Signing Day Conference Call Transcript: Tom Luginbill

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Signing Day Conference Call Transcript: Tom Luginbill

Tomorrow, February 6, ESPNU will air more than 11 hours of live election-style coverage for the eighth annual ESPNU National Signing Day Special that begins at 7:30 a.m. ET.

On Monday, February 4, ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill shared his thoughts on highly touted recruits, the pressures of recruiting on coaching, recruiting in various parts of the country, technology’s effect on the game, loosening of NCAA regulations on recruiting in 2014 and the classes of: Alabama, Auburn, Arizona, ASU, Clemson, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Washington.

Audio replay of the call can be found here:


TOM LUGINBILL: Thank you very much, and thank you for joining us.  Obviously, we’re very, very excited about a lot of the presents under the tree for all 120 head coaches and their staffs come the end of February 6th.


This is our seventh year with this endeavor as far as the television spectrum is concerned.  We started out as six hours live.  I can remember that being a daunting task, and now we’ve moved to 11 and a half hours straight of live coverage.  Really election‑style coverage because things are changing by the second, by the minute.


One of the things that I think is very important to relay to each and every one of you and it’s really the crutch and the core of what I think is the most important portion of our analysis throughout those 11 and a half hours on ESPNU, it’s quite simply that we recognize that this is a spectrum, an arena now in college recruiting that’s taken off almost a life of its own.


There is exposure.  There is overexposure, there is coverage nationwide, whether it’s radio, internet, television spectrums.  But I think the one thing that I want to get across to everyone is that we are dealing with 16‑ and 17‑year‑old young men who have an awful lot in front of them, an awful lot on their plate, currently.


While there is excitement right now in terms of player rankings, class rankings, each and every coaching staff getting ready to make that next move, the recognition is that we are dealing with kids.


They’ve been provided with a lot of hype, a lot of exposure, and then come Thursday morning, it’s going to be time to answer the toll for them over the next four to five years.  It’s time to work.  The recruitment phase starts.

And the core of our coverage, regardless where a player may be ranked or a team may be ranked, is really going to be about the process.  What actually happens in recruiting?  What’s been taking place during the course of the recruitment in the 2013 class?  What are the pitfalls and red flags and challenges for each and every coach in America.


I think that analysis that we’ll bring to the table with the likes of Mike Bellotti, Derek Dooley, Gene Chizik, the guys that have lived it with the record going next to their name, that is what separates us.  We can talk about the rankings all we want.  But the reality is we won’t know for two or three years how good classes are, how good players are, there are so many variables that go into those factors and ultimately determine the success of these young men going forward.


So we recognize that.  We’re going to comment on it.  We’re going to, in my opinion, probably have some very frank conversations on our set about the things that truly matter in recruiting, because I can tell you, it’s not stars.

Fans want it to be stars.  They love the stars and they love the class rankings and things of that nature, but the value of our analysis is going to be the core of what recruiting really is and the challenges that are presented to each and every coach in America.


So I’ll start it off with that, and be glad to sit here as long as you guys need to answer questions.


Q. Wanted to get your overview thoughts on this Georgia class.  I know it’s big in numbers, and just what you see from the scope of it in terms of the impact and what maybe it’s lacking? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I think that obviously there is a lot of positive buzz right now from the University of Georgia over the last two years and the type of product that they’ve put on the field.  The number is large, obviously, with some already early signees that are in school that helps aid them in their efforts to maybe use some of that youth because it’s already in class.


I think that this is a group, particularly at some positions like quarterback, cornerback, and offensive weapons.  Guys like Shaq Wiggins, Tramel Terry.  I mentioned Brice Ramsey as a quarterback, though I think he’s a developmental guy that it’s going to be really beneficial for him to be able to red shirt, not be thrust into duty, and be brought along as a slower pace.  I think that will aid in his development.


In my opinion, where I think that they’ve done a pretty good job is they’ve addressed a couple of needs at some spots on offense.  Most notably, wide receiver at the junior college level with the likes of a Jonathan Rumph.  I mentioned Tramel Terry.  I think that’s very important to add more weapons, more perimeter play makers on the offensive side of the football.


As with every team, particularly in the SEC, because there is such a plentiful player pool at the position, the defensive front is one, and not just within the front but also within the front seven at the linebacking corps, that I think is a postilion of need.  You have some early departures to the NFL from Georgia.  So guys like Johnny O’Neal.  Players even like if you were to look more at linebackers, Tim Kimbrough, Ryan Rankin, those are important pieces of the puzzle.


Then you still have some guys left on the board that are important particularly in the offensive line where I’m sure Georgia would like to be able to ensure that they’re going to land Tyrone Crowder, the No. 5 ranked offensive guard in this class.


So I think they’ve addressed some needs.  You mentioned the numbers.  It is a large class, so the goal is to hopefully hit on between 75% and 80% of the guys on an optimum year that you bring into your class.  On the low end of the scale, you hope to hit on roughly 60, maybe slightly above, percent of each and every class.


The bigger your numbers are, obviously, the more opportunities you have for success in that area.


Q. What about Montravius Adams?  I know he’s highly rated, but is he a guy that can step into whatever school he picks and make an immediate impact? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I think it all depends on how he grows up in some areas that I don’t think have anything to do with overall physical ability.  With physical ability, Montravius Adams has what you’re looking for.  He’s got size, speed, quick twitch explosiveness.  The weight to be able to anchor versus the run.  This is an active and athletic player.


But as with most players particularly coming out of the high school ranks, the other variables, whether it’s work ethic, attention to detail, focus, being able to make that jump with a minimal leave learning curve, I think those are some areas that still need to be investigated with Montravius Adams.


I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I think he’s a guy that’s going to come in and adapt immediately to expectation level.  I think there is a little bit more of a growth process that needs to happen there with him.


Talent wise, is he capable of coming in and making a splash, making an impact and having a role?  Absolutely.  But as I have certainly seen in 11 years of professional football and the last seven years getting back into evaluating the high school athlete, often times what determines immediate success and whether a guy makes that transition doesn’t have anything to do with athletic traits.  It has to do with some other variable and some other factor.  I think those are areas that remain to be seen with Montravius Adams.


Q. Two part question about the Penn State recruiting quest.  How impressive is it to you given everything they’ve been through that they’re able to field arguably a Top 10 class?  And with Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenberg staying, how important was that for the entire class? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I’m not so sure that Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenberg weren’t every bit a pivotal factor in this class remaining intact, largely, as any coach on that Penn State staff, and I say that sincerely.


I think the Penn State coaching staff certainly recognizes that those two players have been ambassadors for the program.  They have been the glue with many of these prospects.  Guys like Brandon Mann and Andrew Nelson, Garrett Sickels, guys that have been committed for a long time, and with probably a lot of overtures from other programs and the negative recruiting tactics that are swirling out there.


I think everybody expects and realizes that with the sanctions, with the scholarship reductions over the next four years, you’re not going to see large classes in terms of numbers.


The question is going to be going forward, what is the caliber of player going to be?  Is the player that is a great player that Penn State fans have been accustomed to being in line for and being able to compete for still going to view Penn State as a viable option if they can’t compete for conference championships or play in bowl games?

