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UConn Football National Signing Day Primer: Part 1

It's the day before National Signing Day, and things are relatively calm on the UConn front. They have been for weeks, really.

Bob Diaco and his staff had a great run in December, solidifying what was already looking like a strong recruiting class. After the season they were able to build on the momentum of a better-than-expected 6-7 performance in season two of the rebuilding project in Storrs.

The incoming recruiting class appears to have solid quality throughout- a result of having a relatively small amount of openings this year. At any rate, there are a lot of players to be excited about.

It didn't always look like it would pan out this way. UConn got off to somewhat of a late start, securing its first commitment in June with Donovan Williams- a quarterback from Virginia. Williams was recruited by many FBS schools to play safety or wide receiver, but had committed to James Madison University for the opportunity to play quarterback in college. When UConn swooped in and offered him the same opportunity at the FBS level, he accepted and became the first member of the Class of 2016 (our interview).

Many other schools made attempts to sway Williams later on, including Rutgers after the new staff came onboard, but the dual-threat passer maintained his commitment to UConn, reaffirming it after a weekend visit in late-January with 11 of his future teammates. Williams was not only a star on the field, but in the classroom as well.

Bob Diaco and his staff made sure Williams knew he was a priority for them, making plenty of visits across the recruiting periods. second addition to the class came from right here in the neighborhood, as Glastonbury's Keyion Dixon announced his verbal commitment the very next day. Dixon played quarterback and defensive back for the Tomahawks, but will be playing wide receiver at UConn. He participated in the New York vs. New England All-Star Challenge in August, where he stood out on the same field as receiving prospects who were committed to or eventually committed to Stanford, Ohio State, Michigan, Rutgers and more.

READ: Keyion Dixon On His Commitment to UConn

Dixon was discovered by the UConn staff on the Glastonbury High track team, where the coaches happened to see him while watching their children at a meet. Standing 6-foot-3 and possessing track speed, Dixon has potential to be a great receiver for the Huskies.

One week later, the Huskies added two more very highly sought-after prospects in Eddie Hahn and Quayvon Skanes. Both also played quarterback for their respective high school teams—Hahn at Red Bank Catholic in New Jersey and Skanes at Phillips Academy in Chicago—but are tremendous athletes who will be playing elsewhere at UConn.

The 6-foot-3 Hahn chose UConn over offers from N.C. State and Buffalo and interest from a number of power conference schools. He'll be playing safety at UConn, where he may have a chance to make an early impact given his football IQ and UConn's need at the position.

Skanes, a 5-foot-10 speedster who chose UConn over offers from Northwestern, Illinois and a host of MAC schools, also has potential to get on the field early in his career. He could fill in immediately as a rotational slot receiver and potentially as a returner as well. Skanes fielded some late interest from Syracuse but remains committed to UConn. He quarterbacked his high school team to a hallmark state title, and by all accounts appears to be as much of a delight off the field as he is on it.

READ: Interview with Quayvon Skanes after commitment to UConn

Two days later, still in June, Diaco and his staff scored a big in-state commitment when Tahj Herring pledged to UConn after coming back from a visit to Vanderbilt. He also had offers from Virginia, Temple and UMass and fielded a lot of interest after committing to UConn as well. Herring starred at Suffield Academy, a prep power in northern Connecticut and also participated in the New York vs. New England All-Star Challenge.

UConn Report spoke with Herring, who is good friends with former high school teammate and current Husky defensive back Brice McAlister, both before and after his commitment to the Huskies. He became the second in-state commit for UConn after the Huskies only brought in one Connecticut player in the Class of 2015.

At this point, with four out of five commitments holding three-star ratings and impressive offer lists on all of them, it was clear Diaco and his staff were on their way to a nice haul for the Class of 2016. The only two-star recruit was Dixon, but he was playing quarterback for his high school team. I have full confidence that if he was playing wide receiver in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, where the scouts pay a little bit more attention than they do to Connecticut, that he would hold a higher rating.

The Huskies added one more commitment before the season started in linebacker Ryan Gilmartin, who played for a powerhouse program in the Charlotte area. Gilmartin had offers from Army, Wake Forest, Toledo and Hawaii before choosing UConn. He fits into Diaco's 3-4 scheme nicely, and made his decision shortly after a visit to Storrs in the summer. UConn Report spoke with Gilmartin at the time of his commitment and after his senior season as well.

The Huskies added two more commits early in the season before a bit of a lull while the Huskies and prospective recruits focused on football season. UConn, of course, kept in touch with many players as NCAA rules allowed, but after adding Jay Rose to the class in late-September, the Huskies did not get another verbal commitment until December.

Nino Leone is a large offensive line prospect who was relatively unheralded at the time of his commitment to UConn. He made a visit to Pratt & Whitney Stadium for the 2015 season opener against Villanova and made his commitment the next morning. Recently LSU and Nebraska were among the programs to reach out to Leone, but he was not interested in schools which wanted to get involved so late in the game.

In a recruiting class full of big wins, perhaps no recruit comes to Storrs with a more impressive offer list than Southington quarterback Jay Rose, a huge in-state commit for Bob Diaco and his staff. UConn Report first spoke with Rose in June and also right before and after his commitment.

Rose was a part of two consecutive state championship teams at Southington, playing tight end as a sophomore and quarterback as a junior, but fell short of a third, losing in the semi-finals after an undefeated regular season. He held offers from West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, N.C. State, and Maryland before choosing the Huskies.

Most of those schools were looking at Rose as a tight end or H-back prospect, but UConn and Syracuse—his final two choices—were the only ones which offered him the opportunity to play under center.

For all we know, Rose ends up playing elsewhere at UConn. Either way, Rose's commitment capped off a great three-month recruiting run for Bob Diaco and his staff. They wouldn't add another player to the Class of 2016 until December, but they had clearly jumped out to a great start before the season.