Tulsa Steve Kragthorpe News Conference Quotes
Feb. 2, 2005
Tulsa, Oklahoma - Head Coach Steve Kragthorpe quotes from the Tulsa News Conference where he announced 24 student-athletes signing national letters-of-intent with the Golden Hurricane.
Opening statement: " Well, I suppose it would be a coach's cliché to say I'm excited about the recruiting class of this year, of 2005, but I truly am. I'm ecstatic about the way we addressed the needs we had as a football team. First of all I have to give credit where credit is due and that is to our assistant coaches and that is Matt Wells, our recruiting coordinator. Our other assistants who diligently hit the road and left their families behind will now pick up and see a few basketball games with their kids, soccer games and those kinds of things. They worked tirelessly over the course of the last two and a half months that we've been on the road. But you really have to trace it back to the day after signing day last year. I thought our guys did a great job of being organized, targeting the needs that we had on our football team and then tackling those needs by going out on the road and doing an excellent job throughout the course of the year. But again, you have to give credit where credit is due and that is to our assistant coaches. And secondly, to our players, the present players we have on our football team. I thought they did a super job when those perspective student-athletes came on campus of showing them what TU was all about. And they are the ones that really sell your program because they are the ones that walk in the shoes of the future players. They are the ones that have blazed the trail for them, they know what it takes to be a college student-athlete in the year 2004-2005 coming up. And again, they did a super job. I thought we addressed the needs that we continue to identify on our football team. We've got to continue to bolster our depth to be the kind of football team we want to be, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines. Last year, I was please with the group that we signed in terms of our size and power. Again, I'm equality please by the level of the players we signed on the offensive line and defensive line. I thought we addressed some needs in terms of immediacy on both sides of the football, most particularly on defense. We've played with a little bit of a lack of depth over the course of the last two seasons and we tried to address that this year with some junior college transfers that will have an immediate impact on our team, or I hope will have an immediate impact, that remains to be seen. One of those will actually have three years. Alain Karatepeyan will actually have three years to play. So that is a bonus when you bring in a junior college player, much like Mike Meengers that we brought in last year that has three years to play in your program. Again, we are excited about that. Receivers that we feel can be dynamic players that will include or help us and certainly enhance our abilities to vertically throw the football down the field. One is a four-year college transfer, Courtney Tennial, from Glenpool, who chose to come here from the University of Oklahoma. We'll have to a year to see Courtney on the game field at Skelly Stadium but I know that he'll be a valuable member of our football team in 2005 in terms of helping our defense prepare for the upcoming opponent. It's a coach's cliché I understand that. There are probably 116 other coaches in the country that is probably sitting up there telling you they got a great recruiting class, but I can truly say that. That I'm very excited about this group. I'm very excited about the direction that our program is headed, and again, I think this signifies that we are headed in the right direction. There is a lot of work that remains to be done but by the same token, I'm excited."
What is the importance of signing Junior College transfers? "I think it is important that we brought in some guys that played at the collegiate level. Some of those players have actually started at four-year institutions, and then become 2-4-2 transfers, going to junior college then going to another four-year school, with that being us. I like the fact that those guys have had their appetite wet at the Division I level. Idris (Moss) is a receiver that played at UCLA, got snaps, caught two or three games against USC, so you know he's been in some big football games so he won't be wide-eyed when he walks on the field against Minnesota and Oklahoma in our first two football games of the season. But again, we did feel like we had immediate needs that we needed to address with junior college players and that is why we took some players that we took.
Are any of the junior college transfers on campus? "None of the JC are already on campus. I think that one of the challenges you do have right now, is with the rules, the way the percentage of degree rules have increased, it's a little more difficult to get those guys right away, and again, we had some guys that were 4-2-4 transfers who actually have to complete their AA degree. With technology being what it is today, we can send them a playbook today, since we now that we have their national letter of intent. You can send them tapes, training tapes so to speak, a video playbook, is the way its termed now. In terms of them being able to get up to speed relatively quickly, we are confident that they can do that, they are bright guys, and again, have good experience.
