<a href=”http://podcast.cachevalleydaily.com/Gary_Andersen_2011-signing-class.mp3″>Listen to Gary Andersen’s press conference about USU’s 2011 signing class</a>

OPENING STATEMENT:”Overall it has been a good day, no surprises which is always a positive on signing day. I thought that our staff did a great job in a yearlong process and I believe that we competed at a high-level. People are always going to ask ‘how good of a class did you have?’ The only way that I know how to compare it, is against the guys you are competing against as far as signing recruits. We competed at a very high-level against some very good teams, we didn’t win every battle but we certainly won our fair share. I feel very good about the class and what I gauge it as at the end of the process is that these are quality young men, regardless of who is recruiting them. We have been in some very serious recruiting fights up until the very last day and I credit my staff for doing a great job and our program did a tremendous job to really seal the deal at the end of the process and that is what I ask our young men in the program to do. As coaches we can get them here and move them in the right direction, but the big thing is when they get on campus and our young men did a terrific job. As always, Cache Valley and Utah State University present themselves very well when the young men get on campus. We had 25 young men come on trips this year and we were 21 of 25 this year as far as bringing young men onto the campus and having them say ‘yes.’ That is a high success rate for us and very competitive.””Breaking down the new recruiting class, it broke down to be 14 and 14, as far as junior college kids and high school kids. A large number of junior college kids, at the beginning of the season we weren’t intending on signing so many junior college kids but as we went through the season we fine-tuned our recruiting plan and it became apparent that we had to give ourselves some stabilization in our junior class. With the junior kids we signed it puts our numbers right around 21 juniors and 14 of them have redshirts in that class, and I expect two to five of them redshirting this season. All that being said, we have a real balance in the program from our senior class, down to our freshman class. That is always important when you are building for more than just one season and building for the future of your program. The junior college kids we did take were some of the best players we had on our board and I am pleased to have them.””In-state we were able to sign 11 young men and we feel very good about those young men. The number of our in-state players continues to grow, right now it is up to 46 in-state players; which is up dramatically from when we got here and had 18. I feel very good about the progress that we are making in that state of Utah, the state plays very good football and we all know that this program needs to continue to move in a positive direction to fight the in-state battles. What we are also finding is that there are other schools moving into Utah, which is growing every single year because the quality of high school football in Utah continues to improve. It is not just about going against BYU and Utah anymore, it is going against some of the other Division I schools that are moving into the state. Again I think that we did an excellent job of getting the 11 guys out of Utah, which is our number one priority when we start talking about recruiting.””The Latter Day Saint mission program is continuing to move in the right direction, right now our program has nine young men that will be departing on missions from last year’s team, we currently have nine out on missions, there are four that will be returning from missions and we have a total of 15 that have already served missions. Total missionaries in the program is 37, and our ability to continue to sign those young men, who are not all from Utah, gives us the ability to go out and spread the word about our return missionary program. It is great that we are getting kids from other states interested in our return missionary program. That is a big positive for us.””Polynesian kids are the other third-tear that we have as a program and we were able to sign eight Polynesian kids in this year’s class, which pushes our roster to 19 Polynesian kids and coaches. We were able to sign kids from Hawaii, California, and Utah and it was great for us to continue to make strides in that area. I believe that kids that came are very happy to be here. The three phases that we discussed when I took over the program continue to make progress, but I would really like to be able to reach out the south more. Specifically, Texas and Florida. We do not currently have a kid on roster from Florida, yet. We still have the numbers and space available to add several Florida kids to this recruiting class, it has not happened yet, but I expect that to happen. I would really like to see that happen and as a staff we are really going to work like crazy to make that happen.””The exact number of scholarships per class is as follows, 20 seniors, 24 juniors, 17 sophomores and 20 freshmen. With those numbers you can see that this is a program that is set up to not only succeed this year but also in future seasons. We all plan on being here for a long time so establishing balance is important.””The break down of the recruits by state is, 11 from Utah, seven from California, six from Arizona, two from Texas, one from Hawaii and one from Nevada. That really spreads out where we have kids playing for us from. I believe that we are hitting the states effectively in our recruiting areas, but again we need to continue to reach out to Florida and the south, especially with the WAC expanding to