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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 3, 2016
East Lansing, Michigan
COACH DANTONIO: Good afternoon, guys. Another signing day comes by, and I guess this is our tenth since we've been here. So as always, I think signing day is a new beginning for a lot of people, and I think that's what the most important thing is. It sort of launches everybody's career.
But I don't think that you can underestimate, everybody has high hopes when they come in, but it's really how they go out is what's important. And we've had our senior classes here in the last number of years have taken our football program to a whole new standard with really accomplishing the highest number of wins in their time of any class previous, the last three classes have done that. So we'll look for this class to be able to do that as well, but the bar has been set very, very high.
But with that being said, I think that certainly this is one of the highest recruited classes that we've had in terms of rankings and we have some outstanding players to talk about as we move through this. We've got three seniors coming back this next year. Much like last year I came in here and I said that some of our biggest recruits were Connor Cook and Shilique Calhoun as they made their decisions. It paid dividends.
Our sixth-year seniors Ed Davis certainly coming back, probably one of our premier linebackers from last year. Damon Knox, Brandon Clemons, guys that have played a lot of football here and have started for us. So these three guys are going to form a nucleus really for our class as we move forward here in this next year.
I want to thank all of our coaches. So many people work in recruiting. Curtis Blackwell and his staff work extensively at that. But I want to thank everybody who took a part in recruiting, including the coaches out there actively that helped us, high school coaches just with their prospects. Whether we got those guys or not, the families that are involved with those young men as well.
You know, recruiting is about developing relationships. I don't think there's anything mind blowing about that. It's definitely about relationships, but it also involves trust. And you're trying to promote a lot of different things in terms of where you're at.
We wanted to address our needs always. That's what we do in recruiting. We always want to promote, I think, growth and continuity in what we're doing. I think those three facets are very, very important in terms of what we're trying to accomplish here. As long as we continue to grow as a program and stretch ourselves, great things are possible. As long as we continue to address those needs and grow as a program, great things are possible. And I think we've seen that over the past number of years here.
Our brand, I think our brand is extremely strong right now. When you look across this country, when you talk about the Spartan brand, I think it's very well recognized. From a football perspective and all university and all athletics, but from a football perspective I think it's very well recognized and really when you look at it, it's probably recognized throughout the world when you look at the last number of years and what's been accomplished here.
So our brand is very strong. We're going to play with great toughness, as I've always said, great effort and know what to do, and I think we want to always base our program and our brand on the integrity that we bring as a program and base it on the truth as we move forward. So that's what we're always trying to accomplish here.
When you look at this class, I think you start to break it down, we've got offensive linemen, we've got defensive line obviously, but you got a couple of guys that could probably go either way that bring both aspects into context in terms of having depth in both areas.
When you start to break it down, you look at our wide receiver situation, first of all. I think that was a position in need based on the number of wide receivers that have gone out of here and gone on to the NFL in the last number of years, and really that's been transitioning from Bennie Fowler, even Keshawn Martin, but from Bennie Fowler and ^ Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery and now you've got Aaron Burbridge leaving, Macgarrett Kings so really R.J. Shelton is the only guy left probably that played a lot in our Rose Bowl year. So that's a transition point of type of position for us.
So bringing in guys like Donnie Corley, who we've talked about extensively when he came here and enrolled. He had a great first-day workout and looks very, very special out there. But you also bring in Cam Chambers, another guy that as I'm leaving today is sprinting in the indoor facility.
But you bring guys in here who have basically an idea that they're going to play right now and are disciplined in that approach and very, very competitive.
Justin Layne, Trishton Jackson add to that. All these guys are big guys that play multiple positions, multiple sports, I watched Trishton Jackson pour in 30 points the other night playing basketball. Quarterback on their football team. Played wide receiver. I thought Coach Bellamy did an outstanding job with him developing him at West Bloomfield, but playmaker, very explosive, ran in the 4.4s, mid 4.4s for us in camp and came here in camp and really electrified everybody.
So initially we were going to take three wide receivers. After seeing Trishton perform, we decided we would take four. He's that type of player, that level of player.
