Wednesday, February 03, 2016

State players highlight UConn's recruiting class

In between the time that Paul Pasqualoni was fired and Bob Diaco was hired at UConn I went to a CIAC football function featuring players and coaches from the state finalists back in 2013. I went around the room and asked many of the coaches what UConn should be looking for in their new coach. More than one of them mentioned the ability to attract the best players from Connecticut is near the top of priority list.

I recall shortly after Diaco completed his coaching staff and we were able to sit down with the assistant coaches and one of the coaches mentioned the plan to reach out to every school in Connecticut. Now it is easy to say that but another thing to do it.

The first sign that the Huskies were serious about recruiting Connecticut came when Shelton's Steve Hashemi was the first player to commit to UConn after Diaco was hired. Then last year New London's Bryan Cespedes was one of the recruits to sign and four others came in as walk-ons.

Today came the second full class recruited by Diaco and his staff and four of the 16 signees hail from Connecticut.

"We are trying, it is not for lack of trying but we are trying to get into so many schools, some of the schools we went in - it predates many coaches, they'll say 'we haven't had a UConn in here for 19 years' or 'we haven't had a UConn coach in for 12 years,'" Diaco said. "We are having a lot of those conversations out there and we are trying and it is working. We are winning over the schools slowly but surely through care, honesty and transparent behavior.

"You can't take everybody, you can only take so many guys, there are different needs and sometimes it fits and sometimes it doesn't fit. We are growing that piece and we have made a lot of strides."

Diaco called Southington's Jasen Rose "a flagship kind of guy" who passed up some offers from Power 5 Conference teams because he wanted to lead his home-state university. He mentioned the incredible high jumping ability of Windsor's Tyler Coyle (he leads all Connecticut athletes with a 6-10 clearance in the indoor season) and the speed of Glastobury's Keyion Dixon (No. 1 on the Connecticut indoor track list in the long jump at 22-3 and had some nice things to say about Tahj Herring as well.

There was plenty of other non-Connecticut athletes to draw praise from Diaco in the press conference and from the assistant coaches during a meet and greet with UConn season ticket holders after the press conference.

Let's start with quarterback Donovan Williams.

"A very special guy for our team," Diaco said. "There are others who could quarterback our team but Donovan is "the" quarterback, he was brought in for that purpose. It could be argued whether he was a national recruit but he was close. a 20-40 offer player. A spectacular young man, high achiever in all areas, make all the throws, athletic, fast and every time I see him he gets bigger."

Diaco's best line might have came when talking about defensive back recruit Eddie Hahn.

"We are sitting there eating, he is tapping his foot and almost can't relax," Diaco said. "Between the two of us we will almost spontaneously combust."

Diaco also touted the punt return and kickoff return potential of Chicago's Quayvon Skanes. He loves the size of linebacker commits AJ Garson and Ryan Gilmartin and the running back tandem of Nate Hopkins and Ja'Kevious Vickers, believes long snapper Nick Zecchino has the best chance to get on the field right away from this class and also the benefit of giving punter Brett Graham a season to get acclimated to the college game as he could redshirt this season with Justin Wain set to be a senior. Diaco also said that if Graham is the guy, he will get on the field.

Finally, in the meet and greet with the fans, Diaco officially announced that former Michigan assistant coach Erik Campbell has been named UConn's receivers coach. Campbell also had stints at Navy, Ball State, Syracuse, Iowa as well as the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.


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