And that’s a question that remains to be answered.  We don’t know.  Nobody has a crystal ball yet.


But the success on the field, and the, I think, reliance upon Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenberg as I mentioned, for lack of a better phrase, being ambassadors for this program, has at least afforded this class the talent level that will be necessary to remain competitive on the field, because the numbers are only going to continue to go down.


So when the numbers go down, you’d like to be able to say we need the talent level of those limited numbers to go up.  But there is no guarantee of that going forward.


So I’ve been remarkably impressed.  I think it’s a class that Penn State fans have been proud of.  The coaching staff deserves a ton of credit, because whatever they’ve painted on that canvas and presented to the perspective student‑athlete, it’s resonated.  It appears to be bigger than competing for a championship or competing for a bowl game.


There is a commitment to the University on behalf of many of these student‑athletes, and that’s not something that you often see in recruiting.  Oftentimes these guys are committed to a person or an identity or a theory or a philosophical approach to the program.


I think that with this, you’ve got a unique set of circumstances and is a lot of credit that goes to this coaching staff and many players that have been committed to the class for quite some time.


Q. First off, Auburn, what kind of job do you think Gus Malzahn has done in trying to keep as many guys in the fold?  And, also, switching some recruits from other schools? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  Well, you know, and I’ve known Gus for a number of years.  When I looked at what happened, and I actually covered and broadcast some Auburn games on the field, so I saw this team up close and personal.  Saw where their holes were, saw where they needed to address areas, and they had done some of that in recruiting under Gene Chizik and his staff.


Any time you have coaching staff turnover, there is going to be a bit of a shock factor.  You’re going to always have that player or two that’s going to withdraw the verbal commitment or that’s going to sit back, allow the dust to settle.  Kind of take it all in, and then reach out and start establishing new relationships that need to be developed throughout the remainder of the recruiting process, with a person that likely they had not had contact with over the previous 10 to 12 to 15 months.  That is a daunting task for any coach.


Gus Malzahn and his new staff.  And you’re doing it up against signing day.  You have a two‑week dead period there at the end of December.  You’re trying to put together stats, families are trying to move, while you’re trying to reach out and maintain the core of the class.


Early on we saw some defections.  Saw some guys wavering, and after the dust settled, you started to see a bit of a resurgence.  You started to see some inroads being made at the junior college level to address some immediate needs for Gus Malzahn as they look internally at this roster saying we need this to be a guy that comes in now and plays for us.


And as you mentioned, going out and getting guys to come away from other programs like Dominic Walker out of Florida, Tony Stevens.  Another Florida prospect that had been committed to another program.  That’s very important to be able to go out and add something when you know you may have some losses.


As Gus Malzahn looks at this class and his roster, the one area they know that probably hasn’t been addressed that is a significant need is the running back position.  They are really lean.  They have tried to address it with Cameron at the junior college level and Peyton Barber.  But this isn’t a class loaded right now with the types of backs maybe he feels he needs going forward.  So I still think that is an area of need for the class.  I think there has been a resurgence, and they have done a nice job weathering the storm.  And I dont just say that about Gus Malzahn and his staff.  I say that about every staff that has had turnover and a change at the head spot during the most pivotal time during the recruiting process.


Q. Alabama coming in are in the mix for a handful of top‑notch guys.  How do you see their class shaping up?  I see 2008 is the one everyone talks about. 


TOM LUGINBILL:  You know, it’s interesting, everybody talks about the 2008 class.  I would beg to differ.  If you look at the 2009 class and take a look at the Top 5 to seven guy that’s signed in that class, the Dre Kirkpatricks, the D.J. Flukers, the Trent Richardsons, the A.J. McCarrans.  They didn’t miss on any of them.  Those guys panned out.  They have become pivotal parts of the equation at Alabama, and one of the many reasons, of course, that they’ve been able to win at the level they have and dominate College Football.


I think Alabama’s beginning to do a very good job of overall is recruiting and anticipation of early departures to the NFL, particularly at the running back spot.


I think they’ve also done a very good job of utilizing their success, and parlaying that into players being drafted high, and having that as a tool.  It’s a tool that to some degree is somewhat unique to them right now.  Somewhat exclusive to them.  But they seem to have the proof in the pudding at multiple positions across the board, whether it’s wide receiver, running back, the offensive line, whether it’s linebacker or the defensive secondary.


You go into any home and say this is what we’ve developed.  This caliber player has had that opportunity to go to the next level.  Then continually bringing in waves of a caliber of player where when one player drops off and leaves to the sideline, the player that’s coming off on the field isn’t a dropoff in talent.


I think that’s a rare thing to have in this day and age in College Football.  I think we saw that with Notre Dame in the national title game.


Lewis Nix comes off the field at nose tackle and the guy that’s replacing him, he’s not Lewis Nix.  Right now what Alabama has is they’ve been able to sell the best player is going to play.  We’ll rotate a lot of guys, and when that next guy goes in, there is no dropoff in talent.  That is a big sales point right now for Alabama.


Q. What do you make of the Ole Miss situation for a lot of people who may not follow this day‑in and day‑out?  What they’ve done seems to kind of have come out of nowhere.  Certainly it’s not a program that’s ever recruited like this before.  How have they done it, and why are kids all of a sudden flocking there? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  Well, I think in my estimation, Hugh Freeze and his staff have done an outstanding job.  And keep in mind Hugh Freeze knew the inner dynamics of Ole Miss before.  He had been an assistant.  He knew the landscape.  He came in with a very creative plan of what he felt he could accentuate in the program that being the program’s strengths.  And then, fortunately, for him he was able to have an unbelievable season of success and one that saw them not only win and be competitive, but make a bowl game, and then win that bowl game, and play that bowl game in the south.


So you’re at the forefront of the minds of prospects.  You’re already hot.  You’ve got a snow ball effect going.

I think any time you’re at a program like an Ole Miss or let’s say Texas Tech, you’re at some places that you’ve got to get creative a little bit.  You’ve got to lay down a blueprint, and you’re selling enthusiasm.  You’re selling creativity.  You’re selling youthfulness within your staff.


I think there is a relatability right now between that element that Ole Miss has and how it’s resonating with the prospective student‑athlete.


At the end of the day, we can talk all we want about skilled athletes.  Yes, Laquon Treadwell is an important piece of the puzzle to Ole Miss’s class.  He’s a high profile guy.


But Hugh Freeze knows that if he’s going to compete with the Alabama’s or LSUs in the West, he’s got to get interior front people.  So his entire focus has been on evaluating and recruiting players that he thinks can compete with the big boys in that side of the division, and allow them to truly compete for a championship, not just go on to the field and surprise people, because those days are coming to an end now.


They’re going to have a big target on their back.  They’re not going to sneak up on anybody next year.  He’s got to take advantage of this window that he has of surprising success, and parlay that into recruiting success.

I think he’s gotten creative.  I think he’s sold what he feels are the strengths of the program.  He has sold a vision for the future, upgrades in facilities, of strong fan base.  I think he sees youthfulness within their defense.


