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UNIVERSITY OF TULSA MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 5, 2014
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† We're very appreciative you guys came out today.¬† Let's talk a little bit about our signing class.¬† By about 10:34 today, we got our last commitment signed and turned in.¬† There were some jokes about Mr.Irrelevant.¬† I don't think we consider him Mr.Irrelevant, but we're excited about that.
23 in the signing class three of those young men were already on campus, we were excited about our quarterback, Jabe Burgess, Nigel Carter, receiver from McLain, and Tavarreon Dickerson a running back from Trinity Valley Junior College that has three years to play.
Those three guys have been on campus and been in classes for two or three weeks, but that was kind of the beginning of this class.¬† So we had 20 more that we brought in today, got the paperwork in.¬† We feel like probably as most coaches do that we actually accomplished what we set out to accomplish.¬† We were able to address some specific needs in this class.¬† We knew we needed to get speed on offense.¬† We think we did that.¬† I'll talk about that a little more.
We got longer, bigger, more physical in the offense and defensive lines.¬† Really excited about the guys that we have on both of those fronts.¬† We think they're very‑‑ really fit our needs and are the kind of size that we need moving forward into our new conference.¬† If you look at the intermediate players, the linebackers and tight ends, I think we did pretty special.
So let me kind of run through it for you in groups and we'll just kind of start on the defensive line.¬† Signed three interior defensive linemen, all of which were in the 6'3" range‑plus.¬† Really think that those guys are going to give us some hard spots in the middle of the defense that every defense needs.
I really like the length of those interior tackles.¬† One of them that you might be interested in is Willie Wright from Cypress Ridge.¬† Willie played primarily on offense in high school, but we consider his signing to be a projected, Derrick Jackson, Cory Dorris kind of player who in high school had all been previously, primarily offensive minded.¬† When you see these videos of our guys or if you go and look up their highlights, one of the things you'll notice very quickly about Willie is he's kind of got a nasty attitude as an offensive lineman.¬† We think that's kind of a defensive mindset.
Both Earl Rollins and Michael Rios, outstanding football players, very physical.¬† I would tell you that, and I don't want to call attention to this, but one of those guys was rated at the top of our board for the whole time.¬† So to be able to get your number one rated defensive lineman, and really all three of those guys were in our top 5.¬† So those were all guys we had put a target on and we were able to close and finish them out.
Move outside to defensive end, we were able to sign Jeremy Smith out of Berryhill, and Myles Mouton from Beaumont, Texas, and we think those guys give us the length.¬† They're 6'3" and 6'4" respectively.¬† Have the quickness, quick twitch, turn the corner, get after the quarterback kind of deal.
Jeremy Smith is a multi‑purpose athlete, but we project him to play over at defensive end.¬† I know he can play tight end and a lot of other positions, but we think he's going to give us that speed and quickness there.
Then there is a hybrid linebacker that we're really excited about, Petera Wilson.¬† Petera is very uniquely gifted.¬† He's played a lot of his time at a pure linebacker spot, but if you watch a lot of his high school tape, you'll see that he moves up on the line of scrimmage, rushes the passer, he'll put his hand down.¬† Saw him block three or four kicks in his highlights.¬† This is a guy that had a lot of offers around the country, and honestly kind of fell through the cracks and gave us an opportunity to get him.¬† Having a presence in Memphis was a big deal by playing there a year ago, so that helped us get Petera Wilson.
Then we signed late or committed late a young man from north Little Rock High School, Tim Quickel, a guy that was really off the recruiting radar.¬† We were really kind of very proud that nobody else really found him.¬† This is a guy that can fly.¬† You're going to love watching this guy play.¬† He's run in the 4.5s consistently when he's done his combines.¬† He gets there with a bad attitude.¬† Can really play physical football.¬† I know Coach Guy is very excited to get Tim Quickel as a linebacker.
Move back to the defensive backs.¬† We went for multi‑purpose.¬† Jordan Mitchell out of Owasso high School is a 6'1", 6'2".¬† He actually plays corner as much as he plays safety, great hips, very smooth, very fluid.¬† We love the ability to have a guy with that kind of height, that kind of length that has the ability to play corner that you know you can play at safety as well.
Both of the Jordans, Jordan Mitchell and Jordan Dennis was one of the top three defensive ranked or top three ranked defensive players in the state of Arkansas, as, again, a multi‑purpose athlete.¬† Great receiver, but this guy was an outstanding defensive back, can really run, tremendous athletic ability and ball skills.¬† So we think those two guys are going to give us some depth.