What are your thoughts on being the highest-ranked team in your conference for the second straight year? "You have to give credit where credit is due and that is to our assistant coaches. Internally we view this as an excellent class, just as we have the last two classes. I don't know if it gives you any more confidence but it certainly validates some of the thoughts that you have internally in the staff room when recruiting services, members of the media, fans, rank your recruiting class as one of the best or the best in your conference. It remains to be seen whether these guys come from the white paper to the green grass and performing the way that you think they will, but that is our job as coaches to make sure that that happens."
Do you think that by moving from the WAC to Conference USA you might have picked up some recruits you wouldn't have before? "I think it helped. I don't think that there is any question that moving to Conference USA is going to be a benefit for The University of Tulsa and our football program. Number one, because of geographics, the proximity for our fans, and most importantly for our players' families to have an opportunity to watch their sons play on Saturday afternoons or it could be Tuesday nights now that we are in Conference USA. Nationally, an ESPN TV contract, the College Sports Television we have secured through Conference USA, certainly helps our exposure across the country. Again, you look at our schedule, whether its conference games or non-conference games, it'll be relatively easy for our fans and players families to get to them. And one of the things that I said in the press release I think that the thing that you find with taking some California junior college players, there is usually a history there of those guys being willing to travel and venture out. I know when I was playing at North Texas State we had a number of junior college players from the state of California, and there just seems to be a propensity for those guys to pack the car and head out.
With the conference switch to Conference USA will it open up new areas for you to recruit from? "We are going to continue to explore all of our options and that is something that Matt (Wells) and I will sit down and evaluate here in a couple of days while the thoughts are still fresh in our mind. As we convene, as a staff on Monday that will certainly be a topic of discussion in the staff meeting is what direction do we go from here in terms of recruiting. As I have said before, I think that one of the advantages we have here at The University of Tulsa is our proximity to players. There is great football played in state of Oklahoma. With our proximity to Kansas, Dallas, other areas in Texas, the western slope of Arkansas, we certainly want to continue to exploit those areas because of the fertileness of the talent in those geographic areas. By the same token, there may be an opportunity for us to expand our recruiting horizons now with the fact that we will be playing in Florida, the fact that will play in Louisiana, the fact that we will play in Alabama and various other spots in Conference USA, that can maybe help us enhance what we are doing."
Have you accomplished the goals of what you want your roster to look like three years in to you being here? "I think we are getting closer, I don't think there is a question about that. We are not where we need to be yet, but we are getting closer. From the numbers stand point we had some numbers on paper in terms of how many guys you'd like to have at each position, and how many offensive players, defensive players, special teams players, that you'd like to have. Our basic numbers are 41, 41, and three to give us our 85. And I think for the first time since I've been here we'll be close, maybe right at it, of having 85 scholarship players. We've played with 78 or 79 players last year, because unfortunately, when you take over a program where the numbers were as down as they were when we came here in 2003, you can't get the numbers to 85 right away because you can only sign so many players each year. And that is a little bit of a limitation but again, I think that as we continue to grow and progress and our program will hit that 85 target and will hopefully stay there."
Did your relationship with Karl Dorrell at UCLA help you sign Idris Moss? "I actually talked to Karl, I actually talked to Bob Lopez, who's a good friend of both of ours. Bob now works as the Director of Football Operations at UCLA, and I asked their opinion of Idris, no question about that, and they both had rave reviews, in terms the way they felt about him as a person. Those are two opinions I respect tremendously, in Karl and Bob, and I do take a lot of pride in the fact that our coaches do excellent research. Are there challenges and issues that come up throughout the course of the program, absolutely. You are dealing with the demographic piece of the pie, that doesn't always make the right decision, but heck, I don't either and some of you don't either. I like the character of Idris. I think he has a chance to be a major contributor for us right away, again, because of the fact he's played in some big games. There's nothing like that PAC-10 weekend when UCLA is playing USC and the rest of them. I have coached in the PAC-10, I know that the media attention that surrounds that game and to see him be successful in that game is certainly encouraging in terms of him being able to come in here and play."
