Greetings and salutations from the Woltosz Football Performance Center on the Auburn campus, where newly hired head coach Hugh Freeze will address reporters on the early National Signing Day.
Freeze and his coaching staff have been busy on the recruiting trail. Their work is reflected in the increasing number of players joining the program. Freeze will discuss the class and other recruiting notes with reporters.
There will be live updates here on AL.Com.
Yeah, thank you for being here. I really appreciate you guys. I thought anytime you get something that’s positive around your program and you guys were very helpful in putting those things out.
Sometimes I’m not totally crazy about the timing of everything that comes out because we have plans in place and we’re trying to do, but man, every one of you that I got to meet around our recruitment and these few weeks that we ‘ve had you’ve been very kind and fair. I’m thankful that we have such interest from all of you, so thank you for doing that.
It was a wild two weeks for us. We came into this considerably behind what I think Auburn should be in recruiting. And I have to say, first and foremost, Zac (Etheridge) and Cadillac (Williams) and even CRob and probably others, too, that I’m not totally aware of. But those guys never gave up and trying to hold onto some relationships that had been formed throughout the previous years along with the people in the building and they deserve a ton of credit for hanging us in the fight until we could get what these families appear to have some stability and some direction and vision for our program. So I’m thankful for those guys, they were faithful to the Auburn Family and held us there with a lot of guys. And then we could get our staff here in place and get in homes and share the vision with families and be able to, in a short amount of time depending on what you look at, I’ve heard all the numbers but go from somewhere like 60th to whatever we are today — I’ve seen 20th, 19, 16, I never know exactly what those mean but we’re somewhere in that ballpark.
I think that’s a remarkable job by not only our on the field coaches that were actively out and getting after it, but also the people that serve this program here in the building from compliance to all of our recruiting staff and all the people that served and made the families that came on the visits really feel like there’s something special that could be happening here. So there’s a lot of people to thank and I’m sure I’m forgetting people but I just wanted to start by saying that there’s a lot of people that really held us in some battles with some really good players and we’re excited that showed some fruition today and some of these young men and their families.
Thought we really did well with the DB room, and made some dents in our needs in the offensive line room. Edge guys I thought we did really well together. On defense, interior, we still have some work to do — and we have some work to do on the O-line. We’re not through there. We’re really not through anywhere; we still have some big targets out there that hopefully we can close on now or in that second wave when we hit the road in January — when we get back in January, or the early visits in January. There’s still a lot of targets out there and some needs we have.
You think about JC Hart here locally who’s a 4-3 kid who stayed strong with us. I’m really not sure if this guy plays DB or receiver. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands. I’m kind of anxious to get here and see. Colton Hood, an Auburn legacy guy we were able to flip from Michigan State. He in turn helped us. Wonderful mother and father: Crystal and Benji. Kayin Lee, what a big-time get there. What a football player he is, flipping him from Ohio State and out of Georgia. Mylin was an incredible dad to get to know, and just an incredible job by Zac holding us in that one and getting us to the finish line along with McGriff and everyone else.
Darron Reed, man, I think this guy’s going to be a heck of a player. Loved — one of my favorite home visits there. Just being there in that home — I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings but that may be the best meal we’ve had. Huh, Zac? I don’t know what was in that gravy but it was pretty special. It was a good meal. I’ve got to get back on my diet after this recruiting. I really love that kid, and he loves Auburn.
Bobby Jamison-Travis. I have no idea — JG did all of this by himself, I can’t say I helped him much at all except telling him this guy looks good on film and is electric and dynamic. And we need big fellas that can run like him. I think that’s a big get for him to help us on the interior.
Stephen Johnson, another kid who was committed to an in-conference school. They just fell in love with Auburn on the visit. We need big bodies, and this kid’s a big body, for sure.
Wilky — Man, what a family. Just another edge guy that I think is going to be an outstanding player. Wonderful mom in Kimberly.
Then Keldric Faulk. Man, what a battle. Probably spent more time on this one than any. Just loved this kid, loved his family and, man, Ms. Lekendra (sp?) is just a joy to be around and just so thrilled that they decided to trust in the vision here and to join us.
Elijah McCalister, a two-time team captain in this conference at another school. Excited to have him. I think he’s going to bring some maturity to that side of the ball, some leadership for these young guys who I think are incredibly talented, like Brenton Williams who we got also, another edge guy. Some of these edge guys I hope grow into being like four-I’s also in time. But I just love their dynamic ability.
Connor Lew, one of the best centers in America out of high school. That was a hard task there to convince them that this vision here and the stability now, he was ready to come. It took us a little while but he and his family came on another visit, which they’re allowed to do, and it was awesome to get them.
Bradyn Joiner has been solid with us. One of the most solid guys since we got here, and just helped us recruit all the way through. Wonderful family. Hailey’s—All of them just love Auburn, and I’m so glad we got them.
