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Signing Day Press Conference: Asst. Coaches

Feb. 6, 2013


OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE BAJAKIAN

(On the transition and the difficulty of starting from behind in the recruiting process)

"It's always difficult, that's for sure. When you're dealing with time-sensitive issues like recruiting, which are based on relationships, and you start from behind, you have ground to make up, but I think the continuity that we have amongst the staff, the relationships that we have amongst our staff only help in building those relationships with the recruits and moving forward in that direction. It's always a difficult transition. We have been through it before, and we can anticipate the questions and we can anticipate the problems, and that helps in the whole process."

"I think too, not to be understated, Coach Elder and our previous staff recruited the entire state of Tennessee and had great relationships with a lot of the coaches, and frankly, a lot of the recruits, so he, in particular, was able to come in with a solid foundation on the personalities of a lot of these guys and share that with the rest of his coaches, so that also was very helpful."

(On the importance of adding talent in quarterback and wide receiver positions)

"It was very important. Obviously, a lot of production was lost to the NFL, and number one, you always want to create competitive situations, so we feel great with the guys we have on the roster, but anytime you can add talent at any position, particularly at the quarterback and the wide receiver positions, you're only going to improve...not just from an overall talent, but you're going to force the guys already on the roster to step up their game. We're excited with what we were able to add at both of those positions."

(On quarterback Riley Ferguson)
"Again Coach Jones said it, it's about relationships and relationships are built on trust. Soon as it became evident that Tyler Bray was no longer going to be here and that we only had two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, we called up Riley and addressed the issue. We told him we're going to need to bring in another quarterback. Since early in our arrival, we made that clear. Again, a great opportunity to create competition."

(On looking forward to next year)
"Sure, we've started even before we got here. Building those relationships with underclassmen, today was a great day. I can't tell you how many 2014 recruits we were able to get on the phone today with Coach Jones and position coaches. Really starting to exercise our relationships with those guys and grow the program there."

TIGHT ENDS/SPECIAL TEAMS COACH MARK ELDER

(On the transition and the difficulty of starting from behind in the recruiting process)

"To build upon that, the fact that we've worked together and we're so familiar with each other that helps out quite a bit. The support here at Tennessee is unbelievable, so that certainly helps make the transition a little bit smoother as well."

(On the difference of recruiting the state of Tennessee now compared to at Cincinnati)

"Well, being the state university it's been a great reception. The coaches have been remarkable and they're great people, but when obviously when you walk in with a power T on your chest, they're a little bit more welcoming and a little more excited to see you. That was a really good transition and a positive."

(On acquiring Woody Quinn, and how a volleyball player translates to football now)
"Woody has a great story; he really does. A guy that played high school football early in his career, and then really starting going the volleyball path, just because he was a national, big-time guy, big-time recruit for volleyball, he went that direction, but then missed football. Through a lot of talking with his parents and family friends, he decided to go back to football. And when we watched his film, we really loved his film, and when we found out that was the first time he'd played football in five years, it was a no-brainer. To think that this guy who's 6'6'', and who hasn't had shoulder-pads and a helmet on in five years is remarkable, and I think he's going to be a great story here."

(On UT & in-state relationships)
"Well I think that we're going to have great relationships in this state because we're going to recruit this state well. We're going to put our emphasis on this state, and we've got great people on this staff. So looking forward, I mean it's going to be a great relationship within the state. I think the football here is really good, you can certainly sign a number of guys in the state and win championships with the guys in the state. We are going to own this state."

OFFENSIVE LINE COACH DON MAHONEY

(On the transition and the difficulty of starting from behind in the recruiting process)

"I think too the fact that us knowing about some of the prospects allowed us to catch up to speed of exactly where we were in the recruiting of the young men, and again working with each other as we have been for us three, the whole time, allowed the transition to be smooth."

(On offensive line and three signees)
"Yeah, it was huge with having Brett Kendrick already committed and Austin Sanders as well. As Coach talked about, the relationships and building that right away with those guys that had a passion for Tennessee. The excitement and pride they have for playing here and that being huge enough to stand loyal. Tremendous family, and just again, their commitment and loyalty was outstanding. So we just kept going through the process with both of them."

