Feb. 7, 2001
I am excited. With the other fine classes that we have recruited at Stanford, this group greatly enhances our chances to be a bowl team in January 2002. That's important because we want to be one of those teams that hopefully is running for all the marbles. That's what you enjoy about this football game.
I had a couple of questions about specific players and what position they might play - (Jon) Alston and (Gerren) Crochet.
Jon Alston will come in and be a linebacker for us, and we're excited about John. He's a young man that we've had in our camp. He displayed tremendous speed, quickness and agility along with a desire to get to the ball and be the hitter. If those qualities remain intact when he arrives on campus, I think we'll be as excited in August as we are today. Gerren (Crochet) would be a wide receiver. Last year, he went to a high school that really involved him and taught him as a receiver that allowed him to make tremendous strides as a receiver. Along with his track credentials, he comes to us very impressive.
What would you have to say about Michael Craven?
The press build-up and the football build-up surrounding Michael (Craven) has been tremendous in terms of ranking him as one of the better players in this country. Anytime you have a young man of that caliber, you feel awfully excited. We are eager to have Michael get on campus and hopefully start to player even better than he played during his high school days.
Is he going to be an inside linebacker?
No, I think right now the position that Michael will probably have an opportunity to line up at and hopefully be (is) a replacement for Riall Johnson. (He is) a young man that can move into that kind of position with his explosiveness and athletic ability.
Who in this class might we be looking for to play right away?
That's something that I can never put a handle on. I think, obviously, when you mention Michael Craven, that with the absence of Riall Johnson (and) that we are in need of someone explosive like Riall that this provides an opportunity for Michael Craven. I'm not sure where all the opportunities lie, but there will be some and hopefully these young men will step in and jump right in there into those positions that allow us to be an excellent football team.
In your release, I guess you alluded to something that there might be some guys who could make an immediate impact. Is that based on positions being available?
I think there always has to be opportunity, hopefully within your system, and then the individual has to create opportunity. I think there are some young men that could possibly come in if both of those situations existed, which enhances the ability to jump into the lineup.
Are there particular places (or) positions (that are available)?
The one that just jumps out is in regards to (Michael) Craven. You talk about the absence of Riall Johnson. That's a place where a young man can maybe have an opportunity to jump right in. There may be some other ones that show up on our football team, that these guys really fit that need at that time and their abilities really set themselves above our other guys.
I was interested in asking you a question about Capp Culver, the linebacker from Canadian, Texas. In talking to his father and Capp, they sent questionnaires out to colleges and ... tried to recruit a college. Would you have ever found him if they hadn't initiated some contact?
I think there was some initial contact on their part but there was also our customary procedure of sending out as much information to as many high schools around the country as possible. When there is a favorable matchup as in the case with Capp, because he is a fine student and also an outstanding athletic talent, that when that matchup presents itself for Stanford, we try to jump all over it. We were just blessed that the communication lines were going both ways, which allowed us to have that early contact and really put ourselves in a position to be very favorable on Capp's list.
Did you have positions of emphasis with this class looking down the road two or three years in terms of where your current guys stack up in terms of their classes.
There was an obvious need for some linebackers. That was one of the things that we pinpointed and said 'We have got to get, hopefully, some outstanding players in there.' That's where an (Jon) Alston or a (Michael) Craven and some other guys come in. You're always in search of defensive lineman. Mark Anderson, Casey Carroll, Michael Lovelady and O.J. Oshinowo - those guys really jump out at us as guys that hopefully if not tomorrow, down the road, will fill the need for us in terms of the kind and caliber of defensive linemen that we're looking for.
So (Mark) Anderson is projected as a defensive lineman?
Yes, he is.
Can we talk a little bit about Kyle Matter?
Yes, indeed. I think Kyle very much fits our profile of a quarterback. You look at your leader and the guy who plays what most people consider one of the most critical positions on your football team, you want that young man that has great intelligence and also is prone to making great decisions. You look at Kyle and the number of passes that he threw last year, and the yardage, is tremendous. Also, the number of interceptions and the ratio of throws to interceptions is low. You know that you are getting a young man that has great decision-making ability, is extremely smart and has the mobility that we're interested in. We're really excited about Kyle and think he really fits the kind of model that we like in our quarterback.
Was there anyone that you were close to recruiting but missed out on, or is there anybody who you're pleasantly surprised at getting?
I think we're excited about getting our whole class. I think we're very pleased with the depth and the ability and the skill level and the intelligence and the character of this group of young men. From that standpoint, I we are extremely excited. But, as always, there are people that you always miss and wish you could have had. But, with this program, we focus on the positive. We feel very good about our class and about what they are going to add to our football program.
How did you address the wide receiver position?
I think, first of all, the last two years, with the absence of Troy Walters and DeRonnie Pitts - with those two guys moving on, those two guys probably being in most of the career stats in the Pac-10 Conference being the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, that is a tremendous loss. But, we're pleased with the guys we've brought in - the Luke Powell's, the Ryan Wells', the Jamien McCullum's - guys that we already have on our squad, and now bringing in the Gerren Crochet's, the Grant Mason's and Justin McCullum's. Bringing guys of that caliber gives us the opportunity to have a real boost. So, we are excited about the group on campus and the group we are bringing in, because we think they will add to our football team.
You usually have a bunch of guys who play two sports. How much affect do feel that has on being able to get some guys?
I think, in the case of some our young men, that's critical, because I think that they recognize our program is comfortable in that environment, is comfortable in having guys play two sports. So, you get guys who are also track guys - I think(O.J.) Oshinowo throws the shot-put, throws the discus, and will probably do very well in the state meet. I think you have Crochet, whose times are national standard times in track. So, you have a guy who looks at your program and says, "I can play another sport - they accept it, they understand it, they know how to work with it." In the case of Michael Craven, it's the ability to be a baseball player along with being an outstanding linebacker. I think it's a real draw for us, and something that we think is a benefit to our program.
What caught your staff's attention about Capp Culver?
When you see Capp play, the first thing you notice is that he plays all-out. He is extremely active, as we say, he has a high motor. He is involved in a lot of tackles, he is always around the football. When he's carrying the football, he's running through people, he's doing good things with a high-energy level. That's the kind of guy who plays in your system from the very snap of the ball to the last whistle of the ball game, and that's the kind of young men you want in your program.
How do you project if a player from a smaller school can play at a Division I level?
It is difficult to project whether anyone can play at a Division I level, and I don't think we've figured this thing out that we can say its an exact science. What we have to base it on are some of those, hopefully, internal qualities of an individual that show themselves in his play. You talk about trying to measure a young man's heart. We try to look and see, does he play with his heart? Does he play intelligently? Is he physical? Because, if he'll hit you, there's probably a good chance that at almost any level, he'll hit you. I think when those things show themselves on film, and you can see enough of those things, then you can feel good about a young man and feel good that he has the confidence and the skill level to perform at any level. Will there be a period of adjustment? Most likely.
Do you sense that you guys have been able to turn Stanford's admission standards into a positive?
I don't think we have to turn them into a positive - I think they are a positive.
Do you ever get frustrated with the admission standards?
I think when, for whatever reason - and there are a lot of reasons, not just the numbers, that young men don't get into Stanford - and that's with the general student population, but anytime you miss on anyone you think will help with your specific area, you are always a little down. We also have tremendous confidence in our admissions department, and that's important.
It seems like the football staff works very well with the admissions department, and that they do what they can to try to help you.
I think that's the overall attitude at Stanford. I think Stanford is very comfortable with its role in academics, and also equally comfortable with its role in athletics. It (Stanford) believes you can have the best in both worlds, that you can have great students who are also outstanding athletes, or musicians, or whatever their choice of special talent is.
Did the rumors about the Ohio State job affect the recruiting one way or the other?
To be quite honest with you, usually those are quite positive for us. I think what we tell our young men in the recruiting class is, we ask them to ask the opposing recruiter a very simple question - "When did you talk to Coach Willingham?" When the recruiter realizes that they (the recruited players) have been communicating with me and they know exactly how we stand on all of those issues, then it doesn't become a problem. It really becomes a source of strength for us, because they (the recruited players) understand that there is honesty, there is integrity in our program and in the things we say we do.
You mentioned that (Michael) Craven would get a shot at the outside linebacker position. Where are (Jon) Alston and (Capp) Culver projected - are they going to be inside linebackers?
We may have a couple of them outside, or two more inside. Right now we recognize that Michael (Craven) comes to us with supposedly special talents, and we will see if there is an opportunity for him to grab one of those spots if at all possible. We'll figure out where is the best position is for all these guys to play.
Rudiger is a fullback.
About J.R. Lemon, another highly regarded running back. You have quite a few guys already on the running back depth chart. What do you see from him?
First of all, I think it is extremely exciting, since in our group of running backs, we had J.R. ranked higher than some of the publications had him. We're excited about having J.R., and I think he adds to a very good running back corps that we have. If he's not able to have immediate impact this year, then the future looks extremely bright for him because two years from now, both Kerry (Carter) and Brian Allen will be stepping up hopefully into the next level, and that will even increase his opportunity to perform and be a leader in the Stanford running game.
Could you characterize the receiving group (Gerren Crochet, Grant Mason and Justin McCullum)?
I would hate to (characterize them). As much as we've seen them on film and like them, I think we don't know them yet. I think that's very much the case with so many of our guys on this list. We're excited about this group of young men, but at the same time, we are going to find out all the things they can do. We believe that the potential is tremendous and we're going to learn and discover and see all the things we can do, because I think its very obvious that people look at Justin McCullum and say, "Oh. My goodness, 6-4, 210 pounds, must be a possession receiver." Well, guess what - he might not be. All of these things, we're going to find out. We're excited about these guys, and I don't want to put any boxes around them right now. I want to make them determine and show us exactly what their skills are. But, we're excited about the group, I'm excited about Justin, I'm excited about Gerren, I'm excited about Grant. These are all young men that we just get excited about because we know they are playmakers, they are outstanding athletes, and they come in with a burning desire to help make us a great football team.