LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State head football coach Matt Wells held a press conference Wednesday to announce portions of his fifth signing class as part of the new NCAA early-signing period.
The class, which includes 12 total players, is comprised of nine high school athletes and three junior college transfers. Of those 11 signees, six will enroll at Utah State for the spring semester in 2018, while one will serve a two-year LDS Church Mission before beginning his collegiate career.
A complete transcript of the teleconference can be found below.
Head Coach Matt Wells
"This class that we just signed, the first early signing class here, and I really am excited about these guys. We got big really quick. A big focus was on our offensive line. The young men that we were able to target, and to really try to sink our teeth into and recruit committed and then they stayed very, very loyal to us. All four of these offensive linemen had multiple offers as well as several Pac-12 offers that came late and they said no to. So, the loyalty and the trust amongst those four, they kind of hit it off with each other and the quarterback Andrew Peasley, who also turned down someone late to stay with us. It's loyalty, it was a tremendous job of recruiting by our staff and really developing relationships with these players and their families. Maybe the best three-week window of recruiting that we've had since I've been here. When you look at it, you have the four O-linemen and then you have some immediate guys at skill positions that I truly believe will come in and compete for immediate playing time. You look at a guy like DJ Williams, who's going to come in and compete for nickel ASAP, the nickel spot that Jalen (Davis) is leaving. Darwin Thompson at running back will be absolutely in the mix when gets here. Tim Patrick, Jr., next summer at receiver, really athletic young man. Kyler Hack, who will be in here at midterm, as an offensive lineman. Kyler is a junior college player but he only went one semester, a high school player out of Las Vegas. So, he'll come in, he'll be have four years to play three, a midterm signee that's going to be here. So, all three of those guys will be here at midterm as well as Andrew Peasley who just graduated yesterday.
"Wade Meacham just got off his mission, Heneli (Avendano) ended up choosing not to go on a mission. They will both enroll in January and be with us for spring ball. Crew Wakley is a young man, very athletic man out of Jordan High School. He is a player that we think can play safety, he can play inside receiver, he can play outside receiver and maybe even moonlight as a quarterback. He's an athletic young man. He's going to serve a LDS mission and then will be here. We have a few scholarships remaining for the February signing period, January recruiting period. We also will at that time announce a couple more young men as signees that are going on LDS missions. They are committed right now but not signed today. They will sign in February. We got really big. These four along with a few of our redshirt freshmen will come comprise the future offensive line. We have four senior starters coming back next year and one junior offensive lineman. Returning all five of them, and these four will compete for part of that mix in next year's training camp as well as being the next wave of offensive lineman along with some redshirt freshmen, Alfred Edwards who's just coming off his redshirt year. Our O-line, the signees are without question the best high school offensive linemen that we've signed on paper since I've been here. I won't comment before I was here, but it's been a long time to be honest with you.
"One other thing of note with this class is that it's a very athletic, multi-sport class. Again, goes with exactly how I feel that I put a lot of stock in in recruiting. There are four of them that are three sport athletes. All of the rest are two sport athletes except one (Hale Motu'apuaka) who is a six time world champion fire knife thrower, twirler, everything with fire knives. It's impressive. If you haven't seen the YouTube, I would encourage you to flip it on, it's pretty cool stuff. Hale is a tremendous young man, had multiple offers coming over from Hawaii. Another player from the 808 here at Utah State. I'm excited about him. He's a young D-lineman that I know Frank (Maile) is really excited about because we think Hale can play inside or outside in this odd defensive."
On how walk on scholarships work:
"There are times during the year that we put walk-ons on scholarship. Sometimes they count as initial counters and sometimes they just count in your total 85. It just depends on a few factors."
On what he's looking at for the rest of the signees:
"We'll look for more skill. A few defensive backs and receivers, possibly a tight end. A little more skill related in January."
On if it'll be junior college recruits:
"It could be, if we feel like they're an impact player to come in and impact us. Whether they're a high school player or a junior college player, we'll look at either one, or grad transfers."
