Lane Kiffin Recruiting Press Conference Quotes

Feb. 3, 2010

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February 3, 2010

COACH KIFFIN: Well, it was an extremely exciting day today; our first fax came in at 4:01 Pacific Time, and it's been a long day. As you can see with the list, it's not complete yet. We have a thorough process, once we get the letters, of them going through your compliance and university policies before we release them, so you will see a number of names added to this list and shortly throughout the evening.

As we look at three that are enrolled, Dillon Baxter is a dynamic player that we think can play a number of positions for us, extremely exciting.

Patrick Hall, someone that was signed here before, actually he was reopened and decided to come with us again is enrolled in classes and Kyle Prater, who some believe may be the best receiver in the country and maybe the best to come in the years.

As we get down to the kids that will come here in fall, three total receivers, three out of probably the top five in America. It was a phenomenal job by the staff and everybody involved. I don't know that I've seen as skilled of a class before coming out of high school. They've got a lot to prove and a lot of development to do but extremely excited there.

And with tight ends, a lot of times you get one or two, but to get three of the top five guys in America, a phenomenal job by the previous staff and the current staff to piece those two guys together, and two of the top four running backs, to see a skilled class like that come together is so exciting.

I'm sure it's one that Matt Barkley is excited to have around him. These guys are going to make any quarterback look good. We're excited. The DB class shaped up well, four DBs in this class, tough, physical DBs, guys that I group them together, and we were talking about this group and one of the things I like is not one of these guys asked about a depth chart or who was here or how much can I play or worried about being able to beat people out, and those are the guys that we want to come to SC, and everyone was like that but especially this group.

To sign a quarterback that we were familiar with, having him at camp at Tennessee and being around him, ton of talent, and we're excited to work with Jesse (Scroggins) and get him in here.

Couple of linemen, one on each side of the ball so far on your sheet; I assume we will add more to that shortly here, that probably as you look at the class is where the numbers are not as good, but as we got in here late we have scholarships to give, and it was important to make sure we got great players and not just fill spots to move up a ranking.

Because we're going to sign such great players, and there are such great players here already, if we lower our standards and go to second tier players, they won't end up being able to play with us. I'm excited we did that, and it's a staff that has great confidence and background understanding not to just fill spots for recruiting retention or ranking.

The linebacker area, we felt in our early evaluation, needed help, and this is someone who has played before in Division I, and we anticipate Glen (Stanley) being able to come in and help us. I think in general this group, the guys that we can talk about here and the guys that will be joining us are tough and physical guys.

We want guys that want to come here to be great, want to play with great players. We don't want the guys that come in and ask 'How much am I going to get to play?' Or, 'You have them guys on your roster?'

But I think that weeded itself out. We saw the guys that wanted to be here ended up signing with us today. The play making group, you'll see some touchdowns come out of this...to have two different players in a class that were named National Player of the Year is pretty impressive, but there are so many dynamic playmakers, especially on offense, in this group it's going to be exciting to see these guys for years to come.

I believe the final rankings that came out on our way down here we were ranked No. 2. All that means is that we've got some talented players, we've got a lot of work to do to coach them, to develop them. As you see 5 star players sign around the country, it's not about their stats, it's how you develop them. So our staff will go to work developing these players and we're very excited about the class.

Q. How was signing different for you this year than when you were here last time as an assistant coach?
COACH KIFFIN: I don't know, it's kind of always the same. We're always in there trying to get kids at the last minute, probably more this time than normal because of the staff transition, so many new guys coming in and having to catch up on relationships with families and spending a lot of time last night and early this morning on the phone to try to seal up this class.

Q. When you took over you had, what, about a month or so? What was your strategy as far as figuring out who you were going to go after, retain, what was the mindset?
COACH KIFFIN: We want to get really good players, we didn't want to reach. We didn't want to see players come off the board and lower our standards. We know what it's taken here before to win at an extremely high level and we know what type of players that takes. And very often as you see coaches come into their first year, they reach just to make an impression, just to sign a certain number of kids, and I was proud of our staff for not doing that. We were tempted to, but we didn't do it in the end and I think you're going to see the quality of this class. I can't imagine there being as many star players in any class around the country as there will be here by the end of the day.

