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Mark Richt: National Signing Day Press Conference Transcription

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Courtesy UM

Opening Statement…

“I appreciate everybody being here today. Signing Day is a big for everybody across America, and it’s no different here in Miami. We’re thankful for the young men that put their faith in this University, in this program and in this coaching staff. We’re looking forward to working with them. They’re a very talented bunch - everybody this time of year is going to say that that, but we truly believe we have guys that can help us win, and that’s what it’s all about. We’re looking forward to helping them grow as men, helping them become the best possible football player they can become, and we’re looking forward to them growing into young men that will be leaders in their communities. All of those things are very important to us and important to them and their families. We’re going to hold up our end of the bargain, and I know they will as well. With that, you can fire away.”

On his priorities when it came to recruiting after becoming head coach…

“The first thing I did was I began to look at the young men who were committed, by position. The very first guy I watched was Jack [Allison]. I really enjoyed watching his tape. He is a guy that has height, obviously 6-5 or 6-6 maybe…very athletic, in my opinion, for a guy that tall. He throws the ball extremely well, and he is very smart. I know he’s going to work hard and do his very best to help us win.

“It started with Jack, and we just went right down the line of all the guys who were already committed to Miami on offense and then on defense. When I say we, [I mean] the recruiting staff and myself. I didn’t have a staff yet. It started there. As I began to hire staff, I wanted every position coach’s opinion on the guys that were committed to the program. From there, [we] cultivated relationships the best that you can in such a short amount of time.

“As you all know, it took me a minute to get the staff together. I didn’t want to get the staff so fast that I made mistakes just to help recruiting out. I know recruiting is crucial, without a doubt, but I know what’s more crucial is hiring the right men. I felt like I did that. Some of the coaches that already had prior relationship with young men, from the different schools they came from. I don’t know if that was a priority as much as the priority was find the guys we thought could help us win and go after them, regardless of whether they were committed prior or not.”

“I will give a lot of credit to the former staff. I think they did a wonderful job of evaluating and recruiting. Even the five young men that are here today - our midyear enrollees - they were all pretty much done deals, as far as their recruitment. They came because of their relationships with those coaches, but also because they love the University of Miami. When I came in, I basically was on the recruiting visit with them. We had an official visit weekend with the midyear guys…I think all of them, and if not all of them, most all of them. I went along with them, so I was kind of on a recruiting trip myself. I learned a lot about the University. I left that visit so excited about being here. I was excited when I took the job, but I hadn’t been on campus for 30 years, probably. The campus is beautiful, the city is beautiful, what’s been happening nearby campus - it’s much more of a college town feel to it since I was here, in my opinion. I think some of the beauty of the campus, I wasn’t mature enough to see it and understand it. But when I got back here, I was very, very pleased. Again, the former staff did a wonderful job, and I want to give them some credit too.”

On arriving to Miami from the University of Georgia was beneficial in recruiting…

“I think my experience as a head coach at Georgia and my experience as an assistant coach at Florida State, it was certainly helpful. Everybody is kind of a product of their experiences. But I think the fact that I had been a head coach for 15 years was helpful for me to have a vision of what I wanted everything to look like - when it came to a staff, how we’re going to go about our business really, in some many ways. I think 16 years ago, when I went to Georgia as head coach, I really only knew one way, which was quite frankly, Bobby Bowden’s way. I know that’s probably a bad name to say around here [laughter]. But I did have a chance to work for one of the finest men and one of the finest coaches in the business, and when I left there and went to Georgia, I kind of used that template.

“It proved to be very successful. I also learned an awful of things lot along the way. You get to have a starting point, and along the way, you learn more things and what other people do. When you hire coaches from different places and you’re willing to listen, you say, ‘What did you guys do here? What did you do there?’ You learn maybe a little better way here and there to do things. By the time I got here, I had a very good feel of what I wanted it to look like and what it takes to build a championship kind of team.”

On the recruiting process, including late commitments and late de-commitments…

“Recruiting is a relationship game, so to speak. It’s a big part of the process – of young men making decisions. It’s just very common across the country. People use the term ‘flipped’ - guys get flipped one way or another. It’s a very emotional time for a lot of families. I think in the beginning, it’s exciting to get a chance to get offers, and somebody wants to give them a call, somebody wants them to come on campus, and they start doing that. By the end, they’re pretty frazzled. The recruits are, the families are, the coaches are…everybody is getting worn down by the end, because it’s such a grind. I think it’s typical to have that.

