Baylor Football

Transcript: Matt Rhule's National Signing Day press conference

February 6, 2019
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Baylor head coach Matt Rhule

Opening Statement

“Today’s an exciting day for us, adding four more players to a class that we’re already extremely excited about. Nine of those young men showed up here in the winter and started the spring. We’re really excited about the young men who made the decision to come here today, we’re still waiting on one tonight. We’ll see if there’s a fifth member of the class or not. We’re excited and we really believe in the overall vision. I think at the end of the day these are all young men who all came here for the right reason. They all want to be part of something special. They all want to be part of a university that stands for something and be a part of a football program on the rise.”

On adding another defensive lineman in Garmon Randolph…

“I thought Evan Cooper did a great job managing that process. He’s someone who came to us late. He’s a tight end by trade, most people recruited him as a tight end, and he might end up doing that for us someday. The more versatile you are, the better. But we just have a vision of a guy who is 6-foot-7 and can run who with the right development can be a special physical athlete. He really can bring a pass rush to the team. Garmon is a really good young man who is a triple-jump athlete. At his size as he develops and fills out, I’m excited about what he’s going to be able to do. His brother plays football, he is a defensive end at the Citadel, his father was a football player, so he comes by it honestly. But it’s hard to find that length, and I think our guys have a great vision of what those guys can do.”

On offensive lineman Elijah Ellis…

“Elijah [Ellis] is a young man who came to our camp and I thought was as talented as anyone I’ve ever seen at that age. 6-foot-6 and 37-inch arms, which are freakishly long arms. He had a lot of academic work to do, that’s why we didn’t sign him in December. He’s been committed to us for a long time, and to his credit he’s worked hard and did a great job on his standardized test and he’ll be here. It’s great to have someone coming from Paris, Texas, they had a great season this year. He’s an offensive lineman and we hope we don’t have to play him right away. We want to give him some time. But I think he’s going to be a huge, huge man, and I really like his demeanor and his personality. I think he’ll be a great offensive lineman for us.”

On the mindset for today after signing many players in December…

“We went out and got Noah [Rauschenberg]. We felt like coming out of the bowl game, and Connor [Martin] tearing his ACL on that blocked kick. We have a lot of confidence in John Mayers and Jay Sedwick, but we thought this would be a great time to recruit a kicker as well, just to have competition. That kind of took one spot and we felt like hey we need another defensive end, which is where Garmon [Randolph] came in, and Elijah [Ellis] doing a great job academically was awesome for us. Then Yusuf [Terry], someone who has been committed to us for a long time, we have a lot of confidence in him. Him cementing the deal today was really big for us. It was really for me finding the best available players than trying to address a need or two. We’re always trying to find offensive linemen and pass rushers.”

On how being tied to open NFL jobs affected potential signees…

“It certainly makes a lot of questions. On junior days, the questions are like, ‘Coach, how long are you going to be here?’ I hate talking about me, but as I’ve said to guys I think if you want to go to the NFL and there’s a place where there’s lots of assistant coaches who have either played or coached in the NFL, going to a place where NFL teams are going in to talk to the head coach, then this is probably a pretty good place to help you go where you want to get to. If I didn’t go back to New York in my hometown to do it, then I don’t know if I’ll do it. That was an honor that an NFL team would talk to me, but it was really an honor for our staff and our players. I just think it speaks volumes about what the guys here have done. So people ask questions about it, but you know what, in today’s college football coaches don’t hang around one way or another for real long. Either you’re on your way to getting fired or guys take another job. I just think I found a job here at Baylor that really fits me and I think it’s a university that fits me, and it’s a place I certainly hope I have a chance to be at a long time. I’ve been really honest with people about that, and I think when people have asked me, they’ve appreciated it. Some of the people understood it, but that’s something I’ve certainly had to address.”

On the impact only having room for a few more signees has on what they’re working on…

“2020s and just the opportunity get around the state of Texas and visit with people and talk with people and see coaches. The Texas High School Coaches Association had eight regional meetings this past Saturday and we were at five of them. Doing 2020 work, and also it’s really important to us that we recruit Texas the right way. We call it straight-line recruiting where we recruit strictly through the head coach, so we make sure we go out and build relationships with coaches, so we can make sure we do it at the highest level we possibly can. That’s been a real focus for us over the last month.”