Justin Layne from Cleveland, Ohio -- incidentally West Bloomfield, really Brad Salem was involved with that recruitment and obviously Terrence Samuel as his position coach, but Jim Bollman recruited Justin Layne out of Cleveland, Benedictine High School. Again, another young man that I watched him play basketball the other day. I'm not sure how many he had; about 20. It was a quiet 20, but he was up around the rim the whole night. Very explosive, quick-body guy, punt returner, kick returner, in the secondary, plays wide receiver. Very highly sought-after recruit guy who made his decision in June and has stuck with his decision throughout the process. So extremely impressive as a person, very, very tough-minded people.
So you've got four wide receivers coming in who I really think are going to play as young freshmen. I really do believe that. Two of those guys, Corley and Justin Layne, could play on the other side of the ball. I don't think there's any question about that as we move forward. And that's been proven here that you can do that when you look at Lippett and some of the other guys that have played here on both sides.
When you go to the linebacker position, two guys that we took, and again, we're addressing need, so we felt like we could take two guys. Both these guys are multi-sport athletes, Joe Bachie, the guy that played tailback, punt returner, shortstop, all-conference in basketball, point guard, and he plays middle linebacker and runs. And Jim Bollman recruited the Cleveland area. He's from Berea-Midpark, ^ outstanding player, very intelligent player, and he's in as well as we've talked about before about Joe.
Brandon Randle is a young man from Battle Creek, and I think he was one of the guys that we really saw throughout the process of recruiting and recognized as being a guy that's outstanding athlete and can play at an extremely high level; size 17 shoes, basketball player, track athlete, high hurdler. You know, just -- low hurdles, long jumper, those type of things. At 225 pounds he's going to be an outstanding player for us. A little unique situation. His parents lived in North Carolina, so he spent time back and forth a little bit. The decision was made for him to continue his education at Battle Creek. And he excelled there. Some people helped out. Coaches helped out with his living situation. He lived with his grandfather as well. His grandfather is an outstanding athlete from ^ Ferris State, actually had one of the highest -- I think the fastest maybe -- high hurdle time in the nation at one point. Mother ran track here. So very loving family, does an outstanding job in terms of handling their child and moving him forward in this process. But Brandon plays defensive end, linebacker, wide receiver, tailback punt returner, kick returner, and he's a big athletic guy that can really run and get off blocks. So we are extremely excited about his development and what he'll be able to do as we move forward.
When you look at our defensive line, I think it's one of the strengths of our recruiting class as well. Certainly Naquan Jones, is a big-body guy, highly recruited guy in the inside from Chicago. Brad Salem, Ron Burton were involved in that recruiting process. And you know, there's an absence of big guys, and we've made a living on great big players playing here and playing very, very effectively on defense. So he's a guy that will have an opportunity to play early in his career. Everywhere he's gone, I think he's been successful in that area. He was a basketball player as well early on, and we're looking forward to him coming from Evanston, Illinois. So big-body guy.
Josh King, another young man. He was a wrestler. I watched him wrestle a week and a half ago. 6' 6 frame. That's a legitimate 6' 6. Some would say would be bigger. 255 pounds, won the state championship in wrestling as a junior at the 220-pound level. Athlete. Very good athlete. Big body, really can run. Very athletic. And when you watched him on the wrestling mat -- you know, we like wrestlers here. They can get into you and take you down, and they understand hard work, hard work and sacrifice. But another four-star guy that was recruited by everybody across the nation. Again, Ron Burton recruited Josh to Michigan State, and just will be an outstanding player and person. So we've got two big-time players in that capacity.
Mufi Hunt, defensive end who when we recruited him last year, 215 pounds, went on a mission, came off his mission, so he enrolled here in January as you guys know. Now weighs 265. So a little update on Mufi as we move forward. Very, very flexible athlete.
Mike Panasiuk, another four-star guy, was the strongest man at the opening. Brad Salem recruited Mike. And very, very active player; dominant defensive lineman, quick-body guy. I'm not sure how much he repped 225. I think it's around -- I don't even want to go there, but it's 25 or 35 times. But the strongest man at the opening, which would probably make you the strongest person in high school football. But very athletic, has snap, played a little bit of running back as well. They used him at running back or as a blocker in the back field a little bit early throughout the season. But Mike will be another guy that will be active immediately, I think.