Guys like Issac Gross that came on and were first team all freshman SEC at defensive tackle.  You have Channing Ward, another player out of last year’s class that was an in‑state prospect.  He’s selling come be part of the core nucleus up front that changes the face of this program.


Right now, that is the buzz.  That’s what’s working, and more power to him.  He deserves a lot of credit for the work he’s put in and what he put on the field this last fall that’s helped parlay that into recruiting success.


Q. One, the  (WASHINGTON) recruiting class is rated probably one of the better ones they’ve had in a while, especially the defensive line part of it.  What part of that do you attribute to Tosh Lupoi, and this is his first full year there?  They’ve brought in the Robinson twins over the weekend, it sounds like it’s either them or Oregon.  I was wondering how important would it be for Oregon if they were able to get the twins away from them? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  To answer the last part of your question first, any time you can go into the state of California and beat your competitors, that is pivotal for the success of Washington’s program.  Steve Sarkisian will tell you that.  And if you beat a team that’s at the pinnacle of the conference now, on Oregon on prospects, particularly prospects that are currently verbally committed to them, that is also a positive going down the stretch.


Now that remains to be seen.  Both the Robinson twins are very athletic.  Both can play on offense or defense, there is a lot of positional versatility there for coaches to have some options with those kids.


But to answer the first part of your question, obviously, Tosh Lupoi has a wonderful track record of being a quality recruiter.  But more importantly, oftentimes, there was a perception that being a great recruiter is the same thing as being a great evaluator.  I think some guys are both.  Some guys are one or the other.


I think Tosh Lapui probably falls into the category of having that mesh between both.  Steve Sarkisian has coached at the pinnacle of College Football on a team that was dominant in the trenches during those power years at USC.  He knows as well as anybody that under the Don James years, those teams that were great teams were dominant in the trenches.


That’s what they’ve done as a staff.  Not just Tosh Lapui, but they’ve gone out and tried to identify players that, in their opinion, are important pieces of the puzzle at positions that matter.


You can get receivers.  You can go out and get running backs.  You can get those types of guys.  They’ve had to identify guys like DeShawn Hall, Marcus Farria, Elijah Qualls could be a guy that comes in right away and has a role and could have some type of an impact.


So he realized in order for them to take the next step, it can’t be about skills, it’s got to be about the front, and that’s where they’ve probably made the most inroads and invested the most time.  Not just locally but in the state of California or national states like a Texas where they have a new established presence in.


Q. (Part 1) – With Clemson, is there any read we can make on the kind of splash that they had in the summer when it seemed like they were in and getting commitments from everyone?  Now things have devolved, I guess, overtime in that regard.  Is there anything to read in that or is that because we’re dealing with 16 and 17‑year‑olds on that one.  (Part 2) – And with South Carolina, the use of something like the footage of Jadaveon Clowney on New Year’s Day against Michigan, how can something like really energize a class, not for this year, but the next couple of years?


TOM LUGINBILL:  I’ll start off with Clemson.  I always have a phrase and people usually get sick of hearing it if they’ve seen me on TV.  That is that recruiting is a marathon; it’s not a sprint.  You may start off guns‑a‑ blazing and you’re out there, hitting the trail and things are falling in line for you.  But then you’ve got to keep them.


That stretch run of closing out and continuing to recruit and stay on top of these guys.  At the end of the day, until pen meets paper, there are no guarantees and there is no crystal ball.  We are dealing with young people, and they change their mind like they change their underwear.  It’s part of the process.


It’s not exclusive to Dabo and his staff and Clemson.  It’s across the landscape of college football.  They’ve had to deal with that.


Now they’re hoping to be able to close with a Montravius Adams or Tyrone Crowder late.  Two guys if you would have asked the same question ten months ago, they probably would have said they weren’t in on.


So the evolving landscape there, it’s a continual process.  I think you asked a great question, because it’s always something that needs to remain in play.  And I know college coaches are so conscious of it because it never stops.  You may have the commitment, but the other sharks are swirling and the chum is in the water.  The process never ends.


For South Carolina, you’re right.  The readily accessible information of positive, buzz‑creating type of highlights like the one you referenced with Jadaveon Clowney, I think it creates opportunities for you to create presentations internally for recruiting, whether it’s videos, graphics, technology.  And to have those types of dominant players that become the face of your program that create those types of plays, there is no down side to that.


Is it a guarantee that, hey, we’re going to go and be able to get this kid because this kid was impressed by this play?  No.  I’ll give you a prime example.  Carl Lawson who is verbally committed to Auburn.


I’ve heard him some several interviews reference when he was coming up, he watched Jadaveon Clowney in high school, and he said I wanted to be as good, if not better than him.  That was my goal, but it didn’t lure him to South Carolina.  So there are no guarantees.


But I do think that you can create moments this isn’t exclusive to Jadaveon Clowney.  But the success and the wins particularly in a timeframe where the prospect now views South Carolina differently than maybe they did seven years ago.  That’s played as big of a role as far as creative buzz that is out there that’s positive about the program.


Q. Last year Florida went into national signing day with 21 commits, and they had eight prospects that they were in contention for and did not land any of them.  They were 0 for 8 on signing day, and Muschamp kind of developed a reputation as a guy who can’t close. Can you talk about how he’s been able to kind of change his style of recruiting this year by getting a lot of commits early and being able to hold on to them?  And how people, specifically fans, maybe have to learn to appreciate kind of the class that’s already in place and not put too much stock into the national signing day kids, because those kids decide on Signing Day aren’t anymore important than the kids that make a decision in summertime? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  Absolutely.  I would probably start off by saying I don’t know if there’s been a philosophical shift for Will Muschamp.  I think each and every class is exclusive to itself.  Each and every kid is different.  How kids respond, how they react, what they do, the choices they make, the time in which they make them is going to differ from year to year.


So you have a year where maybe you weren’t as good on the field as you’d like to have been.  Then you have a good recruiting class, but maybe it’s not termed to be the one that people would have liked to have seen you finish with.


Then you have a year like this past fall where you just have a monster performance on the field and then you have a dismal performance in the bowl game, but you don’t see any negative effect four weeks down the road to signing day.


So I think if there is any coach right now in the SEC that’s probably having the best night’s sleep over the next two days, I would argue it’s Will Muschamp because of what they’ve been able to accomplish.


They’ve been able to sustain verbal commitments for an extended period of time.  They’ve had minimal shifts and minimal changes.  We’ve seen guys like Qinton Powell and some other kids, but nothing dramatic.


So I think in fairness to Will Muschamp and all coaches and coaching staff, you approach each class with identifying your needs, identifying your holes, whether it’s due to lack of depth or lack of talent.  Then identifying how the kid needs to be recruited.  Because every personality is different, and that shifts, again, year to year.


So, hey, this is going to be one of those years where people will look at Florida’s class and say, wow, they were able to sustain long‑term, which is hard to do.  It’s also hard to close.  But when you can sustain long‑term, that’s a difficult task and I think they deserve a lot of credit for that.


