Feb. 6, 2013
LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State football head coach Matt Wells held a news conference Wednesday to discuss the 2013 Signing Class. A complete transcript of Wells' remarks can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
On Signing Class:
"First thing I want to say about this class is that they remained very, very loyal. They were a dedicated class with the transition that happened right after the bowl game. We had quite a few of these kids already committed and had identified a lot of them early on. They stuck with us. That was neat to see their loyalty, not just to a certain coach, but to the university, our football program and the direction we're going. That's the biggest thing that stuck out to me was their dedication and loyalty with the transition. We added a few kids, added some junior college kids and addressed a lot of our needs. We signed two junior college wide receivers and two junior college defensive backs that will come in and compete for playing time right out of the gate. The big thing you see about the class is there's going to be five offensive linemen. That's good, that's encouraging to beef that area up. We needed that."
"A lot of those guys are young kids that we're going to be able to get into the program and develop as these years go on. We're really top-heavy with junior and senior offensive linemen on our roster right now. The other thing that sticks out is 12 kids coming from the state of Utah. Like I said in my press conference, this program has been built on that for the last four years and that won't change. They'll be the bedrock of this program. There are great high school coaches in the state of Utah that have helped develop these young men and have helped us through this recruiting process. Some of these kids will be leaving on missions and coming back in a few years. We'll welcome them back with open arms back into the program and they'll be a part of us then, some of them will be a part of us now."
On Individual Signees:
"Ricky Ali'ifua is a kid that signed with us a few years ago. He's back and in school. He went on an LDS Church Mission to Oklahoma City, where I'm from. It's a lot nicer here in the summertime than it is in Oklahoma City I know that. I'm sure he's glad to be back in the snow right now."
"Caden Andersen is a local kid from Logan High School. He was the defensive line MVP as a junior, had an accident this summer and didn't play as a senior. He's a local kid who's dreamed of playing for Utah State his whole life, so we are happy to have him."
"Cody Boyer is an offensive lineman out of St. George. He was an early commitment a year ago as a junior. He's a long-levered, tall, athletic - though he needs to gain some weight - offensive lineman that has a good frame on him."
"Ronald Butler is one of the receivers I was talking about. Ronald is from Contra Costa College, originally from New Jersey. He's a kid that had 13 receiving touchdowns. That's a lot of touchdowns. Ronald has speed, he has the ability to high-point a football and has really good ball skills. He'll be in this summer."
"Andrew Chen originally signed with us last year, but just enrolled in school. He's one of the three guys who are currently here in school."
"Marwin Evans is a community college kid coming from Highland Community College in Kansas. He was a high school kid coming out of Milwaukee. Marwin is a combo defensive back. I basically describe Marwin as having corner-skills in a safety-body. He can play a lot of spots on the backend and we expect him to come in and compete for playing time right out of the gate."
"Tyler Fox is another junior commitment that stuck through this program for the last two years. Tyler is from Layton, an in-state kid. He has played both ways and is an extremely young, athletic, talented kid."
"Darell Garretson was the Arizona Player of the Year as a quarterback. He broke a lot of records at a great high school program at Chandler High School that has become a little bit of a pipeline here. We've got four kids from Chandler now and he's one of two in this signing class. Darell is a talented kid. He has a lot of moxie. He's got a strong arm and he's accurate. He can pull it down and run the read-zone. He's a coach's kid who has a lot to him. He'll come in and he won't flinch as soon as practice starts, I'll tell you that."
"Braden Harris is an in-state kid from Gunnison. He's another early commitment and a tough kid. He will go on a mission and come back to be a big linebacker for us."
"Rashad Hall is a running back who originally signed to Colorado. He's sixth in the state of California in touchdowns and yards, that's a big accomplishment. When you watch his tape, he never lets the first guy tackle him. He's tough and has a strong lower body. He's got some homerun speed and has good hands out of the backfield. We're happy to have Rashad."
"Keylon Hollis was high school teammates with Chuckie Keeton. He comes from Bakersfield College and was the defensive Player of the Year in a good league there. He's a kid that could play several positions for us. We're going to start him at boundary outside linebacker where Bojay (Filimoeatu) played. He's kind of a pass-rush specialist and he could play inside also."
"Wyatt Houston is another early commitment from the summer. He was here at camp. He's a high school quarterback who's really athletic. He's long, he's 6-5, 240. He has a great family. We worked him out as a tight end and he'll come in as a developmental tight end. I think he's got a bright future. He's got great hands and we're excited to have him."
"Karris Johnson is from Northern California, out of California High School. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and had over 2,000 all-purpose yards. Karris is another talented running back. I think he's a good inside zone-runner and he fits in what we do out of the gun."
