“We’re really excited about the players that we were able to attract in this recruiting class. This was a little bit different in terms of having an early signing date and finishing up today. We were pleased with the guys we were able to attract. I think in every recruiting class, there’s always a guy that you get that you thought you might not get, and there’s also a guy that you thought you might get that you didn’t get. But overall, I think we solved a lot of needs in this class. I think we had to recruit a lot by needs. We had to have a punter, we needed to get some defensive backs because we’ve never lost this many guys at one position at one time. I think we did a great job in that area.
“There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this, recruiting by a lot of people. We certainly appreciate the team that we have here at Alabama and the great effort that they all put in to try to make this class one that can really complement the players that we have now and add to the future success of our team. That team starts with our assistant coaches who do a great job of identifying players, establishing relationships with players, putting a lot of time and energy into bringing it to fruition where we have an opportunity to sign a guy and get him to commit to come to Alabama. The team we have here, starting with our president, Dr. Bell, our athletic director, Greg Byrne, the university community, the professors and the academic staff who spend a lot of time each weekend helping us recruit, answer a lot of questions about academic circumstances from families. It’s certainly appreciated. Jon Dever does a great job on his side of the fence and all the support staff that we have here, whether it’s the medical staff, the strength and conditioning coaches, Ms. Amy and nutrition, all these people do a fabulous job of answering questions and helping to develop relationships with people to make them comfortable because one thing that we do have here is a really strong family of people who work together, who stay together, who help our players have a better chance to be successful. We certainly appreciate the atmosphere that our fans create when players visit here for games. I think the energy, the enthusiasm, the tradition are all things that really help us be able to continue to attract character quality people who want to get an education, who want to be good people, who want to be the very best that they can as football players.
“As I alluded to before, sometimes it matches up in terms of how you get ranked and rated and sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to try to solve some of the needs that you have on your team. I think we were able to do that in this particular class. I think especially at DB, where Patrick Surtain is probably ranked as one of the top guys in the country at his position. Saivion Smith is a top junior college guy at his position. We’ve got three other guys, the top DB in the state in Jalyn Armour-Davis. So we felt really, really good about the five guys we were able to attract at that position. Those guys are going to have a great opportunity to compete on our team.
“As I say every year, you can’t look at a puppy dog and look at his feet and know how big he’s going to get someday. The real evaluation of any recruiting class — and I said this when we had No. 1 recruiting classes and I’m saying it now — is really down the road in two or three years, how many of these guys turn out to be really, really good players. I think from a coaching standpoint, that’s what we want to try to do with every player. We want to try to help them develop as players so they have a chance to be successful here in their careers and we’re going to continue to do that with the players that we were able to recruit today. I really thank everybody out there, their hard work and energy that goes into this each and every year. Recruiting has turned into pretty much a year-round process and it’s not just about recruiting this class, but it’s next year’s class and the class after that. The recruiting calendar has changed how we recruit. The energy that a lot of folks put into this is certainly appreciated and I’d like to thank everyone for that.”
You mentioned relationships. You did have a relatively large amount of staff turnover late in the process. Did that affect you at all with certain prospects?
“Well, I don;’t think there’s any question that there may be some prospects out there who were being recruited by someone who left and maybe that was a little bit of an issue with them, but I do think that the coaches that we hired certainly did a great job of going out there and trying to develop relationships with the players that we were recruiting. In some cases maybe it had an affect, but in other cases I don’t think it did. So I can’t really answer that emphatically to tell you whether it did or didn’t. But, I think in recruiting — especially when you start recruiting guys two years in advance — that when they feel comfortable and develop relationships with people, it certainly can have some effect on how comfortable they feel with the other folks.”
How many guys did you expect to sign today and what did you learn about the early recruiting cycle and how it impacts the flow of things?
“Well I think every year is going to be different with the recruiting cycle. I think this year was probably a little different because there were so many coaching changes. So those coaching changes were much more aggressive in the late signing period because they got their staffs together and, in some cases, created new opportunities for players. But maybe next year it won’t be that way. You could say ‘Well, if you had signed more guys early, it would have been better this year, but maybe next year it wouldn’t be. But I do think that it does accelerate the recruiting calendar, I think you have to have more guys visit early, you have to get on top of people early. If they’re going to early sign, you have to identify that and recruit to that timetable. And the guys that are going to stay until the end, you certainly have to be very conscious of doing a good job with those guys as well. I think that we’ve all kind of grown to understand that commitments don’t really mean a whole bunch in a lot of cases, I don’t think you can judge much based on that because guys just continue to visit — so they’re really not committed — and if they find something else that they like better, then they’re not committed. We don’t put a lot of pressure on guys to commit and we continue to recruit guys whether they are or they aren’t. I think a lot of other people try to manage it the same way.”
What specifically do you like about Patrick Surtain Jr? Do you see some shades of his father on the field when you watch him?
“Well his dad was a great player and was actually on the (Miami) Dolphins team when I took the job there. He was a free agent and went off, but he was a great player for many, many years. Patrick’s a little longer type guy, the kind of guy we like here. He’s a very instinctive player, has a good long speed. (He) uses his length well, has good ball skills, good ball judgement, can play man-to-man, not afraid to get up and press people — that’s a good style for him and that’s our style here. We’re excited about having him in the program and we’re really looking forward to working with him.”
Only four early enrollees after having 16 last year, what was behind that?