Q. Just your overview of the class, some of the guys that stand out to you the most, and guys that Will Muschamp will keep building on this foundation that he created last year with the previous signing class, and then moving forward with the success that he had in 2012? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  Well, I don’t think there is any question that Vernon Hargreaves is a special, unique player.  When I say that, I mean a guy that had a very difficult position to make the leap to the next level.  He might be capable of doing so and playing and getting on the field and having a presence.


He’s mature in that manner.  Not only is he physically gifted, but you better have a short memory playing that position.  You’re going to get picked on.  You have to have the mental capacity to respond and rebound.  When you’re young, that can be a daunting task.


I think he’s unique.  I don’t think people value what Mike Gillislee meant to this Florida program overall.  I think he was an underestimated, undervalued kid that was a pivotal component to their success.  And they’re getting a back in Kelvin Taylor that is extremely close to him in terms of what he brings.  That power, that performance, the sustained durability.  And I think a guy that could end up being a bell cow‑type back for an offense that wants to run the football and run it downhill and right at you.


Then I think in a position of significant need, you have to look at Demarcus Robinson.  Because wide receiver and play maker is a need right now for this program.  I would be surprised if the mental capacity is there and he can perform and handle that jump.  I would be surprised if he’s not one of the more talented players in their receiving corps, which I would think would lead to him playing early.


Q. I was curious about your general impressions of Michigan’s recruiting class for this year and more specifically your impressions of Brady Hoke, and how he’s been able to recruit Michigan and Ohio in the midwest more generally? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I think a couple of things to point out, and I’m going to go back to before the Rich Rod era.  You’re looking at a program that for 60, 70, 80 years was predicated upon a philosophy of three yards and a cloud of dust.  Downhill, physical at the point of attack.  We’re going to grind you out and wear you out and have tough, blue‑collared, hard‑nosed guys.


Then you bring in a coaching staff that’s a complete 180 degree turn from that philosophically and the type of player.  So you get through two and a half to three years of recruiting that type of person, now your roster is in flux.


And I think it needs to be pointed out that Brady Hoke when he arrived there is now in, what I call a roster reversal.  He’s trying to transition this thing back to that traditional identity of what he envisions the Michigan program being all about.  You have to address the offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, and most notably running back.


Because that type of player in those three positions that I just mentioned are really what lead to having that physical toughness, that downhill presence that we’re going to get after you at point of attack.


So that’s where in my opinion, if you looked a year ago, they addressed linebacker and defensive line.  You look at this year, they’re addressing running back and offensive line.


Getting a guy like Derrick Green, a guy that they feel they can count on to be a 30‑plus carry back if they needed him to be, epitomizes that downhill presence, that identity that they want not just their offense to have, but their program to have.  Those are steps in the right direction.


The caveat for me for Michigan fans is you don’t just wave a Magic wand and shift this roster over.  It’s going to take time.  You’re going to have to take pieces of the puzzle and put them here and put them there and make the moves you feel necessary.


Naturally, the state of Michigan year‑in and year‑out, is it going to provide enough players that are the caliber of talent that you need to compete for a championship to fulfill your whole roster?  No, it’s not.


That means you are going to have to dip into Illinois.  You’re going to have to have a presence in Ohio.  You’ll have to identify some areas, maybe it’s Pennsylvania.  And spend your time there, if they provide the type of player that you’re looking for.  Because I always say this in recruiting, and it’s not just exclusive to Michigan, but not only do you have to have a great player, or a good player, but you have to have the right player.


What is the right player?  Well, that could be the right mentality, the right approach, a guy that buys in.  So many factors that go into that, and that’s where Michigan and its staff have spent an awful lot of time.


I think you’re going to see that come into play with their identity now shifting a little away from the Denard Robinson era.  Because you take what you inherit, and use those gifts and I think they maximized them considering it wasn’t going to be what they wanted it to be, but now it’s time to move next phase of what Al Borges wants to be on offense, what Brady Hoke wants to be on offense, and that’s going to be a little more multiple with the run game presence.


Q. As you mentioned, it’s (Michigan) really built up the offensive line of this class as they move toward that power scheme and pro style offense.  They have six guys.  Each with four stars.  Is it as physical of an offensive line class as you’ve seen nationally this year?


TOM LUGINBILL:  It’s close.  I mentioned earlier you have to have the type of player you’re looking to get and you have to have the David Dawson or maybe even more importantly a Patrick Kugler.  The type of players that are bring‑your‑lunch‑pail, go‑to‑work, wear‑you‑down‑type of guys.  That at the end of the day you hear coaches say we want to be the team that they don’t want to play us, and that’s what they’re look to go get.


A guy like Logan Tuley‑Tillman is a down the road a guy that maybe a better athlete than Kugler, maybe a better athlete than Dawson, but isn’t quite as ready yet.  Probably not as ready as a Chris Fox and Kyle Bosch.  But athletically two years down the road from a technical standpoint, he could have the most upside and highest ceiling.


So everybody advances at different rates.  Some guys are going to be ready quicker than others.  But when it comes to size, strength, the personality and make‑up that you want to have, I think there are some guys that will lend to what Michigan wants to be coming forward.


Q. I talked to you a little bit about Josh Dobbs, and at the time he seemed like a pretty firm ASU, Arizona State commit.  Now Tennessee is making a push.  Do you have a gut feeling where he might end up and how does he project as a quarterback? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I go back, I can remember going back to last March, and he had offers from Vanderbilt and Duke, and nobody was really even recruiting him.  Another example, there are so many guys out there that you’ve got to spend your time trying to uncover a lot of rocks.


I think a lot of what his upside and ceiling will be will depend upon how reliant he is on having baseball a part of his life.  If he wants to play two sports, I think he will to some degree limit his upside in both.

If he decides he’s going to pursue football, to be honest with you, I think he’s got an unbelievable ceiling for development.


In my opinion, I think he’s been one of the more undervalued guys in this class, not just as an athlete, but as a passer.  The reason why Tennessee has gotten in on him and because of Butch Jones and the offensive identity that they’re going to have.  It’s not too dissimilar to what you’re going to see from Arizona State.


They’re going to have the quarterback involved in the run game.  They’re going to move the pocket.  They’re going to use the dynamic, dual‑threat traits that Josh Dobbs brings to the table.


But the question is I go back to what I said earlier.  You get a verbal commitment, and then you’ve got to hang on.  You’ve got to continue to recruit and sell why he originally verbally committed there, and that is what’s difficult.


When a kid decides to take an official visit late and goes to Tennessee, and it’s coming up against signing day, and you get that euphoria, and that buzz and excitement, the strain all goes on to the team that had him verbally committed originally, and that’s Arizona State.  So the challenge is in front of Todd Graham and his staff to close the deal here.


But I do think he’s talented.  I think in a spread offensive set where you’re going to be in the shotgun.  You want to have the quarterback part of the running game.  He’s a perfect marriage for what Butch Jones is going to do on offense at Tennessee, and what we’ve seen already from Todd Graham’s coached teams whether it’s been at Pitt, Tulsa and now at Arizona State.


