STARKVILLE – Head coach Mike Leach met with the media on National Signing Day to discuss his recruiting class that is currently ranked No. 13 nationally. Below are the quotes from Leach’s press conference.
Q: What are the main positions you want to add to after this Signing Day in December?
ML: I think it’s very relative. We wanted to make an impact on the defensive line, defensive back and offensive line. I felt like we did. There are a couple guys that have signed that we are not announcing today, respecting their wishes for various signing day considerations they have with their teammates. We filled out a lot in our class. We have to continue to improve and sort of attack the task at hand in January. I think we’re off to a good start. I want to thank all our coaches. Our coaches have done a tremendous job at recruiting. In particular in our recruiting office behind the scenes the ones that did a really great job were Dave Emerick, Matt Dudek, Rod Gibson, Brittany Thackery and Andrea Hollis, who really put together great visits for these guys and allowed us and the program to put our best foot forward as they made their consideration for their next stop and college to go to. Also, I thought we targeted our region pretty well. We got 12 out of Mississippi, which was a huge consideration to get as many as we would out of Mississippi.
Q: Why was quarterback Braedyn Locke the guy for you? What makes him a good pick for your offense?
ML: Braedyn Locke had a really impressive career first of all. The ball explodes off his hand and he puts it in his receivers hands and they get yards after the catch. It didn’t hurt that he broke the touchdown record in the state of Texas.
Q: With Percy Lewis a big guy coming out of junior college, is that someone you see making an immediate impact at left tackle?
ML: I hope so. The junior college guys, you want them to be able to contribute early that is why you went with the JC guy. He certainly has the frame for it.
Q: With Javae Gilmore, Khalid Moore and Avery Sledge being such athletic linebackers, is [athleticism] something you look for in that position?
ML: You have to be able to move. Part of what we do – and everyone likes the big plugger types of guys. If you can move, we can do so much more with it. The type of defense that Zach [Arnett] runs, a lot of twists, blitzes, movement, that time of thing, you definitely want that to be an aspect of it and long arms too.
Q: I know you probably enjoyed getting back on the road [recruiting] a little bit. What was it like this year being out there and on those in-home visits again?
ML: Fast and furious. You go from the last game to hitting the road. There’s none of this recuperation stuff. The other thing is you have to become more familiar with the guys you’re going to sign, and you have to do it quickly. And you have to do it quicker now than ever.
Q: What kind of role does the transfer portal have, and how will you assess it in the coming weeks?
ML: We’ll consider it as a resource. There’s a randomness to the portal. It’s definitely a resource that can’t be ignored.
Q: Why is it so important to recruit players outside the state of Mississippi?
ML: Our biggest emphasis was on recruiting [the state of] Mississippi. That’s specifically what we wanted to do most importantly and then satellite out from there. We wanted more, and great players no matter how far away they are, but the ones with ties here that grew up with the SEC and Mississippi State football, I think that’s the starting point.
Q: Now that you’ve been through the name, image and likeness process, how much did you see NIL play a role and how did it turn out in this cycle?
ML: A little bit. There was some rhetoric on it, and I think it’s still unfolding.
Q: Would you like to take a QB at each cycle, or does it depend on what you need at that moment?
ML: I try to take one each year, yes.
Q: How do you sell Mississippi State to out-of-state prospects and their families that may be unfamiliar with the University?
ML: We try to get them familiar with, first of all, our schemes and how they fit in, whether it’s throwing the ball on offense, or attacking the ball on defense. From there, you try to get acquainted with them the best you can, because there’s a point to where people want to be around people they trust. There’s a place where they get excited seeing the people in the hall, the locker room and on the field. We try to illustrate that the best we can. Then once you get them on campus, be real truthful with them as they come in and put them in a position to verify, see it and gather all the facts once they’re on campus.