Texas.””Key things that really pop-out to me are that the offensive and defensive line needed to improve. We put ourselves in position with the offensive line to get bigger, not only by weight but also to get longer at our front positions, which was important for us. I think that we made some real strides with the offensive line and that those kids are 6’5″ young men or bigger. Tall kids that have length and are kids that we expect to come in and start for us next season.””We now have four players at the quarterback position, all are on scholarship, it’s a young and unproven group of quarterbacks but we have one junior sitting in there and competing for the position and Adam [Kennedy] has really worked hard. We also have Jeremy [Higgins] (redshirt), and Alex [Hart] and (signee) Chuckie [Keeton] who are freshmen who give us a lot of balance and competition, which is exactly where we want to be with these four young men on scholarship.””The defensive line, I would say a lot of the same that I did about our offensive line. The key was to recruit length and size; we were able to do that and were able to get what we needed.” “In the defensive backfield we needed to go recruit athletes, kids that can run, kids that have the mind-set of being physical and love football. I feel like we were able to sign several of those young men, there are several young men who we are not sure if they are corners or if they are going to end up being safeties. We really needed to up the number of kids in our program who could just flat-out run, change direction, and have good football minds and I feel very good out the crew of guys we have coming in to do just that. This group is tough, physical and love to compete.””We signed just one wide receiver right now, Reuben Thomas, who we think can be a real game changer for us. With any wide receiver we sign right now that is what we are looking for and Reuben had a tremendous junior college career and was that game changer. We didn’t take a running back because we are obviously very gifted at that position.””We had Jorden Mattinson sign as a tight end for us, we are not sure if he will remain at the tight end position for us or if we will move him over to offensive line.””I think the other key notes to make are that these are quality young men, it is not just going out and recruiting football players, but that there was a fit with Utah State and the young men who chose to sign with us. I really believe that all the young men we signed are a good fit for this program and for the university.”ON FOCUSING MORE DEFENSIVELY IN RECRUITING PROCESS:”Yes. It had to do with the youth of the defense. We also looked at the numbers of productivity from our front four and outside linebacker, as well as the graduation of several defensive players and really felt that it needed to go up. So in that core you are going to see a large number of the kids recruited in the front seven. We lost Curtis Marsh, who was an all-WAC player and selected to the Senior Bowl, so with the youthfulness of our defensive backfield, Nevin Lawson is going to be sophomore and likewise Cameron Sanders will be a sophomore for us and we needed to get more players around them. Losing [Rajric] Coleman, we had to get a free safety in here and the numbers really reflect that we needed defensive players. We really need skill in the back end of our defense and then complement it with size up front. Our numbers over the last two years would lead everyone to agree that we need to get better defensively and I feel that we are moving that direction.”OFFENSIVELY ARE YOU EXPECTING RETURNS OF MOSTLY INJURED PLAYERS TO STEP UP AND FEEL THOSE GAPS?”Absolutely, I felt that we needed some help from a junior college player at the offensive tackle position along with the three young men already in the program at that position will all compete against each other and I feel good about getting the new players in the program. As far as skill position players we are expecting to sign a few wide receivers, but if you look at our wide receivers and running backs that were hurt last year, they would have greatly affected our team last season. We are looking to Matt Austin, Robert Turbin, Michael Smith and Stanley Morrison to comeback and change the offense from an athletic standpoint. Now it is just a matter of getting them back and on the field. ON GETTING BOJAY FILIMOEATU:”It was a tremendous get on signing day, we will see. It went down to the wire. A lot of credit to the coaches to be able to have him stick with us once he said yes, but he fell in love with us. Bojay is a young man who loves the game of football. He plays a tremendous motor and a lot of excitement and he has a lot of excitement for life in general. He lights up a room when he comes into a room, and as you guys get to know him in the fall you will understand exactly what I am talking about. On paper, watching his junior college film, he is a young man that we hope, as a defense, allows us to be able to change the line of scrimmage and when I say that I am talking tackles for loss and sacks on the defensive side of the football. If you look at our numbers at tackles for loss and sacks last year, we really do not have a chance of being a successful defense because we do not change the line of scrimmage. With Bojay, and the defensive linemen we recruited, we need to get that changed.””He is an outside linebacker and that is where he will remain. He runs very well; he is gifted, and he will definitely be an outside linebacker. That is what we recruited him as, from day one. That is where he wants to be, and our commitment to him, he is going to be rushing a lot. He is going to be moving and we are going to put him in lots of spots to be aggressive. You look at