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February 3, 2016
Q: One thing that you've talked about, and so has James Franklin, is the idea of scholarship depth. How far along do you guys think you are from getting a full class?
AF: We're getting there. We're not there yet. That's probably a cycle deal in terms of you have to go from your roster. So it's not even a three-year deal. It's more of a five or six-year or even a seven-year deal. You have to finesse things out and fix the things you need to fix immediately. Once you fix those, you're able to look at the next pass.
Q: How does a class like this which would be a little bit smaller help with recruiting next year? Also, you've had some guys leave as well. Does that make a big impact?
AF: Well, we have a small senior class coming back, so obviously those numbers are going to be small. The potential of having some available is good because you're able to go and get bigger numbers.
Q: What's it like to have some wiggle room with those numbers?
AF: It's definitely helpful because it allows you to do things you want to do. It allows you to take positions you want to take and take as many of them as you think you need to take. Actually, our defensive line class, as you can see, is a big class. But I feel like we needed it to be a big class. It allows you to do things like that which maybe in a traditional year, you might not be able to do.
Q: How much of a balancing act is it when there is a change towards the end between taking guys to fill the class and not just taking guys to fill the class and keeping spots for next year?
AF: You have a line that everybody has to be above basically. If you think the kid can help you win championships, then you want to take him. If you don't think that he can, you may need to hold that scholarship for later on. There are position needs, but in the end, and hopefully in most cases, you're taking the best player available and best player for you that you think can help you. The defensive lineman position in particular is one that we feel like we had some things to fill, and you saw that. We were aggressive all the way throughout the process with the defensive linemen and we were able to get big numbers there. I think that's always going to help us.
Q: Some of those defensive lineman can play a few positions, maybe linebacker or defensive end, can you speak on those since we may have a little bit of flexibility?
AF: Coach mentioned in his press conference that on the offensive line you look for guys that can play multiple positions, and it's very similar on the defensive line. It could be guys that are defensive ends, or it could be guys that are defensive tackles. They all kind of have different fits. We're going to let them come here and let them practice with us and play with us, and see how it shapes up.
Q: This is the first year with the new academic rules in terms of what guys had to do in high school. Did that pose any challenge for you guys?
AF: That's something that you have to keep an eye on, but to be honest, we're recruiting high enough level students that that is typically something that we're not going to have to worry about here.
Q: All things being equal, how much does a class structure change from last year where you guys were trying to get as much talent as you can on the field to maybe two or three years down the road where you could go for more specific needs?
AF: Interesting enough, in some ways, the further you get along in it, the more you can take best available because you're not trying to fix problems that are currently there. The deeper you get, the more you have depth and competition on your team, the further you get the more classes you have in there, you can almost say, "hey, I want this player over this player," regardless of what the position is. We're trying to fill and balance things out right now. We're getting there, we're not there yet, but we're getting there. And once we are there at that point, then you just take the best player available.
Q: Do you have that answer right now, as in how far away are you from being at that point?
AF: You're never going to be perfect to that point. Every year there is going to be a position where we're going to say, "we really have to sign roughly this number in the class," but I think for the most part, we're getting close. We're probably a class or two away from feeling like, "hey, we're in the power position when it comes to each individual position and how we feel about that position.
Q: There was a lot of flipping and flopping all across the nation. How difficult is that for somebody in your shoes? Do you have contingency plans? How does that work?
AF: You have to have contingency plans. In some ways, the contingency plans are ever evolving. So it's not a "if this happens, that's going to happen" thing because there are too many different things happening all at one time. You're reevaluating and coming out with a new plan day-by-day and sometimes hour by hour. The challenge for me is traveling with the coaches, what they're doing, how they're getting there. That's a big challenge from the staff. It's a challenge of, "Who's next? Who do you want to go to next? Who are you going to offer the scholarship to? Who are you going to recruit harder?"