Q. You had spoken earlier about Penn State.  I wanted to focus more on Christian Hackenberg.  What kind of quarterback do you see him being, not just talent‑wise, but also in fitting in with Bill O’Brien’s offense? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  From a physical standpoint, we’re one of the few people that has him rated ahead, and maybe the only ones, have him rated ahead of Max Brown.  Max Brown seems to be the soup du jour of this class of quarterbacks.  We have our reasons we have Christian ahead of Max.


But most notably, there are things physically as far as tools that you can’t coach that he has that are inherent that allow a coaching staff to really maximize what they want their offense to be, because there are going to be very few things, physically, that he can’t do.


He’s a better athlete than people think.  He’s got great immeasurables.  He can make all the throws.  He has a natural, smooth delivery.  You know he can get rid of the football under dress.  With what they’re going to ask of him, I think it’s a perfect marriage between skill set and the offensive identity of what their philosophy is, being multiple, working under center, out of the shotgun, a lot of play‑action pass, having to make a lot of throws outside of the numbers to the sidelines from within the pocket.  Certainly all things that Christian Hackenberg’s capable of.

And probably something that would stand out to me, and I’m going to reference a story that happened here when we had him at the Under Armour All‑American game.  We had them the second day of practice, usually the players are scrambling and swimming, and they’ve got a lot of thinking going on, they’re probably not performing to the level they should.


Christian Hackenberg was taking plate from the coach, he walks into the huddle and sees very quickly that the huddle is in disarray.  Guys aren’t lined up where they’re supposed to.  So he stops and starts grabbing guys by the shoulder to move the running back to his right when he’s on his left.  The receiver, you’re supposed to be over here, let’s get everybody lined up before we call this play and break the huddle and snap the football at the line of scrimmage.


Now that might seem like nothing to most people.  To me, that was a sign of some leadership.  That was a sign of, hey, this is how we’re going to run this thing.  This is what needs to happen.  Attention to detail, focus.  If we’re going to do it, this is the path.

Those are little things that being a former quarterback and a coach in professional football for a number of years, I closely look at those and say, wow, this guy might have a little something to him.


So I think there are some really positive traits with the young man.  Time will tell.  There is no crystal ball.  Nobody knows who is going to pan out, who isn’t.


But I know there is a commitment to excellence when it comes to work ethic.  The game, education, the college experience is important to him.


My question, and I’ve said this all along, and I think it’s a fair one, going forward are will there be enough good football players at Penn State around him for them to be able to maximize not only his talent, but their potential to win as a football team?  Because you can say what you want.  Great quarterbacks can make teams a lot better, but you still have to have great players around them.


So time will tell whether there will be enough good ones around Christian Hackenberg to maximize his talent level.


Q. You said in a chat you were talking about Northwestern’s recruiting, and you had a line in there that they don’t worry so much about how many stars a kid gets.  It’s more about the fit.  Can you elaborate on that?  Are there any kids in this class that fit that bill? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I think quarterback Matt Alviti fits the bill perfectly.  Matt Alviti is the type of player that if he was two inches taller he would have probably been a national recruit.  I use him as an example here.  This is a class of 19 verbal commitments right now.  I use him as an example because they are looking at their program and offense and what they’re asking out of their quarterback.  Does he meet this?  Yes, check the box.  Does he meet this?  Well, not here.  Maybe we need to investigate that.


He deserves an awful lot for credit for that, because he’s proven it year in and year out.  With quarterback Matt Alviti, he’s got a guy that makes a lot of players.  He’s a runner, a thrower, fits into their spread.  He’s a prime example.


Q. Does Fitz also take guys that are high‑character guys, maybe a little less on the talent level, guys that he thinks he can develop and turn into better players? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  Absolutely.  And if you notice, very few times is he having to play with true freshmen.  I think they’re afforded the luxury, and this has become a luxury that’s almost getting extinct now, of red shirting an entire class or 98% of your class, so you’re not throwing guys into the fire before they’re ready.


You get them into your program, you red shirt them, you develop them, bring them along.  Maybe they play as a red shirt sophomore.  Or if they’re a good player and exceeded expectations, they get on the field as a red‑shirt freshman.


But they’re not going to go after the guy that’s a great player and you want to play with him right away because you know you might lose him in three years.  They’re not worried about that.  So it’s a luxury that few teams have right now.  And you’re right, academically there are standards that they’re going to meet there.


There are some guys they may look at on tape and say we love this guy.  Then they see the transcript and say we may not be able to get him in, and how do we navigate around that?


You’re right, process‑oriented guys, guys that buy in and fit what’s asked of them and know what the expectation level is, those are the critical factors that I referenced earlier that he places a high premium on.


Q. I’m wondering with the 2013 Alabama class, maybe the unique thing about it is there are 13 different states represented among the players.  Is Alabama continuing to expand its reach or has it been for years now and it’s kind of coming to fruition? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I think what they’ve done is they’ve leveraged their success into broadening the recruiting net, if you will.  Casting it out wider.  I would say this, and I’m going to reference it to what USC was able to do in the early Peat Carroll era, where they would say they would identify maybe three to five guys, four to six guys nationally.  Maybe an area where they generally wouldn’t recruit because they didn’t need to.


If, as a staff, consensus, if they looked at this guy and said, guys, as a player we need to investigate the other things.  But, as a player, if we think this guy is a first rounder, we’ve got to pursue him and make an overture.  And if there’s a response and positive reaction, then you put the pedal down and go full speed ahead.


You reference a lot of states, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, Arkansas, you’re right, a lot of great people.  But in that area that they’ve gone and gotten the verbal commitment from, they’re not guys that you would sit there and say this guy might be able to help the class.  He might be able to help fill a void.


They are players if they’ve done the right assessments on the make‑up of the kid that athletically fit the bill of what I was saying the criteria likely is, if you’re going to spend time outside of your normal recruiting pool, you’ve got to know two things.  You’ve got to know that you have a chance to get the kid or you’re going to waste your time.  And he better be as good or better than what you currently have in your own backyard.


I think those are two things they’ll adhere to.  If they feel that way, and I’m going to tell you right now, Robert Foster, the receiver out of Pennsylvania, Robert Foster is as good a receiver as anybody in high school football.  Doesn’t matter what state he’s in.


So when they identify that and see that and they get them to camp or compare them against other guys they’re recruiting, then the process becomes easier for them to identify those guys.


Yeah, I think it’s a selective process.  Not something they’re going to do year‑in and year‑out, but if they feel there are guys that are difference makers and you’re Alabama at the pinnacle of college football right now, you’re going to use that as best you can.


Q. Two questions: One about Oklahoma’s recruiting class.  Another, the Big 12 seems to have a really bad problem developing defensive tackles right now.  I was wondering what your opinion was on that? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  Well, I think developing defensive tackles and having the ability to get defensive tackles may actually be two different things.  You’ve kind of hit on the surface of something there that isn’t just exclusive to the Big 12.  It’s exclusive to the Big Ten, the Pac‑12, the Big East.


It’s essentially everybody outside of a couple of teams in the ACC and a bulk of teams in the SEC.  For whatever reason there may be various different ways to explain it.  But the core nucleus of premier players along the defensive front, whether it’s at tackle or whether it’s at end, it’s in the southeast region of this country.  Whether it’s the six to seven states Carolinas, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, they’re concentrated there for whatever reason.  And it is very difficult to get those guys to come out of there.


