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Saints Coaches Recap 2012 Draft Class

Posted Apr 28, 2012

Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt, Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael and Special Teams Coordinator Greg McMahon spoke with the media after the draft

New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt, Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael and Special Teams Coordinator Greg McMahon
Post-Draft Wrap-Up Media Availability
Saturday, April 28, 2012

Watch the Press Conference

Vitt Opening Statement: We would like to say that Sean (Payton) would have been so proud about how our scouts worked this weekend. They’ve been working hard here for the last month. The draft was extremely organized. There was really a great consensus on the players that we took. We took these players (and) they fit into the mode we want: their character, integrity, passion for the game and work habits. Mickey has always done a good job, but we’re proud of our scouts. That being said, we’ve talked about our first two picks. Corey White from Samford, a small school, we really liked. Kenny Flajole kind of got on this guy early. There was a consensus with the scouts and Spags. He’s a little bigger corner. We think he could have the opportunity to play some nickel. He did earlier in his career, but we’re excited about him. Tiller from Syracuse, we had a little bit of inside information. You guys all know Doug Marrone. He’s the head coach up at Syracuse now. He likes this prospect. He knows what we want here and feels that would be a fit for us. That’s the consensus among the coaches and the scouts and then with Marcel Jones from Nebraska. At this point in the draft, we took some height, weight, speed, a guy that had some intangibles we think can lend to our football team.”

Spagnuolo Q: Are you looking to play White at corner initially rather than safety?
A: “Yes, he has some length. We’re going to be a press team. He had shown he can do that pretty good.”

Spagnuolo, Vitt, McMahon Q: Do you like his vertical ability?
Spagnuolo A: “Yes, he showed that. He’s one of those guys that showed up a little bit at an all-star game…small-school player, but a guy that shows up. All the feedback we received from the coaches and the information was positive.”

Vitt: “I think one of the things that were impressive about him is that when he played against a big-time opponent he played really well.”

McMahon: “He jumped out in the Auburn game. We saw him on certainly defense and special teams. He’s a guy that when you come from a small school, you want to see him against good competition. He played well.”

Vitt Q: Over the past two days you have talked about how the guys you have drafted have been at the top of your board in these draft locations. At the same time, do you think that you have satisfied any of your needs?
Vitt A: “That’s a good question. We think we’re a pretty good football team and so it kind of gets to the point now where you don’t have to reach for a need. We’ve done a great job in the offseason with unrestricted free agency, so now, we had a pool of about 18 players that we thought would potentially be there in the third and fourth round and they were there and again, we didn’t reach on anybody. We let the board come to us and maintained the discipline of the draft.”

Vitt Q: Was that unusual?
Vitt A: “I thought it was smooth. I really did. There have been some hectic drafts that I’ve been a part of and we’ve all been a part of. This was well-organized. Mickey (Loomis) did a great job. Again, Sean (Payton) would have been so proud of our scouts. They did a great job. The coaches really did a great job in their evaluations. We feel good about it. We can’t wait to get them in two weeks. We’re having our minicamp and we’ll start to coach them up then.”

Vitt Q: How tough is it to find gems in later rounds, even though this organization has historically been able to do so the last six years?
Vitt A: “I think it’s how you look at it. In my hard and my mind right now, these guys are all Pro Bowl players until they prove us different. We think they have all the redeeming qualities necessary to make our football team and compete in the league. But we’ve had a lot of low round draft picks and (undrafted) free agents make this team. We’ve had a lot of players from small schools make this team. You make a team a lot of different ways in a lot of different phases with different backgrounds. Their intangibles, their character, football character, their tenacity and love for the game and resiliency (will help them).”

Carmichael Q: Everybody will want to make comparisons of Andrew Tiller and Marcel Jones to the drafting of players like Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks and Zach Strief in middle to low rounds. Is that fair right now?
Carmichael A: “We’re excited about these two guys. We feel like there’s a chance for these guys to come in and contribute in some form and whether it’s a year or two down the road…To compare them, I don’t know if that’s fair right now, but we’re excited about (having) them.”

Vitt and McMahon Q: When you look at the draft picks from rounds three to seven, where does special teams come into play as you have said this is a hard football team to make. Where does special teams go into the equation?

Vitt A: “Every reading that we have on defense and three quarters of the readings we have on offense will have a special teams category in there. Mac, how many guys  do you grade in there?”

McMahon A: “We do quite a few. Every linebacker, every defensive player we do.”
Vitt A: “When we look at a player we want to see how they’re going to contribute, how many snaps can we project per game. That all goes into it.”