We have two guys that I think are recruited whether they play defense or they play offense and that's A. J. Arcuri, from Olentangy, and also Luke Campbell from Olentangy. One's from Olentangy Liberty. A. J. And Luke Campbell is from Olentangy, two high schools very near each other, obviously. Both great athletes. Both big, long guys. A. J. is about 6' 6; some would say 6' 7 again, about 265 pounds, plays the defensive end position. So he can go to the defensive side of the ball. He's athletic enough to do that, and he was recruited as a defensive player by a lot of people. We recruited him as an offense player as well.
Mike Tressel and Mark Staten were involved in that recruiting process. And he worked out in camp as an offensive player, but with that being said, I think he can flip either way. And that was our idea with these guys on the offensive side of the ball that they would be able to play either side of the ball. So both guys fit that mold.
Very active player, tough, very tough and easily will be 280 probably by the time he walks in the door.
Luke Campbell, the guy that came here and camped here, he's a nine-and-a-half long jumper, 275 pounds, about 6' 4 1/2, 30-inch vertical inch guy, and he's an offense lineman, but we feel like, again, he's got a ^ tremendous upside, tough, very tough, could possibly play on the defensive side of the ball, and I think he runs well enough and shows great flexibility to be able to do that and shows the toughness.
So what positions those guys will play will be dependent on how things are rolling in summer camp, but they'll both have an opportunity, and I think they'll have tremendous futures here as Spartans. Excellent, excellent football players from Ohio.
When you look at our quarterback situation, Messiah deWeaver is a guy that recruited and really initiated the dream team hashtag for the '16 class. Messiah is enrolled. We spoke a lot about him early on, but another young man that I think is -- you can already see what he's going to do just by the way you watch him carry himself. But we talked about Messiah quite a bit here.
On the offensive line in addition, Matt Allen will go for a state wrestling meet, big championship meet this year. Obviously he's the third, Brian Allen, Jack Allen, coming here. And I can only tell you this: When you have somebody's family coming here over and over and over, it signifies to me that we're doing things the right way, that their young people, their sons are moving forward, not just as a football player but in their life as well.
Matt is just another -- I remember Matt when he was 11 or 12 years old sitting in the basement as I went in to recruit Jack. And the wrestling mat is literally in the basement laid out. Okay. And Matt's talking to me about when he gets that age and how he's going to whoop up on his brothers.
So exciting to have Matt here. Watched him wrestle Josh King the other week and just a tremendous athlete. Again, wrestler, tough guy. Will have a great future in front of him. Understands our offense already terminology wise, conceptually. Will play center here, but obviously could play some guard as well just like his brothers. So it'll be exciting to watch him grow.
The defensive back position, Austin Andrews from Columbus DeSales High School is an all-around athlete. We'll play him at corner here. He was the deep tailback for them, pretty much did everything, punt return, kick return. Highly recruited guy out of Columbus, Ohio; very quick-body guy, very explosive; extremely tough, great tackler in space and great deep-ball judgment. And we'll look forward to Austin coming here and having an opportunity to play and get involved very, very quickly. But a very highly recruited player down there, and we're excited about getting him out of DeSales High School, which is the home of Travis Jackson. Great high school football at DeSales, and as you move forward, he will be an outstanding player.
Kenney Lyke we've mentioned before, from Chicago, again, his first workout the other day. Be an outstanding player, big hitter as we've mentioned before.
Demetric Vance, Cass Tech, will probably be able to play either corner or safety. Big-body guy, about 6' 2 1/2, 6' 3, can really run; could play wide receiver here as well. Has those type of skills. But we will play him, probably start him at corner a little bit and transition him to safety, because I think he has the skills to play very, very quickly here, and he's demonstrated that in camp.
A lot of these guys we've seen play in our camps or we watched them play in person. A lot of level one players which we call -- that touch the state of Michigan or from Michigan itself.
I think 18 guys who have been committed to us since I believe since June or July, something like that. So guys have stuck with their commitments and they haven't waffled on their decisions and making decisions to come to Michigan State. So a lot of young people that extremely committed to that.
When you look at our offensive linemen, I think I've talked about them, Thiyo Lukusa is the one guy I didn't talk about. Again, he's in workouts, big body, extremely athletic guy from Traverse City by way of DePaul Catholic, bounced back from DePaul to here. So we're excited he's back.
Our kicking situation, I think, was addressed. Our special teams were addressed a little bit. Bradley Roberts is already in school, the snapper. And Matt Coghlin is also a guy that will be on scholarship here as well, but outstanding kicker, did a tremendous job in camp and is a guy that is very cool under pressure, gets great lift on the ball, has the ability to kick off and punt as well if we need him to punt.
