s a tremendously talented player who has ties to USC but chose to come to Miami. That's a big story.”