Vitt Q: It’s been said that you should often take an offensive lineman late in the draft due to the maturation process.  What goes into the maturation process of a rookie offensive lineman?

Vitt A: “When you get late in the draft, I think there are two positions.  I think offensive line is one.  You’ve got to have the size, you’ve got to have to have the mass and you’ve got to have the footwork and hand placement to be able to compete in this league.  When you get a guy who has those qualities that you covet, you take a chance on him.  At cornerback, a guy may not have played very well in the beginning of his career and maybe didn’t have a good senior year, but he has the speed, the recover ability, the hips and the fluidness to break on the ball.  I think those are the two positions you take a chance on late in the draft.  If you go back with the history of our draft, that’s what Al Davis used to make a living on was the late-round picks.  Gil Brandt with the Dallas Cowboys when there were 15 or 16 rounds in a draft (is another example).  Those guys made a living at that stuff.  To a degree we still do it.”

Vitt Q: Do you all find yourselves being more cohesive as an entity until Sean Payton gets back in regards to coaching instead of just one figurehead?
Vitt A: “This is Sean’s (Payton) football team.  Sean brought us all together and we’re going to work hard to make him proud.  We don’t want to let him down.  We’re going to work as hard as we can not to let our players down.  We’re going to work together and be responsible so we don’t let Mr. Benson down.  We have a close, cohesive staff.  We’ve always had that and our players see that.  You can’t fool players.  I’m not going to say that this is going to be easy.  This is going to be a challenge.  I’ve said this in the press conference the other day, we built a football team to coincide with the resiliency of this city when we first got down here.  We’re tough enough to whether this storm.  We have the right people and the right coaches and we’re looking forward to it.”

Vitt Q: Without a first or second round pick in this year’s draft, was there less pressure on you all with the draft selections in the later rounds?
Vitt A: “I can tell you this, when we lose our first game we’re not going to look at each other and say, ‘Well at least we didn’t have a second round pick.  That’s the excuse for losing.’ We’re going to coach the guys we have here.  We’re going to coach them as hard as we can.  We all know that our responsibility is to get our players better and then collectively get our team better.  We talked about this as a staff, the glass is half full.  Mark Ingram and Greg Romeus were our first two picks this year and then we went to the third round and got (Akiem) Hicks.  We’ve got good football players.  We’re excited about our draft and we’re excited about the prospects.”

Vitt Q: Why will Akiem Hicks be different from Al Woods?
Vitt A: “I think this guy (Akiem Hicks) has a quicker twitch, he has better feet and he uses his better.  Off the top of my head, that’s what I’ve seen in the evaluation.”

Spagnuolo Q: Some people had Corey White in the 600’s for available prospects.  What went into evaluating him so high?
Spagnuolo A: “Joe (Vitt) hit it when he said we put a premium on corners in the package we’re going to run on arm length, height and his press ability.  He showed that he was able to do that in this system.  We have corners that have done that a lot.  I think he’ll fit in that way.  He played at a small school so you’ll get dinged for that a little bit and I don’t know if that’s always fair.  That’s what our scouts dug up, a good name, a good prospect, we all looked at him and thought he was a pretty good football player.”

Vitt Q: Do you feel like you’re finished filling in with free agency?
Vitt A: “No, we’re never done.  We’re going to look at the board every day.  Mickey (Loomis) and Ryan Pace are going to always look to upgrade our football team.  It’s funny, the draft just happened and now there’s going to be a second wave of cuts around the league.  We’re going to evaluate that and see how we can upgrade our football team.  That’s an ongoing process.”

Vitt Q: Are you beginning the undrafted rookie free agency signing period now?
Vitt A: “We’re going right now.”

Vitt Q: Is there a number of incoming rookie free agents you’re trying to hit?
Vitt A: “There is, but I’m not sure exactly what it is.  I think it’s 18 to fill out the roster to get to 90 (players).”

Vitt Q: Do you think the NFC is going to be stronger this year?
Vitt A: “I think the conference is going to be better this year.  I think our division is going to be better this year just with the players that came in last year coming into their second year.  I think Cam Newton is going to be better, I think Julio Jones is going to be better and we’ve got to work hard to get better.  You can’t speculate on the draft picks coming in this year.  I know this; we’re going to love every one of these guys coming in here.  We learned a long time ago as coaches that you have to love the one you’re with.  I’ve been married 31 years and I wasn’t my wife’s first choice, I can promise you that.  That’s what we’re going to do.”

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