Memphis Coach Justin Fuente's Signing Day Press Conference Transcript
Feb. 1, 2012
I want to thank you all for attending today. I’m excited today to introduce 27 young men that have decided to attend the University of Memphis. They demonstrated a belief in the staff, the administration, in our program, the city and the university. They want to buy into the vision we have for our program and be the building blocks to something special.
On the target area Memphis wanted to address from this signing class
We are kind of on two different ends of the spectrum. Defensively, we were ultra-thin in the defensive backfield. So, we thought that we had to make a concerted effort to get safeties and corners. Not that we necessarily thought that we had everything that we wanted up front, but we just thought that we were ultra-thin there (at DB) and that we needed to address that immediately.
On offense, mostly, we felt that we had to address the big people. We had to get offensive linemen and tight ends because we inherited very few on scholarship. So, we tried to bring in as many big guys as we could. We still needed to fill out the skill positions, at quarterback and at wide receiver, but our primary focus was on offensive line and tight end.
Do you feel as though you filled the positions that you wanted to with this class?
Absolutely, I am tickled to death about these kids. They want to be here, and they are good kids. They have bought into what we are doing and we put a huge price on character, going into this signing class. We want guys that are going to represent us and represent this program well.
I do feel like we hit on what we needed, and I am really excited.
How much did you sell the recruits on being able to make an immediate impact?
Well, from a football stand point, I think there are a couple of things that you have to sell. First, the staff, and I think that our staff is pretty impressive when it comes to football resumes. The university has given us the ability to hire a pretty impressive staff. You try to sell the staff’s experience and experiences with success.
You sell the ability to come in and make an immediate impact and the opportunity to come in and be on the ground floor of building something. An opportunity to look back in five years and be able to say, “I did that,” not just be a part of it, but instead, help to make it.
From a football perspective, those are the types of things that we focus on, without getting into schemes and that sort of stuff.
And, once we get the young men here, there are a lot of things to sell here. I mean, we have made great strides over the last year, as far as facilities are concerned. And, we will continue to evolve there, but there are real tangible things that you can sell to the kids when they get here on campus.
What were the challenges of recruiting with such a limited amount of time?
Well, it all comes down to the single word, “relationships.” That is where you do your best recruiting, when you really get to know all there is to know about these young men, and they know you and feel comfortable with you.
So, when you start from behind a little bit, you have to hurry up and make up that ground. And, we had some guys that our staff already had knowledge of beforehand, but we had to hurry up and hustle to get those relationships built.
I think our staff did a great job. They got me in front of as many recruits as humanly possible, they got kids here, and they did a really good job of building those relationships.
Now being the head coach, what are some of the primary recruiting differences from being an assistant?
Well, there are a lot of differences. When you are an assistant coach, you are worried about your area. Once you get into January, we will have a couple of guys that you try to maintain, and then you start to worry about junior recruiting. Maybe you’ll be in a battle with a couple of guys, so really late in the process, as an assistant, you are dealing with a handful of people.
As the head coach, you are dealing with them all. And, for me, it was a constant refresher. I had to back over it, time and time again just to keep up with the defensive back from Florida and the offensive lineman from Missouri.
It is definitely a lot broader now than as an assistant.
On signing athletes from Texas and Florida
I know that (cornerback’s coach) Chris Vaughn is the key to that. He and (linebacker’s coach) Galen Scott really have great connections down in Florida. They do and have in the past done a great job down there in being able to identify high character kids and kids that can also play.
Chris went to south Florida and did a really good job and Coach Scott, who is usually in the Orlando area, focused more locally. Those guys are doing a really good job, out there on the ground.
Now in Texas it is not just me who has connections down there. Several guys on our staff have been in that state for many, many years. Those are obviously two places that have population bases, warm weather and that put an emphasis on football. You go down there, and you can find some really quality kids that are willing to leave the state.
How do you feel about the recruits that are coming out of Memphis?
I am excited. I really am. I had a chance to be in each of their homes. I am excited about the way that they are brought up, and I am excited about their families and their character.
Obviously, I am thrilled about their work ethic and their talent level. But, most importantly, I am most excited that they are willing to take on this challenge too. They are ready to stay at their hometown school and do something for their city, and really make Memphis proud. I am absolutely fired up about that.
Where do you see the tight end position in your system? You signed quite a few in this class.
Well, we’ve got to get more guys there first of all. I see that as a position that enables you to manipulate the defense. It gives [the offense] multiple looks with that guy. You can be flexible with a tight end. Tight ends can be split out, pulled in to the line or put in the backfield. We don’t have a lot of [tight ends] on campus right now. I envision down the road that we use multiple tight ends in multiple sets. It’s a big part of the future of what we’ll do offensively. I don’t know how much of it we’ll get to use immediately because of the sheer numbers. Whether those guys are ready to play immediately or not, I’m not sure. It’s a big part of the plans for the future.