On recruiting in Texas…

“It’s a topic of conversation so I think a lot of coaches are talking about it. When I came to Texas, when I hired Joey [McGuire] and David [Wetzel] and Shawn [Bell], they were saying this is the way to do it. And I think it is the right way. I’m the son of a high school coach. No one knows more about a player than a high school coach, especially here in Texas where all the athletes are so blessed to have the amount of coaches in house that we have. We wanted to do it that way, and I think we started that way from day one. I think it’s why we’ve been able to build the relationships we’ve been able to in this short amount of time. We don’t offer kids without letting the coach know. We don’t go around the head high school coach, we want to honor that position. I think it’s something that the Texas High School Coaches Association had started the conversation on straight line recruiting, just making sure we preserve what we have. Sometimes when you have something great, if you don’t take care of it, it can dilapidate. High school football in the state of Texas is awesome, and recruiting in Texas is awesome, so it’s just been an effort to maintain doing it the right. I’m proud that’s the way we’ve been doing it.”

On meeting the team needs in recruiting…

“I think you’re supposed to say yes, you feel like you’ve met all the needs you have, but I don’t know necessarily that I do. I think we took some positions where we took the best players available. We have a lot of running backs on the board. We try to find versatile athletes. I meet with guys that are sophomores and freshmen, worried about what position they’re playing. My goal is to make sure that every player is developed by the time they’re a senior so that they have their best year their senior year and go off to play in the NFL. Would I love maybe one more defensive end or one more wideout? Yeah, probably. But I just like going out trying to get the best available players and letting fate take its toll. We evaluate the players and give them stars and rankings based upon where they are as a high school junior or senior. Well, that takes a lot of maturity into it. A lot of other guys maybe aren’t quite as physically developed yet and they have a jump in the next two or three years. There’s maybe an area or two that we haven’t addressed. I think in the last two years, bringing in two specialists, I think we’ve done as good a job as possible of getting the roster whole. In the spring, we’ll see if there’s a position where we might need another guy at.”

On wide receiver Yusuf Terry…

“Yusuf is tall, he’s physical. He was a really accomplished ice hockey player. There’s a tremendous public ice hockey league in Philadelphia, it’s really pretty cool. His grandfather works at the local rink. Yusuf is a competitor. I think the biggest thing you can say about him is he’s tough, physically tough, mentally tough. I like the edge that he’ll bring. He’s competitive, he’s athletic, but I think the biggest thing is his best days are ahead of him. He’ll get here and really shine in our strength program. He’ll get big, he’ll get strong, he’ll get fast, but he’ll always have that edge, that toughness that I think separates him from a lot of other guys.”

On Baylor’s national brand…

“I think we’ve been able to go places and sell the vision for what we think the program can be, and what we think it should be. I think there’s a lot of kids that grew up really liking Baylor, a lot of guys that grew up wanting to be Robert Griffin. And I think as we go out there there’s a lot of people, whether it’s the faith-based, Baptist aspect of it that appeals to their family or the opportunity to come here and get an elite education, those things have appealed to people. As we’ve said ‘Hey, just come visit,” you know you can come visit and maybe you love it, maybe you don’t. I think a lot of people come here and say ‘Wow, I really liked that place.” So, I think it’s not for everyone around the country, we don’t want to major in that. We’re trying to stay here. But, when there’s a position we need that we’re not able to get here in Texas, we’re going to go out of state to see if we can find somebody. I think a lot of people all across the country have come and visited and said ‘Wow, what a really special university this is.” Even size wise, do I want to go to a big school? Do I want to go to a 40,000-student school? You have a chance to come here, be around 17,000, be in that mid-major, still tier one research university, just opportunities to do so many different things. I think when we share what we’re doing academically and they see the progress athletically, I think a lot of people want to take a chance on going to Baylor. When they come meet our players, they’re saying it’s been a good decision. I think nationally people are recognizing what’s here.”

On the early signing period…

“The early signing period this year with the bowl game was probably as hard of a three weeks as I’ve ever been a part of. I thought our coaches did an absolutely elite job of recruiting, of getting out there and doing it the right way. I’ll say this, I thought our families – one thing that we think we do special in recruiting is every player, every family member comes over to our house, that’s not easy on [my wife] Julie but she does it. Our coaches, their wives, their kids are at all the different events. Because when people come here, we want them to be a part of our family. We want them to feel that, the relationships that have already been built here. That’s a lot, come into the season, bowl game prep, packed into a short amount of time. I thought our coaching staff’s families did an elite job, as well as a lot of people on campus that go out of their way to help us in recruiting. I love the early signing period; I think it’s great. I think it allows kids to have a chance to make their decision and go back to just being a high school student, being a teenager again. And it allows us to turn our focus to the future and also on our team. It feels right to me and if a kid doesn’t sign early, they then have a chance to make their decision now.”