We go into next year with pretty good depth in the defensive backfield, so these guys will help to develop that.¬† But I think we've helped ourselves by not graduating any defensive linemen, and adding three interior guys that we think can come in and help us.¬† Adding two true defensive ends to a mix that we didn't lose anybody.¬† Then being able to bring in a hybrid linebacker that we think can rush the passer a lot like Shawn Jackson did, but with a little more speed, little more quickness, and we think Tim Quickel will give us that depth we need at the linebacker corps.
Offensively, we felt like we needed two things specifically.¬† We certainly have to increase our speeds and athleticism in the skill positions and we've got to get bigger in the offensive line, and we felt like we accomplished both of those.¬† The four offensive linemen we signed, we are over the moon about.¬† We think that we got the three best linemen out of the state.¬† They were all highly ranked, Mildren Montgomery, young man out of Douglass.¬† We brag about his wing span.¬† He has a legitimate wing span of about 7 feet.¬† This guy is long arm, long legs.¬† Still has a big upside.¬† I think he's barely 17 as is a couple of these guys.¬† So growing these linemen up in our offense is going to be a priority for Coach Johnson, and we're very excited about that.
Isaac Johnson out of Har‑ber High School in Springdale, 6'7", a young man that's been coached extremely well, huge frame, all of these guys can run.¬† That's one of the priorities that Coach Johnson puts on them.¬† They have to have good feet.
Then Chandler Miller from right here in Bixby is the shorty of the bunch at 6'2.5" or 6'3".¬† We think he's an interior‑type player, really nasty attitude.¬† We look at him and go that's a guy that reminds us of the Trent Dupy and the Jake Alexanders of the world, Clint Anderson.
When you watch guys and evaluate them, you go who does he remind me of?¬† We like the way Chandler Miller brings it.¬† Then Tyler Bowling, another big tackle from Yukon was an exceptional get for us.¬† We were excited that he kind of stayed off the radar.¬† But another 6'5" plus guy at tackle.¬† So three big tackles, one interior player.
We signed one tight end, Payton Prince out of Norman North.¬† Payton is an exceptional athlete.¬† This guy is special.¬† We feel like he was our most highly rated tight end on the board.¬† The guy can do everything.¬† He is a legitimate pass catcher, runs great routes, athletic enough that at Norman North they put him in the Wildcat at 6'4", 230 pounds, and he had several touchdowns on the year doing that.
There are some clips showing some very athletic maneuvers by that young man, so we're excited.¬† I think he is a very mature football player in the passing game.¬† I think he has‑‑ he's a guy that could help us early on.
We already talked about the quarterback.¬† But Jabe Burgess is already on campus.¬† It's not lost on us that winning begets winning, and this guy knows how to do that.¬† 26‑1 as a starter at Greenwood and Arkansas.¬† I think in his high school career they've won three straight championships.¬† The guy has been trained very well.¬† Rick Jones who coached here in Broken Arrow was his coach at Greenwood, and we know what he's about.¬† He's first Cousins with Tyler Wilson who played at Greenwood and went on to Arkansas and is now in the NFL.¬† We think that blood line is important.
Moving to the back field, we knew we had to replace J.T.¬† and Trey Watts.¬† We think we took some good steps in that direction.¬† Tavarreon Dickerson is already on campus.¬† I think I told you guys this.¬† I forget who I've told it to.¬† His coach at Abilene High School, Coach Peach told me this guy was undoubtedly the best running back he had ever coached, and that he was very high on him.¬† Coach Smiley at Trinity Valley, similar praise, just raved about him.
The thing that is fascinating about how his eligibility fell into play for us is that he was eligible to transfer mid‑year and still have three years to play.¬† So that's almost the best of both worlds when you get a junior college player that's got the maturity of having played on a championship caliber team last season, but yet he's still got three seasons to play when he gets here with us.¬† He'll be here for spring practice.¬† I think that's huge.
Ramadi Warren, a young man from Whitehaven High School in Memphis, again, a huge benefit.¬† He and Petera are both‑‑ we repeat that a little bit from the play of the Liberty Bowl in the 2012 season.¬† That began that awareness and relationship, and to tap in to some real quality high schools there in Memphis was a big deal for us.¬† And those two guys hopefully will help to open up a little more of a recruiting opportunity in Memphis.