We've always got guys who come as I call free agents. Reid Burton is of that capacity. Reid is a guy that was at East Lansing High School ^ and was hurt the last two years, so he's got limited game film. But big body, athletic guy, great lineage. Okay. Big-body guy that we'll find a position for him. He'll probably start as a fullback, move guy back there like Pendleton was, but could obviously go over to the defensive side of the ball, play linebacker or defensive end. But he's proven to be a great athlete. He played tailback for East Lansing in his time there a little bit, but he had some injury situations as we've gone through it.
I think I've hit everybody. Hopefully I didn't miss anybody. That would be awful. Okay. So I'll take some questions. But I think the nature of what we've got are guys from level one. I think we signed five guys from the Chicago area, I think seven guys from Ohio, obviously our players from Michigan. And we're looking forward to this class being ones that'll win additional championships for us as we move forward here in the process.
Q. I know you had a couple of prospects still late today, but for the most part this class had been pretty locked up. Was it a different skill for you and your staff in signing this year pretty much already determined coming in?
COACH DANTONIO: There's always guys that are hanging out there on the edge because I think the nature of recruiting is you always extend yourself a little bit. But I think we got the guys that we thought we really were going to get all along, and as I said earlier, I sort of feel like the guys that were invested here, that were vested here and were on campus numerous times, Donnie Corley on campus probably 30 times; a lot of these guys on campus six, seven, ten times. We got those guys. And that's what recruiting is about.
Again, it's about addressing needs. It's about promoting continuity and continuing to play winning football, graduate our players, the goals that we have as a program, handling yourself socially as well. Those are all goals here that we're trying to accomplish, and that's what we were hired here to do, and that's what we're going to do. And so they have a chance to come into a championship-type program and be a part of something special.
Q. How much easier -- I'm not going to say recruiting is easy. I have no idea how it works. But how much easier is it now than five years ago? How much is the winning being noticed by teenagers, defensive linemen, hardest position to get, you got several of those guys really touted, beating some rivals and big-time programs head to head. How much easier is it now, and can you kind of take us through that a little bit?
COACH DANTONIO: I think there's a lot of reasons for that. It's just like a program. There's a lot of reasons why you're having success. I think continuity from our coaching staff. We're in the same schools. Our recruiting department, Curtis has been here a number of years now, so more involved, smoother transition. Just continuity on our staff.
You look at our facilities and the upgrades we've had here in facilities and where we're sitting right now talking about these things. You look at the success that we've had as a program playing in, I guess, top six now in the last three years playing in Big Six games and winning bowl games and winning championships or at the very least competing for championships. I think we've been in the BIG TEN championship game three times. We've got three division titles.
And all those things I think help you towards the recruiting process. People want to come be a part of something special. They want continuity. They want trust. They want focus. They want to win. They want a great education experience, and they want to participate in athletic facilities that are up to this level, and they want to have an opportunity, quite frankly, to go to the NFL. And we're putting guys in the NFL on a regular basis, and I think those are the reasons behind a lot of what you see.
Q. Mark, obviously you gray-shirted Colt (indiscernible), though technically did his scholarship come for this class? Does he have that now?
COACH DANTONIO: Yes, he does.
Q. And they were talking today about schools that have recruiting departments with as many as 20 people that work in them, whether it's doing social media or analyzing tape. I'm just curious, you don't have that but you continue to put out a great product. What is it about Curtis and his staff that have brought to you that you guys are able to compete with schools that have a 20-person department and quite frankly beat a lot of them?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, Curtis did an outstanding job. Matt Mueller works in there, and he's got a number of other people that are interns in there, and then we utilize student assistants like everybody does. So we've got a lot of people watching film. But I think it's relationships. I think it's the opportunities to come on campus, and when they come on campus, they have a great experience and they get to know us as individuals.
We take the time to get to know them. You know, there's not a lot of fluff sometimes when they come in and talk. We sort of cut to the chase. And we're slow in the way we do things here, but we're methodical on what we do. We're systematic in what we do. And there's a process.
And as I say all the time, people see Michigan State recruiting, but they don't understand the process. There is a process to that, and we're constantly critiquing that process, just like we do everything in our program, and trying to make it better and better and better.