“Historically, I’ve been the type of coach that doesn’t want to twist somebody’s arm or doesn’t want to try to coerce a guy into committing right there on the spot, because most times when you do that, it’s not that solid. You may do it out of emotion, or you may do it because he was intimidated by the head coach or whatever. I want guys to really be sure of what they want to do. When you do do it that way, and you have time to develop those relationships, you have less of that.

I don’t know if you can keep it from happening, because once a guy commits somewhere, that’s about where the recruiting really begins. It’s usually not where it ends.”

On if there was a specific position he was targeting when he arrived and saw the current roster…

“You have to not only look at what’s on scholarship or what’s on campus right now, but you also have to look a year ahead to see when these guys graduate, where the holes are. You try to project the numbers you need. There’s a target we had for quarterback, tight end, running back, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, whatever it is …across the board, there’s a target to get you to the number of 85 [scholarships] normally. It’s not quite that big yet, because we’re finishing up on some probation. But in the future, I think next year we’re back to full speed ahead as far as our numbers. That’ll be very nice for next year. You have to try to get enough of everything across the board.

“There wasn’t really one particular spot I would say, although the wide receiver position is one. I think we only have five [players] on scholarship right now, and you had the three that we signed…it’s not quite the number I would like to have. Next year’s class will be very crucial as well in that regard.”

On his conversation with signee Michael Irvin, Jr., whose father played at Miami…

“I think it was pretty obvious that he loved the game of football, he loves Miami and all that. When you’re talking about relationships, you want to get to know someone as a person. I wanted to learn about him - the things that were important to him - and also tell him about how we were going to go about our business here. I think he feels like the track record is pretty good from a football point of view, but I wanted him to understand how important it is to me that he gets his degree, that he behaves, that he grows into a man. I want him to be a good husband, I want him to be a good father, I want him to be a good citizen in whatever community he lands. I want him to be a leader. We talked a lot about that.

“Of course his dad was there [during] the home visit…we did a little talking about The U in general and had some fun. The big thing these guys have to understand is that we’re going to take care of them. It’s truly a ‘Cane for Life’ philosophy…that’s the philosophy I had at Georgia, and that’s same philosophy I’m going to have here. I want our guys to know - our current players and anyone we recruit – that we’re going to take care of you while you’re here, and we want your relationship with this university to bless you for the rest of your life, not just for three or four years.”

On the importance of recruiting Palm Beach County…

“Palm Beach County is great. So is Dade [County], so is Broward [County], so aren’t the rest of the counties all the way up…obviously the state of Florida is so crucial, but obviously Dade, Broward and then you have Palm Beach. How far are we from Palm Beach? Not very far. Great football there. Over the years it has gotten better and better. It used to be Dade was the place, then Broward started getting kind of hot, now Palm Beach is just as hot. There are a lot of wonderful players in that area. Somebody named a stat in those counties – [there are] maybe 90 or so Division I guys, out of just those three counties alone? So we have to do a great there. Palm Beach County is also very near and dear to me because I was a Boca High Bobcat, and I was a Palm Beach County product myself. It worked out very well. Hopefully we get the greatest players in all of those counties.”

On the three players in the class who have family ties to the University of Miami…

“I think former players here love it. If they didn’t want their sons to be here, or their nephews to be here, they wouldn’t be there, that’s for sure. If they didn’t think it was a good place to be, they wouldn’t be here. I think it says a lot.

“I want all of our football alumni to feel very comfortable to come back home and be a part of this program. I want to embrace all of them. As a matter of fact, we’re having an alumni event on the Friday prior to our spring game - just to welcome everybody back, get them all in the same room, tell them how much we care about them, and want them to be a part of everything, but also help them understand the vision and how we’re going to go about our business. It never hurts to have children of tremendous championship athletes. That’s what we have a lot of around here.”

On his impressions of the team’s three freshman linebackers who enrolled in January…

“I was very impressed. Three mid-year enrollees at linebacker – Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman - pretty good ballplayers. People around the country were wanting these guys in their program, and again, that’s part of what I said earlier about giving credit to the last group of coaches. When I got here, they were all committed and they were all coming midyear - there may have been one or two who were making a final decision, but it was all moving in that direction. I’m thankful to those coaches that did a great job, and I’m thankful to these young men and families for their faith and confidence to come.

