Head Coach Curtis Johnson Signed 16 Players on the 2012 National Signing Day
Feb. 1, 2012
This is an excellent class. First, I want to thank the people who really helped out. The last group of coaches really did a fine job, with half of this class already done when I got here and they are really fantastic players. The president was involved a lot in this process, so I have to thank him, as well, and also Rick Dickson.
I am going start by talking about each position and I am going to start with the defensive backs. Darion Monroe, who was committed to Texas A&M, (changed his mind) when Lionel entered the fold and ended up signing with us. The one thing about Lionel is that he is a great teacher and I think that helped in recruiting (Darion). He is a special type of athlete. He is one of those guys that you have to put somewhere on the field. He could play wide receiver, running back, quarterback, kick returner or punt returner. We are going to start by lining him up at defensive back.
We have two guys in this class that are going to help us so much, in Monroe and Jordan Batiste, another corner (back). If we have two (good) corners, that helps our defense so much. You know Lionel and Jason are the type of guys, they are secondary guys, that would go out and get two corners and two great guys. Batiste was originally committed to Ole Miss and after a long haul, coming in here and talking to him and talking to his family we had the chance to sign him. It was funny that Monroe was the first guy to submit his scholarship letter and Batsite is already on campus.
The next (signee) is Devon Breaux, now here is another guy who can play multiple positions. I love guys who can come in and play multiple positions. He is a quarterback and is one of the players that I felt, initially, would go somewhere else, just because he was so active when he played quarterback, receiver and he is very athletic. You can never have enough athletes on any team and I think that he can come in and do wonders for us.
Royce LeFrance is a (player) that comes to us from Helen Cox High School. I have known Royce for a while and spoke to his team last summer and I told his coaches that I thought Royce would be a good fit for a 3-4 (defensive scheme) and I tried to talk those guys into moving him to a 3-4 defensive end. He reminds me a lot of a guy that is playing over there in Dallas for the Cowboys. He is just a big athletic guy. He is already six-foot-four, 250 pounds and you can never have too many of those type of guys. We got lucky on the defensive line because we have a guy on our staff, Jon Sumrall, who has some ties in Arizona and that helped us find Calvin Thomas. He is a about six-foot-three and 285 pounds and we couldn't pass up adding a kid that is as big and athletic as he is. He has cat like quickness and is a guy we can move inside or outside on defense our defensive line.
I think the best position in our class is on the offensive line. We have Bob Bradley from New Jersey, who will be a center type, snapper, and Colton Hanson from Texas, who is a wonderful player. I don't know how we got (Hanson), either, but he hung with us the whole way. Hanson is every bit of six-foot-four and is almost 300 pounds, but after one of our recruiting weekend I know he's over 300 (pounds), now. Todd Jacquet from Jesuit is a big-time athletic guy, who we love, and he already has the body type of Jermon Bushrod and he is a smart kid. Another offensive lineman is Alex Paul from right over here at Newman High School. He is a big, athletic kid who reminds me a lot of Jahri Evans or Carl Nicks. Lastly, Nathan Shienle is a guy who we got in on late in the process and he ended up signing with us.
When we get the quarterback position, Devin Powell was a late addition for us. I fell in love with him when I saw his tape from the all-star game. He is an athletic quarterback and he can do so much on the field. He is a leader and every coach in the Metropolitan area raved about him after the all-star game. Fudge Van Hooser is a good citizen and comes in as another quarterback, but what he can do is play a variety of different positions. He is a speed guy and he can do some things in a variety of different spots for us.
Josh Rounds is from right around the corner at McMain High School and reminded me so much of Pierre Thomas that I couldn't resist taking him. He is a good, physical, tough player and his principle is one of my church members, so you know he is a good player and a good kid. Then I went out to my high school, St. Charles Catholic, for Lazedrick Thompson, who is a tough nosed runner and plays the game hard. When talking to people at his high school, they had nothing but good things to say about him.
The last two guys we signed were Kendrick Banks from McDonogh 35 and Lorenzo Doss from St. Augustine. When you talk about Banks, Coach Reese would have killed me if I didn't take this kid. As you know I recruited Marshal Faulk and (coach Reese) kept telling me, `he's like Marshall, he's like Marshall'. So coach Reese was out here this morning to make sure I took him, but I really do think he is a fantastic athlete. I had an opportunity to work with him at one of Sean Payton's camps and I remembered him from then and I think he can be brilliant. Doss is not only a football guy, but a track athlete, as well, and he can play a variety of positions for our team.
In this class, we went out and found players that can play a variety of different positions and some crossover players that can play offense or defense. I am saying it now, guys in this class could play anywhere. We like to find guys that can be versatile. I love the athleticism of this class. We have big offensive lineman. We probably could have picked up a few more defensive lineman, but we got in a little late. I love this skill, too. This group could go about anywhere and play. These type of guys will definitely help us out on special teams, as well. That is one of the things that I thought we were lacking when I watched tape on this team.
On if he focused on recruiting more athletes for his roster
"Absolutely. Not to bring up a bad thing, but when you watched some of our games, like the Houston game, you saw some guys just running around. We hung in for a while, but then you saw their guys just running by us. So I wanted to go out and get some guys who were really athletic. Players that can make a bad play into a great play and I think that is what we have done."
