| MATT LUKE - OLE MISS HEAD COACH
"Really, really excited about this class. We were able to address our needs at every position. A lot of credit goes out to our staff and what they are able to do, not only capitalizing on the momentum of the Egg Bowl and the early signing period, but also addressing some needs in this. Really proud of our staff. Anytime you start where we started and end up around the Top 25 in the recruiting rankings, it's just a credit to the staff and the job they're able to do. Just kind of going down the list I was going to address it by position. I thought at quarterback it was huge to get a mid-year guy in Matt Corral, he's on campus right now and in classes, and doing a great job. At running back, we had to replace Jordan (Wilkins), so we got Scott Phillips, the number one junior college running back in the country, and then I'm very, very pleased with Isaiah Woullard. He looks great, and I think he's going to do some really great things. I thought Coach Peeler did an awesome job of really selling the momentum of the N.W.O. and the Nasty Wide Outs. We're in the mix of some of the top wide receivers in the country, and we're able to get three of them. Getting Miles Battle was huge, that was a big get for us. Demarcus (Gregory) is already on campus, and then Elijah (Moore) gives us that slot receiver that's maybe a little smaller and quicker, so we'll be able to use him in the screen game and some return game, so we're really pleased with that. We needed to replace Daronte (Bouldin) and Rod (Taylor) on the offensive line, and we're able to do that with some size. Hamilton Hall and Jalen Cunningham are big guys, they're 330 plus, big guys going to be physical in the run game. Probably the steal of the class is Tylan Knight. Everywhere I went in the state of Mississippi they were `This kid's the best player in the state,' `This kid's the best player in the state.' `If we picked the Mississippi Alabama game over again, this guy would be first.' State champion, MVP of the Miss-Al game, and just a kid I'm very, very excited about. We had a lot of discussions in our staff meeting similar to what we did when we had Dexter McCluster. This kid is a very dynamic player and I'm really excited about him. Defensively, on the defensive line, I think it was important for us to add size, and we definitely did that with Noah (Jefferson). He is a big guy that can anchor in the middle. Quentin (Bivens), KD (Hill), and Hal (Northern) we got in mid-year and also James (Williams), so really we're able to address the need of size at that position, so I'm really proud of that. It was much documented that we needed some help at linebacker, and we're able to get some length and some size at linebacker. We have three 6'4" plus linebackers, and I thought that was huge to get some size and some guys who could grow in the big, SEC linebacker. Kevontae' Ruggs was a guy that when I kept hearing about Tylan Knight on the Mississippi side, Kevontae' Ruggs was just the same on the other side. He was running down, making plays, he's a physical guy, and I'm really pleased with him. Luke Knox showed up on a visit, and I remember Luke when he was 6'3", 180 (pounds), and he showed up 6'3", 217 (pounds), running a four-six or a four-seven, and I think he's a guy who can be really special. Really excited about Luke. JaKorey Hawkins, super athlete, and then round it out with Keidron (Smith) and Cam (White). Top to bottom, we're just able to address a bunch of needs in this class, and we're really, really excited.
On if there's one player who can make an immediate difference:
"I think anytime you look at it, the one who jumps to my mind is Scottie Phillips, just because of having to replace Jordan Wilkins.That's the one that jumps to my mind, and that was a big need for us."
On what you've seen so far from the players already on campus:
"We haven't been here for much of it because we've been on the road recruiting, but they've all been in the weight room with Paul Jackson getting really, really good reports. Obviously we can't be out there with them while they have a ball, but I think they are throwing with the receivers, and I think the guys are impressed with Matt Corral's arm. Really happy with those guys, and excited they're hear."
On if there are any players left on the board that haven't signed:
"Well, we're hoping to add a couple graduate transfers, but I can't comment on that."
On how circumstances affecting recruiting this year:
"Our staff just stayed so positive. We just went out and sold Ole Miss, and I think that's what we did a great job of. I think people can say yes or no did it affect, did it not, but we filled our needs, and the kids that are here are excited about coming. I thought our staff did a great job."
On what high recruiting class despite NCAA case says to recruits next year:
"That was one of the questions that I got throughout the season: `What about recruiting?' We were able to just keep those relationships right there, and when all of that uncertainty went away, we were in great positions with a lot of those players. Ole Miss sells itself, and if we get a player on campus, we're going to have a shot to sign him. Again, a great job by our staff getting out there and selling those relationships. When I'm going into a living room, it's easy for me to sell Ole Miss, because people can see the sincerity when you sit down and tell them `This is my dream job, this is what I want to do, this is my vision for the program.' I think they can relate to that."
On biggest adjustment after early signing period:
"It is different, because it makes this day a little less when you sign almost double the first signing period, but it does give you the ability to say okay, this is what we didn't get and what we need to focus on. But again, overall, I didn't think it was that big of a difference, having been the first time we'll learn some stuff for next year. Next year too, we'll look to finish our whole class on the front end."
On numbers for offensive line next year:
"I think we'll probably end up signing five next year, potential four, depending on how it goes. Tackle will be a big area because we have several guys leaving, you have to plan for potentially Greg (Little), so tackle will be an area of need because we got guards this class."
On if getting bigger on defensive line indicates schematic change:
"Just my overall viewpoint is to win in this league you have to run the ball and you have to stop the run. You see it on the offensive and defensive line in this class with bigger guys, so that's a big point of emphasis for us moving forward into the spring is stopping the run and running the ball, so that's why you see some of the size the way you do."
On if there are enough players in the 2019 Mississippi recruiting cycle to fill out class:
"Our recruiting philosophy will always start in Mississippi. That's what we're going to do, and there are several good players, whether or not we can fill out the whole class, but there are several really, really good players in the 2019 class."
On importance of return game with Knight and Moore:
"Just a little bit different style of athlete than we've had in the past. We've had the bigger receivers that can win the one-on-one balls, but we now have some guys that are a change up, that are what we call phone booth guys, change of direction guys. I think they will add a dimension to us in the return game, potentially some speed sweeps, some screens, just to let them get the ball in the open field, and obviously the return game is now a chance for a big play and not just a fair catch all the time."
On Knight's ability to play both sides of the ball:
"We've talked about him at nickel, at returner, at running back, at slot. I think he's very, very versatile, but for his size, he is really physical, and that's what you saw in the Miss-Al game. You saw it in the Mississippi state championship, maybe you weren't sure, but he goes out in the Miss-Al game and he does the same thing, so the kid can play. We have him on the bus, now we just have to find him the right seat."
On Coach Peeler's successful first recruiting cycle:
"I just think he's very thorough, he's very organized, and he just does a good job. He was able to capitalize on the momentum we had coming out of the season, as well as with our passing game and our receivers, and I think there's a lot to sell there. I thought he did a great job building relationships, and having several opportunities with some of the best wide receivers in the country. I just thought he did an outstanding job."
On Coach Roach:
"I think kids gravitate to him. His energy is contagious, but also he's very organized and thorough, and he just has the "it" factor as well with the energy, and I think that's always important. When you walk into a room, he can capture your attention pretty easy."