And there's no question that we're competing against very high-quality competition across the nation, and you know, sometimes you're going to get the guys and sometimes you're going to lose guys. But as long as -- from my perspective, as long as we treat people fairly and have good relationships coming with them, coming with them and going, whether they come here or not, we're doing our job. And it's up to those individuals to make their assessments, and they make choices.
But I think right now in this day in age you find so many different reasons. I heard a guy jumped out of an airplane and made a decision today. Okay. So how do you figure all these things?
But there are so many factors that come into recruiting, so many different things and so many people that are met and so many different reasons that people make the decision to come to a school that it's hard to put your finger on one thing. But if you have a systematic approach and you cover an area thoroughly, you're going to find your guys. And all I gotta do is point to Darqueze Dennard or Trae Waynes, Connor Cook, Le'Veon Bell, and these guys are highly -- high performers.
So recruiting is not a science. It's the best-you-can-do science, but it's not a science because at the end you're investing in people. People change. People are developed. And it's at a very young age, and so there's a lot of change here in four years.
Q. You said in your opening statements that it's not how you come in, it's how you leave. How do you get that through to these kids, because the days of accelerated recruiting these guys have these days, seems like it's a big fanfare now. How do you make sure they recognize this is it and then you come in the next day as a freshmen?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, you know, I think this is what you do now between New Year's Day bowl games and the Super Bowl. And as soon as the Super Bowl is over, we're going to start talking about the Combine. Then we're going to start talking about the draft and spring practice. Then you're going to start talking about exactly what's going to go on next season. And all this gets lost.
But this is part of it. And this promotes continuity, and I think this promotes the development of your program, and this is a crucial piece, I think, of every football program because you gotta have players to coach, but you gotta develop those players.
But I think how you ground people, if that's the question, I think they get grounded naturally as they come in and they're surrounded by players that are recruited just like them, high-quality players that have three years in the program, and now you walk in, you've got a smooth defensive back and he's a great player.
But I always tell our guys, you know what you need to do when you guys come on campus, make sure they're around our current players. All of a sudden what you think and what I think is a big guy and they're standing next to Tyler Higby and I'm sitting there saying, wow, Tyler Higby is a good-looking guy. He's going to play a lot of football for us. Or whoever it is.
But I think that naturally happens as players come in. But it's an exciting opportunity. It's an exciting time. And everybody remembers, I think, the day that they signed a scholarship letter and left their high school because they're performing at such a high level in high school, they're ready for that next step and that next stage. And I think that's natural. You don't get offered many scholarships in this state or in the Midwest by teams like Michigan State. Very, very selective, as is everybody else. So it's a huge accomplishment.
Q. The rankings will say this is your best class. I'm wondering if you agree with that. And with more higher-ranked kids, a term an analyst threw out to me last week was de-recruiting; you have to do more de-recruiting with kids who are more celebrated. Do you think that's something that you have to do more moving forward if you're getting higher-ranked recruits?
COACH DANTONIO: I'm not sure about that. I had our seven guys or eight guys that are in, our seven scholarship guys over to my house last night. Okay. Just hang out, hang around. Shoot a little pool. A lot of them lost. I gotta tell you. (Laughs).
All right. But you know, outstanding young people. Very competitive. Don't want to lose in cards, pool, anything. But outstanding young people. And they're grounded. They just went through winter workouts on Tuesday, so that would have been yesterday for the first time at 5:30 in the morning and performed very, very well, but it was a little bit of a shock to their system I think a little.
But I just think that when you get to know people over the course of time, that gradually takes care of itself. So no, I don't have to de-recruit Donnie Corley. He's going to be a player here. He's motivated. I think the challenge comes when you get hurt or when you can't perform or you have to sit and redshirt.
But we address those problems as we move forward. We understand there's going to be transition issues, and that's what we work very hard at. Not just our coaches but our entire program to help transition our players from high school to college because there is a transition, just like there is from the college level to the NFL level. Big transition.
COACH DANTONIO: Oh, my assessment of the class, outstanding class. Could never take anything away from our other classes, though. They've all been tremendous for us, and what we do with our class is really what excites you. But I think certainly when you watch the film or you see -- I can just tell you certain guys, they may or may not have stars under their name. I'm not even sure how many stars Brandon Randle has, for instance. But I can tell you Brandon Randle probably is a five-star player in my mind. He's an outstanding football player. And on it goes with these guys.