On recruiting in Utah:
"Nothing's changed. Not one thing's changed. We talked about things coming off of last year, what you fixed, what you changed, and I've talked about how we've gone back and tried to reevaluate how we recruit and how we develop some of those things. One thing that has not changed is the foundation of the recruiting success model here at Utah State. Number one, that starts with in-state kids. The mission program is part of that, Polynesian pipeline is part of that, so we will always look at Utah first and foremost. That's reflected here. We also have a few commitments that I alluded to earlier that are in-state players that are in the Polynesian pipeline, they're going to be LDS mission players and there's going to be some signees that you're going to see in February that are going to continue to reflect the state of Utah."
On Andy Koch:
"I love Andy Koch. What a great family and a great young man. I think he has huge upside. He's long-levered, he's loose-hipped. He plays both ways, and he's really committed in his mind to playing offensive line and being a developed tackle. He has the length you want. He has great feet. I think he could play D-line here, I really do. That's where you first start off, is if you really think he can play D-line, you have a really athletic offensive lineman."
On if the early signing day has changed the recruiting process:
"It's completely changed. The race to get the ones you want, and the ones you want committed completely intensified. If not, I wouldn't have done as many home visits. I think the later bowl game this year helped us, helped me get into more homes. From the rules standpoint, as the head coach, you're a little bit limited. You can only go to each kid one time. I had to go to more homes early on because of the early signing period. We were able to get kids committed, and they jumped in and they were loyal to Utah State. It was a lot faster process as the fall went on. Then, really, the last few weeks, more kids decided they were going to sign early. So, I think it just sped things up."
On if he feels like the Aggies recruited well against the Mountain West:
"Yeah, and I think it's a little bit speaking out of both sides of your mouth here on the signing day press conference. You do beat some Mountain West schools, but we have only beaten one or two other schools or no Division I schools for kids in the past. Jalen Davis, Kyler Fackrell, Nick Vigil. Those are all one-offer guys. They had one Division I offer. So, I'm very hesitant sometimes to say that yes, we did beat Mountain West schools. You know what? Yes, we did beat some Pac-12 schools. Pac-12 schools came in. You all can figure it out who they were and who they were on. That doesn't make that player any better than a kid that only has one offer. I believe Utah State is a developmental program. Even kids that have multiple offers still have to come in at Utah State and develop. Whether it's weight room, strength training, as a football player, we're changing positions, those kinds of things. I think we have to evaluate a little better than most schools. I am really pleased with the work our staff did this fall, and these back-to-back signing classes, the one last February and the one this December, is going to be reflected in next year's team. Sixty percent of last year's recruiting class is playing right now. There are a lot of guys right there that are going to play a lot of football next year, then the other half are going to play in two years. They're probably a year away. I like the work that our guys have done. I'm very proud of what they've done."
On signing a player from his home state of Oklahoma:
"Darwin Thompson is a really explosive running back. He has good vision, good speed and tremendous explosiveness. He's a strong, lean-muscle kind of guy. He is very serious about his development to be a great running back. I know he's already been on the phone, since he's signed, with coach Scholz. So has DJ Williams. Both those young men have already been on the phone, today, already since we've been off the practice field, with coach Scholz. Those guys are serious about their game. They're great character kids. Their moms were both here this past weekend. Great moms, great upbringing. Those two guys, I would look to have an immediate impact pretty quickly."
On how Division I-ready Darwin Thompson's body is:
"He had a good season for Northeastern Oklahoma. They won a lot of games. He helped them win a championship. He's done a lot of work. He's come a long way since his senior year. I've known his high school coach 20 years. After talking to several guys on that staff at his high school he played at, Jenks High School, his development has been late, I would say, later in his career. He's a self-made man. He's made himself into the young man and the running back that he is right now based on sheer will-power and tremendous work ethic. Maybe he's a little bit of a late developer, but I know the second half of his senior year in high school three years ago, he really turned it on at Jenks and played well down the stretch for them. It's good to sign a Jenks Trojan. It's been a long time since I've signed one of those guys, probably since I was at Tulsa."
On how strange it is to have a practice on signing day:
"It's a little different. I didn't think about that. We walk out of the indoor this morning, and got back up to the office, and Jared Russell, our director of player personnel, said `Matt, we're all in. We're just waiting on Hale from Hawaii.' We actually talked to one of them, Darwin Thompson, during a 6 a.m. meeting. We had a staff meeting this morning at 6 a.m., because we had player meetings starting at 6:30, and we were talking to Darwin Thompson at 6:01 Mountain Time. It was really weird."
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