On the timeline for spring practice…

“We’re going to do three days before spring break and then we’ll go after spring break to finish on the 13th.”

On building the program after a bowl win and three recruiting classes…

“We’re moving. I walked into the worked the other day and saw what some of our guys look like. Man, they’re getting big, they’re getting strong. I saw James Lynch, Blake Lynch, Clay Johnston, Ross Matiscik and this maturity, the mentality that’s prevalent. We’re looking at some of our young players, guys who showed up in June and now it’s February. Josh Landry has put on 26 pounds, Connor Galvin has put on 18 pounds, Jackson Kimble has put on 26 pounds. I mean, you talk about guys who show up at 276 and they’re 302 at the beginning, already through their first offseason. We’re making progress. The guys are working really, really hard. But there’s a lot of work ahead of us. I think we got to the point where the roster is somewhat stabilized. This senior class that’s coming up, this next year’s team will be dependent upon if our senior class is ready to take the reins and really lead, and if those guys that are true juniors are ready to now be upperclassmen. So we’ll work on that really hard the next four weeks, spring break and then after that.”

On the safeties coaching position…

“I promoted Marcus Satterfield. Marcus had been my offensive coordinator, has been a head coach, he worked in recruiting with us this year. He’s one of us, he knows how we do things. He’ll be the third guy on offense that has been an offensive coordinator for me. Those guys all bare the frustration of working for me. But, promoting Marcus on the offensive side of the ball, naming Mike Siravo as the special teams coordinator, which he basically did last year with Francis [Brown], making that title official. I’m going to make Joey McGuire the associate head coach and move him over to defense. Joey’s been a great head coach, always been more of a defensive-minded guy and I think he’ll bring tremendous energy and juice to the defense.

We have a good staff, we have good people. We lost a couple guys, some younger guys. Damiere Shaw and Matt Lombardi and Cedric Whitaker, guys who were really integral behind the scenes. I want to as often as I can promote from within and keep building sort of our way of doing things.”

On Joey McGuire’s role with the defense…

“Not 100 percent sure yet, whether he’ll be with the outside linebackers or defensive line. Have a lot of confidence in Joey and lean on him a lot. So, I think with him moving to associate head coach – Francis [Brown] was an associate head coach for me, was amazing – and I think Joey will pick that up and do a great job. Again, I think he’ll bring a lot of juice and energy to our defense, which is exciting.”

On who will coach the cornerbacks…

“Evan Cooper will work with the corners and Phil [Snow] will stay with the safeties. I hired Coop as the 10th assistant last year to work with the secondary and he kind of gravitated down because we had some developmental guys. But, he’ll go back to his natural position working with the corners and Phil with the safeties.”

On how the atmosphere at McLane Stadium and fan support affects recruiting…

“I think it’s a lot of the reason why we’ve been able to get the players we’ve been able to get. We had a lot of recruits come to the bowl game as well. I just think when people come and see what game day is like at McLane, when they see the support, when they see the Baylor Line, when they see the students, when they see the amount of people that came to the bowl game, when they feel the energy, they feel the juice, that in and of itself is a brand. We all want to be associated with winning and we all want to be associated with excitement. And game days here, hopefully we do a lot of winning and it’s really exciting. There’s nothing more important for us to continue the momentum and continue to improve recruiting than to have an elite home-game atmosphere, that we fill the stands and we’re as loud and raucous a place as possible, especially with seven home games next year. What an exciting happening. So, I think that will be really important as it has been to continue to make it where we want recruits to come to our games. Come to our games, see what we’ve got going on. Our fans have been awesome so far, and I thought the bowl game was just - to be on the road and have that atmosphere was elite.”

On the early-enrollees progressing…

“I haven’t really seen anything from them because I’ve been on the road. But I know they’re doing a good job. They’re a good group of young people, they’re working hard. I think Blake Bedier got here at 285, he’s already 297. So, they’re enjoying the meal plans, they’re enjoying eating, they’re enjoying working and they seem like workers. I come in here and I see Niadre (Zouzoua) all hours of the day, just trying to do more football. They’re a hungry group, and that’s what you want. You want to bring people in that aren’t along for the ride, that they’re here to declare their destiny. And I see that from those guys.”

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Transcript: Matt Rhule's National Signing Day press conference

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