WKU coach Willie Taggart and recruiting coordinator Eric Mathies met with media this afternoon to discuss their 2011 recruiting class – ranked No. 1 in the Sun Belt by both Rivals.com and Scout.com.
Here are the snippets:
Taggart on the class as a whole:
“This just goes to show that we don’t have to settle for anything, we have everything we need here to be successful and we’re going to go after the best no matter who else is going after them. That’s what it’s going to take because we’re going to have to play the best. To see that we can do that is great for our university and the guys that are here – showing that we can go out and compete with the best.
“It’s always good when you have a whole year to plan, everyone knows each other and knows what we’re going to be about – especially in recruiting. It was great to have a year to build relationships and we didn’t have as much time to do that last year.”
Taggart on the growing connections in Florida:
“It’s good to go back and be able to get guys where you have connections – that’s a big part of recruiting, going back to where you’ve had success recruiting. And going against some of the schools we went against to get these guys to leave Florida and come up to Kentucky to play football with us is big time. It’s huge for our program as we continue to spread the red and continue to go out nationally and do that.
“The more success you have doing something, the more your name gets out there and that’s what we’ll have to continue to do. Then we’ll have a better opportunity just like some of these other schools. Kids know it – they watch TV, kids look at Rivals, kids see that other kids can come up here (from Florida) and have success. They see the direction our program is going.”
Mathies on addressing recruiting needs in 2011:
“We were a 2-10 football team and had a lot of needs. We had to build some depth in positions and we addressed that. But there’s a lot of versatility in this class, a lot of guys that can do some different things as they mature and get better as football players and understanding system and techniques. A lot of versatility in this group – one guy might come in as a linebacker or might play safety or grow and become a defensive end. That’s exciting because they’re just going to build on the group from last year and continue to strengthen our football team. I can’t wait to get them here in the summer.
“We wanted to address needs up front on both sides. We wanted some offensive linemen and we did that, and we got some pretty darn good ones that I think can grow and possibly at some point become all-conference players. We wanted to address needs on defense up front also, we signed two ends and two tackles – and that helps with depth and with size. Jamichael Payne is a 300-plus young man, and he’ll help us with some size. We also wanted to find the best possible players we could – guys that could play multiple positions by the time their career is over.”
Taggart on adding running back depth in Quarterrio Morgan and Marquis Sumler – two former BCS commits:
“I’d like to think Coach T has a little credibility with running backs. Seriously though, showing what we were able to do at Stanford with Toby Gerhart and then do the same thing here with Bobby Rainey is big. We shouldn’t ever have a problem recruiting running backs. As we continue to progress as a football team it’ll only get better. … I planning on getting top running back every year, and one of these years, we’ll get the top guy, you watch.”
Taggart on the promise of having a chance to play right away influencing recruiting:
“With recruiting, a lot of kids are told some things and then they get there and it’s totally different. When you talk a game and can actually show them they can do it – it means a lot for a teenager that’s leaving home and putting trust in you. We’ve been able to show that and as a football team it makes us better overall. It makes the guys already here work harder and the guys coming in work even harder.
“That’s how it’s going to be around here, in the NFL if you want to play you’ve got to take someone’s job – that’s how it’s going to be around here.”
Taggart on sticking with certain players who were already committed elsewhere:
“Those are guys we’d been on since day one. At the same time the other schools did, and we stayed with those relationships and we always say it’s not over with until that first Wednesday in February. We always keep fighting and if we can get any kid on campus we’ve got a chance. Every time we got a kid on campus, it sold them. All of them have a perception of how it is in Kentucky, and then they get here and it’s totally different than what they expected – and they love it. Our coaches do a good job of giving out information about the school, but WKU is what always seals the deal.”
Taggart on being ranked No. 1 in the SBC for the second straight year:
“What means the most to me is that we got Division 1 football players that wanted to be here. That’s what means the most to me. We’re going to get their all and I know that, they wanted to be here. They had some pretty good options elsewhere and decided to come here and that’s what gets you excited. I feel like every last one of these guys is No. 1 and they’ll all help our football program.”
Taggart on whether or not this is the best class on paper WKU has ever had:
“I would say probably since we’re Division 1 now. But that’s all on paper. Don’t be paper champions, come here and take care of your business.”
