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Listen to Audio Part I (17:47)
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It’s obviously a very exciting time and a very trying time. We are thrilled with the progress we’ve made. Sometimes it’s a culmination of a year of hard work, today it was a culmination of eight weeks of hard work. We’re thrilled about this recruiting class, we’re excited about the dynamics they bring.
Some of the things that are threads that will run through all of these guys is that they are charismatic, they’ve got great speed and are guys that have great playmaking ability. We were looking for guys with versatility … most of them are multi-talented players. It’s a very good class from the standpoint that almost every single position group is represented.
But first and foremost I’d like to extend a public thank you to the assistant coaching staff and our football support staff. These guys did an unbelievable and awesome job. For a lot of these guys they were basically not hired until the dead period and their impact in this recruiting class has been unbelievable. I also want to extend a personal thank you to Tommy Thigpen and Ken Browning. These were the two guys that held this recruiting class together. Their credibility as men and their passion and love for this University and this football program meant volumes to today’s success. Today’s success wouldn’t have happened at all without those two guys.
Recruiting is a team effort. Every single person in this entire athletic department played a huge role in today’s success. The assistant coaches, but it extends to all the support people … Jeff Connors and all his assistants in the strength and conditioning program … I can’t tell you how much it meant, the impact that our faculty had. They played a huge role because the academic credibility of the University of North Carolina is so important and it’s such an integral part in recruiting. The faculty members that showed up Saturday after Saturday played a huge role. There are so many people that deserve a great deal of credit.
I think when you take a look at this recruiting class, what you’re going to find is there are 10 players from the state of North Carolina and 14 players from outside the state. That’s not reflective for how we’d like each class to go. We want to make North Carolina a major emphasis in recruiting. I think we made up a tremendous amount of ground in a short amount of time with the players and the coaches in this state. …
If you take a look at the recruiting class, it’s a broad spectrum. As you go across the board, there are 10 or 11 offensive players and 10 defensive players – it’s pretty well balanced. We didn’t focus in on any one specific area. … we really felt we wanted this class to be represented in all position groups.
This is the foundation of things to come. We’re thrilled with the way today went, we didn’t sleep well tonight to be honest because there were 4-5 guys sitting on the fence, but we were able to convince them that becoming a Tar Heel was one of the greatest decisions they could make.
On getting an impact class on short notice -
There’s no question this recruiting class will not only be the foundation, it’ll help this football team. A lot of it was, again, I go back to the relationships Ken Browning and Tommy Thigpen had with these players in the state allowed us into the homes to talk to Greg Little, to talk to Dwight Jones because they already had an existing relationship. But then as we started to add assistant coaches, the players in and out of the state realized the credibility of this coaching staff – six have NFL experience, guys that have been parts of national championships, Super Bowl teams … I think once the players got to know us they got excited about the staff we were building.
On convincing Greg Little to change his commitment to UNC -
The Greg Little situation … Greg was a very important recruit for us. We were battling with the competitors and I found out last night at around 11:30, but until you hold the fax in your hands, you don’t count them in the fold. Greg came over a lot over the last month and a half where we had opportunities to sit in my office and he was able to build a relationship with Charlie Williams and Coach Shoop. …
On recruiting Marvin Austin -
Marvin was an unbelievable pleasure to recruit. You have to absolutely love this young man. He’s passionate, he’s charismatic, he’s got an unbelievable personality – he’s like a magnet, people want to be around him. … John Blake’s relationship with him played an important role and I think between he and Tommy Thigpen – Tommy and I made the initial contact. A combination of a lot of things really fit for Marvin Austin. He was serious about getting an education, he wants to be the best defensive lineman in college football and move on from there – I think it was just a perfect fit for him.
On the difficulty of keeping in-state prospects in state -
Well, I go back to the fact that I think recruiting is about building relationships – not only with the players but certainly with the high school coaches. This Friday and Saturday, our coaching staff is going to Greensboro with the N.C. Coaching Association. We're looking forward to it, because it gives us our first opportunity to really start to network with the high school coaches in this state, build relationships with them, let them know that we're all about, and let them know that we are committed to recruiting the players in this state. Each year we're going to get better and better and make North Carolina a major focus in our recruiting efforts. Will you totally ever shut everybody out of this state? Probably not. There're a lot of physically gifted athletes here, and I'll tell you this, we'll be in the hunt for every one of them.
When did you officially hear about Marvin Austin's commitment?
Last night. We felt like we were in great shape with him for the better part of four to six days. I learned a long time ago, you never feel that comfortable and feel like this is a breeze, and then have somebody blow by you at the finish line. John [Blake] did just a phenomenal job of just continuing that relationship. I think you just can't underestimate the impact that John had in recruiting Marvin.
Do you envision future Signing Days to go down to the wire like this one?
No, no, (laughs); I want to sleep better on the night before Signing Day. There's always going to be some drama. If you're going after the elite players – the truly great, talented players – some of the players are going to go down to the wire. You would like to think there wouldn't be that many, but that drama is never going to go away. It's really not, whether it's out of state players or in state. But never forget the importance of a Zach Pianalto. Today, he may be a little bit of an afterthought with guys we've gotten this week and today. But when you think back to December, here is a guy who changed his commitment and decided not to go to Texas but the University of North Carolina. That was big. If he had done that today, think of what a big news story that that would have been. Every time that you win a player, like Quan Sturdivant deciding not to go to Florida, they get forgotten about because it happened two months ago. But it doesn't diminish from this recruiting class.