Somehow I survived my first exposure to the wild world of BCS-level football recruiting. The last week or two was a process to end all process as the Huskies securing commitments from nearly 10 prospects of the 24 part of the incoming freshman class.
I resisted the temptation of posting the entire list and providing an analysis of the class before it became official because I expected there would be a curveball or two. Turned out I was off by a couple of signing-day surprises.
Leading the way was Plano (Tex.) QB Richard Lagow and Orange (N.J.) defensive back Jamar Summers not signing combined with Dunmore (Pa.) DT Michael Boland and Atlanta's Grady HS quarterback Kivon Taylor.
Before I get into the position by position breakdown, it should be noted that there's no way of knowing which of the players will actually see game action during the 2013 season and nobody, including me, has a sense of which players will emerge as impact players out of this class. I looked back at the 2008 and 2009 classes on the scout.com website to see where some of UConn's current NFL prospects were ranked. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, the No. 12 cornerback in this year's draft class according to the NFL Draft Scout site was listed as the 133rd best CB coming out of high school. Sio Moore is listed as the 82nd overall player in the same NFL draft database and was the 80th best weakside linebacker when he committed to UConn.
Now here are my thoughts on how UConn addressed each position
QB: Xavier Tim Boyle (2,426 passing yards for Class LL champs) and the aforementioned Taylor will compete with redshirt freshman Casey Cochran for the No. 2 quarterback spot and perhaps will press Chandler Whitmer for the starting spot. Wildcat QB Scott McCummings is also back for the Huskies and it remains to be seen how new offensive coordinator T.J. Weist uses the wildcat.
RB: Josh Marriner ran for 417 yards in a one game as a high school senior and had 2,145 yards as a senior. UConn returns all of its tailbacks including Lyle McCombs so we'll have to see if the speedy Marriner can move by more established runners. Matt Walsh, who was a dynamic linebacker at Hand, will look to earn immediate playing time at fullback as a freshman. Rueben Frank is the returning starter at fullback but the No. 2 spot is wide open after concussion issues led former Seymour High star Mike Osiecki to stop playing football.
WR: When Weist spoke with the media after being hired, he expressed the interest of stretching the field vertically in the passing game. Last year UConn's leader in yards per reception was tight end Ryan Griffin. Perhaps returning receivers Geremy Davis and Shakim Phillips, the Huskies' top two receivers in 2012, can be used to stretch the field more than they did a year ago when they managed 13.9 and 12.5 yards per catch respectively. Dhameer Bradley and Noel Thomas are already enrolled at UConn for the spring semester and will have a chance to take part in spring drills. Brian Lemelle, the all-time leader in catches and receiving yards in Pennsylvania high school football history, is one of the more heralded signees in this class. At yesterday's press conference UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said he looks at Thomas as an outside receiver while Lemelle has the ideal skill set to play in the slot.
TE: This could be the position where true freshmen make the most impact by default since four of the six tight ends on the 2012 are gone including Griffin and John Delahunt who combined for 47 catches and seven touchdowns last season. Jordan Fuchs is a good enough basketball player at Christ the King to draw Division I interest in that spot while Tommy Myers is also a top basketball player. The third tight end signee is Quinn Thompson, is also an intriguing prospect who was a running quarterback in high school.
OL: No position drew more criticism on last year's team than the offensive line. UConn signed three players projected to play on the offensive line. Leading the way is Kyle Schafenacker who was the starting left tackle at Ft. Lauderdale powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. Schafenacker, who projects to play guard in college, resisted a late recruiting push from South Florida. Tommy Hopkins and Chasz Wright (the first player to send in his letter yesterday) hope to push for playing time at tackles. It's extremely difficult for a true freshman to be able to make an impact on the offensive line and assuming Jimmy Bennett returns for a sixth season, UConn will return six offensive linemen who started games in the 2012 season.
DE: Trevardo Williams departs as the program's all-time leader in sacks but due to the large number of injuries on the defensive line, UConn returns a host of players who were productive players a season ago. It won't be easy for defensive ends Sha-ki Holines (29 tackles for losses as a senior), Cole Ormsby (17 sacks for Class L finalist Windsor), Cameron Stapleton and Jalen Stevens (126 tackles, six sacks, three blocked punts as a senior) to play immediately although on paper this looks like one of the positions where UConn did the best in landing talented prospects.
DT: Boland, who had 14 sacks as a senior, and Folorunso Fatukasi (78 tackles, 10 sacks in his final high school season) are both in the 6-4, 6-5 range UConn likes its interior defensive linemen to be. Like the offensive linemen, it can be asking a lot for a defensive tackle to play immediately and despite the graduation of Ryan Wirth, UConn does have some depth at the position.
LB: This looks like a talented group with North Branford's Cory Jasudowich, fresh off an impressive performance in the International Bowl on Tuesday, Junior Joseph (17 tackles for losses as a senior) and Chris Britton hoping to make a run at playing time following the graduation of outside linebackers Jory Johnson and Sio Moore.
DB: The graduation of starting cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson leaves two gaping holes in UConn's defense. Javon Hadley, a speedy prospect out of Miami, and Thomas Lucas, who at 6-2, 185 has more size than many of UConn's other cornerbacks, have a chance to push for early playing time.