"Joe Malanga is one of several kids coming from Bingham High School, which is a great program here in the state as everybody knows. Joe is long-levered and athletic, and may be arguably pound-for-pound one of the best athletes in this class. I know that's going to be music to Coach (Mark) Weber's ears with the offensive line. That's not usually something you say about an offensive lineman, but the kid is really, really athletic. He's long, plays bigger than his size and turned some good people down to come here."
"Tyshon Mosley from Jordan High School is a square-bodied big fellow who has a bright future here on the offensive line. We recruited Tyshon for a long time."
"Jeremy Morris is another Chandler High School kid, coming from Mesa Community College. He's a corner with good feet and good speed. He'll be able to come in and compete in some sub-packages early on, as well as the corner spot."
"Dax Raymond from Timpview High School down in Provo, a Utah County kid coming to Cache Valley. He has really good hands. He was a really good basketball player and is athletic and long. He'll serve a church mission immediately out of high school and we're excited about his future when he gets back."
"Zach Swenson comes from East High School. He is a multiple-position type of player to me. Who knows what he's going to grow into. He can play safety, he can play a down outside nickel back, maybe even a field outside linebacker one day. He's very athletic and he's tough. He's another in-state kid that will be a big foundation to this program here in a couple years."
"Brandon Taukeiaho just got back and is currently in school, he's in our off-season program. He just got off his church mission to Houston. He gained some weight and will continue to improve. As he gets here, he's in the weight room with Coach (Dave) Scholz. This kid has a very bright future. We're excited about Brandon, another Bingham High kid."
"Jake Thompson is a kicker out of Logan High. Jake never missed a field goal inside of 40 yards. If he did, he wouldn't tell you. He has a really strong leg. His brother is Josh, in our program still. They're going to get to play together for the fall so that will be cool for them and their parents. We're excited to have Jake. He's an athletic kicker and that's neat to have. We've been really impressed with him in camp. He used to play tailback and safety. He has a strong leg and will compete, pretty quickly I'm sure, for the kick-off spot."
"Myron Turner is another combo defensive back. Myron comes to us from DeSoto High School. It's one of the top schools in southeast Dallas. They're a program known for skill kids and for speed. I think he could grow into being a safety. He's already broad-shouldered even though he doesn't weigh a whole lot. He's got good feet and good cover skills as a corner. He's a great kid. We had him up here this weekend and we're excited about him."
"Ryan Watson is a receiver. He's an Alabama kid, coming from Golden West College in Southern California. Ryan is a track kid with a lot of top-end speed. He'll play an outside receiver spot for us. With losing some of the guys, he'll be able to come in and contribute in some of those packages. We're really happy about Ryan."
"Hayden Weichers is another Bingham kid. Hayden is another kid we had in camp this summer. Coach (Jovon) Bouknight was really impressed when we worked him out in camp. He knows how to stick his foot in the ground, he can run routes, he's got more speed than you think. He's sneaky-fast is what I would consider him. He's a track kid, really excited about him. He's a good kid who will be in here immediately this summer."
"Jacoby Wildman is another Logan High Grizzly. This kid has a lot of stuff in his neck. He'll go on a mission. He and Caden (Andersen) are cousins, long-time Cache Valley kids. He's the No. 1 heavyweight wrestler in the state, hopefully he'll win the thing and we'll go on from there."
Of the freshmen who are coming in who do you expect to step right in and have an impact?
"That is hard to say and single out a specific player, you always say that skill kids always have a better chance than bigger guys. I am not sure that that is true anymore with the way that some of these programs lift and develop their offensive linemen. I am not sure that that is true. We will not make decisions on those kids until the middle of training camp anyways. I think some of the skill kids, the quarterback, the receivers, the running back, the defensive backs will have a chance to come in and compete. I don't want to single out anybody because it is hard. As you continue to develop a program the nice thing is you are not sure if a freshman is going to be not just talented enough, because these kids are talented enough, but are they able to absorb everything right out of the gate, from college life, to schemes and things that we do on offense and defense. Can they do it? I don't know. What is nice to know is that we are starting to develop a lot of depth and if they are good enough they are going to play. In the two years that I have been here we have played some true freshmen and they have contributed a lot to 18 wins in the last two years."
Do you have a sense of ownership with this recruiting class given that you and your staff had to take over in the middle of a head coaching change?
"Yes I do. This is the first time that I have had to meet with the press afterward, I am usually on a plane heading home or to take my wife out to lunch right now. This is good. The staff has worked extremely hard, we retained four coaches and hired three others. We hired a strength coach and we just kind of put our blinders on and kept our nose down and just grinded for about four weeks. Really hadn't come up for much air. We have had four straight recruiting weekends and that has been good. I think the first class will always be special."
What do you think really sales Utah State to athletes?