“Well we had five this year, but 16 was probably a little bit of an anomaly. Most of the time we’ve had between seven and nine, has been a pretty average for mid-year enrollees. We don’t make a judgement or a decision on a player based on whether he’s a mid-year enrollee or not. You recruit the guys you feel meet the criteria for what you want in positions. Sometimes those guys are mid-year guys. Sometimes they’re not. Last year there were a lot of guys that we were recruiting that were. This year not as many. Guys gotta have all the academic qualifications when he’s a mid-year guy. There are some schools that won’t even allow guys to graduate at mid-year. This is not something that we say ‘that OK because this guy is a mid-year guy we want to recruit him, so we can get more mid-year guys.’ That’s not something that we really do. Its a circumstance that we don’t really totally control. We don’t really talk guys into being mid-year guys. There are advantages if guys want to do it in terms of their college development, because they’re going to be here in a time where they have more time to adjust socially, academically as well as to learn what to do in a football standpoint, because they can go through spring practice and an offseason program and all that. I don’t know how to answer that question because its not part of the evaluation process.”
Was defensive line another need you had to fill in this class?
“Well we are actually hoping to maybe get one more defensive lineman in this class. We feel really good about the two guys we got. Stephon Wynn is a really good player, really big power guy. [Christian] Barmore is the same kind of guy. I think some of the outside backer type guys we’ve recruited here in the past have become defensive linemen. The fact that we got some really good guys at outside backer that have some really good size and really good size potential may grow into something else in their career here. That’s something that remains to be seen, but we feel really good about those two guys. We probably [can’t understand], we would have gotten one more guy at that position. We’ll continue to look and evaluate and see if there’s somebody out there that can help us.”
What do you like about wide receiver Jaylen Waddle?
Jaylen is an outstanding young man. I mean really a good person. We had him in a camp last summer and we’ve recruited him for a long time. He’s got great quickness on change of direction and run after catch. Really an outstanding overall receiver, but would work really well for us in the slot. Has really good run after catch speed, sweep type of ability. Maybe a little different than some of the guys we have right now, which is a really good thing. I think receivers are a little bit like a basketball team. You have a point guard, you got a shooting guard, you got a power forward. I mean all those different types of guys really make a good receiving core. We’re excited about him because great quickness, great change of direction, really really hard to cover, and a great person.
This is the first time in years that you didn’t sign a quarterback. How did that play out?
“I think that we’ll probably have a quarterback join us, some kind of way between now and then, which I don’t think I can comment about. Look, when you have really good young players at a position, sometimes its hard to attract another guy at that particular position. I think you all know our circumstance at quarterback right now with the players we have here, the grade they are in and how much more eligibility they have. So rather reach for somebody, we would rather try to solve the issue another way. Maybe get a more experienced guy down the road, and certainly think that next year we might be in a position to get a really good player at that position who could be someone who could impact us in the future.”
Did you strike out at any position?
“I really don’t think we struck out anywhere to be honest with you. You know, nothing comes out perfect because we don’t control these things, but we’d have liked to get two inside linebackers, we got one. So does that mean we struck out? No. You know, we’d have taken another defensive lineman, we would have taken another offensive lineman, we got the right number of DBs, we got a punter. We redshirted a kicker from last year’s class, who really counts in this year’s class, so we couldn’t really take a full class this year from a numbers standpoint. In a perfect world, if we could say we could recruit a perfect amount of players at every position, I think I’ve already mentioned the positions where if we could’ve gotten antoher guy, we would have sort of (met) our goal let’s say starting out. Because every year we kind of put up how many guys we want to recruit at each position, because we do have number issues that we have to deal with. And sometimes you can’t really get those players because, … like we had to get a lot of DBs (in this class), we lost six guys. So five was the number and we felt really good about the guys we got at that position. We got lots of guys at outside ‘backer, the emphasis was to get defensive players and I think we got some good defensive players. So I don’t think we struck out anywhere.”
Is recruiting equally as tough as it was 15 years ago? Much tougher out there now?
“I think it’s very, very competitive. The most competitive thing we do around here is play a game, the next most competitive thing we do around here is recruit players. And that’s the way it is. We’ve won a lot of battles in recruiting. I think continuity helps you win battles in recruiting, relationships help you win battles in recruiting. Guys seeing they have an opportunity to contribute to your team, in some cases maybe looking too much at where they can play early rather than where they can develop to be the best players. But I think all these things sort of contribute to … so to say it’s any easier to recruit now than it used to be, I can’t really say that. I think when you have success, and continued success like we’ve have, you become the target sometimes, which I think makes it a little more difficult. People convince players we have all these players and they can’t play here. I always use the example that we’ve had some really, really good left tackles — all of them first- or second-round draft picks — for the 11 years that we’ve been here, and there’s only one year that player at left tackle did not start and play, and that’s Cyrus Koundjio’s freshman year. Every other left tackle we’ve had has started as a freshman. Aight, but if you get out there in recruiting, they act like we’ve got 10 Cam Robinsons here, and we’ve only had one, and he played every down that he was here and healnty. And so did every other left tackle. So I think sometimes quality is misconstrued with quantity. But every player that we’ve had here was told at some point and time in recruiting that they probably couldn’t play here, that they could play faster someplace else. But we attract the guys that are good competitors, that want to see if they can meet the standard of playing here with a lot of expectations and a great tradition, having a chance to play in big games. And at the end of the day we’re probably better off with those kind of competitors, and that’s worked out really well for us.”