But Ramadi is a young man that's very thick for not a very tall young man, great center of gravity, is hard to knock over.¬† He's more of an every‑down type back.¬† The thing I like about Ramadi is he played in their East‑West All‑Star Game right after the season that they do in conjunction with the Liberty Bowl.¬† He was named MVP there.¬† He went 272 yards in an All‑Star Game.¬† That's a little unusual.¬† We think that guy is pretty special.
Then the other running back that will be starting there is a pure athlete, D'Angelo Brewer from here at Central.¬† D'Angelo played quarterback most of his time, but it does not take long to watch him make people miss.¬† He's good with the ball in his hands, and I think he'll be really good coming out of the back field catching the football as well.¬† So those three running backs, I know, are going to make us better.
We knew we had to improve at the receiver corps.¬† Certainly graduating Jordan and losing Thomas to the injury, we were already a notch or so below in terms of our numbers.¬† So it gave us some opportunity to build that.¬† We had Nigel Carter committed early.¬† Nigel is 6'3", can really run, had grown up in Georgia before he moved here to McLain, and we were able to get him in early.¬† It did not hurt that we had Dan Bitson recruiting him, because obviously Coach Bitson had coached there at McLain for a number of years.
So we've got him.¬† Brodrick Umblance is from The Oakridge School in Arlington.¬† Brodrick was a teammate of Josh Atkinson.¬† Brodrick was our first offer at receiver because of how smooth, great hands, speed, he's got the total package.¬† Kind of a medium sized guy but can run and make plays.¬† Then we were able to add some more length and the discovery for us of a guy that was completely off the radar, Justin Hobbs from Shawnee Mission West; came on the scene for us when we heard the story and got acquainted.
Justin had played the first part of his senior year at tight end, 6'4", 190‑pound tight end.¬† Then through a tragedy that probably most of you are aware of, their star receiver who had been committed, I believe, to Kansas, suffered a stroke during the game and subsequently passed away.¬† That was Justin's best friend.¬† Coach went to him and kind of asked him to take that position, try to honor his friend and play the wideout position, do the speed sweeps, all the things they were doing with that young man.¬† Justin, you need to help your team and try to honor your friend in the process.
Holy cow, this guy just exploded.¬† He blossomed incredibly.¬† Only played that position six weeks, and I can tell you, in my opinion, he may be the sleeper of this class.¬† I think his upside is just tremendous.
He is a big, tall, fast receiver.¬† You can't get enough of those guys.¬† 6'4", can really run, so I'm excited about him.
We added a guy late in the recruiting class, another one based on a relationship we had with a coach down in Mansfield, Texas.¬† A guy that grew up here in Oklahoma, Chris Melson.¬† He was quarterbacking when I was coaching down in Spiro, and he later on went to Oklahoma.¬† Chris just contacted me and said, Coach, I know you hear this all the time, but we think we've got a guy that's fallen through the cracks.¬† He was a guy that's played receiver.
Terrance Ivery had played receiver and was pretty much one of the state leaders in Texas, returning kicks and punts his junior season.¬† Coach Melson asked him to move to quarterback his senior year, and he did so.¬† But what that did is he wouldn't let him return kicks.¬† He wouldn't let him return bunts because he was the quarterback.¬† They went three rounds deep into the Texas High School playoffs.¬† Had a great season.¬† But he didn't catch passes because he was the one playing quarterback.
So statistically and from a recruiting standpoint, it probably dropped him off the grid a little bit.¬† We did our research on Terrance Ivery, and this guy, Coach Melson, I believe, was absolutely right.¬† This guy is the real deal.¬† We are excited about him.¬† We think he can do a little bit of everything.¬† Great kick returner and has the ability to play the Wildcat because he played quarterback the whole time.¬† But we think he'll be a great slot receiver.
With that in mind, it's almost the same story late in the game we had a scholarship left, and we always try to look for best available athlete.¬† We looked at two or three guys, and a guy that just kept coming back on the table was Bishop Louie from McLain.¬† Bishop is a young man who had come to our camp last summer, ran a 4.48 for us when he was in camp.¬† He's an outstanding, incredible athlete.¬† But, again, he's a 5'9" guy.¬† So you're always looking for those guys.
The more we watched his film, the more we're convinced he may be that kind of athlete.¬† Same kind of deal, put his returns on, time after time after time taking it to the house as a kick returner and punt returner.¬† Taking short passes, making people miss, making big plays.¬† So we've really increased, I believe, our athleticism across the board at receiver, at running back, at tight end.¬† We've put bigger guys up front to take care of the offense, and I think we've gotten an outstanding quarterback out of the mix.