Am I saying there are no defensive linemen in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona or California?  No, I’m not saying that at all.  But when your player pool at that position is so tapered down and narrowed, then your choices are going to be limited.  Then when you do get one, if there are not multiple to choose from, your margin of error widens because now all of a sudden there weren’t multiple guys to choose from.


I think that’s a challenge that not just the Big 12 has.  It’s the reason why teams can’t stack up right now with the premier teams in the SEC.


You can say what you want, but that is the one common denominator between the last seven national champions and the team that lost.  They were better up front, and they had more depth and they had more of them.  I think that is a challenge for the Big 12 and everybody else.


You’re going to have your guy here and there.  You’re going to have a player that’s going to emerge and maybe be a great player.  But it’s difficult to get a bunch of them.  It’s difficult to get a bunch of them with multiple teams within your conference because that’s not necessarily where the player pool is concentrated.


Q. As far as Oklahoma’s class? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  Very impressed with Keith Ford.  I think Keith Ford is going to step on the field and be a work horse type back for the Sooners in a position that I think they need a really physical guy, a downhill guy, a guy that can carry the load and be stronger in the fourth quarter than he is in the first.


Cody Thomas, again, I referenced baseball earlier with Josh Dobbs.  I think that will ultimately determine his ceiling for development at quarterback because there is no doubt the tools are there.  There is a high level of talent.  He’s going to have to probably make a choice at some point where he commits to.


They’ve gotten more weapons in the offensive line.  Trying to continue to add to the defensive front with the likes of D.J. Ward.  And I think on the offensive line where they’re going to have some needs.


Obviously, a lot of needs where they’ve addressed on the offensive line with St. John, and at the defensive tackle position, addressed it at the college ranks of Quincy Russell.


Q. Going back to Ole Miss.  They’ve won two SEC games in the last couple of years before last season.  Can you recall anybody turning around a program that quickly?  And just a potential recruiting class, and then is it also unfair that already Hugh Freeze is having to answer critics who are kind of making allegations that they’re continue doing it fairly and on the up and up? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  Well, just off the top of my head, trying to reference a program that’s been as down as Ole Miss had been in a conference like the SEC, and then to have this other type of resurgence so quickly on the recruiting trail, no I probably can’t think of one.


But I will say this:  I think people are undervaluing the performance of Ole Miss on the field and how quickly that can turn around a perception of a program.  Because ultimately at the end of the day, that’s what this is all about with these kids.  How will the kids perceive the program?  How do the kids perceive the coach and the direction that it’s going in?  Are they buying into what’s being sold?


It’s not necessarily reality that’s going to dictate the terms of these young people going forward.  So I believe that, again, getting back to what I said earlier, creativity, energy, enthusiasm, grinding.  I use that term when it comes to working and going out and selling your positives.  Don’t focus on what you can’t control, don’t focus on negatives.  Focus on the positives and, again, winning on the field helps out.


In reference to the allegations and heat that they’re taking, to be honest with you, I love what Hugh Freeze did the other day.  He defended his coaches, his integrity, and defended what they can control.  Like he said, if anybody has anything concrete that they feel has been improper, go ahead and turn it into the compliance offense.  Otherwise worry about yourself, don’t worry about us.  We’ll worry about us and not about you.


But at the end of the day, in the world we’re living in, when anything is as surprising as what they’ve done and you have as much positive buzz and you traditionally haven’t had any of that, you’re naturally going to have criticism and doubters.


It’s part of living in the Twitter world, and part of living in the Facebook world, and the world of instant information, and everybody thinks that they have a voice.  Whether it’s somebody sitting in their grandmother’s basement on a computer flexing their Twitter muscles, doesn’t really know anything about the processor what’s going on.  Everybody seems to have a voice now.


Hugh Freeze knows that’s part of the deal and it will be going forward.  He’s just got to focus on what he can control.


Q. How about Maryland?  Randy Edsall had some success last year recruiting.  Do you see them building on that this time? 


TOM LUGINBILL: Well, I think that obviously he went through such a trying time this year on the field.  I mean, I saw that team.  I don’t know if any team from a coaching perspective in recent history has gone through what Randy Edsall and Maryland went through on the field.


To be honest with you, I don’t even know how he’s able to maintain competitiveness.  I think it was simply remarkable.  For them to be in the situation they’re in right now with guys like Deon Long who they’re bringing back into the fold.  He’s a Washington, D.C. area kid, Derwin Gray.  He’s got tremendous upside at the offensive tackle position.  Even Shane Cockerill, a local kid out of a program in Gilman who is highly thought of, highly competitive, has an expectation level to perform there, so he knows that going to the next level.


I’m impressed with this class.  I’m impressed with what their staff was able to do because I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to have to recruit with that type of season and have those type of things happening to you on the field.  Then you know that they can trickle down into the recruiting trail and into your efforts in recruiting.


It’s not an easy place to be for a coaching staff.  So I think he deserves a lot of credit.


Q. Going into today, they (MIAMI) have about 14 or 15 kids that have either committed or are enrolled, only two of those are from South Florida.  None from Broward, none from Palm Beach Counties.  Overall they only have three players, 14 or 15 from the state of Florida.  I know it’s kind of a smaller class, but still that’s a small percentage.  How surprised are you that they haven’t had more success to this point, he is particularly with kids in the South Florida area? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I think it’s surprising.  I also think it’s one of the reasons why James Coley was so highly pursued from Florida State because of his roots in deep South Florida.  His recruiting area has generally been in South Florida.


It’s important for Miami that those kids know that you don’t go anywhere else but Miami.  If you’re a great player, that’s where you go.  You go to Miami.


Now they’ve got things working against them.  They don’t have an on‑campus stadium.  They don’t have a stadium that’s nearby.  Their facilities haven’t been upgraded and kept up with the arms race that the rest of college football has taken off with.


So there are some inherent challenges there in a landscape that is dramatically different than the mid ’80s to the late ’90s where we saw that dominance from the University of Miami program.  So there are other challenges at play here.


I think that what you try to do when maybe you’re not hitting with some of those kids in South Florida, you’ve got to do the best job you can of supplementing them with players that you hope or you feel through the evaluation process are every bit as talented as maybe that player that’s in your backyard.


So like an Al‑Quadin Muhammad, an important player, key position in your front.  He’s out of New Jersey.  But there are a lot of defensive linemen in the state of Florida that Al‑Quadin Muhammad matches up well or even better than.


You look at the quarterback position.  I don’t think Florida has been overly strong in terms of droves of quarterbacks that are the right fit for Miami, so they go to another area with Kevin Olsen out of New Jersey.

The other thing I would mention here, and it’s probably something that you could say in relationship to every hot bed, whether it be Mobile, whether it be South Georgia, what have you, you’re going to have peaks and valleys.  Recruiting is cyclical.  You’re going to have time where you have great talent in droves year in and year out.  Sometimes you get more kids down south, and it looks like you’re owning your portion of your area.  Then other years you look like you’re down in your numbers and you look like you haven’t done a good job in that area.