Bobby Wagner, you look at a guy like Bojay, you look at a guy like Maurice [Alexander], you look at Kyle Gallagher, and then Chris Fox and Tavaris McMillian and all of sudden you have a crew of young men that are talented, that can run, and they all seem to really love football. That was really the main reason for the switch to 3-4 also, to get somebody who can change the game. We all know if you have a couple of those kids it sure makes a calling defense much easier.”IS THERE A PLAYER YOU HAVE COACHED THAT REMINDS YOU OF BOJAY?”Probably a mix of a couple of guys, off the top of my head. We had Nai Fotu at Utah, but he is bigger than Nai. He is about 15-20 pounds bigger than Nai, but he plays with the same, I hate to say it but, anger, the same aggression that Nai played with when I was at Utah. With his [Bojay’s] leadership abilities I would say Stephenson Sylvester, a young man who is going to be playing in the Super Bowl here in a couple of days, that was at Utah with me. I think he has that ability to be a tremendous player but also a leader, a natural leader. So, probably those two kids combined.”WHAT ARE YOU PLANS WITH SCHOLARSHIPS REMAINING?”One or two, and wide receivers. That is it. That is where we are at right now. Two at the most, one at the least, and wide receivers that can change the game, is the mind-set right now.”WOULD THE WIDE RECEIVERS BE FLORIDA GUYS?”Hopefully. Somebody may pop up; there will be a bunch of kids that pop up. This staff does a great job of working and finding that late young man, and there are a million different reasons why he is still out there. We will continue to work down those lines and see, but I would really like to keep that Florida pipeline going. I would really, really not like to have a year where we don’t get a young man from Florida.”IS IT HARD TO RECRUIT FLORIDA WITHOUT COACH COREY RAYMOND?”No, I don’t think that it is hard. Corey did a great job. T.J. [Woods] walked in there. What is hard is the timing of a loss. When you lose him and you have gone half a year into the recruiting process. The names are out there, our name is out there now. The Utah State name, trust me, it is up on a lot of billboards and a lot of coaches offices, they understand the kids that are from Florida. The Florida press has done a great job of giving us some information to give to those people. They know who we are. I don’t think it matters really what coach is going in there, as long as he is honest and he is truthful with the kids and he approaches it the right way. We have a great support group there. Change in an area is always an issue.”ON UNCERTAINTY OF WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE BEING AN ISSUE WITH RECRUITING PLAYERS?”It didn’t really come up with players, but it came up with coaches through the recruiting process. Other coaches bringing up what they think the direction the WAC is headed, which is completely wrong. There were some interesting comments made on the back end of that. I know this, when you have a quality university that we have and the quality athletic program and the way we handle our kids’ academics and the academics success at the university, we are always going to be in a quality conference. Regardless of what happens, we are always going to be in a quality conference. When we start throwing down what we do academically as an athletic department, what we academically as a football team; since we have been here, 100 percent of our seniors have graduated, and we expect that to continue through this class. That is going to overcome a position of conference very, very quickly, which is still, no matter what anybody says, a very quality conference.”ON FOUR KIDS ON CAMPUS THAT DID NOT SIGN, AND IF THERE WAS A THEME?”No there was no theme, just heavy competitive battles as we went through the recruiting process. It may have not been the right fit for one or two kids once we got them up on campus. One or two kids might have not been the right fit for us, as they left campus and they departed. When you come out on a recruiting trip, it is a business trip for a young man. To me if he is not walking in here to sell himself, for 48 hours of exactly what he is all about, and we learn a lot about a young man, and we ask our players after they spend time with those kids and they walk out of here on a trip. I ask our players and if our players don’t feel good about that young man, that is fine and I won’t give them a scholarship. That was possibly the situation as we went through the process, I listen to those kids but then I am very open when I go back and discuss it with them, and there were some young men who decided to go to another school. They had some opportunities and they see what is best for them.”CAN YOU NAME A FRESHMAN OR TWO WHO WILL PLAY?”You know, I would have to always lean toward the skill kids, when we sit down and talk about those kids. If I just go through the names, true freshman wise, Parker Hausknecht, because he has been out for a year, he will go through spring football. He has been through two off-season weight training programs, so I see him as being a factor in that area. Chuckie [Keeton], is going to compete obviously. Chuckie would be the next one that jumps out at me. He is very different than Adam [Kennedy], he is kind of a mix of Jeremy [Higgins] and Alex [Hart] combined. So he is going to have a chance to compete without question. I can’t say that I expect anybody to play, but he would in the mix. Derek Keller, the young man who came off a mission from Alta High School. He is in the program; he is 21 years old. He will be in spring ball. I would expect him to fight himself into a position to compete for that two-deep on the defense spot. Those would really be the ones as you go through. We will see. There are a number of other kids, freshman, but those pop out at me. All the junior college kids will be expected to compete. Right now I anticipate three or four of those young men redshirting. Of those 14, three or four I am sure will redshirt. They are all going to come here with the mind-set that they are going to start, and I would not have recruited a junior college player if I didn’t believe he had that mind-set.”ON FRESHMAN GOING ON A MISSION:”We will send Jordan Hicks and Austin Albrecht on missions. Those two will turn around and go on missions right away as soon as they turn 19. Keeping that mission thing going, it is a big puzzle. Those two kids will go out, as long as that is a decision they make. That is always their decision, and if they opt to turn around and not go on a mission then we will work with that, but right now those are the only two scheduled to go out.”ON OTHER PLAYERS GOING ON MISSION:”All nine of them are gone, I couldn’t name all nine to you right now. The biggest one is probably Jason Fanaika decided to go on a mission and it was a good family decision Jason to be able to be able to turn around and go on a mission. Finally, after this year we are going to start seeing these kids come back into our program. Which is a big positive. I can’t talk about those guys right now, they are technically recruitable athletes again, but we do start to feel those kids come back into our program a year form now, which is great.””We have four that will come in and possibly count on the 2012 numbers. So they are obviously signees down the road.”ON PLAYERS THAT CAME BACK FROM MISSIONS TO PLAY THIS YEAR:”Derek Keller is one. Derek is a young man that I recruited at Utah, and when he came back off his mission he stayed in contact with his dad we took him and brought him back. He is the one who came off his mission, and we feel real good about him. It is nice to get him back.”ON MISSIONS AND RECRUITING HIGH SCHOOL KIDS:”It is always going to be a family decision. We are not going to tell a kid he can or cannot go on a mission. It is not a perfect science. Sometimes young men decide to go earlier rather than later. Sometimes young men decide to go later rather than earlier. So you don’t know how it is always going to filter out. We educate them on when he turns 19 and what he should do and that is kind of how we try to educate the young man first and then the parents second and we go from there.”ON IF BYU AND UTAH ARE SIMILAR:”I would imagine so. In fact, I just talked with Bronco [Mendenhall] the other day about this. Their philosophy is a little different than ours. They like to bring them in and play them and then get them out on a mission. I don’t like that. In my personal opinion I like to get them out on a mission and come back at 21 years old and still have a redshirt, for if they needed to redshirt, if not then it becomes an insurance clause incase they have an injury. Different philosophies, different thoughts, different mind-sets, but again we have guys who go all the way through it. Some guys don’t play a year; others will go immediately. Jason Fanaika will play for a semester and go. There is a lot that goes into that.”ON KEETON VS. KENNEDY AND IF THE OFFENSE WILL CHANGE DEPENDING ON WHICH ONE IS AT QB:”I have watched them on tape. We will still be a spread team. The potential of athleticism of one quarterback may change. As you sit back and look at it on paper, right now Adam Kennedy is 6’ 4.5″ or 6’5″, and he will be 220 pounds by the time he gets out there. The best way I can describe that to you is one kid may have a tendency to run with the ball a little more than the other one. Chuckie is a very versatile athlete, and his ability to be able to do it with his feet and with his arm are both there at this point. Adam showed that he could run in junior college, so the offense will not change. It will not change with all four of the quarterbacks that we have right now. We are a spread team first, the emphasis on the quarterback run will not be as much as it was with Diondre [Borel]. The two reasons it won’t be, number one it is not Diondre running the football and number two I believe this quarterback coming in will have a much better supporting cast, which he needs to be successful, for us to be a successful football team. The quarterback who plays for us needs to have a better supporting cast, similar to the supporting cast Diondre had in 2009.”ON KENNEDY’S ABILITIES AND WHAT HE NEEDS TO DO TO HELP THE TEAM:”His ability to lead is important, but the fact of him accepting that role and wrapping his arms around it is what is a big part of spring ball for him. The positive side playing in junior college and playing at a high level of competition is great for him, and he led that team and did a nice job at leading that team. He has not led this team to this point, but he has been here for two weeks. His ability to get that is key, for any quarterback. The offensive guys, the defensive guys, and the coaches, we all have got to have belief in him. That is an important step. From an ability stand-point, understanding and learning the offense, and manage the game, Adam, or Chuckie, or Alex, or Jeremy, whomever that is going to be. You don’t have to go out and win the game, we need you to go out there and manage the game, not make mistakes, don’t turn it over, put points on the board when the opportunity presents itself. Punting is not the worst thing in the world, let’s go out and play some defense, and I think it is important for him to not press and feel like he has to go win every game for us.”ON GIVING SCHOLARSHIP TO A PUNTER:”Yes, we felt that was very important to us from a special team stand point. It will be a wide-open battle