Because you see them as multiple athletes, you see them do so many different things. So we'll see how it all shakes out but I'm very, very excited about these guys and very excited about their families because they come from good stock, good people. And most of our players -- all of our players we've had an opportunity to meet their families and be involved with their families, and they're very excited for their opportunities that their sons have, and it's going to be very exciting to watch and be a part of.
Q. You talk about getting level one players and especially in the state of Ohio, how does your background at Youngstown State and Ohio State, how does that help create a pipeline to the state of Ohio?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, you know, I'm from there originally, so I know where all the back corners of Ohio are. We've got a lot of coaches from there. I've got a great deal of respect for the state of Ohio and really through the Midwest, state of Michigan, other areas here.
But you know people. We've recruited Ohio well. We had 29 players last year from Ohio on our football team. I think this year we'll have more. We took seven great players out of the state, and coached at University of Cincinnati, coached Ohio State. I was at Youngstown. I was at Akron. And I'm from there, and my background is there. So you tend to know a lot of people there. So there's gotta be a place that we can recruit. And we've done a nice job in Ohio.
We've not had to go to Florida this year, which is -- when I was here before, Michigan State recruited Florida hard, but it was different back then. People didn't recruit as early. Now when you have 18 committed guys at the end of June you're looking for maybe two or three guys and you're trying to extend yourself and say, well, maybe we can go to this amount of scholarships, you're trying to extend yourself a little bit. So it becomes very, very selective. But Ohio has been a base ground of recruiting for us, and our coaches there have done a great job working it?
Q. I was at Naquan's high school last week and interviewed him and Coach Buzz and I asked Coach Buzz, I said, with all the talk about changing recruiting from a player and college coach's perspective, what would you change, and he said that there's got to be an early signing period, because you have coaches calling kids late at night after they've committed, and it ruins the kid's senior year if he continues to be recruited for his own school. What do you think of that opinion, and would you be in favor of an early signing period?
COACH DANTONIO: I think there's a lot to be said for staying the same and changing it. It just depends on which side of the fence you're on. I think some people wait until the very end and then they find themselves sitting there and they don't know what to do. And they just have a meltdown, like what's happening. That's not good for a young man.
But you also have the other respect where if you sign early and then you're thinking you're the only quarterback coming into the class and all of a sudden once you sign that coach goes out and recruits another quarterback or that coach goes out and -- whatever. So I think both sides of the spectrum.
I think that, again, what I've gone back to with our recruits and we've had very, very little of it over the course of time. And I'm sure they get asked; I'm sure they get challenged. We've had very few de-commitments, especially at the end of recruiting, and I think that's because we've developed relationships with our guys and there's a trust factor there. And we try not to pull any punches with our guys, and we just say what it is.
And we just -- that's what we do. But the end result is what does recruiting bring you. It should bring you success. That's what it's there for. It should bring you success. And when you want to measure the success that we've had, the proof is I guess in the pudding.
Q. Coach, recruiting nowadays has really turned into a huge spectacle and it's a national phenomenon now.
COACH DANTONIO: National phenomenon.
Q. Do you think that it's almost too big now, that it's bad for the recruits?
COACH DANTONIO: I think part of what you guys do, you sensationalize. I think that's what's happened. You have media, social media has sensationalized everything. So I think that's a natural trend probably in everything right now.
So you know, it's not like it used to be. It used to be that you went out and you recruited guys and really the depth of what you did, the quality work that you did was after their senior season, that you went out and you recruited those guys after their senior season based on what they did as a senior. Now what you find is a lot of players being recruited after their junior year, sophomores, you know. He's a 2019 guy, and although we did offer -- we did technically say, hey, we knew Thiyo Lukusa was going to be an offer athlete, let's put it that way, in the ninth grade. We knew that. And we stayed with him throughout that process and developed a relationship with him.
But I think that over the course of time recruiting has become accelerated. So now what happens is that guy who had that great senior year, he sort of gets overlooked a little bit and all of a sudden after his senior year people go back on him and say, wow, look at this guy and then his recruiting reaccelerates.