Are you excited about the Tulsa-area players? "I think they are all excellent players. I think that Popsie (Floyd) is a very explosive football player. Has played defensive end at East Central in their scheme. I think that Travis did a great job with him, of putting him in a position where he could be successful, and where he could wreak as much havoc, for lack of a better term, on the defensive side of the football. Popsie will be a linebacker for us, it'll be a little bit of a transition for him moving from a three or four point stance to a two-point stance. We are confident that he can do that. He's a bright guy. He's very willing to work. He is a guy that has a lot of heart and determination so I'm excited about him. Curt (Puckett) is a guy that we think can be a great offensive lineman, because of not only his physical stature but his feet as well. He has done a lot of great things with his abilities on tape, not only on the offensive side of the football, but on the defensive side of the football. In fact, if I weren't an offensive-minded coach, in my past, I probably would have recruited him as a defensive lineman. But, I think Curt plays with a lot of heart, is very tough and aggressive. He played the left tackle spot in their scheme and in a open-ended scheme, they are not a tight end orientated offense like we are, they are more of a three or four wide receiver offense, so that is the toughest spot there is for an offensive lineman who is playing opposite the quarterback's throwing hand, on an island out there with no help from a tight end for protection help. I think Jesse (Meyer) is a guy that is very, very productive. I went to the game against Broken Arrow, and was standing down in the end zone and they get the ball on the four-yard line, and I'm thinking Alan will just punched it out here and the next thing you know it's a 97-yard touchdown pass to Jesse. I'm excited about his play making abilities, a guy, again, that has played on both sides of the football, that will play wide receiver for us. Is tall, athletic, he'll go up and get the football. He's part of an excellent 4x100 relay team at Jenks this season, so he has excellent track times. But the thing that impresses me about Jesse is that he takes that track speed and transfers it onto the green grass. Sometimes there are guys that have track speed and that have football speed and I think that he possess both. Again, his physical stature is impressive. You look at a guy that is 6-2, 6-3 and go up and high point the ball and take the ball out of the defender's hands."
Meyer is the first Jenks kid that has been signed in your tenure, is it good to get back into the Jenks area? "Our recruiting philosophy has been well documented. We are going to start recruiting right here in the city of Tulsa and I think what helps us is the quality of football that is played right here in our city. I view that as a tremendous advantage for us as a football program, and we'll venture out from Tulsa. Again, 80% of our recruiting class, hopefully being recruited on a tank of gas. We had to fuel a couple of Southwest Airlines planes this year to get a few of those guys out of California. For the most part, a lot of the guys that you see that we signed today are in close proximity to our campus, which again, is important to me for a couple of reasons. 1) Its easier for us to recruit when we are in closer proximity. They can come to our games during the season, actually see the product on the field, and as the old cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. I am myself, a visual learner. When I can see something, and they can come to our campus and see us play, I think it's helpful. And again, I think there this nothing like being able to walk down that ramp at Skelly Stadium and see your parents in the stands. I know that is a thrill for me, I see my dad on the sidelines and see my mom in the stands every time I walk down that ramp so I know how it is for those 18, 19, and 20-year olds feel."
Which one of your assistant coaches gets the gold star for his class? Was it hard to get the three from Cedar Hill High School? "I think all of our coaches do. That is Todd Graham's recruiting area, and Todd has a lot of excellent ties in the state the Texas, because he is from Texas, has coached and played high school football in Texas. But again, I think all of our coaches did a terrific job. A player doesn't typically come because of one influence. There are a number of influences that sell a player on coming to The University of Tulsa. And it is all of our assistant coaches. And again, I'd be remiss to, and I need to go back and press rewind, a little bit, and talk about our academic staff of Michael Stevenson and Liz Jarnigan, the job that they do when they come on campus. They do a super job of presenting the academic opportunities that our players have here at TU. Sted Upham was present at all of our recruiting meetings, Judy MacLeod was there, Earl Johnson was there, John Corso was there, the list goes on in terms of people who have had a major contribution to this recruiting class. It reaches far beyond the coaches. The coaches are the one that you see out in the public but there is a lot of people behind the scenes that need credit for what has transpired here with this recruiting class being signed today."
Did one of the Cedar Hill players influence the other? "Its interesting, if you talk to coaches at Cedar Hill, we do a lot of talking to other coaches, guys that the team has played against. I view that as a positive when you get a comment from a coach that has played against a particular player. I'll tell you what, if you took a straw poll right now, it'd probably be split in thirds in terms of which of those guys was the best player for that team this year. You'll get guys that said Cedric (Godfrey), you'd get guys that said Terrel (Nemons), you'd get guys that said George (Clinkscale). To me, that is encouraging when you get that mix of opinions. I think it speaks highly of all three of those guys."