I hope you can tell I'm excited about it, because I think I went through 23 guys without taking a breath.
Q.¬† Did you surprise Bishop Louie with an offer last night at his basketball game?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† Yes.¬† Well, after his game.¬† I know Coach Bitson called him after his game.¬† He had been here actually doing a visit on a possible preferred walk‑on day.¬† So he had done that.¬† To my understanding he had some other Division II offers, but Coach Bitson felt comfortable that he was a guy‑‑ well, he was recruiting us.¬† He wanted to be here, and we just didn't have a spot.¬† We came to the end and had one, and I think it took him‑‑ I don't want to coin a phrase from the movies, but I think all you had to do was say hello or you had me at hello or something like that.
Q.¬† You in your final 11 days of the process, you get 7 guys.¬† Did you anticipate you would have those kind of numbers late or was it circumstantial?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† Yeah, we were hoping.¬† Of those whatever the number was, there were probably three or four of those guys that we were really in the hunt and battling for, and I'm talking about Willie Wright, Petera Wilson, Ramadi Warren.¬† We were in on those guys for a long time, but we had not closed those guys.¬† In fact, in a couple of cases, they were committed elsewhere, and that was a big deal.
On the other side of the coin, we had Justin Hobbs and Terrance Ivery that we were not even aware of those two guys.¬† To find them and have the ability to get that evaluation done quickly, and I know that bothers a lot of people that they're not highly recruited.¬† Put the film on.¬† These are guys that we think at the University of Tulsa we've just traditionally won a whole lot of games with guys like Shawn Jackson and Marco Nelson and Chris Chamberlain, guys in the star system were hardly noticed.
But if you watch enough film, you're doing a good enough job of evaluating, which I can give credit to our staff, you can find these guys.
Q.¬† If you classify a guy as a gamer and play maker, would you put Petera Wilson at this stage, is it fair to compare him to Shawn Jackson?¬† Is he in that realm?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† I think he's more productive at this point in time than Sean was.¬† Sean was a more of a do‑everything guy as a quarterback and one of the better athletes on his team.¬† Petera was on a good team and was the dominant defensive player.¬† I think I shared with you, Bill, or somebody, if you watch his highlight film it will intrigue you, because you think you're looking at two different guys.¬† Most of the time he's 44 at linebacker, and then there is this 74 playing defensive end and defensive tackle and linebacker.
Well, his coach tells him the story.¬† He went to his coach and said we're not good enough on the offensive line to win a championship.¬† He said I want to help.¬† I want to play offensive tackle.
Well, you have to change your number if you're going to play offensive tackle.¬† He takes 74, becomes an offensive tackle and is still the best defensive player over there.¬† So that is the kind of impact guy he was for his team.¬† I think he's similar in the way he pass rushes to Shawn Jackson.¬† But Sean, I believe, developed that because he was more of a pure linebacker in high school.¬† But, man, when you see Petera rush the passer, you see what Shawn Jackson did maybe his last couple years.¬† So I'm hopeful that we're just seeing the beginning part of his development.
Q.¬† So you needed fresh guys, play makers, and now that you've been around for a few weeks, have you been able to gauge how legitimate they'll be as contenders for jobs in the spring out here?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† The early reports on Dickerson are really good.¬† He shows up very well when they run as a team.¬† All the physical skills are there.¬† It's very difficult to judge Jabe Burgess in the off‑season because they're not doing throwing drills, and that's obviously what his strength will be.¬† Nigel, and we knew all this up front, was coming off an injury as he finished up his senior year.¬† So he is going through all of our stuff, but he's not at full speed.¬† So we're still hopeful that he'll be full speed by the time we get to spring practice.
Q.¬† As soon as the year was over and you were sitting there and the 3 and 9 question, the very first word out of your mouth was recruiting and looking forward.¬† Obviously, every class is important, but this one has a little maybe different importance.¬† Can you speak to that?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† Well, I think if you think back to the topics that we were talking about, we knew we've got to get better on offense.¬† To do that, we've got to get more play makers.¬† So we looked specifically for the types of players that we thought we could get the ball to that could make a difference.¬† I think we generated enough numbers that hopefully you get one or two or three of those guys that can help make a difference next year.
We knew we've got to continue to be more physical.¬† We were concerned about the depth in the defensive line.¬† We've been talking about that for years.¬† Now we've got everybody back and we added three more big guys.¬† So I've never heard a coach think he got a bad recruiting class, you know?¬† So I realized that there is a little bit of cynicism about how we evaluate that.¬† But I can tell I think we really helped our program with the guys that we signed.
