LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State head football coach Matt Wells held a press conference Wednesday to announce his sixth signing class.
The class, which includes 22 total players, is comprised of 17 high school athletes, three junior college transfers and a pair of four-year transfers who joined the team last fall. Of those 22 players, 10 signed with Utah State in December and 10 more signed in February, while the other two sat out the 2017 season after transferring from four-year institutions.
A complete transcript of the teleconference can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
On signing day number two:
"It's interesting to have two of these. Obviously, a lot of our class was signed in December, but the additions today included some (LDS Church) mission players, a couple of skill players and some young men that are going to join us this summer. I am excited about these guys. They are some quality young men. The biggest thing that highlights this class, for me, the total class, including the players signed in December and the players we signed now, is the athleticism. Over 80 percent of this class is multi-sport athletes. From a competitive standpoint and an athletic standpoint, that is important to us. It is not always the most important thing on recruiting a player, but the competitiveness in players playing multi-sports is very important. It is a class that really focused more than anything on our need to sign offensive and defensive linemen. We hit that mostly in December with the offensive line, and a few more now, and then the defensive linemen now. We signed a couple quarterbacks and then the spots that players have a chance to come in and play. The biggest spot to come in and play right away would be the receiver position. With Deven (Thompkins) and Tim Patrick Jr., we expect them to come in and compete. How well they will do that early is hard to say. Savon Scarver did it last year. With the graduation, we lost three seniors at outside receiver. Both of those guys are expected to come in and compete. How well they will do, we will see come the end of August."
On the players who add something to this year's signing class:
"The two guys that stick out that maybe have a chance to come in and compete early on are Michael Anyanwu and Deven Thompkins. Saying that, we've played other freshmen. I do think we have some talented freshman linebackers that we have taken right here. Linebacker was a bigger need for us last year in terms of older guys. I would look at those two guys just from the skill spot. You lose two senior corners and you lose three senior receivers. You're just talking about sheer numbers. Those are two positions that we play a lot of guys at. We usually play two deep at outside receiver and two deep at corner. Coach (Mark) Tommerdahl plays them on special teams. So, that's kind of why you're looking at those guys. You have DJ Williams, who we signed and who is in here right now, that is a nickel who should compete ASAP. We signed Tim in the December period; I'm kind of lumping them all together, just because they're this class. But those are two positions, corner and wideout, where guys have the chance to come in and play."
On not signing as many junior college transfers this year:
"We didn't think that we needed as many junior college guys to come in and fill gaps. That's a testament to last year's recruiting class, as well. We signed some junior college guys last year that had four years and they had three years. Kyler Hack is similar. Kyler Hack is a junior college offensive lineman, but he's coming in as a sophomore with three years. He'll compete at one of the tackle spots this spring. So, that had something to do with it. Here's the other thing that had something to do with it: we're announcing two four-year transfers in Tipa Galea'i and Fua (Leilua), who both were here in August and went through the program, but were ineligible. We haven't talked about them much, but these are two guys that were with us this year, that sat out. Tipa came from TCU and Fua came from Oklahoma State. They both have two years to play. You can spin it a lot of different ways. We've signed those kind of players as junior college players in the past. We needed guys in a year to come in and compete. Those were two guys that we had really tried to recruit on the front end, and then for whatever reason it didn't work out and now they're with us. They do fill some needs. Those two guys will absolutely be in the mix this spring for starting spots, as well as a rotational basis with Fua on the D-line."
On why players waited for the second signing period:
"Everybody has their own story. Some states finish up playoffs late. We've had players that we've recruited that had late playoff runs. They chose not to go on their official visits during their playoff run and take their official visits in January. Some players had maybe waited out for better offers in January. So, they turned things down early and they waited. They're all just a little bit different. Some of them we were later coming in on. I don't know if you could say any one thing for why they waited."
On signing three players from East High School in Salt Lake City:
"First and foremost, we signed a lot of guys from the state of Utah, which is a primary focus of our recruiting efforts every year. The mission program, we signed four that will be sign-and-send missionaries. And then the Polynesian pipeline. Those are three things that we hang our hat on with a good amount of our class every year. East High with three signees. (East head coach) Brandon Matich does a phenomenal job in this state. They're always a very tough team, they're well-disciplined and that translates to these guys. Two of those will be mission players. Seni Tuiaki and Johnson Hansen are both mission guys. We've had a good relationship with East, we continue to have a great relationship with East and those guys are always good players coming out of that program."