What do you think of Terrel Nemon's abilities? "I think he is an excellent football player. Again, physical stature when he walks in the door, he's what you want them to look like or what you'd ideally like them to look like. He plays with a great motor. I think he has a lot of untapped potential. Didn't play a lot of football growing up. Basically he started playing his sophomore year in high school. Again, I think the sky is the limit for him in terms of his abilities. A lot remains to be seen though. The thing about recruiting is that you try and be as objective as you possibly can you can be but I've coached guys that have gone on to play in the National Football League and we were the only guys that offered them. Travis Brown, my third quarterback at Buffalo, Northern Arizona offered him a quarter scholarship. I had since left at that time, I'd have offered him a full. Its amazing, there are guys that you'll see on our list today, there are guys that you'll see on Blue Chip lists throughout the country that don't end up making it as college football players. That's been documented throughout the course of the recruiting season this year, in numerous publications in the `Where are they now?' Some guys end up panning out and some guys don't. You just never know. Again, I'm excited about the potential that exists for this class, and I think that Nemons is one of those guys."
How important is it to get recruits from the Dallas-Fort Worth Area? "There is a lot of competition in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. I think again, when you look at the complexion of our staff, the make up of our staff, the fact that a lot of guys that are here on our staff have ties to the state of Texas. We have ties there, and I think our coaches have not only done an excellent job of establishing those ties, but continuing to establish relationships with area coaches. I think we have a good reputation. I think our university, The University of Tulsa, has a great reputation in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, as a university as a whole, not just as an athletic department and that certainly helps us and enhances our ability to attract those type quality athletes. If you look at it, its probably the perfect distance away from home, that mom's not going to be knocking on your door but your family and friends are going to get to see you play and you are going to get to go home whenever you want to."
Is there a particular position you feel like you needed to address? "I think that we wanted to continue to address the fact that we wanted to be a bigger and more physical football team. We needed to bolster our depth on both the offensive and defensive line, because we were in some games this year where are guys probably played in a few too many snaps and we didn't have enough guys to rotate through. Football is a very physical game, injuries are going to be a part of it and depth really does two things for you. It not only makes you a better football team on Saturday, because you have more available qualities bodies to play, but also creates a great environment in practice on Monday thru Friday because guys are now battling their tale off to see who is going to get more snaps during the ball game."
What about the absence of running backs and quarterbacks in your recruiting class? "We have specific numbers that we look at in terms of players at each position. With Courtney (Tennial) coming in that gives us the allotment that we like at the running back position. We are a single back offense, you see that the fact that we signed two or three tight ends this year that are going to help us be aggressive are going to help us in terms of continuing to do the things that we want to do offensively. Being a multiple tight end team and the receivers that we signed. In terms of the quarterback position, there are a couple of guys that we looked at that made decisions to go elsewhere. We are now continuing to look at guys that we might offer a scholarship to. I think that we have two excellent quarterbacks here right now. That is one of the challenges that you face when you have a younger group quarterbacks, is trying to attract guys to come into your program. We are going to continue to explore options, we have two scholarships that are left available. We always do that because we feel like there are guys that will become available. There might be a Shannon Carter out there again, a guy that has played baseball for five or six years, and comes available in June. I always like to have a little scholarship money in the till if one of those guys happens to become available."
Would one of those scholarships go to a possible four-year transfer? "There is a possibility. You never know the combinations that will present themselves. Is it a junior college player, is it a guy that has been playing baseball, is it a guy that has gone on a Mormon mission, is it a guy that been in the military, you never know what combination or what factor will bring a guy back to college and wanting to play college football. We just keep all of our options open in terms of that."
Are you expected to add any more names to your list of signees?
"Again, we have two scholarships available, so I think there is a definite possibility that we could add guys to the list. But then again, you kind of draw a line of demarcation in terms of whom you take and the quality of player you are looking for. For us, again, I think we are rapidly approaching a time when we won't sign this many players. Where we will only sign, maybe 17, 18, 19, or 20 players, because we'll be at that 85 limit. We certainly want to be able to continue to find the best quality football player available, the best quality student-athlete available to take that spot. That may be this year or maybe it will be next year. We'll only have 17 seniors next year, so maybe its something that we save until we find the player that we are looking for."
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