But yeah, college football is extremely popular. There's a lot of hype. And it should be. There should be a lot of that. It's extremely popular. And what allows you to become a good football program, part of it is definitely recruiting. The other part's development, coaching, you know, stability, continuity, those type of things.
But certainly you gotta have players, and so it's a big part of it. So I think it's natural to get sensationalized and you've got a lot of sports networks picking up on it. I'm sure it used to be like that before, too. They just didn't write about it as much.
Q. You had a lot of commitments early on in the process. Did that success surprise you a little bit that guys were ready to jump on board without visiting anywhere else in the spring and summer, firstly. Secondly, when you got into the fall, how did that change what you did? Instead of maybe chasing guys, were you just protecting guys and touching base? How did that change your calendar?
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah. Another two-part question. I love those. Okay. No, I think that first of all, we got a lot of those commitments because we finished No. 5 in the country. The year before we were 13 and 1 and won the Rose Bowl. So what were we, 24 and 3 after two years. And I think people saw that and said, hey, I'd like to go there and play there.
Our facilities were being upgraded with this building, the stadium renovation, 26-million-dollar stadium renovation and the other things that we were trying to do.
Again, I think our coaches do an outstanding job with their relationships with those individuals, but I think people saw an opportunity to come and be a part of something special, very, very special. So that's the answer to No. 1 question.
The No. 2 question is how did it change our philosophy? Not that much. We knew that we had these players committed at these particular positions. We weren't going to take a fifth wide out, even though we had some guys on the board that we identified as quality players and scholarship players. As time went on, we knew that our guys were secure.
Obviously Donnie Corley was the one guy that we were waiting for. And he was a talented enough player, and I felt pretty strong that we had strong relationships there, and I thought we would get the guy. You know, based on some of the conversations that myself and our staff had had with him over the course of time, I thought that we were in the lead. We just played that one out.
But we concentrated during the season on winning a championship. That's what we did. And usually when good things go well there, other things follow. And so our focus was on that. Obviously we were touching our players, you know, recruiting them, but we were recruiting 18 guys rather than 40 guys actively. We still were touching maybe 40, but we were actively, I think, recruiting those 18 or 21 or 22 guys and so we were able to spend more quality time with those guys, and then we were able to also reach into who we were recruiting at this time, who are juniors right now. We were recruiting the 2017 class as well.
Q. A little bit tougher since you can't talk about guys who haven't signed, but are you hoping or expecting maybe this class goes by one more based on guys that have committed and have not signed yet?
COACH DANTONIO: You know, there's always that possibility.
Q. You mentioned the six-year guys. Is that official? Has the NCAA ruled on those guys?
COACH DANTONIO: I think they qualified for the sixth year by what's happened. We're still waiting to hear. I think that waiver will be granted.
Q. Just looking at the rankings, coach, it looks like we're still going to be able to say you don't have a consensus, Top 20 class. Do you almost feel like you almost beat the system when you see these recruiting rankings and how so many people apply them to championship --
COACH DANTONIO: You know, when I retire from here, I'm going to get a job at one of those places and I'm going to run my own service. (Laughs).
But I don't know. You know, like I said, numbers have something to do with it sometimes. How many guys you're able to recruit. The bottom line is at the end of the day do these guys make it through and play for you four and five years down the road, do they win championships, do they get drafted, are they playing in the NFL, do they have their degree, all those type of things. And that's what we're recruiting for. We're recruiting towards those things. Who are these people, and you know, I can tell you this, the competition when you're talking about the Top 20 and Top-25 football programs in the country, whether you're talking on the football field or you're talking in recruiting, the competition is very, very stiff.
So we're competing against the right people, and that's what you have to understand. So there's always going to be a give and take and there's always a pushback. So very excited about this class. Our class is very excited about who they're coming in with and who they're playing for, and we're very excited about who we're coaching. So that's the bottom line for us, and we'll go from there.
At this point in time, you know, it's just one-day news. It really is. As much as I hate to say it, we work extremely hard to get to this point, but we'll be onto something else. I'm sure you guys will be onto something else tomorrow and we're going to move forward into that next process or that next development of your program and there will be something to talk about after the fact.
But we're extremely excited about this class and these guys are -- you're going to see these guys play as true freshmen, a lot of them, and that's what's really exciting to me because they have the mindset and they have the athletic ability to do so. So we look to win some more championships and we'll take it from there. Thanks and go green.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports