Feb. 1, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana head coach Terry Hoeppner took time out of a busy signing day to speak with the media about the 2006 Indiana Football Signing Class.
"Thanks for being here. If you've heard me talk before, you know, this is one of the big days in a college football coach's life because of everything that goes into it. In some cases, years of relationship building and the unknown and excitement of sitting around the fax machine at 7 o'clock in the morning waiting for the fax to go off. Who is going to be first? Who is going to be first? I wasn't surprised today who was first. It is also State of the Union time, so I think it is a good time to reflect on the State of Our Union now. Right now, we are around 60 degrees and sunny and that is exactly how I feel about me and about IU Football. Tomorrow morning at 6 a.m., we are going to be running around in Mellencamp. I really feel excited right now about where we are.
I have to say first of all. The assistant coaches did a fantastic job of putting closure on this recruiting class. Not having a head coach out there could be, not in all cases maybe, but could be a negative because I am supposed go and close up. I was schedule to be on the road every day in January. I am supposed to be on the road closing deals, hugging, kissing and finalizing things, but I couldn't do it. Obviously, it was one of two things. They either did a fantastic job, or I wasn't really that important. I wasn't there.
We put together a class, and everybody says it. No one in the country says that they don't like their recruiting class today. But, guess what? I don't like our recruiting class. I love it. I love it. If you could have zipped it back a year ago and said here is what you are going to get, I would have taken it then. It starts out with this. If you are a history buff, Vince Lombardi played at Fordham and he was part of the Seven Blocks of Granite. Guess what? We have the Seven Blocks of Limestone. The seven offensive linemen that we signed today are the future of IU football that we will build on those blocks of limestone. 6-6, 285 and athletic. Guess who the first guy who was in? The bell cow of the group? Cody Faulkner was the first guy of the group. He was the first one in at 7 o'clock this morning. I would have bet on that one. If he hadn't been first, I would have been surprised. We had a great start for this class. We needed those guys. We needed to fill that void. Saying it and doing it is two different things. We targeted them. We got them on campus. We got them in camp. We offered them. We recruited them. They saw the opportunity, because they will have an opportunity. Some might play right away. I have an offensive line coach, Bobby Johnson, who played as a real freshman. He can speak to that and he can coach that. I am not guaranteeing them anything, but they will have an opportunity to play soon. That is why we needed them physically mature. We needed them athletic.
I'll give you some other facts. This is an analysis of a bunch of young guys, and who knows how they are going to turn out? I love these recruiting services. I love the services that evaluate. I have no clue where they are rating our class, because I don't care. Four or five years from now, no one goes back and checks on how accurate they were. No one does that. I'll give you a perfect example. In 2000, which was my first full recruiting season as head coach at Miami. We had a very bad and mediocre class by the recruiting services. Near the bottom of the MAC. We had no blue chip players. We didn't really beat anybody for anyone. In fact, we must have had to beg those guys to come. Nobody else wanted those players that we recruited. Those players, in four years, won 14 games in a row, which was the longest winning streak in the nation and finished 10th in the nation. Two of them started their first year in the NFL.
For all you IU fans out there who have nothing better to do than subscribe and listen to those experts, I am an expert too. This expert says this recruiting class is exactly what we needed. We are going to develop them. We recruited guys who we want and who we know we can develop. That is a key. That is something that recruiting services, and God bless them, they have to do something to and it is honest work that they don't understand. They don't know exactly what we want.
I'll give you another number. 3.01. That is the average GPA of this group. One guy had a 4.0. I like smart quarterbacks and I like quarterbacks named Ben. We got a quarterback named Ben who got a 4.0. Those are some pretty good numbers right there.
We needed linebackers. We got linebackers who can run. We will be much faster at linebacker. We needed some cover guys, and I talked about Indiana. We got six guys out of Indiana and five out of Ohio. Here is another number for you. How many guys last year on our team out of a 112 were from Indiana? 44. That is right at 40 percent. My goal is to at least have half of our team from Indiana. The thing we want to have a press conference about in the next weeks and days is where we actively recruit guys to walk-on to our program who will have an impact. That is what we did last year. I said we needed to be able to compete with the best guys in this state. We offered the top players in the state. We didn't get them all. We'll keep hustling at it and keep working at it, but we got six of them. That is my commitment. We are going to recruit this state first and compete for the best players in this state. We will become more competitive for them.
Out footprints are also still all over Ohio. Ohio is a great state for football. We are going to continue to do well there. That is a great state in terms of the history of Indiana football. If you check your history, you know that we had a lot of great players from the I-75 corridor. I got those words of wisdom from a guy named John Pont.
