Washington Head Coach Rick Neuheisel's Signing Day Comments

Feb. 7, 2001

General Comments
'We are obviously elated with the class that has signed. In regards of meeting our needs, in terms of taking advantage of our very successful year, in terms of circling the state of Washington and trying to land as many of the top players as we could, I think we scored high marks in all of those goals. And I am very excited not only about the players that are coming in, but the families that are going to join our Husky family. I think that we've got quality, quality students and I believe that this will be a great class in a long line of classes that have participated here at the University of Washington's football program. '

On Taylor Barton
'We are excited about all three of the players from City College of San Francisco. It is one of the finest city colleges in the country in not only playing well on the field, but also delivering young men who have all of the things necessary to become qualified academically. Coach Rush is to be complimented.

With respect to Taylor, you know I have a history with Taylor with recruiting him from Oregon to come to play at Colorado. While he was with me at Colorado, he showed me a great eagerness. He was one of those kids who hang's around and wants to learn more. This is a guy who is in love with the game of football and a lot of water under the bridge has happened since we have departed ways and I have come here. We are fortunate that all of the necessary hurdles were cleared so he could become a part of our recruiting class and we expect him to compete very well for the quarterback job here in the spring.'

On Kai Ellis
'He is one of the best defensive players in all of junior college last year. His coaches raved about him. They believe he is certainly among one of the best to ever play at that prestigious school. They believe he is an impact player and that's exactly what we need him to be. We are elated to have him and it is nice match because he is from the state of Washington. I had signed him to go to Colorado also two years ago. They are all great young men and they will all be fine student athletes and I think they will all play extremely well.'

On the quarterback situation next year
'All of our jobs are open going into spring ball. That is the time of the year that you allow for competition. We've got Cody Pickett who had a nice experience going into the Rose Bowl and I know at that time of the game that had to have helped his confidence. We think he has all the tools to be a great quarterback himself. Taylor certainly brings a nice resume himself, given what he accomplished in high school and what I saw him accomplish as a redshirt at Colorado. It will be a great competition.'

On the Rose Bowl experience
'There are certainly a lot of people around the country who watched that game and any time you play well in those types of situations and look like you are enjoying it, that has got to be a nice way to advertise your program. Although, most of our recruiting at that point was done. We had very few visits following the bowl game and maybe the game was a solidifying feature for the class. Hopefully it will mean great things for our program for years to come and that we can follow up and go again someday.'

On the wide receiver position for next year
'A year ago the wide receiver position was a major concern. Coming into the season we had Todd Elstrom, the only guy on our roster who had caught a ball. Thankfully Chris Juergens has recovered and looks up to speed in our early morning workouts we are going through right now. I am excited about what he can bring back to the program. Elstrom had the kind of year we hoped he would have and was a very consistent performer on our offense. Justin Robbins and Pat Reddick burst onto the scene and made significant contributions, Justin throughout, and Pat more towards the end of the year. I think we've got a nice little foursome of guys there. Wilbur Hooks also made nice plays for us in tight situations. With those five guys coming back, and then you add to them Charles Frederick who is a bona fide game breaker type player. He is a very nifty, very fast, very elusive type player and Reggie Williams who is, a Randy Moss type of player, in terms of a dominant 6-4, 220 pound kid, who has great reach, great range, and also great speed. He has been clocked at under 10.7 in the 100 meters, so when you put those two guys in with the kids we have now, this position that was once a real concern, now becomes a real strife for us.'

On the inexperience of the offensive line going into next year
'That would be the major concern coming into next season. I think we have some quality young people on our program, but they haven't played. That's the one place on your team where you really like to have experience because there is so much cohesiveness that is required to be successful, that it will be a major emphasis in spring ball. We've got one returning starter in Kyle Benn and we hope to have another returning starter in Rock Nelson. We'll just wait and see how his rehab goes and there is hope he will have some spring practice. We've got Nick Newton and Elliott Zajac, who are both capable players. Nick unfortunately will not have spring ball because of the ankle injury he got just before the bowl game, but we do believe he will back totally healthy by the fall. We've got a lot of young player who are eager to please, we just have to get them to grow up really quickly. This is why Francisco Tipoti was such in important catch in this recruiting class. He gives you some maturity in the offensive line and is an athletic 6-5, 295 guy that can handle an open side play as a tackle. He was very valuable for our immediate future.'

Concerns about academics with this recruiting class
'The first thing we scrutinize in our recruiting process is the ability for young men to come in here and compete in one of the finest institutions in the country. The University of Washington has a great reputation nationally as an academic institution. We don't want to bring kids in here not in a position to succeed. Both Kai and Francisco have shown that school is important to them. They have worked hard in the classroom. We feel comfortable will work hard and achieve here. Our academic support is designed not to do the work for the kids and the work ethic has been strong in all of the kids in our class. We are in a great position to achieve not only on the field, but off and get their degrees here at the University of Washington.'