Q. When you were here as an assistant before, when you saw players choosing UCLA or USC, a lot of players were on the fence regarding that. What are your thoughts?
COACH KIFFIN: I think, I've been gone three years but much hasn't changed. As you meet the kids there is a sense and I was reminded of the kids that go to UCLA and the kids that come to USC, and to be back here, I watched it over the weekend just to see if it's the same, and it's really still the same. I guess we waste time continuing to recruit them, we know within the first 10 minutes whether they're the type of guys that want to play here or there.

Q. How would you characterize the differences?
COACH KIFFIN: It's hard to say, it's a feeling that I have being around it and doing it for years. Without being specific, it's the questions that they ask, just shows itself, and I think it's not just me, it's other people who have been around that and say the same thing.

Q. Obviously the players coming here have that mindset, you come to USC you want to be winners and champions, and you're impressed with the class you brought?
COACH KIFFIN: I'm very impressed with this class, very tough competitors, guys that want to come play with the best, guys that aren't worried about depth charts or playing time. They want to win championships; they want to do it with great players. A number of these kids we signed, they say the same thing, 'Coach, we went to the All Star game. We want our practice field to be like that. We want to be around the best.' I think that makes you better. If you go and play with a bunch of great players and you're practicing against them on offense and defense every day, it makes you better.

Q. You were familiar with Scroggins and Ambles. How much overlap was there in recruiting?
COACH KIFFIN: There was information on families and kids, there is not a lot of kids that were going there or coming here, but we did have a background with a number of these kids and some knowledge about them, some in person, some over the phone.

Q. Did you think that was crucial to closing the way that you guys closed?
COACH KIFFIN: I think that was part of it, but I think it was crucial being here before, so the sense that I got beginning with the first weekend when I believe we had nine kids in the first weekend and eight of them committed to us, they had the sense that things were the same on a lot of fronts here, they weren't going to come in with brand new offense and defense systems, and it's why I think this class really stayed together. The stars that were in this class are still here today that were here three weeks ago.

Q. Does this class address all the needs that you were looking to address?
COACH KIFFIN: I don't think you can ever do that; I wish we could, but I think we did it in a number of fronts, obviously we didn't do it up front. I think that happens in transition, I think, when staffs come in. If you study over the years the skilled guys are easier to turn than the big guys, because a lot of times the offensive and defensive lines have more of a bond with their position coach or the school that they're going to, and it's hard to go in late and turn those guys.

Q. When you first came in, first thing you did was to try to keep the guys that were committed here before who were looking elsewhere? Was that the first focus?
COACH KIFFIN: We did it all at once. We had a good idea coming here of what the board looked like across the country, we knew who the best players were, so we did it at the same time, keep the guys that were here that we wanted and that we felt that our staff still wanted that were here and add to that from other players around the country.

Q. You guys took three tight ends. Are all three going to get a look at tight end or any of those guys can play other positions?
COACH KIFFIN: We think they'll all be tight ends; you never know for sure. All three are extremely gifted and they could play other positions, but all three will come in and add some depth there, obviously we just lost a great one.

Q. Lane, were you concerned with the NCAA issues influencing these kids? And in the end do you think you lost anyone because of that?
COACH KIFFIN: I don't think we did. Obviously it was something that came up at times, but as I look at the class, if I would have guessed the class of what I anticipated being at the end of the night tonight and you would have asked me three days ago to draw it, which I did, to draw it up, it was almost exact. There were a number of guys that we went back and forth on in the end that I didn't feel we were going to get, and the guys I thought we were going to get we didn't lose any of them, so there weren't many surprises either way for us.

Q. Last year you got Bryce Brown. What does it mean to have a kid like that nationally...people are watching on National Signing Day? What does that mean for your program?
COACH KIFFIN: I think it's pretty it brings you two to three years down the road when we sign a player like that, especially with the national attention it had, as one may have today here. It does bring attention because there are going to be 6th, 7th, 8th graders watching that show, and all of the sudden they see USC and the colors, and they see the player talking about that school and having the choices they did, especially if they happen to not be from the state you're in, and if they're not then it shows they didn't stay there because it was close to home, they went there because it was the best play to play. So it's a powerful message, and it's a message to sign not very many kids in a class but to get second in recruiting speaks volumes for our University.