On what the day has been like in comparison to past signing days:
"It seemed, for us, really uneventful. There didn't seem to be as much drama playing out over the last few days in terms of guys flipping or us flipping anybody. That was kind of happening more in December for us. I don't know if it'll change next year. It's hard to predict it. We didn't have as many scholarships to give and to go out and find in January, so it was a little bit of a different January for us as coaches. We actively looked for walk-ons to build our walk-on program. We spent a little bit more time with our own players here in January, like on the front end, and on the back end of the week on Mondays and Fridays, being around our guys in the weight room and up here in the offices. We haven't done that as much, just because there weren't as many spots for us. We were able to change up how we recruited a little bit. We probably team recruited a little bit more and had more guys on one player. So, it was a little bit different strategy this January. It could change next year. Who knows how the early signing period will be next year? But, there were quite a few guys around the country, quite a few teams signed the vast majority of their classes this signing period based off the numbers I've seen."
On what happens between signing day and spring football:
"We have two-and-a-half weeks. We start Feb. 24. We actually used the last two days as coaches, an offensive staff and a defensive staff, going over self-scout cutups and our season cutups, and prepping for spring ball. So, when we get back on Monday, we have early-morning workouts, at 5:45, that start with our players. That's the best. That's awesome. That's the best time of the year. I love it. Preparing these guys for spring ball and next year. So, we kind of have two weeks of inside, indoor conditioning and all that, meetings and prepping for spring ball, and here we go with the spring ball. It's the earliest start we've ever had."
On if he thinks that's when the snow will start:
"We could go outside right now. We could be outside; we could have started this week. I see on my phone the weather next week looks like it's going to be alright, too. So, Feb. 24, we'll probably get a nice snow fall and we'll be indoors."
On the new structure of the defensive coaching staff with the hire of Keith Patterson:
"His title will be defensive coordinator, and he'll coach the safeties. Coach Julius Brown will be in charge of the corners and Keith will have the safeties, but often, Juice will take the whole secondary just like he's done in the past. Frank Maile will continue to be our co-defensive coordinator in charge of our D-line. Frank will have an expanded role in terms of helping coach the outside linebackers in some of the stuff we're going to do with the forcing unit up front in the front-seven. Kendrick (Shaver) was the play-caller, but now Keith will be the play-caller. In terms of structure and how we've done things, it's very similar to when I hired Todd Orlando. There were already three guys in the room, three defensive coaches. Keith has come in and really just learned. He has learned our system and our way of doing things. We have taught him. There is going to be a great mix. He's a fantastic coach, a great human being and a great person. I was with him for four years at Tulsa, so I know him very well. I've known him many years before that as an Oklahoma high school coach and a Texas high school coach. But, between him and Frank, they'll do a great job of leading our defensive staff. They'll both lead our defensive unit. I think Keith's been here two weeks now, and our players have really enjoyed getting to know him. I don't think we'll miss a beat on defense. We'll be a stronger unit, I think, hopefully, because of the move. This is a guy that is a fantastic coach and hire for us at Utah State."
On if this will for sure be the first season in five years Utah State will keep the offensive coordinator:
"It would be awesome, wouldn't it? It looks like it right now. You look at coach (Frank) Maile, coach (Mark) Tommerdahl and coach (David) Yost, and now you add Keith (Patterson) in, that's a strong unit for us at Utah State in terms of coordinators. I don't see any change happening, but I didn't see that curveball happening yesterday in Indianapolis. So who knows what could happen?"
On the Utah players signed in this recruiting class and the players in the valley:
"I've personally been in every valley school in the past couple of weeks. Coach Yost and Coach Maile both recruit the valley, and the valley is very important to us and it always will be. We'll always start here. But, just in terms of scholarship kids or whatever, there will probably be some kids from the valley come in as a non-scholarship player to begin with. So, I think you'll see that. We've always started from the valley first to in-state and kind of moved on from there."
On the depth of Utah high school football throughout the state:
"That absolutely is an accurate statement because I think it's the truth. The talent pool in Utah is deeper than it's ever been. That's evidenced by how many Division I signees are coming out of this state with less than three million, in terms of population. Our high school coaches in this state are developing these guys and it's important to these players to be great students and great athletes. They want to be Division I football players. Just the numbers, they keep coming up. A lot of out-of-state schools, unfortunately, are coming into this state and recruiting. It's great for the state and great for Utah high school football. My hat's off to these coaches in terms of them developing these players, and much respect to the players for developing themselves to be recruitable athletes and recruitable players. We have won here at Utah State with a lot of Utah players, and we will continue to do that. We will recruit them, we will continue to develop them and we'll win at Utah State with a bunch of high school players from the state of Utah."
On the lower number of California recruits this year:
"It's still the second-highest state, though, isn't it? It'll always be. California will probably always be our second-highest state. It is in our locker room right now, and it typically is in terms of our signees. Then, you know, you're going to have some players from Texas and Florida, and there's always going to be a few junior college guys. This year it was Oklahoma. DJ Williams' junior college was in Kansas, but he's from Tennessee, right outside of Nashville. Then, Kyler (Hack) was in California, so that's really another California recruit if you want to count that because he played at Orange Coast for a semester, but he's a Las Vegas kid. However you want to count those."
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