Illinois has always been big for us. We go down into Texas a little bit. Texas football, as evidenced by how the Longhorns played this year, is pretty good. We got a couple guys out of Texas. Then, unscientific at best, it is another whole day and another whole story, but the Burks twins from Arizona. I can't explain that. Just clean living for us to get a couple high quality athletes and honor students to sign with us. That was almost at the midnight hour there. That really put the icing on the cake. The Seven Block of Limestone, the quarterback, the wide receiver Big Play Ray, was in our summer camp and he is exciting. One of the twins will probably start out at running back. I love tight ends. You know that, so we added a couple of tight ends. The defensive line, we added a couple of athletic guys there, 6-3, 267. Those linebackers are 6-1, 216, but they can run. They will grow up and have an opportunity to play soon. Then, those two DBs, one from Texas in Richard Council and Aaron Burks from Arizona."
Power Point Presentation:
"We have a power point presentation. We will run through them pretty quick."
"We start out with the Seven Blocks of Limestone. Big James Brewer. This is going to be a great story. You guys are going to be writing about him for years to come. He is 6-8, 315, and late coming into football. He was going to be Sean May. That was his goal in life. He wanted to go to Indiana or North Carolina or someplace and play basketball. Fortunately for him, he started playing football again. He is a big-time offensive lineman waiting to happen. He is very athletic and a big fella that can move. He is a great kid. "
"Next is the bell cow. The first in. Big Cody. His dad played at Florida and he has a big family. We coveted Cody from the get go. It was a big day when he committed, because of his size and maturity, I think Bobby Johnson can play him pretty early if not at least in the two deep."
"He is a great student. He is a little undersized right now, but that is ok too. Not all of these guys are going to be finished products. We have had great success in the past with athletic offensive linemen like this. In a year, he will be 282. He will be a great 282 and then will end up playing at 290 but still be very athletic. His team won a state championship."
"Big Rodger Saffold. We battled hard for Rodger. He is a basketball player and an excellent student. He comes from a great program in Bedford, Ohio. Rodger is going to be just like Alex. At 290, he is still going to be athletic and still have those long arms and getting out to block linebackers. That is the prototype. I had nothing to do with him coming here. He committed for two reasons, Bobby Johnson and Coach Hep's wife. I get no credit for this one at all."
"Now, Pete is a little closer to that finished product. Pete was an early commit. He is a big, physical specimen with great feet and is powerful. He can bend his knees. He is a guy who will be in the mix early on."
"He is another Ohio lineman that is very athletic and is an outstanding student from a good football program. He deserves to be part of the Seven Blocks of Limestone."
"Big Mike Stark. Wisconsin is a good place for linemen and Matt Canada continues to go up there. Here is a guy, who because of his physical maturity and intelligence, will be in the mix sooner than some of the guys who will be hitting the weight room for a year. Mike could be in the two-deep pretty soon."
"Then we have Ben Chappell, a 4.0 student. We are glad to have kept him in town. He is a great addition for us. It is going to be good for him to be able to play in front of the home folks."
"Big Play Ray came to us from head coach Ted Ginn. That is an incredible high school football program. When Ray came through this summer, we wanted to keep him and not let him go. He actually got hurt last season and didn't play this year. He is back and is a 100 percent. He fell in love with us when he developed a relationship with Billy Lynch. Billy and Ray talked a lot throughout the recruiting process. Big Play has earned that name and deserves that name. He is a difference maker."
"The twins. This is a story where they actually committed to another Big Ten school. I am not going to go into it, because I don't honestly know the details. Then last week, all of a sudden, they are contacting us. The irony of it is that they were out in Arizona, but their mom got her PhD from IUB in 2001. I think that gave us an edge there, and they wanted to play in the Big Ten. They are some late additions and we are pretty excited about them. When you see their film today, you will see that they are difference makers and playmakers. They are honor students and play the trumpet. They are pretty well-rounded."
"Brad came to camp here. We offered him then. He is a special athlete. We recruited him as a tight end, but he played quarterback. He played defensive back and safety. That man can play a lot of places for us. A 6-4, 230-pound guy who can run like him, and tight end was his position. I love tight ends. Brad is a versatile guy who can play a lot of places. "
"As well as Jeff Sanders. He is another guy from a great high school program. He was an early commitment for us. He is from a great family. We like him."
"Deonte. Wow, what an impressive young man. He was in our camp also this summer. He is just outstanding. He is a prototype defensive tackle. He plays a little bigger than that, but we really like Deonte. We feel pretty good about our depth at defensive line right now. We feel that pretty soon he is going to be a factor. It is great that we could get two from Indiana."