"Obviously Brett can play tackle and guard, extremely athletic, watched him play basketball last week, winning program, back-to-back state champions are things that Coach talked about and we looked for in a profile. We are excited with him having been committed when we came in. Austin Sanders, again along the same lines. Athletic, can play guard and tackle, and one of the first commitments here in this class. Again, a tremendous background with his family.

"Then Dylan Wiesman, a guy that we've known about for three years. That's the thing about recruiting, it's not just a year or a couple of months; it's over a period in time in which you develop that relationship and trust with them and their families. Just working with him for three years, knowing his makeup, his work ethic, his values, school being important, all those things are a great additions for us. Those three guys coming in have me extremely excited for the future and where we are at."

DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH WILLIE MARTINEZ

(On differences with this year recruiting in the SEC from previous experiences)
"It is pretty similar. I think Coach presented it very well in the things he said. Like he said 31 days, opportunities that we had to try to build on relationships that we didn't have with the prospects and their parents. I thought we did a great job. I thought the entire staff did a great job. They felt the atmosphere, the family atmosphere and the great tradition here at Tennessee. That is what we wanted to get across."

(On the changes seen between SEC experiences)
"It really hasn't changed. It is the same as all. The great thing about it is we are a great institution and that gives us the opportunity to recruit the best of the best. Like Coach Jones has said we have a great brand. That is what is so exciting when you go out. We select the young men that we want to go after and it is an easy sell. The program sells itself. They have to get to know us. That is what I think we were able to do for 31 days. We changed some lives and changed people's thinking. This is a great place and everybody know it. Across the nation everybody knows the University of Tennessee is a great program and that is what is exciting. That was the fun part and it hasn't changed. The only thing that has changed is back then there wasn't tweeting and now there is tweeting. It is staying on top of the social media but that is where is has really changed."

(On what lives were changed)
"The relationships that we have built. Maybe some of the kids who weren't giving a look at the University of Tennessee, they thought about it. They thought about it really long and really hard. The ones that we are so proud and able to coach now when they are here, it is exciting. I am talking about coaching staffs, high school coaches, community leaders; how we carried ourselves as a staff. Our fan base is just phenomenal. It is just a great brand."

(On if he's encouraged moving forward)
"Absolutely. It sells itself. It's an awesome place."

(On on the new players in the secondary)
"That's a great question. I'm excited. If you look at those five kids, they're electrifying with the ball in their hands and they wanted to play defense. They'll help us in other areas as far as returners, but they were leaders of their team, whether they were a quarterback, a wide receiver, a three-sport star in there, you have guys that play multiple sports, you have guys that are great athletes and have great leadership skills so that's what I take from those five. That's what's exciting and I want people to notice that, because that's really what you need in the back end. You need guys that understand the game of football from an offensive standpoint when you're playing back there on defense. They love ball and they were quarterbacks, wide outs, running backs, and based off of my experience and the people that I've surrounded myself with and the people that have made a difference in my life and career, those are the ones that have success."

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOHN JANCEK

(On coming short on linebackers)
"We signed one in this class, Corey Vereen, he is a mid-year. Certainly we would like to add a couple more. We will continue to recruit and look at guys as they come in. We have a great brand. We know that we are going to attract great linebackers in the future, but it is also about getting the guys that fit your needs and your profiles as well. We are going to continue to do our due diligence and see what is out there but we are also going to make sure they fit our profile. Make sure they are worthy of playing in the SEC."

(On how much immediate playing time is important to recruits)
"Immediate playing time is always a consideration for the prospects. Coach Jones said it earlier, there's no cookie-cutter plan for all the prospects. All of them have different things that are of interest to them. They're all going to base their decision off different areas, whether it's academics, playing time, all those things do come in as a factor but I would say that it is something that most kids would consider."

(On if the defense changing back to a 4-3 was important to recruiting)
"Absolutely. We wanted to make sure that, first of all, when we looked at the film that these young men would fit that profile, that would excel in a 4-3 defense. You are looking for a different body type, you are looking for a different type of player at defensive line and really at the linebacker positions. That was very important. I think it's exciting. Our players, I know, are excited to get back to a 4-3. It's the experience of this entire staff, not just myself, of being in a 4-3 that I think is going to make it all work.