So I don’t think it’s quite as black and white at times that people tend to make it.


Q. You touched on this earlier about the Alabama depth.  I cover the Notre Dame team.  I’m curious what you thought of what they were able to bring in this year and if that helped towards closing that gap on the field where they’ve had success in creating some of that depth? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  It’s interesting.  I’ve been very, very vocal over the last four to five years.  Everybody asks how come Notre Dame’s not getting it done?  I said because it’s where the defensive front players are and the fact that they’re not getting them.


If you take a notice at their front, Lewis Nix is from Florida, Prince Shembo is from North Carolina.  So now the next staff is to add that second level player and continue that depth.  At linebacker they’re going to lose Te’o out of Hawaii, and they go, and they’re starting to replenish some of those needs with the likes of Jalen Smith.  Then on the defensive line, an Isaac Rochell, a Doug Randolph, another linebacker.


But on the interior front they’ve done a good job with the likes of Colin McGovern and Hunter Bivin who can not only play tackle, he can also play center.


So traditionally when you see Notre Dame classes ranked super, super high and you look at the class and say, wait a minute.  I don’t see a lot of guys in those positions that matter, and, early on, I think that was the case.

Well, Notre Dame will be able to get skill.  It’s not a surprise they’ll get a Greg Brian or a surprise that they’re able to get a Max Redfield or a Tarean Folston.  But they’ve got to continue to maintain players in the positions that matter and will help them get to the next level.


I see them bringing in another dominant defensive tackle in this class?  I don’t know if they’re going to.  I don’t know if that’s one where they’re sitting in position to say that.  But I think they’re addressing more defensive needs in the secondary, certainly at the linebacker spot and at the edge position that should help them at least continue on that path.


Q. How long does it take a team to build that next guy, keep them rolling through depth that Alabama has?


TOM LUGINBILL:  I think that so much of that is predicated upon having that presence of success and how, again, I go back to the term I used earlier, how are you perceived?


That term relevance is always thrown around with Notre Dame.  And I always respond that the only term that thing should apply to in relevance is the prospect.  Because at the end of the day, how they view Notre Dame is going to ultimately determine Notre Dame’s success.


If they’re viewing Notre Dame as the place they want to be, the destination for education, notoriety for the football program.  Those kids may be in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, the Carolinas are starting to view Notre Dame that way, then that’s a real positive sign for the future for Notre Dame.


Now they’ve still got to go out and get them and sign them.  But I think another ten‑win season on the field, then you follow it up with another one, you’re going to seal it in two to three years that they keep winning.  Then they become more and more attractive to kids that maybe wouldn’t have considered leaving.  They stay in the south, and maybe bypass an LSU, Alabama, Florida State or Clemson in taking a shot at Notre Dame.  I think so much of that will be predicated on whether or not they continue to have success on the field.


Q.  Just wondering how you think Clemson finishes?  If they only wind up on national signing day with Tyrone Crowder, is this still a good class or is it still a great class?  How do you see this finishing out? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  Well, I have to be honest with you.  I think there may be a better likelihood they end up with Montravius Adams over Tyrone Crowder.  If they end up with both of them they may be siting there saying, okay, we knew when we lost Robert Nkemdiche we had to somehow replace him.  They thought it would be Carl Lawson.  He’s now reaffirmed his commitment to Auburn and is sticking with the Auburn Tigers.


Then you lose an Elijah Daniel.  That was one that stung.  So now you’re trying to find ways to replace that.

If they end up with Crowder and Montravius Adams, they would look at the class as being tremendously successful.


I think they’re doing a really good job of recruiting and anticipating early departures to the National Football League he draft at the receiver position.  Guys like Kyrin Priester and Mike Williams could prove to be pivotal gets for them down the stretch.


Then you lose Andre Ellington.  Well, Tyshon Dye is the same type of player.  That explosive, scat back type that is a little bigger than Andre Ellington was.  But he can do some of the same things that you want him to do within the offense.  Being that big home run type back.


They have the guys that you want your Locker room to be filled with 20 of them, if you could.  It’s so rare to have that.  They’re going to be the face of the physical toughness that you’re going to have within your program and that’s Ben Boulware.


We’ve likened him to a mini Zack Thomas.  When we were at the Under Armour All‑America game, the first two days of practice, everybody on the field knew who he was.  If you’re going to lineup against him, you better be buckled up.  And that’s a guy that can be an identity type guy for Clemson’s class.


If they lose out on both of them, I think they’ll still feel good about the class.  They’ve got to get one of the two, but don’t be surprised if they get both of them.


Q. It seems like Clemson is going head‑to‑head not against teams inside the ACC for a lot of these final guys, but against the SEC.  Are they at a recruiting disadvantage because of the SEC brand? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I think to some degree everybody is.  Nobody likes to hear that, but that is the reality of the situation.  The king of the hill right now is the SEC.  I referenced the region of the country in the south.  You have 24 teams all battling for the country’s greatest and deepest player pool, and they’re all battling.


If you take a look at the ESPN 150 right now, you look at the premier players that are remaining, they’re all at premium positions.  They’re at linebacker.  They’re at defensive line.  They’re at offensive line.  Those positions that aren’t grown on trees.  But if you want to compete for a championship, you better have them.


So I do think Clemson battles that, I think FSU battles that.  Miami, to some degree, battles that.  It’s going to continuing to down that path until somebody knocks them off the mountain.


Until that happens, I know I sound like a broken record, but perception, perception, perception.  In my opinion, it’s the single biggest thing that Texas A&M right now has going for them.  More so than an 11‑2 season, more so than a Heisman Trophy, right now their affiliation with the SEC is playing bigger than everything else.


Q. What is your take on Laremy Tunsil recruiting situation?  How Ole Miss has kind of shocked everyone and made a late push for his commitment?  And is Georgia in trouble if they don’t sign him on Wednesday? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  I don’t think Georgia’s in trouble if they don’t sign him.  Obviously, it would be a tremendous letdown.  In fact, I think Georgia has the most to gain and the most to lose come signing day, not just with Tunsil, with Alvin Kamara, Martavious Adams, Tyrone Crowder.  Lot of guys that may choose Georgia or somebody else.  It would be a huge letdown.


It’s not a great offensive tackle class.  And we’ve seen some really good offensive tackle classes the last few years.  This is a bit of a down one.  He’s clearly the cream of the crop.  Don’t ever underestimate, I think, or diminish the value of getting a guy on campus late.


That is what Ole Miss was able to do down the stretch, right up against signing day, layout the blueprint.  Present it, and I think the kid was incredibly surprised with, you know, how they presented their plan going forward.  I don’t think he expected that coming into that visit.


It’s changed his thought process going from Georgia being the leader and Alabama, and Ole Miss being in the mix.  Now he’s really got a dilemma on his hands.  So, again, that value of recruiting being a marathon, not a sprint.  Coming in late, Hugh Freeze is also the last coach in on the sofa for that home visit last Thursday.  That pays dividends.


So I think there is a lot to be said for that.  The timing of this whole thing has really created some confusion in the minds of Laremy Tunsil.