Q.¬† Can you talk about possibly the impact of playing so many freshmen last year and talking to these guys and trying to recruit them that have any say and saying I can get a shot at this?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† It's kind of a double‑edged sword.¬† You know, we were a little surprised at some of the response we got because the concern is when you've been so used to winning and you have a run of good seasons and then all of a sudden you put a 3 and 9 out there, how's that going to impact recruiting?¬† In most cases it did not impact us negatively.¬† It impacted us positively in the sense that a guy looked out there and said I can play.
I was not expecting that, and then I go back to there are very few guys we recruit that lack confidence.¬† Most of these guys feel pretty good about themselves, so I think there was that side.¬† Then the other side was we had played a lot of freshmen, so that said to them, well, if I can play, they'll play me.
Q.¬† At least three of the guys you talked about they fell between the cracks.¬† Is that more work for you guys as coaches?¬† You mentioned the film.¬† If you're going to find those guys, recruiting is probably a lot of work anyway, but it's just even more, or are there some guys that have a talent for it and talking about coaches and finding the guys that fall through the cracks?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† Somewhat.¬† And, again, I'm going to editorialize a little bit here.¬† But I think there is a trend to all of the early recruiting that tends to have guys fall through the cracks.¬† Because if they weren't great players as sophomores and juniors, then a lot of the bigger programs are already getting full by the time these guys have proven themselves.
Take Justin Hobbs, for instance.¬† Justin Hobbs didn't even come on the scene.¬† I mean, nobody's going to recruit a 6'4", 190 pound tight end at our Division I level that's not a dominant blocker.¬† The last six weeks of the season is when he made his mark.¬† Well, most of the people around are pretty much full.¬† I don't remember what our numbers were, but we didn't have lots of spots left.¬† So we tried to look at how can we create a spot here and guarantee him an opportunity?
Then once I brought him and his family in on a visit, you go, this is a Tulsa guy.¬† He fits every part of our profile we look at.¬† I don't know if that's fallen through the cracks.¬† I think it helps to have relationships with high school coaches across the country.¬† I know with Justin it made a huge difference because Scott Downing had a good relationship with his coach.
I know in Texas with Terrance Ivery, I and Coach Guy who had recruited Chris out of high school had a great relationship with Coach Melson.¬† So I think he trusted us enough to say, hey, I really want you to look at this guy again.
Sometimes we're fortunate enough, I believe, like in Tim Quickel's case, that we just scoured the rocks a little more than some other people did.¬† I'm very thankful that Adam did a great job in Little Rock of doing that.¬† I mean, north Little Rock puts out a whole lot of players, and this guy was one of them that I was little late in getting his academic qualifications in.¬† He's fully qualified, but because of that I think he was under the radar and I think he was also a move‑in, and he wasn't on the early list at that school.
I think sometimes it's good fortune, relationships, and sometimes we're looking in some harder to get to places.
Q.¬† Even if Justin Hobbs had played only one game at wide receiver, can you ever remember a fall through the cracks guy looking quite like this?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† No, no.¬† It didn't take us long, you know.¬† It didn't take him long to commit, but it didn't take us long to look at him.¬† When we did the research with, okay, coach, what about this and this and this?¬† And all the intangibles and they were all check marks.¬† You put that guy on film, and you go, I think we can find a place for him.
Q.¬† Do you see a player like Keevan Lucas that just comes out and you tell yourself, man, he could really start for us the way Keevan did and impressed you in spring practice and the regular season?¬† You say to yourself this guy I see as a starter.
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† It's hard to say that because I will tell I think it's a great question.¬† When Keevan was here, I don't know if I told you guys‑‑ I know I told Keevan this, but through March when we were watching him in the off‑season, I didn't think he even had a chance.¬† I mean, he was struggling to make the transition from high school to college, and he was working.¬† He had a knee injury as well, so he was kind of babying all of that.¬† But we got him to the competitive part of spring practice, and it didn't take long.¬† You go, wow.¬† This guy is the guy we were hoping that we had.
So it's hard to always see a guy and know that what's inside him will translate.¬† That's where I think the science of recruiting meets the art of recruiting.¬† There is an art to really finding those guys that have the intangibles that take them to another level.
My grandkids can help me find the five‑star guys on film.¬† Anybody can look at film and say that's a five‑star guy or whatever those blue chip guys are.¬† But I think the art comes in is where you get a lot of talented guys and can that guy translate?¬† How quickly will he move into a role?