DEFENSIVE LINE COACH STEVE STRIPLING

(On Jaylen Miller, Jason Carr and Malik Brown )
"I think the model we are looking for is athletic, big, competitive and intelligent young men. I think all three of the young men that we signed can fit that mold. I think there are very athletic as a group. They had over 50 sacks between the three of them in high school. I think they have potential so we are really excited about the future."

(On seeing one of these guys as a big defensive tackle)
"What we talk about is putting the young men into a position that they can be most successful they can be. So we don't talk a lot about whether you are an end or a tackle right away. We talk about coming in, developing and polishing your skills. We are going to find the best place to make your successful. They all have great growth potential. They all have athletic ability and are very intelligent and competitive. This is the type of young men we are looking for."

(On how moving to the SEC changes what he looks for in recruiting defensive linemen)

"I think, obviously, that the success of a defense is predicated by the success of their defensive line, with being able to stop the run and also then to apply pressure to the quarterback. That hasn't changed, what I think changes is your style. What we're looking for moving forward is athletic young men that can make plays. We're not asking them just to be a space eater, we're asking them to go be active and make plays. We'll be an aggressive defense, and they're (the d-line) will be a vital part of it, so we're looking for play makers not just space eaters."

(On staying calm when a committed player like Jason Carr goes on a visit to another school)

"You always try to stay calm. It doesn't always work, but that is an exciting time. Again, I give Jason and his father a lot of credit that they were loyal to Tennessee and they always have been. There was great direction by his father. Again, it was relationships, as Coach Jones has talked about. Getting to know him, and having him trust us as coaches that we're really going to look after his best interests."

RUNNING BACKS COACH JAY GRAHAM

(On Vols WR signee MarQuez North)
"Well first of all, he is a great young man from a great family. When he came to campus here the Law program did a great job of showing him everything because academics are very important to him. I think building a relationship with all of the coaches on the staff, that was something that was really important to him. He wanted to play in the SEC on a big stage, and the history here at the wide receiver position was something we talked about and that he liked."

(On the juggling act of recruiting multiple guys for the same position in case one falls)
"It's tough, but the key to it is you have to recruit all of them. It's what we do. That's the most important thing: you have to recruit all of them, so you're on the phone a lot. I think that's the key to it."

(On difficulties recruiting under this time-setting)
"When you come in with a new staff, it's very difficult, and like we talked about, dealing with the time, having 31 days to get everything set up with the prospects and building relationships with them, it was more difficult."

(On offering and determining playing-time with all the running backs)
"I think that all running backs want the ball, and that's important. They want to play early, and a lot of times, they feel like they still will play early. That's the thing about running backs - they have confidence and they have confidence that they can compete whether you have four guys in a signing class or five guys. That's the key, just making sure they understand that this is the best place for them, the best opportunity. We have a great running back tradition here, and selling that tradition is very important."

(On Jabo Lee) "I've known Jabo for a long time, a couple of years here, and the thing I know about Jabo is that he's very tough. He's a tough football player. He has the thing we were looking for. We were looking for a young man with speed and who could create explosive plays. That's what he has. Over his high school career I watched him play a lot, and he's always produced. He had some injuries his senior year, nothing major, but I like his ability."

WIDE RECEIVERS COACH ZACH AZZANNI

(On calling 2014 recruits today)
"I do not think we need to fast forward because we hit the ground running today. We all woke up with the mindset of okay, lets get this 2013 class signed and lets roll on this 2014 class. What we did in 31 days was remarkable and now we are going to have 365 days to do it. I am excited about it. We made a lot of in-roads today with coaches and kids that I think will really start the fireworks."

(On how those recruiting in-roads were created)
"I think the class that we signed and some of the kids that jumped in the boat and had faith in our program- coach Jones, our staff and Tennessee, their faith in what we are going to do here showed some of these guys in the 2014 class that these guys are for real. I think the word is out that we are doing it the right way and we are going to continue to do it the right way."

(On the 2014 NCAA recruiting changes)
"Well... it eliminated our vacation. That is number one. But seriously it is going to change it a lot. As of August 1st, we get to contact these juniors. Us building a relationship now and getting them on the phone as fast as we can because by August 1st they are going to know who they want to talk to and who they do not want to talk to because their phones are going to be blowing up. We have not sat down as a staff and mapped it our yet exactly, but we will have a plan on how we want to attack on August 1st. From now until August 1st just constantly building those relationships so when August 1st does hit, these kids will have an idea who they are going to be picking up the phone for."

(On what traits enable some freshmen receivers to play sooner than others)
"Mentality and maturity. Probably every position is the same from that regard. Work ethic and how quickly they can pick up the offense, how they can pick up the endurance of playing quick, their physicality. We are lucky that the kids we signed here are physically pretty darn close to being able to at least compete. Do they have to develop? Sure they do, but mentality and maturity really separate freshmen all around the country from playing or not playing."

(On surprises, and why some recruits hesitate to commit) "I don't think it's so much pulling-the-trigger on Tennessee as much as it is the relationships. It is what it is. Those guys had another year to build a relationship - they've been talking to those kids every day for a year. We're trying to get them to jump in a pool blind-folded right now and just trust us in three weeks and build a relationship. That's what it's about - it's about relationship-building right now. Parents want to know their kids are going to be taken care of. Kids want to know where they're going to be developed the best and have a relationship with a coach who's coaching them the best. Also our players, they want to get to know our players more. And they've been to some places a number of times and our place maybe not as many times, so it's about relationships, and that's why we're going to do a good job with this next class."

LINEBACKERS COACH TOMMY THIGPEN

(On the similarities between his first signing class at Auburn and here now with UT)
"I thought it was pretty intense. When I was at Auburn, our first year there I think we ended up in the top 15. You really only have 31 days to run and we call that being in the fourth quarter. It is like you are down 28-0 and you are trying to make a comeback with five minutes left on the clock. You need four quarters for this. I thought we ran as well as we could. At Auburn we ended up falling short on a lot of kids but in the next three years, we finished up in the top ten."

(On being in the mix with some big time players)
"We have a great head coach and he is a great closer. We just ran out of time. I think next year when we have 365 days as Zach said, it is going to make a difference. We are in the first quarter right now in the data mining process, finding all the kids and seeing where they are at, who are the decision makers. There were a lot of things we had to find out as we went along. I think that with the intensity of the staff we have, we will be competitive year in and year out."

(How an extra amount of time would have helped the recruiting class)
"This year you would have had more of a pool of players. The way (recruiting) is set up now, back when I was in high school there were no cell phones, there was no social media, and I say that because back in the days when your phone rang you had to be at home at that given time to build a relationship. At 7 o'clock, if you were not by that telephone and did not get a chance to talk to that coach once a week it was hard to develop a relationship. At the time, if you go back and do the history on it, relationships were not really built back then. Whoever was the hottest, that is where kids usually went... but you could flip a guy on signing day because you were the most popular school. Now with the way things are set up with telephones and Twitter and all of this, relationships are now built that are pretty solid. Now when we walk in there in the fourth quarter and someone has talked to that kids for 300 and something days, you are kind of behind. You are trying to climb the ladder as fast as you can but eventually you just run out of time. You need those 365 days now with the way (recruiting) is set up to build those relationships."

(On the importance of Tennessee establishing a recruiting foothold in Atlanta area)
"I think it's a tremendous task, making sure we get those of kids. Driving from Atlanta to here, it was only three hours, and it was a straight shot - you go up I-75 to I-40 and you're here, so it was an easy task to get here. When I was at North Carolina, I just remember that Tennessee and Atlanta, those high schools I always thought were together. When I'd go through a school, like Tucker High School or another school where Tennessee had a lot of great players, I always thought that Tennessee was the only team that could really compete with Georgia. I never saw Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech or Auburn as being a factor when it came to recruiting the city of Atlanta. But back then I remember that the great players that if they didn't go to Georgia, usually it was Tennessee that the great players had to compete with."

 

 

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