Tyler Johnson, we think this guy’s going to be, in time — I don’t think he’s ready-made — but he is exactly what you’re looking for in an offensive tackle. Out of Louisiana and we were able to get him and hopefully we will develop him into being a two, three-year starter when he gets in our program here.
Big Too-Taller Miller. Izavion. You’re going to love this kid. He brings joy around him. Jake and Joe did an incredible job of winning that battle and recruiting him against other SEC programs. He’s a guy that we need to play right away. We’re excited to have him too.
Clay Wedin, another one of those in the Connor Lew mold that’s going to be an Auburn man and I think in time play a lot of football for us. Excited to get those high school offensive linemen.
Hank Brown, I’m big on not signing a quarterback that I haven’t seen throw. I’m very uncomfortable about that. And I’ve witnessed this guy make every single throw that you need to make. And he is a heck of a guy, great family, and is going to be a great addition to our locker room and leadership and see how he competes to throw the football, because he really has an NFL arm. I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes.
Terrance Love, solid, solid family, man. Stephanie and Princeton, they’re an Auburn family through and through. Stay strong with us. One of those big safeties you need in this league that can come down and be physical.
Sylvester Smith, another DB that McGriff already had a relationship with, and once he got him on campus we were able to turn his attention to Auburn away from another league school.
And then Sorey, what a big-time, I think has a chance to be a big-time receiver. Long, and athletic. And hopefully get in our system and develop.
So I think that’s the ones that we have so far. I’m sure that you might have questions that I can answer about those. I wanted to address too, before we opened it up for questions….
…Terrance Love, solid family, man. Stephanie and Princeton, there, are an Auburn family through and through. Stay strong with us. One of those big safeties you need in this league. They can come down and be physical.
Sylvester Smith, another DB that McGriff already had a relationship with. Once we got him on campus, we were able to turn his attention to Auburn and away from another league school.
Then Sorey, I think has a chance to be a big-time receiver — long and athletic. Hopefully, will get in our system and develop.
So I think that’s the ones that we have so far. I’m sure you might have questions that I can answer about those.
I want to address too, before we open it up for questions. I think we’ve announced our new staff: OC/quarterbacks Phillip Montgomery, associate head coach and running backs Carnell Williams, offensive line Jake Thornton, tight ends Ben Aigamaua. Yet to hire a wide receivers coach. I’m really close to that, just been focusing on recruiting.
Defensive coordinator Ron Roberts, defensive line Jeremy Garrett, linebackers Josh Aldridge and secondary coaches Zac Etheridge and Wesley McGriff. Strength and conditioning Dominc Studzinski and Ken Austin is our chief quality control of the program that overseas if you say you’re going to do something a certain way, let’s do it that way.
So I’m excited about our staff. We’re going to be bringing in the rest of the off-the-field support staff along with wide receiver coach at the beginning of the new year.
Developing relationship with Keldric Faulk?
Tons of FaceTime calls. I only get one in-home visit so the rest of it is me making sure that he feels, obviously JG is going to do a good job in doing that as did Zac, but making sure that he felt like, ‘Man, I’ with a priority for not just him, but for the head coach.’ And I can’t do that with every single recruit that we have so I have to be strategic. But he was one that I was going to be on the phone morning and night, every single day, trying to convince that this was the best place for him. He had great options. Really it was down to two schools and the other, I’ve got great respect for their head coach. I know he’s good at building relationships too. I think it really came down to we did a good job of building a relationship and also the gift he can give to his mom and family to be really close and do something special here at Auburn.
— Freeze starts the press conference by thanking the media for coverage during the recruiting cycle.
“It’s been a crazy two weeks for us. We came in this considerably behind in what Auburn should be in recruiting…”
— Freeze thanks former interim coach Carnell Williams and defensive back coach Zac Etheridge for helping during the cycle. He also thanked recently fired linebacker coach Christian Robinson for assisting over the last three weeks.
— Freeze thinks the team did well in recruiting the defensive backs.
— Freeze is excited about Kayin Lee, a defensive back who flipped from Ohio State to the Plains.
— What a battle,” Freeze on Keldric Faulk. “Probably spent more time on this one than any. I love this kid, love this family. So thrilled that they decided to entrust this vision.”
“I’m big on not signing a quarterback that I haven’t seen throw,” Hugh Freeze on QB Hank Brown. “I’ve seen him make every throw you can make. He has an NFL arm. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
— Freeze confirms the hiring of Josh Alridge as linebackers coach.
— Freeze believes Name, Image, and Likeness is essential but doesn’t want players making decisions on college based solely on money.
— You don’t just walk across the best in the world every day at what they do,” Freeze on attending Auburn’s preview gymnastics meet and watching Suni Lee.”
— “I can’t say it with any more emphasis. We don’t sign the class today without Zac’s efforts and Cadillac’s. Zac was in on most of the currently committed guys and was vital in turning some from other schools.”
— “There’s no question about this climate; NIL is important.”