Q. What is your take on Rueben Foster, how he projects at the next level?  Georgia coaches have reportedly talked about losing him as a pass‑rushing, outside linebacker. 


TOM LUGINBILL:  My take on Rueben Foster, and I’m going to be very blunt here.  I opened up and said, hey, we’ve talked about the core foundation, the process, the ups and downs, I was very, very hard publicly on Rueben Foster.  I always hear that you guys are glorifying prospects.  I’ll point out when a guy has a flaw because I think they need to hear that.  They need to deal with the understanding that there are no perfect players.  They don’t have the answers.


And Rueben Foster, quite honestly, had a horrendous senior season.  For his performance level as a sophomore and junior, he didn’t even look alike the same player on the field.  We were critical of him.  We called him out on it.  Had him at the Under Armour All‑American game, and to his credit, he responded.


He came in better shape.  He had trimmed down, he competed.  Had a different motor, was an entirely different player than he was as a senior.  I was really glad to see that because that told me something about his make‑up and competitiveness.


And with that being said, I believe that he is the type of player that, in order to maximize his talent, he needs to be an inside, up‑the‑field guy.  He’s not a space player.  He’s very limited in space.  He’s very limited in range.  And what spread teams do to him is isolate him and put him in space, and it’s difficult for him.


He needs to be either an inside guy in the four‑three front, or as you referenced with Georgia, I think he could be an outside guy, pass rusher type, or a Jack linebacker type, much like a Dont’a Hightower has been used at the University of Alabama, because everything is within the box and up the field.


If you put him in that type of role, knowing how he responded to criticism and not playing well as a senior, I think that’s a positive recipe for college success for him.


Time will tell.  You don’t wave a magic wand, and there is no crystal ball.  But I think he’s responded in the fashion that if he chooses the right player and the right scheme, it could maximize his potential.


Q. Two part question about the new NCAA legislation in regards to recruiting that came out a few weekends ago.  Primarily there are limitations on phone calls and text messages and no restrictions in terms of size and colors that they’re going to use in mailers and of course college coaches on the road actively recruiting and all of that.  Do you like the concept that the NCAA is loosening up and saying, here with what was a pretty heavy handed recruiting rule book?  Or could these changes create chaos?  And in addition to that, I’ve spoken to a few recruiting coordinators that have told me that in 2014, the recruit that’s they’ve talked to have no idea that these changes were coming by and large.  With all the extra work in terms of time that’s devoted to recruiting and actually educating about what is coming, is this kind of a burdensome set of rules for college coaches? 


TOM LUGINBILL:  This is obviously an ever evolving and changing landscape in college football.  I think a couple of positives that I would reference is I think it’s a step in the right direction that finally the NCAA is acknowledging that you’ve got to allow the coaches to communicate via the spectrums that kids these days are using.


What I mean by that, kids aren’t answering voice mail.  You’re going to get a kid on a text, you’re going to get him on Facebook, you’re going to get him on Twitter.  They’re operating in a different way than when I was being recruited in 92 and 93.  I think that’s a step in the right direction.


With that being said, we’re going down a path where this is going to lead to further legislation.  Because, let’s be very blunt about this.  An assistant coach’s life you think it’s busy now?  They better have waterproof cell phones, because they’re going to be using them in the shower.  They ain’t ever going to be off of it.


Where does that end?  Where does it end for the assistant coach, their families, their kids where does it end for the prospect when the question starts being asked by a parent or a guardian or somebody involved in the recruitment of this prospect?  Who is going to start paying for these overages and usages with your messaging data?


So we’ve gone down a slippery slope.  One that I think is going to enhance the ability for coaches to evaluate and to communicate, and that’s a good thing.  But I also think we could be heading in a direction where you could see possibly you have some areas during the year where we feel like guys are just shutting off the faucet.


Everybody’s going to take a step back.  Let the kid be a kid.  Let coaches worry about their own team.  Shut it off.  Everybody plays by the same rules, and I think that would be healthy.  I think it would be good for coach and player alike.


You’re right.  The kid doesn’t know what’s coming.  They’re not keeping up with all this legislature.  They’re just going along with the process, but they’re about to get inundated.  It’s going to become very apparent quickly that kid that’s understand time management, how to say no, when to choose different times and dictate terms of when they’re going to be communicated with, are the ones that are probably going to have the least hectic process of going forward.


Listen, this isn’t the last we’re going to see of this.  There are various changes moving forward.  But they’re going to affect not just kids, they’re going to affect coaches and most notably assistant coaches so dramatically that I think it’s something that is a bit dangerous and will lead to further legislation to hopefully alleviate some of the pressure and time constraints.


With that all being said, I think the one area that the NCAA has missed the boat is they’re still not allowing the head coach to go out on the spring and evaluate.  I cannot fathom how a head coach has the record next to his name.  He’s responsible for the kid, the product, the conduct of the kid, and he’s not allowed to go out on the road and evaluate.  Then they wonder why they have off the field issues.


That to me has got to change moving forward.  Because the reality of the situation is it’s not about recruiting good players.  It’s about identifying pitfalls and red flags.  As far as I’m concerned, these kids are all two stars the moment they sign the letter of intent until they prove otherwise.


It will be interesting to see if the evaluation process gets enhanced by these proposed new rules going forward.


Q. Lastly, I also cover Virginia and Virginia Tech.  A couple of schools that have had, obviously, massive turnover in terms of assistant coaches here in the last few weeks.  Both appear to have put together pretty good classes for 2013 and addressed some needs.  Sort of your evaluation on where those classes stand in your eyes and where they kind of go from here with those, again, massive turnovers in staff?


TOM LUGINBILL:  Well, certainly.  I think that these programs, particularly Virginia Tech, they’re still established as a program a view of the prospect that the program’s bigger than one individual.  I think that’s what you get from that stable consistency at the head post.


Virginia Tech’s done a nice job.  Kept everything in check.  A really nice job particularly in the secondary.  They’ve addressed some needs.  I think on the offensive line it’s been the secondary that they’ve done a good job in with the likes of Holland Fisher and Kendall.


So Frank Beamer needs to evaluate, plug along.  Mind the backyards of a very, very undervalued stake in terms of the caliber of player that comes out of there year‑in and year out.


Now with Virginia, you don’t have as much of an established foundation within the program to maybe offset when you do have coaching changes and you do have staff changes.  But I think what they’ve done a good job of is withstanding that.  Guys like Taquan Mizzell, who I think will jump on the field and play right away for the Virginia Cavaliers in a scatback type of role.  They’ve done a good job making inroads at linebacker and the secondary.

But for them, I think they’re still in the building process.  They’re still in the maturation process of consistency.


Trying to produce a consistent product year‑in and year‑out, and that’s going to come from successive recruiting classes.  Not just two, not just three, but four, five, and six where you’ve established four and five year depth throughout.  And I think they’re still working on that process under Mike London.



Gracie Blackburn

Gracie is the Communications Manager for ESPN’s College Networks. She handles all media requests and questions concerning SEC Network and Longhorn Network. Gracie also supports on college sports airing across ESPN networks.
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