On Joseph Lobendahn
'I think he is outstanding. If you put on a clinic of form tackling, you could just put on a tape of him playing. He is right where he needs to be. He is a beautiful technician. He worked out all summer long at a camp in Hawaii with a former player of mine, Donny Edwards, and Donny called me and told me there was a player I needed to take a look at. It was important to us to get something going on the islands. The University of Washington has had a strong representation on the islands that we want to continue. It wouldn't shock me to see him get to play very early.'

On the recruiting gossip surrounding Charles Frederick the last few weeks
'We knew Charles would be a little bit hard down the stretch because, even when he committed, he said one of his goals was to commit on his birthday because he is a groundhog baby, February 2, so we knew we would have to hold on. We are happy that he is here. He sent me a fax that said happy birthday old man today. We are going to have a lot of fun with him. His highlight tape is worth seeing. Everyone looks like they are standing in mud when they are trying to tackle him and we think this guy is pretty special.'

On Kai Ellis
'Kai wants to play tailback. He wants that opportunity and he is very appreciative of the time he had at O'Dea. He is looking forward to doing something that will showcase his ability. He is a battering ram type of player and he wants a chance to catch an option and we are going to make sure he has this opportunity. I don't see any reason why he can't be a capable back and I just want to win.'

On getting a scholarship for a punter
'John Anderson is certainly a capable punter, but you have to wonder if a guy is concentrating on punting and kicking, if you are getting the full deal. Does his kicking diminish? Does his kickoffs diminish? You have to decide where you place your emphasis. We weren't going to take just any punter. Derek McLaughlin is a guy that average 47 yards a pop and usually well over 4 seconds in hang time. The fact that he grew up here in Washington, they always kind of dreamed about him playing for the U, so we were fired up that it worked as well as it did.'

On the balance of the recruiting class
'We feel like we got great speed and addressed some size needs. Any time you can land some defensive linemen, you've got to do that. With Tui Alailefaleula, Tusi Sa'au, Manasae Hopoi, we've done good things in that defensive front. I think our class is as good as it's been, at least in my career, and I feel great about the character of the kids in this class. It's going to be a lot of fun with these guys.'

Type of role for Charles Frederick and Reggie Williams next year
'It depends on how quickly they learn our offense. I would love for both of them to be involved in our offense next year if it makes us a better team. But, we've got some experience at that position now and it is not a foregone conclusion that just anybody is going to step in. But, certainly giving their talents, you can see where they would make a significant contribution to our team.'

On Casey Paus and his national recruiting appeal
'I think this is a wonderful opportunity for Casey to come in and learn our offense. I think given the choice, at that position, it's a much better way to mature, learn all the guys. You have to learn how to be a leader and help people before you can just assume leadership. We have high hopes for Casey and he was one of our earliest commits. All players tend to increase momentum as they say this is what they want to do. Casey, being a national recruit, for him to come to the west sends a signal that Washington does not just have regional players, but national players. There are reasons to go to Florida and get a John Anderson, a Rick Alexis, a Charles Frederick. But you don't go there and blanket the whole state. It doesn't make a lot of sense to fly across the 48 states and recruit players not on the West coast or in our state, unless there is a reason. We do not want to change our approach to recruiting, but we are not going to recruit just because someone is USA Today All-American. We want someone who is interested in this university and will represent this university in a great way. We have our own way of recruiting, it has been effective, and we will get better at it.'

On the possibility of coaching the wide receivers
'I told Reggie that that was my plan at the time and that is the probability. I am going to interview two guys this week and we will make a decision after that if we can. When you have five coaches in defense, you are short one on offense. I want to play with that and figure out what plays right. The one position I can coach is wide receivers and I have had some success at it and really enjoy it.'

On Paul Arnold's back injury
'I hurt for Paul because he is a great player. His last game with us he was Pac-10 player of the week. I don't know what to tell you, other than he doesn't feel right. Paul Arnold is a warrior, he is doing well in school, there are not problems with him. He is not a disappointment at all. He has just been unfortunate with respect to his injury. He had an outstanding freshman year and did what we asked him to do. He kept himself on track, so we will just keep our fingers crossed that we will get him back.'

On Sam Cunningham
'He worked hard throughout the fall and made his test. It would be great for anyone to have him join their program. He's in school now. He is a champ. He is on full scholarship.'

On Anthony Vontoure
'He has been dismissed from our football team. It is in his best interest and focus on other things going on his life. He is still on scholarship. We wish him well. He is going to graduate and focus on maybe an NFL career.'

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