“Runners, strikers…these are tough, hard-nosed football players, and that’s what you have to have at the linebacker position. They’re going to get a chance to compete. When you’re a midyear enrollee, you learn what to do, you get to compete in the spring and then by the time the fall practices roll around going through the summer with the rest of the team, they’re going to be in great shape with the team. These young men in particular are really going to be on an even keel - or a level playing field, so to speak - when it comes to competition, because they’re going to be learning right along with our current players. If this staff had been here for three years, they’re behind a little bit. They’re rolling in when everybody is learning everything new. A lot of times as a freshmen, that’s what keeps you from playing or starting – somebody doesn’t have as much talent or equal talent, but they have experience. These guys won’t have that to worry about.”

On a breakdown of the team’s skill players that joined the signing class…

“Sam Bruce is a very explosive player, when it comes to changing direction, quickness, toughness. He is a very well-put together guy. He’s a very strong young man. He obviously has very good ball skills. I think a lot of people would say he’s more of a slot receiver, and I think he can obviously play there, but I think he has the ability to get on the edge a little bit as well, with his speed. We’re very pleased.”

“Travis Homer is a very skilled back…he was the second guy I watched after Jack [Allison], and I just had a big grin when I watched the tape. I knew he was going to be a guy that I was thankful that was already committed, and a guy that looked like he was going to stick to his commitment. Like most backs, [he has] great balance, vision, toughness. He’s got some good ball skills. He’s a guy that can catch the ball out of the backfield as well, which is great.”

“Then you go down to Dionte Mullins – he’s got tremendous speed and agility. I think he, like all of them, will get a little more polished in his route-running skills and all of that. When you talk about raw ability at that position, he’s what you’re looking for.”

“Ahmmon [Richards]… very, very smooth athlete. He kind of does things [that] look effortless because of his athleticism. [He is] a guy that also will grow, learning what to do, will grow physically, stronger. Just a great talent base for that position as well. Guys that hopefully will help us win, and that’s what it’s all about.”

On what the experience has been like since taking over as head coach…

“Really if you start from when I took the job, it’s been almost two months now, if not more than two months. It was early December [when] we got going. Out of the fire into the frying pan is a good way of saying it, as far as just the life of a football coach, especially maybe a head football coach. A lot of responsibility. When you have everything in place, and all of your support staff is clicking and taking care of business and understands what you want, there’s some energy and synergy going on. But when you start that train from ground zero and start trying to move that thing - when it comes to hiring people, when it comes to getting to know players, getting to know staff, getting to know administration, president, the alumni - there’s so many things to do in such a short amount of time. It’s a little overwhelming.

“But like I said, this time around, as head coach, I was more excited about it than I was. Last time I was more scared, I had never been a head coach and I’m trying to fake it until I make it. This time around, like I said, I knew I had a very clear vision of what it’s going to take, what I wanted to get done and how I wanted to get it done. I’ve been blessed that the administration has been really helpful to get me the things that I need. I know some things had been happening very quickly, and some things can take time. You can’t snap your fingers and get everything you think you need, but that’s true of any program in America.

“It’s been very, very busy, but it’s been very gratifying. I have a true peace that I’m where God wants me to be. That gives me energy, and a lot of times I’m tired, but I’ll say it’s a good tired. I’m tired, but you know what? I’m enjoying it, and I’m getting closer and closer to having everybody staff-wise settled and everybody understanding what their jobs and responsibilities are going to be, to where we can really start clicking. It’ll be easier to me to do the coaching that I want to do. I’m back in the room installing the offense, coaching quarterbacks and all those kinds of things. That’s really energizing me as well, and I’m really excited about that.”

On how he was received when he went out into the local communities recruiting for the Hurricanes…

“I can’t think of one high school that I went into where it wasn’t almost overwhelming…even the high school coaches’ excitement about what they felt like was going to happen here at Miami. They know that not every one of their players is going to be a guy we can necessarily take - there are 90 great players in those [South Florida] counties, great Division I guys, you can’t get that many. You might get 18 or 25 at the most, usually.

“I felt like they felt like everything their young men would need is going to be right here. If a guy doesn’t choose Miami, it’s not because we’re not going to be working it, or it’s not going to be because we didn’t do our due diligence - some guys are ready to move out of town, and sometimes just flat out, there’s not enough room for everybody. There are always going to be great players in this area that you don’t get. If I sign 25 out of 90, they’ll [say], ‘what about the other 65?’

“But I’m very excited. I felt like we were all very well received as a staff. We’re going to have a bunch of the high school coaches over during the spring time, and just do a lot of clinics with them. There will be a big clinic, but a lot of mini clinics too. We just want to get to know everybody and let them know that we love them and want them to be a big part of this too.”