"Greg Middleton, from Pike right up the road. This guy is a bull. He plays hard and plays fast. We offered him early on and he committed someplace else. If they commit someplace else, I don't talk to them. It is not something we do, but if they then contact me and open up communication lines, we will start talking again. I am not going to be stupid about it. If they make a decision, then we stop recruiting them. If they decided to, for whatever reason, I am not going to say that we aren't going to take you just because you said you were going someplace else. He was a guy we wanted early on and offered early. We are happy we ended up with him. He is a playmaker."
"This is one of the most highly recruited, in terms of competition guys, we had. He made his announcement during the season on Chicago television. He reached in the bag and pulled out an IU hat. There were an awful lot of hats in that bag. He is a linebacker who will get bigger. He had a great year at running back. He wants to play linebacker. He is what I have had success with in the past. Guys who are athletes and can really run and can hit you. He will end up playing at 218-222 and still be able to run. This was big."
"Will is a torpedo on the field. He is out of Lawrence North and is a good Indiana guy. Those two will play as outside backers with a couple guys we added as more inside types,"
"He played high school football in Lufkin, Texas. If there is a definition of high school football, Lufkin is in there. That is a place to play some football. He is the prototypical middle linebacker for us. He is a great young man. This was a good get for us. We had to compete to get Mandela."
"A former player named Luke Stone finished up and graduated in December. He went back out and started working. We don't really actively recruit JUCO players. This is a young man out of Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was at Butler Community College. Luke calls us. He had things set up with a school that had helped him go to junior college. It was one of those where things happen for a reason and he doesn't have a place to go. We brought him in last weekend. He is a good football player, and he will help us soon. I told him, I am not bringing you in to run down on kickoff and give us some depth at linebacker. I am bringing you in to play. If you are scared, then say you are scared. If you can handle that, then I need you to come right now. Big Vernon will be here this summer."
"He can really run. He is a cornerback out of Carrolton, Texas. We want to continue to go where the players are. We are excited to get him. He is a great young man."
"Aaron Burks will start out at defensive back, but he could play corner. He plays well enough to play corner. He is very athletic."
On how he is feeling after surgery:
"I will see you at 6 a.m., in the Mellencamp. I feel great. I appreciate you asking. People have been great. You know, if you need a couple weeks off and don't have anything else better to do, I would recommend it. It has really been a pretty good deal. I have heard from a lot of IU and Miami fans that said they knew I needed my head examined. Thanks to my nurse, Jane. It has been a unique experience. You get punched in the mouth, and then get your priorities straight. As I tell my team all the time, don't be soft but don't be stupid. That is what I am doing. Right now, the prescription is fresh air and exercise. So, sunny and 60 was perfect for me today. I have had some chance to work on my putting. News is positive. I am back. In fact, I got after them a bit Tuesday morning and it felt good. I am also breaking my string. I have missed 39 Super Bowls in a row, and I am going to this one."
On the team's conditioning program:
"We call it the Winning Edge. We have divided the team into squads. It is winter ball. It is running around, changing direction and agility. Bending your knees. Pretty creative some of the things we come up. We do it for an hour two days a week. It is a character builder. We don't take attendance. They are responsible for it. We use different team identification with Team Alpha, Bravo, Delta, Echo and Tango. At 6 a.m., they are good to go. They are responsible that their squad, which is a cross section of the team that the coaches drafted. You have a quarterback, a defensive lineman, a linebacker, a wide receiver and all of them. It is something we have done in the past that is a team-building thing. They are competing, but doing it in a way that is unique. We do some fun things for an hour."
On whether he has any advice for Ben Roethlisberger heading into the Super Bowl
"I am really proud of him and he is going to handle this thing well. To be in the Super Bowl at this point in time in his young life and career, is great. But, part of the reason he is in the Super Bowl is because of who he is. What he has done is outstanding and incredible. We got to spend a day together a few weeks ago when I was recruiting in Pittsburgh. The coaching staff has done a great job with him. That team is special. I say it all the time. Championship teams have that great chemistry. It is hard to define, but easy to point to. You can see it with the coaching staff, the players, the Bus, Antwaan (Randle El) and Hines Ward. Dick LeBeau and I go way back. I love the Colts, but I am an unabashed Steelers fan here. Football is what he does, not who he is. I will see him Friday. Exciting times for him."
Oh how proud he is of Ben Roethlisberger:
"I don't take any credit, except for the tackle. I taught him how to tackle. It is going to be IU at the Super Bowl with Antwaan and Ben. He isn't IU, but he is with me because of our relationship. I am really proud of him and his family."