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Feb. 1, 2012
Linebackers Coach Ron Vanderlinden
Media Day Quotes
Q: Can you talk about how special the guys that are coming in are going to be having hung in there with the program?
A: There was a core group of guys that really start to finish loved Penn State and wanted to be a part of Penn State and I think some very talented players. So we are excited about it.
A: Well, when the new coaching staff arrived shortly after early January they were all professional guys and jumped right in and immediately started evaluating the players we had offered, the players that were still out there, and every player on the east coast that we evaluated. We spent a couple long nights looking at tape, making calls. We spread out the work and Coach Johnson led the charge to get this organized. So, it was really neat to watch everybody come together in a short period of time to work together and pull the class together.
Q: Can you talk about the style of player Bill O'Brien is attracted to?
A: I think all the coaches, and Coach O'Brien as the head coach, are very attracted to the quality we have here at Penn State. The real student-athlete that goes to school here, wins at a high level and has success with honor. We wanted to maintain that so rule No. 1 was recruit young men who wanted to go to class, get a degree, and do it the Penn State way. So that's where we started, and then recruit a player talented enough to beat everybody on our schedule.
Q: Are you guys happy to have this done and start anew here?
A: Well absolutely, and that's the case every year at the end of recruiting. You're glad to have your class signed and get to some football. In this year in particular, as we finish the 2012 class, we're excited to moving into the 2013 class and to get rolling to have a great class next year.
Q: Are you guys happy with the guys you got?
A: Absolutely. Remember this about recruiting, it's not the ones you lose that beat you, it's the ones you take that can't play that defeat you. So don't worry about the ones that got away, just make sure the guys you take are good enough to compete at a high level and I think we've done that.
Q: The philosophy has always been to stay around the area, but do you plan to spread your wings a little bit and maybe look south and across the country?
A: You know, we are all just starting out together. I think Coach (O'Brien) has directed his thoughts to 'let's do a great job in the East Coast and traditional Penn State recruiting areas,' and then if we find a need or find a player that may not be in our traditional recruiting area wherever that might be and he meets all of the qualifications we are looking for, let's go get him.
Q: What have the new coaches asked you about the most as they got acclimated here?
A: I think one of the initial questions that every coaching staff has is 'let's talk about academic profiles' as well as 'who are we looking for and what type of person.' As I mentioned they (the new coaches) are all very professional and around a lot so they knew the talent level we are looking for to compete at the highest level.
Q: You only got one linebacker (Nyeem Wartman) can you talk about him and who you recruited?
A: When we started out, we started out to only take one linebacker. We have nine linebackers now. Nyeem was always a player that we had focused in on. When we got a commitment from another linebacker, in some ways I was a little disappointed in that Nyeem was the guy that I had really locked into as the linebacker coach. I personally recruited him myself because I wanted him to come to Penn State. That was the guy we wanted to fill the one spot we had for linebacker. So I said, "Coach, we've got to continue to recruit Nyeem and get him on campus even though you said only one," and I think Coach was really good about that. So it really ended up as we hoped it would that Nyeem would come to Penn State. I watched him run two track meets and he ran a 10.85 at 230 pounds, and that's exciting to see a big linebacker running down that track that fast. And then I got a chance to watch him play this season. I was very impressed by how intense, how active, how many plays he made, and watching his highlight tape his senior year I think we got a really special player to carry on the tradition.
Q: How important was it to keep coaches on staff to this recruiting class?
A: Well it was really important to Coach (Larry) Johnson's wife and my wife to keep us on staff (laughing), but we are glad to be here and I think probably it did help with the continuity with the number of guys that coach Johnson and I were personally recruiting. I think that probably helped with the continuity, but I can't overemphasized how the new staff jumped right in and did a great job of befriending the recruits that we were recruiting.
Q: Was it easier knowing that nothing was changing and the philosophy would remain the same?
A: I think that speaks volumes about Coach O'Brien. He has said repeatedly how excited he is to be at Penn State because he embraces the same philosophy that has been embraced at Penn State that 'let's go out and get the best student-athlete we can and continue that tradition of success with honor.'
Q: What do you feel best about this class and what were you hoping to accomplish with this group?
A: I think we met the needs of linemen, both sides of the ball. I think we had to get linemen. I think we hit all of our basic needs. As I mentioned earlier, we wanted one linebacker, we wanted to get a running back we felt really good about, we wanted to get a quarterback. We got some skilled athletes that we feel good about and we helped ourselves in the secondary. I think we hit all of the areas we set out to hit.
Q: Here toward the last month guys are changing their minds, and you're looking at guys that have flown under the radar. When you are looking at those hidden gems, what are you looking for in a prospect?
A: One of the wonderful things when a coaching staff takes over is you are undaunted by ratings and all the extra parts of recruiting and you are really just watching the athlete himself. You are doing it from a standpoint of 'is he big enough, is he fast enough, can he play at a high level?' The times that I've done that in my career at different universities we look back and had some of the best recruiting classes we've ever had. We looked at it just purely as an experienced coaching staff 'can we beat everyone on our schedule with this player.' If we didn't feel that individual could do that we would not have recruited them. So whether he was or wasn't under the radar, he was on our radar and that's all that matters. I would just take you back to Paul Posluszny and Sean Lee. I'll bet neither of them were highly rated recruits and they both turned out to be great players. And then you look at some of the five star guys that just couldn't play anywhere. Again, it's not the ones you lose that beat you, it's the one's you take that can't play that defeat you. So just worry about the guys you get, and I feel like that's what we've done.