through the spring and we will see but obviously when we recruit a special teams kid and especially as a junior college player to come in and take that spot. We needed to get that done with Pete [Caldwell] being gone. Nick [Diaz] is at place kicker and I feel good about that, but we needed to get that situated, it is such an important weapon for us. I really believe with Bill [Busch] taking over the special teams we will be able to take another step forward of being extremely aggressive on the special teams side.”ON JUNIOR COLLEGE KIDS INFLUENCING OTHER PLAYERS:”Yes, it depends on what experience they have, and how successful they are being and where they are going in the program when they transfer to it. I feel very good about the word that does get back from the young men in our program. I wouldn’t say just one junior college but the California junior college kids talk to each other. In today’s world of Facebook and MySpace and all of that stuff, word does get out very quickly. Young men come in and have some success, and it truly does matter. So the experience they have here, getting their degree, it makes a difference, but kids talk they listen to each other.”ON WHIMPEY KIDS AND THEM POSSIBLY HAVING AN ADVANTAGE FROM PLAYING ONE YEAR AT IDAHO STATE:”Being in a college program for any amount of time allows you to understand what the next step is. I know they are adjusting right now to the pace of things, and the quickness of things, and the workouts. They are doing a nice job. They are older kids, obviously returned missionaries, but I don’t think the experience at Idaho State will hinder them in any way, shape or form. They have both played a number of games at the collegiate level, that has got to help us in the end. They will compete for jobs in the spring, and we will see how it goes.”ON NEW QB COACH AND RECRUITING COORDINATOR MATT WELLS’ INFLUENCE ON RECRUITING CLASS:”Walking into Texas, I think it helped Chuckie to be solidified, that was a worry. All of sudden we turned around and lost a guy, and we had to turn around and get a guy and it was in Texas. That helped us. Jovon [Bouknight] did a tremendous job with Chuckie, but when Matt [Wells] got into the home with Chuckie I think it really solidified his mind and his parents mind of understanding the direction we are headed. You always worry about that; the timing of those are always scary, but he didn’t waiver and Matt has come in and done a very nice job. We’ve actually gone to two recruiting coordinators, Ilaisa Tuiaki and Matt are sharing the responsibilities there, I think that will continue to help us get the word out. It is not a one man job anymore with all that goes into recruiting and Zach Nyborg who does a great job of helping us in the recruiting side and getting the word out for who we are and what we are about, and what kind of school this is. Overall, it is never a real smooth transition when you lose a coach but it was an effective transition.”ON NEW KIDS BEING PUNT RETURNERS/KICK RETURNERS:”Reuben Thomas is a very good punt returner. He did that in junior college and was effective. I know that is a big part of Coach Busch’s plans to try and be effective in that area, because we have not been. Other than to catch the ball and that is what we have done on punts, basically. It is an area of a way to find returns and to block the kick, as you recruit athletes, it takes a special kid to go and block a kick. To be able to run 13 yards and put your hand on the ball in a short amount of time is not easy, but we will be aggressive. Reuben will help us there, and we have some young men who are fighting for that spot right now on this team.””La’Bradford Harold ran a 10.6 second 100-meters as a junior, he will be probably 10.5 something when he walks into this year in track in high school. There is a couple other candidates there, but we will see. There are some freshmen and a couple of those JC corners and backs that are talented enough to do it. Boy, they better be good if they are going to beat Kerwynn [Williams] out of that. Michael Smith was back there in 2009, he loves it back there, it was his baby, so he won’t want to give that up either. He wants to be there.”ON BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN RECRUITING:”If you have good coaches, they are going to have good opportunity. I anticipate that because I have good coaches. Our ability to crunch the numbers and put ourselves in position to really have to turn away good players, that is what I would say was the hardest part of this recruiting class. You can only take the number that you recruit, and then recruit specifically to the numbers to put ourselves in a position to succeed next year and in the future. Those would be the two most challenging parts of the recruiting this year.”ON ATHLETES THAT DIDN’T GET SCHOLARSHIP THAT WILL TRY AND WALK-ON:”We get 105 young men into camp, and we will operate at 110-113 kids throughout the season. Right now, we have a number of walk-on kids who are fighting to stay on this team, and number of kids who want to be involved as walk-ons. Really, the competitiveness of the walk-on area has grown to be just as competitive as the scholarship area. We are actually hand picking those kids by position, also. Again, there are good players in the state of Utah that we can’t take because they don’t fit our walk-on numbers as we move forward. You have to have so many offense linemen and defensive linemen. We are going to be in a position to continually reward those walk-ons and I expect next year that we will have two or three young men who have been walk-ons here who will be awarded come next fall, if they continue the work that I believe they will.”-USU-

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