Q. How do you expect the receivers can come in and contribute right away?
COACH KIFFIN: I think we have high standards for all our players, especially our freshmen as they come in. Mike Williams came in here and caught 81 balls, 14 TDs as a freshman, and we've seen it before, and we expect those guys to do these things.

Q. To clarify, do you see Dillon as a receiver or running back?
COACH KIFFIN: He could do both. You can run him, you can put him in the wildcat, we can move him around. We don't promise that to guys until we see them do it, but it may be something we do with him.

Q. Was it hard convincing some of the offensive players to come here without an offensive coordinator, uncertainty at running back, wide receiver coach?
COACH KIFFIN: It really wasn't, and for whatever reason as you look at it, I think it's as gifted and skilled a group on offense maybe ever signed. That doesn't mean they're going to be that eventually, but it's our job to develop them. That's SC, though, All-Americans on both sides of the ball, all the great players that have made a run over the last six, seven years here, and you go back to three Heisman Trophy winners in four years. It's a pretty easy sell.

Q. Competitively speaking, what was it like to watch that stretch, UCLA got three or four guys in a row, some of the guys that you were after, some that were not? What was that like for you?
COACH KIFFIN: It was easy because I kept thinking about that left tackle that might be coming here later in the day, but it does go back to, I think, within the first five minutes of meeting them, you know who is going there and who is coming here, and I think we're competitive so we waste our time anyway.

Q. Where do things stand in terms of the offensive staff?
COACH KIFFIN: Yeah, well what we wanted to do was concentrate on this recruiting class to put together a class like we did, and now move into the staff and finalizing the staff. So we have work to do, there will be a number of interviews, starting tomorrow morning, but it was too critical to not spend time doing that as we were on the road recruiting, going around and trying to catch up on these kids around the country, and now we'll turn our focus to that.

Q. Why is the left tackle not on here?
COACH KIFFIN: A number of our guys' papers have come in and we have to go through a process through the University that takes time, so as you see guys that signed late in the day aren't on here, the guys that have signed early have gone through that process.

Q. How many total players?
COACH KIFFIN: I don't know for sure. If you count the guys that are here, I would anticipate that being 21, but there are still some things up in the air.

Q. Who was the first one?
COACH KIFFIN: Nickell Robey.

Q. Was there anyone that announced today that you will not sign tomorrow, that may actually not sign a Letter of Intent for a while?
COACH KIFFIN: I would not think so. That would shock me.

Q. (Away from mic.)
COACH KIFFIN: We were fortunate to have Markeith (Ambles) in camp. I think the camp evaluation is more important than the film or anything else, the highlight films that come in or the internet films, because you get to have them in person and see who they are and how they react to competition and adversity that happens during our camps, because our camps are physical. He dominated our camp, and we had a number of top flight SEC corners in our camp. And as soon as we went to one on one's, they couldn't cover him, and he was dominant, and he's not the fastest guy out there. He was ranked high but not near as high as he ended up being after others were exposed to him, especially in the All Star game.

Q. The linebackers, when you came in and looked at the numbers, was that the area you felt you needed to go a different route for, maybe the JC route?
COACH KIFFIN: I think that's going to be something that will be added to throughout the night as well, but it was a position and we did think we needed more people there to create more competition and to get Glen, who was a little bit like Lofa (Tatupu) a long time ago, we got him from Maine and he came from a program that he had played in, and that's critical at that position, because you can see all you want in high school, but if you haven't seen enough at college but to have seen him play in college and at a Division I school before, that was beneficial for us.

Q. You mentioned before there was a way you can tell about UCLA and USC, but has it been hard to hit the ground running and putting together a staff and recruits?
COACH KIFFIN: No, it hasn't. We just did it a year ago. It was harder a year ago; we didn't know what was out there in recruiting so we had to figure it out at that point and hit the ground running. Here was different. I didn't feel when we got there we had many quality players committed so we had to do a lot. Here we had some committed, we know the University, we've been here before and been here through great runs, and we knew the kids because we were in college football, so the transition was easier for us. Thanks, guys.

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