"There are several factors. Each kid is different. Each kid there is somebody telling him where to go, there is somebody telling him in the hallway or at home. There is a different person for each kid telling them and that is the key in recruiting them, is to get to that person and that kid. The thing that sales Utah State that we have sold and I don't even think it is selling, that is an inaccurate word for me to say, the thing that we present in homes and when we get kids on campus is the support. Starting from our President, to our Athletics Director and then they see that when they come on campus, they meet those people. President (Stan) Albrecht and Mr. (Scott) Barnes were at every recruiting breakfast on Sunday and they get to meet them and touch them and the whole deal. Not literally. I think that that is big, the thing that the kids can see, the number one comment that we hear when a kid and really a coach who is in on an interview says when they leave Utah State and Cache Valley is, I never knew it was that good. So that is pretty cool for us to get a kid here and they see the mountains and the facilities. The facilities do help. You have a weight room going up next door, we can hear the jack hammers everyday, its a six and a half million dollar weight room and they look at it and they see brand new turf and they see this facility (The Laub North End Zone Complex), they see that. Then to me the thing that really extenuates all of that is the system that is in place and the people here. The people here are genuine, I think our staff, our coaches, the administration and everyone in support roles that touch our football program daily, they do a great job of promoting Utah State and saying, 'hey, here is who we are. Here is what we have done. Here is where we are going.' I told a kid last week in school, I really believe that we can win with you, but I promise you that we will win without you, you can jump on board or jump off right now. The kids that want to come here, we are going to win with them."
Where do you see the quarterback position by adding this class?
"The biggest thing that you see is a bunch of competition right behind Chuckie Keeton. He will continue to improve, he improved dramatically to me between last season and to spring ball and then from spring ball through training camp. I think the guys that are behind him are just reps. They need reps and they will get them this spring. From Craig Harrison to Jeff Manning and Darell Garretson. Darrell will not flinch when he walks in here, he has a lot of moxie, he has got a lot of confidence, he is humble he has been coached really well in high school and he has produced in high school. That will be a fun race to watch this spring and next training camp here in August."
Did you have any concerns moving forward with your vacant coaching positions?
"No. That did not hurt us one bit in recruiting. In fact it never came up. We have got to hire a defensive coordinator and a running back coach and we have talked to some people, we have got more people coming in and just trying to find the right fit and the right mixture and the right chemistry on our staff is the most important to me. I truly believe a great decision tomorrow is better than a good one today. We had seven guys on the staff plus myself, so that is eight. You can only have seven on the road at one time, so we were ripping and running and that didn't hurt us one bit."
How important is it to get the local guys to commit here?
"Three Cache Valley kids is huge, we actually just lost a few to graduation, so our numbers are down a little bit because we were a little bit heavy on the top end from the Cache Valley but the valley kids will always be a high priority to us from Sky View, to Logan High and all the way down to Mountain Crest. They are all coached by three very good high school football coaches that are around our program. They come and visit us quite a bit, our door is always open to them and they know it. To have three more Grizzlies in the program is fantastic."
Do you see an open battle at the running back position?
"Those two kids will be in here this summer so their battle won't begin until August, but there will be a dog fight at the running back spot this spring. That word is getting out a little bit about running backs at Utah State. Hopefully things go well with Kerwynn (Williams) here in the next few months and he is the third running back drafted in two years. That word travels quickly to high schools and to junior colleges across the country. The other thing that it does is it travels to other staffs across the country and they come hunting our running backs. I think the running back tradition here, even as far back as when I played here, I always played with great running backs. Some of those guys that I played with were some of the best to ever play here. The last three that have run through this program are really good."
These running backs coming in you, do you feel they will step right in?
"I think that they are talented enough. I don't know for sure. I do think that they are talented enough and sometimes something clicks really quick and sometimes it doesn't. It is about opportunity and it is about taking advantage of opportunity. It also has to do with people in the program and we will see how these other four or five kids do this spring and the progress that they make. They need to make some progress to."
Looking at Myron Turner and how he ended here is a unique situation:
"I was recruiting Myron since I had Dallas and actually Luke (Wells), my brother was too. Early commitment to another school and then everybody knows the story. It didn't work out for him. He is a good kid, great family, excellent high school program, Claude Mathis is one of the best in Texas. Myron is a talented kid, he was here this past weekend and our kids loved him, our players loved him. Myron will come in and he will be a great ambassador to this school, to this university and he will be a good player here."
No signee from Florida, is that an area you want to recruit?
"Absolutely. Florida is a talent-rich state and things just didn't work out with a couple of kids and we were close. Had one early and we lost him. It just didn't work out but that does not mean that we are not down there recruiting it. Absolutely, we will still continue to recruit there, basically just Orlando and South Florida."
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