On how the recruiting process was for him
"I did get in on the process a little late, but Lionel (Washington), Jason (Rollins) and Doug (Lichtenberger) are the superstars for this class. I think the previous staff did a great job, but getting in on it late and then being able to come up with this type of class speaks volumes about the guys around me. I might have done the least for this class because half of the time I was at Saints camp trying to beat the 49ers, which we didn't do, but after that I got off the plane from San Francisco and went right into it. We had 11 or 12 players in that day and I met all morning with those guys and we have been going ever since. The day after (meeting with the recruits) was out first day of class and our morning workouts."
On the importance of these players having success early on
"The thing that we have to do as a coaching staff is keep our roots in this community and we also have coaches who have NFL experience. With that being said, I think that we have the coaching staff in place that understands how to give them a chance to have success early. Now, the players have to make the plays, but I think we can put our players into positions to have great success.
"I am not redshirting anybody. This is not a redshirt university. Everybody who is coming in, they are playing. I am telling them right now, they are playing, so just get ready. Now, if we cannot find a fit for them, then that is something else, but we're not just going to let them sit back and have time to develop. We don't have time to develop players; the time for us is right now. These kids have to come in and be ready to play and add to this class."
On L. Thompson's knee injury
"I think that the doctors project that he will be ready in late June. He is a guy that can really develop. He helped with the state championship on one leg, so with as hard as he runs and if he is ready to roll he can definitely help us do something this year."
On grabbing local talent
"It is very important right now. I know that the NFL has more player's per-capita from Louisiana than any other state, with Mississippi being a close second. So, I would say that we need to get the kids that LSU doesn't get. If we do that, I think we will be fine. If we can continue to keep the good Louisiana kids in the state and at our university we can be successful. How we do that is by putting a good product on the field and with the new stadium, this can be a good place."
On if having the NFL success added to his credibility as a recruiter
"Here is what added to my credibility. Every time I walked into a house with this ring it was a picture taking deal all the time. In all seriousness, the thing about credibility is that guys look at me like a head coach and say `he is a guy that has been successful, he is local, he has ties with the saint and he has hired guys who are rooted in community and are good people.' The coaches we hired are good people and that is what you need in your program."
On how many guys he missed on
"I don't really know if we missed anybody that we pursued. I know there are a few guys that we would have loved to have signed, but I am not sure if we really missed anyone. I can't really think of a kid we brought in on a visit and that turned us down. I think we did a good job of evaluating our prospects and, once that was over, what we wanted to do was to get our type of players. We got our type of players. I have already said that I didn't think we would get Monroe, but we turned him towards the end."
What he means by "our type" players
"I mean athletic, fast, smart guys. I wanted to bring kids into this program that were smart players and smart in the classroom. I don't want to lose one guy to academics here. I think that this is a great university and I am not just going to bring guys in that I don't think can make it here academically. The offense we are going to run is a smart man's offense. The defense is going to be very complicated and one of our advantages is going to be who is smart and who is not. I think we are going to outthink some of these teams."
On what he wants to see our of J. Rounds
"Josh reminds me so much of Pierre (Thomas). I think he has some astronomical number of touchdowns, like 36 touchdowns, how do you get 36 touchdowns in ten or twelve games. He is a smart kid, too, and he understands what is going on. When you talk to Josh he isn't talking about the NFL or playing professional football, which I am sure is one of his goals, but his first thing was that he wants to be an engineer. We wanted guys who understand leadership and understand academics. Josh understands both.
On selling the program
"I think that young guys want an opportunity to play. I don't think any of them want to sit. I think we are honest coaches and we talked with them honestly about playing time. The thing with (Darion) Monroe was that he is a guy that should have aspirations of going to the NFL and when you look at guys that myself, Lionel (Washington), Eric (Price) and Mike (Neu) on a staff you can get excited. All of those guys talked to him about those things and he would have been crazy not to consider us, especially with the academic institution that Tulane is. It's almost a no brainer.
On recruiting a lot of multi position players
"The thing that you do when you go out and recruit is to go out and look at all of these high school quarterbacks. In high school you put your best athletes at running back or quarterback; you want them handling the ball. That is kind of what we have done with this class. You look at guys like Monroe, Breaux and Batiste, these guys handled the ball a lot and they can play multiple positions.
On the quarterback position entering fall camp
"I would say this, if there was any time in this program that there was a chance for a quarterback to play early in his career it is now. Ryan (Griffin) has done a great job and will have to learn our offense, too. I think what Powell brings a dimension that he can get out of a play. He brings a Michael Vick type dimension to get out of plays and thrown on the run. You have to love the athleticism that this kid has and it will be hard to sit him (on the bench)."
On the next step for the kids who signed today
"We will mail our summer workout books to them and they will follow those from now on. Once this dead period is over they can come up and visit, watch us practice and in the weight room. That will give them a chance to get to know us better. This is like the honeymoon period, they can get to know us and we can get to know them a little better and they can figure out what this coaching staff is all about."
On if he knows the local talent is watching
"I hope (they are watching). We already have a good start on our juniors and sophomores list and we are working on a freshman list right now. That is one thing we are doing right now. I already have my quarterback list right now and we are very active in what we are trying to do. I am not going to play guys who are not ready to play, but I am going to give everyone an equal chance. It is almost like what we did with the Saints, everyone has their job description...If we can fit the pieces to the puzzle tougher and I think we can be very successful"
On if he wants to do anything different from the Saints
"There will be some college stuff that (our players) will do that we would have never dreamed of doing with the Saints. I can't give out all of my cards right now."
On the chance that Monroe would get some snaps under center
"You're spoiling all of my secrets now, but definitely. You might see him at quarterback. You say `wildcat', maybe a little in the wildcat. We have to spring it on some teams. What I have done is recruit a bunch of guys that have played quarterback, so let's see how that plays out."