I think it's interesting you bring up Keevan, because when Coach Guy went down to see Terrance Ivery, he called me and says this guy is about an inch shorter than Keevan, but he's built like Keevan and he looks like Keevan.¬† So you go, okay, well, I'm assuming you mean that in a positive way, and he said, absolutely.¬† I liked him.
Q.¬† All the local guys you guys got, you've obviously had some success from getting guys from McLain like Shawn Jackson or Berryhill.¬† Are you looking to try for that same type of thing, because you have two guys from McLain, one from Central, and guys that you think are schools that don't necessarily produce or are known for producing the greatest talent and you got this year?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† It's interesting you bring that up too because I was trying to think back before I came in here on what our success rate had been with TPS kids, and because we signed in this class D'Angelo from Central, we've got Nigel and Bishop from McLain.¬† We've had Sean out of McLain.¬† Pretty good win‑win.¬† I'd say Derrick Alexander from Booker T has been a pretty good win‑win for us.¬† Garrett Stafford from Memorial, big‑time player for us.¬† So lately we've been really successful with the kids we've chosen to recruit out of the TPS schools.¬† So hopefully, hopefully we hit three more good ones this year.
Q.¬† Curious with the change at offensive coordinator, did Denver have to do any selling of himself at all with the offensive guys or were they comfortable?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† No, Denver is one of the best recruiters that we have.¬† That part didn't really change.¬† He was doing that before, but Denver is not a hard sell to our recruits.¬† We send him in to talk to running backs, receivers, linemen.¬† Anybody that will want to hear a yarn spun, we'll send Denver in.
Q.¬† How does an apparently good class and such a strong finish, how does that energize‑‑ because like Kaden said after 3‑9, it was like the whole program got kicked in the stomach.¬† But just in terms of rejuvenation and energizing everybody, how much does it affect it?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† Recruiting is all about the future.¬† That's why, again, I kind of quip that I don't know of any coach that's ever had a bad recruiting class.¬† But when we start talking about this, the reason it's energizing and enthusiasm is because now we're talking about the future.¬† We're not living in the past.¬† We know moving forward these are the kind of guys we need to have.
I believe that, again, and I think we've got to be honest, we missed some guys.¬† We swung.¬† We took some big swings and went at it head‑to‑head with some good programs.¬† We didn't get some of those.¬† But I'm not ever going to settle for not trying to sign really high‑quality players.¬† So, I think somebody said you strikeout every time you let the ball go by and don't swing or you don't hit any of the shots you don't take or whatever those clich√©s are.¬† But we could have had a better class, but I think this one turned out pretty darn good.
Q.¬† This is the first class you've recruited that will play their whole career in the American conference.¬† Was that a point‑‑ if you have five primary selling points, is that now one of them?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† It's huge.¬† There were three or four of those guys that we closed on that that was a big deal.¬† Where we were going to play, who we were going to play, was it going to come back in this area?¬† The teams and the exposure, the TV contract, all of those things are very sellable in the American conference, and that was a big deal for us.
Q.¬† Did you find yourself having to adjust the type caliber level of player with the new conference at all?
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† Not really.¬† But I think consciously we did.¬† We've had guys like Brent Guy who coached against the Cincinnatis and South Floridas and those teams that are some of those that we're going to be going against.¬† He's very aware, and he pointed out multiple times that there will be some creatures there that we didn't see many of in the Conference USA.
So I think we're aware that there is certainly a level that we have to step up.¬† But we were already playing and competing with Central Florida, and I think they're as good as anybody.¬† Well, last year they were as good as anybody in the league, so we kind of know where we have to match up physically, and I think this was a good step to continue that and maybe close the gap a little bit.
Q.¬† Now you're guaranteed games at Texas at least for the one year you didn't get it.
COACH BLANKENSHIP:¬† No, it's not lost on the kids in Houston that know that we're going to come back and play in Houston in the Metroplex, so I think that's important.¬† Even having Tulane on the schedule, there are guys that if you're in Houston, New Orleans is not very far away.¬† If you're in Memphis, New Orleans is not very far away.¬† I mean, there are all of these‑‑ at least the five or so in our region become regional draws for us.
Then you start looking at where you go.¬† We're going to be in Florida probably every year either with South or Central, East Carolina, you get on the coast and Cincinnati, those are some teams that maybe we're not as used to seeing, but have helped us in the draw.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports