Feb. 6, 2009
Head Coach Frank Solich
On Pete Germano’s move to defensive line coach:
This will be Pete’s last season as recruiting coordinator. I think most of you know that he’s switching to the defensive side of the ball and I think he is looking forward to that switch. He’s spent most of time on the defensive side of the ball, having coached outside backers here for two seasons prior to us arriving. When we arrived, we moved him to the offensive side of the ball as the tight ends coach knowing that recruiting coordinator is a heavy load. Pete has the ability to go on both sides of the ball. He’s been a head coach. He’s been a defensive coordinator at three different schools and, along with that, has tight end coaching experience prior to us moving him to tight end coach. It all seemed to fit back then and it seems to fit now in terms of the move to the defensive side of the ball. He’ll be working with many more student-athletes because you’re talking about rush ends on both sides of the ball, a three-technique and a one-technique, so four up front people will be under, so there will be quite a few more student-athletes that he’ll be dealing with. When you look at that, you not only look at what transpires athletically in dealing with those student-athletes, but you have to track them educationally and talk with them, so you’re dealing with a lot more people. So with that in mind, in making that decision, I was looking for someone to hire who could fit the tight end coaching position and step in as recruiting coordinator. That’s when the door opened for Scott Isphording. We feel very comfortable with Pete making the move to defensive line, I think he’ll do a great job there. I want to pat him on the back for the job he’s done as a coach and recruiting coordinator. He’s done a great job and you hate to remove a guy from that position who’s done a great job, but we feel the guy stepping in will also do a great job with that.
On the hire of tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Scott Isphording:
He’s got a number of years as a quarterback coach, five years at Eastern Michigan, two years as their offensive coordinator. What attracted me to him was the fact that they led the MAC this season in red zone efficiency, led the MAC in red zone touchdowns, which is great and can bring something from the offensive side of it. In coaching quarterbacks, he’s got general knowledge of the entire offensive scheme that he’s been under and can obviously bring something to the table that way. Anybody that throws the ball 76 times in one game like he did against Central Michigan and completes 58 of them, that says something about their passing knowledge. I think we’ll able to have him fit in here in a lot of different ways and he’ll be the new recruiting coordinator also.
On the overall class:
I like it very much. I liken it to last year’s recruiting class in that I think it is a very, very good class. Last year’s was recognized by some as the top recruiting class in the MAC, I don’t know how this will be recognized by the people out there but I do know how I see it. I think it’s an excellent recruiting class that fits our needs. We got some great student-athletes in the group that are going to be able to be difference-makers for us. We’re really excited about the group we have, it’s an outstanding group. We ended up getting five offensive linemen. We recruited five offensive linemen and I’m convinced if you have a great offensive line and you have a quarterback that can get things done, you can win football games. We’ve been in the process of building the offensive line the last four years and I think we’ve made excellent progress in that regard. We’ll be a very, very good football team in terms of offensive line next season. We’ll have a good deal of depth and that’s something that’s really kind of hurt us as we’ve gone through a few of the seasons, it’s been the depth at offensive line with injuries, causing us problems there. We like the three guys we got in the class last year, we don’t think they can’t be beaten. They do a great job for us and they will play a ton this year, all three of those guys. It could be that we have two or three guys in this freshman group that’ll be able to step up and help us immediately with depth. We’ll take a look at that. We got a big running back. We went after a big running back. As you know, the running backs in our system are not guys with great size. I really like them, they all bring something to the table and we’re able to get an awful lot done with them, but we were banged up at the spot last year so I think a big running back will be a big help to us. Depending on how you look at it, we really have three big running backs coming into the program. One of them will be classified most likely as a fullback and running back, the other two will be big running backs in the system. Nico Price, out of Pennsylvania, is a guy that can line up at fullback and can be a one back too. We continue to get quarterbacks into the system that can run, so you’re able to utilize a big running back in a one-back set as a runner and blocker, so a bigger back will fit some of those needs. On the offensive side of it, we brought in one wide receiver because we have lot of quality coming back, so there was no immediate need to replace a number of wide receivers. We feel good about our wide receiver corps for the season. We think it will maybe as good as there is in the MAC across the board. I’m saying that in terms of wideouts. The tight ends are inexperienced guys. I like their ability, but they are going to have to prove something to us. Also on the offensive side of ball, it was imperative for us to get a couple of quarterbacks. We definitely wanted to get one high school quarterback. The reason for that is that we have three guys that will finish their last season this year, our top three quarterbacks. The fact that we did get a transfer from Iowa State, Phil Bates, was huge for us. As you know, he’ll have to sit out a year but he’s played in the Big 12 as both a wide receiver and quarterback, so in a year’s time, he’s a guy who is an experienced quarterback who can fill the void with all those guys leaving. There was a need to get a true freshman in this class. We did get a freshman we like very much, a guy that is able to run as well as throw. I think he’s a lot like Boo (Jackson) in that regard. He scrambles, sees guys downfield and gets the ball released and makes big plays for you. From the offensive standpoint, I thought the recruiting went very well.