Taggart on the amount of tight ends in the current class:
“The first year at Stanford, we went through eight running backs – unheard of and we said we’d never go through that again. The first here as head coach at WKU, we went through all the tight ends – and said we’d never go through that again. We’re building and getting guys that fit the system and as we go on, you’ll see that. The tight end is a big part of our offense, and injuries hurt there last year. More depth will always help.”
Taggart on the attitude of his current signing class:
“These guys don’t know anything about all that negative stuff (from a losing streak), all they know is having fun and winning ballgames. A lot of the guys we’ve recruited are winners and they understand what it takes. Fresh blood is always good, it makes you more of a competitor. But the current guys here are starting to realize that they’re still pretty good, too. They’re starting to become true believers – and we’ve got to get them all believing that they’re the best thing since sliced bread.
“You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. As a program we’re getting better. Our New Year’s resolution was to compete and win for 365 straight days in 2011. We’ve been competing and we’ve been winning. We’re on day 33 and it was a big day for the Tops. Our guys are buying into that resolution.”
Taggart on the excitement of the past few weeks leading to Signing Day:
“It’s fun seeing your vision and what you thought this program could be is starting to come together. From a recruiting standpoint we’re seeing we can get some really good football players in here that can help, and that’s exciting. And some of the teams we’re beating for these kids really fires you up. Wait till we start going bowling – then you’ll see what we can make this football program be.”
Taggart on Florida transfer Jon Dowling:
“Eligibility-wise he’ll sit out (in 2011), but he’ll be in spring ball and practicing on scout team and helping our football team try to be a Sun Belt champion. My expectations for Jonathan are to be the best football player he can be, be the best student that he can be and have the best character that he can have – that’s the expectations for all of the players. They’re all going to be that way and represent this university to the best of their ability. They’re going to give their all to this university because this university is going to give its all to them.
“I want him to be the best safety in the country. I want him to compete for that. But if he can help us on offense, we’re going to do it. We’ll think outside the box and put our best players on the field. If we have a guy that (can play both ways), we’ll do it. He’s shown on film that he can, and we’ll see how it goes.
“It’s all about mentality and how you approach things. It goes back to not settling. We’re not going to settle. We’re chasing greatness and now we’re starting to catch a little excellence. If we chase greatness, we’ll do big things. We want to be a big-time program and get big-time players – and we want to win a lot of ballgames. And guys want to be a part of rebuilding this program. That’s the most exciting part, all these guys wanted to be here. It’s not a last minute deal with these guys just to fill a class, these are guys that could have gone elsewhere and wanted to be here at WKU. That’s important.”
Taggart on Kentucky transfer and former Bowling Green High School standout Ryan Wallace:
“We’re still waiting to see on his eligibility but he’s in our program. We’ll start him out at tight end in the spring and see what he can do for us. Hopefully he can come in and help us there. Ryan is a great addition to our football program in a lot of ways and he’s going to help build the program the way we want it built with character and attitude.”
Taggart on 2010 three-star safety Cam Thomas, who wasn’t eligible last season but will be this year:
“He’s taking care of his business and we expect for Cam to be with us when we start in the fall. A lot of these guys will be a lot more mature and they’ll have a better understanding of what we expect and that’ll make things a lot smoother.”
Taggart on whether or not 26 additions will be too many:
“We have a very well thought out plan and we had a lot of scholarships last year that we didn’t fill, so we’ll have enough and we feel good about the numbers that we’ll have. You can only play 25 though.”
Taggart on what the excitement around this class could do for fan interest:
“Our fans are excited about football and I know they want us to be successful, they’ve shown us that. We’re successful in recruiting right now and they’re showing their appreciation. All we can ask is that they’ll let us earn their support – and we will. We’ll earn it and we’ll do it the right way. We’re build a solid foundation that can be sustained and be able to have for a long time. We want them to let us earn their support and we’ll do it.
“We’re going to keep building and we’re going to keep them happy.”
Taggart also spoke on the defensive coordinator opening:
“It didn’t matter who I brought in here as a defensive coordinator, if we didn’t have good players, that guy would be in trouble. We wanted to put all our focus on recruiting first.
“After this day’s over with, we’ll put our focus back on that side of the program and make sure we get the best guy in here for WKU so we can be successful and make sure it’s someone that wants to be here.
“Interviews will continue until I make a decision. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’ll be someone good. When we lose someone, we replace them with someone better – so we’ll have to find someone really good.”