Rewinding: Hugh Freeze Auburn press conference for National Signing Day

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Greetings and greetings from the Woltosz Football Performance Center on the Auburn campus, where newly hired head coach Hugh Freeze will address reporters at the start of National Signing Day.

Freeze and his coaching staff are busy on the recruiting trail. Their work is reflected in the increase in the 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.

Opening Statement:

Yes, thanks for being here. I appreciate you guys actually. I thought whenever you get something positive out of your show and you guys were very helpful in getting those things out there.

Sometimes I’m not totally crazy about the timing of everything that comes out because we have plans and we’re trying to get it done, but man, every single one of you that I’ve met in our recruiting and these weeks that we’ve had you have been so kind and fair. I’m grateful that we get so much interest from all of you, so thanks for doing this.

It’s been a crazy two weeks for us. We got into this considerably behind what I think Auburn should be in recruiting. And I have to say first of all Zac (Etheridge) and Cadillac (Williams) and even CRob and probably others too that I’m not fully aware of. But these guys never gave up and tried to maintain some of the relationships that were formed over the previous years together with the people in the building and they deserve a lot of credit for hanging us in the fight until we get what these families seem to have some stability and some direction and vision for our program. So I’m thankful for those guys, they’ve been true to the Auburn Family and kept us there with a lot of guys. And then we could get our team here on site and go into the homes and share the vision with the families and power, in a short period of time, depending on what you look at, I’ve heard all the numbers, but go from somewhere like 60 to the whatever we are today – I’ve seen 20, 19, 16, I never know exactly what that means, but we’re somewhere in that ballpark.

I think it’s a remarkable job of not just our field coaches who were actively out and behind it, but also the people who service this program here in the building, from compliance to our entire recruiting team and all of the people who served and made the families who came on visits really feel that something special could be happening here. So there’s a lot of people to thank and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but I’d like to start by saying a lot of people have really kept us in some battles with some very good players and we’re excited that this has come to fruition today and some of these young and your families.

We thought we did really well with the DB room and did some denting for our needs in the offensive line room. Edge guys I thought we got along really well with. On defence, interior, we still have some work to do – and we have some work to do on O-line. We’re not done yet. We really didn’t end up anywhere; We still have some big targets that we hope we can close now or in the second wave when we hit the road in January — when we come back in January or the first few visits in January. There are still many targets out there and some needs that we have.

You think of JC Hart here locally who is a 4-3 kid who has stayed strong with us. I’m really not sure if this guy plays DB or receiver. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands. I’m kind of looking forward to getting here and seeing it. Colton Hood, an Auburn legacy guy we managed to turn from Michigan State. He, in turn, helped us. Wonderful mom and dad: Crystal and Benji. Kayin Lee, what a great time to get there. What a football player he is, taking him out of Ohio State and Georgia. Mylin was an amazing father to know, and just an amazing job by Zac holding us through that one and getting us to the finish line along with McGriff and everyone else.

Darron Reed, man, I think this guy is going to be one hell of a player. Loved it – one of my favorite home visits there. Just being there in that house – I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but this might be the best meal we’ve ever had. Huh, Zac? I don’t know what was in that sauce, but it was pretty special. It was a good meal. I have to get back on my diet after this recruitment. I really love that kid, and he loves Auburn.

Bobby Jamison-Travis. I have no idea – JG did it all himself, can’t say I helped him much, except to tell him this guy looks good in the movie and is electric and dynamic. And we need big guys who can run like him. I think it’s a big win for him to help us out in the countryside.

Stephen Johnson, another boy who was committed to a conference school. They just fell in love with Auburn on the visit. We need big bodies, and this kid is a big body for sure.

Wilky — Man, what a family. Just another top guy who I think is going to be a great player. Wonderful mom in Kimberly.

Then Keldric Faulk. Man, what a battle. He probably spent more time on this than he did on any other. I just loved this kid, I loved his family, and boy did Mrs. Lekendra (sp?) is a joy to be around and so thrilled they decided to trust the vision here and join us.

Elijah McCalister, two-time team captain in this conference at another school. Excited to have it. I think he’s going to bring some maturity to that side of the ball, some leadership to these young guys that I think are incredibly talented, like Brenton Williams, who we also have, another top guy. I hope some of these top guys grow into four-selves in time as well. But I just love his dynamic ability.

Connor Lew, one of America’s top centers outside of high school. That was a tough job convincing them that this vision here and the stability now, he was ready to come. It took a while, but he and his family came on another visit, what can they do, and it was amazing to have them.

Bradyn Joiner has been solid with us. One of the most solid guys since we got here and has helped us recruit all along. Wonderful family. Hailey’s – They all love Auburn, and I’m so glad I have them.

Tyler Johnson, we think this guy is going to be, given time – I don’t think he’s ready – but he’s exactly what you’re looking for in an offensive tackle. Out of Louisiana, we’ve been able to get him and we’re hoping to develop him to be a two- or three-year starter when he comes into our program here.

Too Big Miller. Izavion. You will love this boy. He brings joy around him. Jake and Joe did an amazing job winning that battle and recruiting him against other SEC programs. He’s a guy we need to play right away. We look forward to having you too.

Clay Wedin, another one of those in the Connor Lew mold who is going to be an Auburn man and I think in time will play a lot of football for us. Excited to pick up those high school offensive linemen.

Hank Brown, I’m big on not signing a quarterback I haven’t seen play. I’m very uncomfortable with this. And I witnessed this guy make every move you need to make. And he’s an amazing guy, great family, and he’s going to be a great addition to our locker room and leadership and we’ll see how he competes to throw the ball, because he really has an NFL arm. I witnessed it with my own eyes.

Terrance Love, solid, solid family, man. Stephanie and Princeton, they are an Auburn family through and through. It got strong with us. One of those big bouncers you need in this league that can be physical.

Sylvester Smith, another DB 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 great moment, I think he has a chance to be a wide receiver. Long and athletic. And we hope to get into our system and develop.

So I think that’s what we have so far. I’m sure you might have questions I can answer about this. I wanted to address that too, before we open up for questions….

…Terrance Love, solid family, man. Stephanie and Princeton, there, are an Auburn family through and through. It got strong with us. One of those big bouncers you need in this league. They can come down and be physical.

Sylvester Smith, another DB McGriff once 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.

So Sorey, I think he has a chance to be a wide receiver – long and athletic. Hopefully it will get into our system and develop.

So I think that’s what we have so far. I’m sure you might have questions I can answer about this.

I want to address that too, before we open up for questions. I think we announced our new team: OC/quarterbacks Phillip Montgomery, associate head coach and running backs Carnell Williams, offensive line Jake Thornton, tight end Ben Aigamaua. Yet to hire a wide receivers coach. I’m very close to that, just focused 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 are our QA heads of the program overseas that if you say you’re going to do something a certain way, we’re going to do it that way.

So I’m excited about our team. We’re going to bring the rest of the support staff off the field along with the wide receiver coach at the start of the new year.

Developing a relationship with Keldric Faulk?

Tons of FaceTime calls. I only get one visit home, so the rest is me making sure he feels like, obviously JG will do a good job doing that, as will Zac, but making sure he feels like, ‘Dude, me’ I’m a priority not just for him, but for the head coach.’ And I can’t do that with all the recruits we have, so I have to be strategic. But he said I would be on the phone morning and night every day trying to convince him that this was the best place for him. He had great options. It really was down to two schools and the other, I have great respect for the head coach. I know he’s good at building relationships too. I think it really happened because we did a good job of building a relationship and also the gift that he can give his mother and family to be really close and do something special here in Auburn.

— Freeze kicks off the press conference by thanking the media for their coverage during the recruiting cycle.

“It’s been a crazy two weeks for us. We came considerably behind what Auburn should be in recruiting…”

— Freeze thanks former interim coach Carnell Williams and defensive coach Zac Etheridge for helping out during the cycle. He also thanked recently fired linebacker coach Christian Robinson for helping out over the past three weeks.

— Freeze thinks the team did well in recruiting quarterbacks.

— Freeze is excited about Kayin Lee, a defender who moved from Ohio State to the Plains.

— What a battle,” Freeze on Keldric Faulk. “I probably spent more time on this than any other. I love this boy, I love this family. So excited that they decided to entrust this vision.”

“I’m big on not signing a quarterback I haven’t seen play,” Hugh Freeze on QB Hank Brown. “I saw him make every shot you can make. He has an NFL arm. I saw it with my own eyes.”

— Freeze confirms the hiring of Josh Alridge as linebackers coach.

— Freeze believes that Name, Image and Likeness are essential, but doesn’t want players to make college decisions based on money alone.

— You don’t just cross paths with the best in the world every day in what they do, “Freeze watching the Auburn gymnastics preview meet and watching Suni Lee.”

— “I cannot say more emphatically. We didn’t sign the class today without the effort of Zac and Cadillac. Zac was with most of the guys currently committed and was vital in transforming some of the other schools.

— “There is no doubt about this climate; NIL is important.”