Defensively, we had two interior players that we signed. Those are guys who are always difficult to find. As you go across the country, everyone struggles to come up with numbers in terms of interior defensive linemen. We felt good about being able to sign two that we really, really liked. We have a number of rush ends coming back, so there’s no immediate void there right now or in the near future, so we had one defensive end that we recruited. Two safeties are in the group…I really like the safeties. I think they’re guys who play zone and man, which is important in football today because of the spread offenses that you face, the wide receivers that you face. You’re going to have to have safeties line up on those guys at times, playing man to man and cover as well as the ability to be aggressive and make big plays and tackle. We felt good about that. These are guys who are very athletic, could actually play on either side of the ball, but they stood out as defensive safeties and they’ll line up that way for us. We have one corner in the class, I like the fact that he’s got height and speed, so it’s a position that we feel pretty good about in terms of what’s in our program right now. We lost a corner that we think was a very good corner for us. We have young corners that we think are talented guys, we have one guy that’s coming off a knee injury, so I think the corner position will be a solid position for us so we recruited just one guy there. Two linebackers in the group, and of course when we recruit linebackers we look for guys that can run and both of these guys can run. That fit our needs. Obviously those are the kinds of guys that need to have the ability to line up on special teams for you. That pretty much rounds out the class in terms of what we went after position-wise and what we were thinking behind it. If you look at our approach to recruiting, we’re always looking for physical football players, we start off with that. I feel pretty confident when I line up with a group of physical athletes. So we start with that and when we start our recruiting process, we’re talking about dealing with over 500 names. We try to scour Ohio, almost all of our coaches have a section of Ohio before they spread out. So we try to do a very good job of recruiting in Ohio and will continue to work Ohio. We’re on TV now. We play quite a bit on national TV. No matter where we go in this country, people know about Ohio Football so we’re able to go around the country recruiting. We have a staff that’s very experienced staff, and we have a staff that has a lot of contacts around the country in the coaching business, and we utilize those contacts. If you look at our athletes, we’ve recruited players from 12 different states this year. A lot of that comes from the fact that we have coaches that know high school and junior college coaches around the country and that we’re on national TV a great deal.
On transfer quarterback Phil Bates:
Phil will practice in the spring. We’ll get him some practice reps in the spring. As we get into the fall, he’s not eligible so we’ll have to back off those reps somewhat, but he will get reps.
On recruiting junior college players:
When we looked at our immediate needs, we did not have glaring immediate needs to the point that you’d recruit four or five junior college players. We want to build our recruiting base off of high school players as much as possible. We’ll recruit junior college players if that need is there. In trying to build a program, you utilize the junior college system but you don’t go overboard. As it played out this year, we only went with one.
On recruiting in Nebraska:
I have excellent connections there. We have other coaches on our staff who have coached there or played there, so a number of our coaches have connections to the state. We’ve brought a number of players from Nebraska since we’ve been here and they have all played. All have started or will be starters in this program. The same probably holds true for the two offensive linemen coming in, they have great, great promise. So we’ll continue to recruit the state of Nebraska hard.
On other players coming in:
We also have some commitments already from some walk-on players and we will fill a full squad of 120 players next season. The walk-on program is alive and well here. We’ll continue to work on getting walk-ons into the program. If you look at history in the four years we’ve been here, we’ve done pretty a good job of that and give scholarships to those walk-ons that do earn them.
On the advent of a possible option offense:
We’ll continue to run option, but it won’t be the main focus of our offense. We’ll run a couple different options like we did last year, we may run a little bit more this year as both guys are very effective at it. It’s a way of controlling blitzes. It gives you opportunity for big, big plays and you’re able to devise a good play-action pass series off of the option game. We’ll have option within our attack, but we’re not going back to what we were all about at Nebraska. If I was going to do that, I would have never hired a guy who threw the ball 76 times in one game.
On next year’s offense:
We want to improve our running game from last fall. It was not what we’re after in terms of productivity. Last year we were about a 50/50 offense, and I’m ok with that. 60/40 I’m ok with, in terms of 60 runs. 50/50 I’m fine with too. We’ll continue to tweak the offense some, and we’ll continue to look at what successful teams are doing out there, teams that have great stats in terms of moving the football. We’ll continue to try and get better as coaches in terms of trying to be as productive as we can be on both sides of the ball. When you find yourself in one back sets an awful lot, that dictates a select number of runs that you can do. If you operate out of both one back and two backs, you have to make sure you don’t go over the line of complexity. It’s pretty easy for us as coaches to draw all these up on the board and they all look great, but they have to be executed on field. If you want to be able to play young players, and that’s a goal of mine, I want to play the best players. Whether they’re freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, I want those guys on the field. You can’t have great complexity both offensively and defensively and be able to use young players to the extent that you’d like if you’re getting talented players in your system—which we are.
On how this class helps Ohio and the MAC’s perception:
I’ve never been one to be too concerned about the perception with what we’re about in recruiting. I’m after being productive in recruiting and I’m after pleasing myself. I’m very pleased with what we’ve been all about these past couple of years in recruiting. I think it’s perceived well. It wouldn’t have been stated that we had the No. 1 recruiting class in the MAC unless somebody felt we did. I know the Nebraska coaches and they feel those two offensive linemen are excellent linemen. So as we come up against other people that are recruiting some of the same guys that we are, it’s obvious to us that they’re talented athletes from that end of it. I think that what we’re getting done is being perceived well.
On how the MAC’s success helps recruiting:
Obviously we’re pulling for the MAC schools that are in bowl games and that are in the Top 25. We want them to finish their season well. It’s important to all of us that there be that success out there. The fact that we had five teams that were able to go to bowl games was really excellent because you’re getting to see MAC Football around the country. With what we’ve got contract-wise, as far as TV is concerned, that’s huge for our conference and how we’re looked at and what we’ll be able to do coming off of having all that TV exposure. We do have to start winning those bowl games.
Defensive Line Coach Pete Germano
On Scott Isphording:
I’ve known him since 1994, when I was coordinating defense and he was a quarterback at Hanover. I’ve known him for a long time. He was a recruiting coordinator at Eastern Michigan, so he knows what it entails. He knows the importance of Ohio because he’s from Cincinnati and went to high school at LaSalle. He’s an Ohio guy. I like that because that’s good, that’s our bread and butter. I don’t know if I had to tell him anything because he’s done it already. Of course, I’m going to help in the transition, but he’s a very professional guy, very intelligent. He’ll do just fine.
On the offensive linemen:
It’s probably one of the toughest positions to play as freshman. They might be strong in one area, they might be physical run blockers, but they have to learn how to pass protect and the pass protections at this level. A lot of times, that defensive end is one of the best players on the defense. Sometimes they’re blocking really, really good players. They all possess great feet and all are very, very tough, and have great size. They’ve got what you’re looking for in terms of guys who might be able to contribute early. But it’s hard to predict, it really is, especially at that position.
On the defensive line recruits:
They’re a little bit different body types. One is 6’ 5”, 275 pounds that can really hold the gap, and then you have another young man who is a little shorter and quicker, and then you have another guy in between. I think body type-wise, skill level-wise, they fit what we’re looking for. When you’re looking at D-line, you’re technically looking at three positions: nose guard, three-technique and an end. That’s how it plays out. We needed more help inside and the kids we signed there, Carl Jones, John Taylor, I think they’re really going to fill a huge need inside. Sometimes it’s easier to find an end than an inside guy.
On handing over the duties of recruiting coordinator:
Coach approached me at Christmas and gave me the first shot at it. He’s known that most of my coaching career as been on defense. Recruiting coordinator, having that title when he came in was a huge reason for why I’m still here. Coach kind of saw the wear and tear and he knew that I had great desire to get back. I really appreciate that he came to me and asked me what I would like to do before he did anything. The defensive staff was very open and welcomed me to come on over. It was a good decision for me. I’m very excited.