UConn Football National Signing Day Primer: Part II
Despite getting off to a slow start, UConn Football's recruiting picked up nicely across the summer and into the start of the season. After securing eight strong verbal commitments by the end of September, the Huskies stood pat until a big official visit weekend in early-December.
Four visitors committed to UConn after that weekend: running backs Nate Hopkins and Ja'Kevious Vickers along with linebacker AJ Garson and offensive lineman Mike Lonsdorf. A fifth, offensive lineman Cam DeGeorge, committed the following Monday.
Hopkins was a unanimous Texas Class 6A first team all-district selection for Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas. He chose UConn over offers from Army, Navy, Boise State and Illinois. He became the first verbal commitment for UConn from Texas since 2012, and if he ends up on campus will be the first Texas recruit since wide receiver Michael Smith in 2008 to do so. UConn Report spoke with Hopkins before his visit to Storrs.
Vickers, a standout at Glades Central High in the West Palm Beach, FL area, gives the Huskies a pair of running backs for the 2016 class. He had a chance to attend UConn games at Central Florida and against Houston- two pretty good ones to catch. The playmaking back said he knew within 24 hours of his visit—during which he received the official offer—that he was ready to commit. His high school has produced many NFL players, including Fred Taylor, Kelvin Benjamin, and Santonio Holmes. UConn Report spoke with Vickers after his commitment.
Garson hails from Oxbridge Academy, just an hour away from Vickers' high school. While most schools were recruiting the 6-foot-6, two-sport athlete as a tight end, he chose UConn for the opportunity to play linebacker under head coach Bob Diaco, a former All-Big Ten linebacker at Iowa, and co-defensive coordinator Vincent Brown, a former All-Pro in the NFL. UConn Report spoke with Garson before his visit and after his commitment.
Unfortunately, Lonsdorf decommitted from UConn within a few weeks of making his commitment. Such is the nature of recruiting, where new schools entering the mix can cause a high school prospect to change his mind. Lonsdorf, a New Jersey native, is now committed to Rutgers. The new staff in Piscataway tried to lure away a couple of Husky commits, and were successful with this one. If Lonsdorf is the only UConn de-commit, the Husky staff will have done an excellent job overall of holding on to its verbals.
DeGeorge was committed to Syracuse until the removal of head coach Scott Shafer, after which he began exploring other options. Standing 6-foot-5, 262 pounds, he is an imposing interior line prospect. The Lynnfield, Mass. native had offers from Temple, N.C. State, and Rutgers before choosing Syracuse. He and fellow Bay State native Nino Leone are the two offensive line prospects in UConn's incoming class.
One week after those five players joined the Class of 2016, Connecticut prospect Tyler Coyle became the fourth in-state player to commit to UConn. He won defensive MVP at last summer's New York vs. New England All-Star Challenge and also at a camp at West Virginia. Coyle is young for his grade, but displays incredible athleticism and should be a terror in the defensive backfield with his great ball skills at 6-foot-2. I've seen the Winsdor High star play a couple of times, and spoke with him before and after a visit to UConn this past summer as well as after his commitment.
The final three scholarship players in the Class of 2016 joined after the weekend visit which many of the players from Part I of the National Signing Day Primer attended: defensive lineman Noel Brouse, athlete/long snapper Nick Zecchino, and punter Brett Graham.
Brouse was also committed to Syracuse at one point, and like his future teammate DeGeorge started to look elsewhere after the coaching change. He was briefly committed to Villanova before UConn started increasing interest and invited him to visit. He received the offer at the end of the weekend and flipped his commitment one final time (hopefully) to UConn. Brouse, who stands 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, will be playing defensive end for the Huskies.
Zecchino starred all over the field at Cedar Grove High in Bob Diaco's hometown of Cedar Grove, New Jersey. The Huskies need him at long snapper immediately, but Zecchino could also offer utility as a practice player.
The Huskies used what appears to be their final scholarship on another specialist who could potentially contribute as a practice player. Brett Graham will play punter for UConn, but was also a standout tight end at State College High in Allentown, Pennsylvania- the same town as future teammate Noel Brouse.
UConn finished up the class recently with the commitments of three players expected to join as preferred walk-ons. They will have the same opportunity and treatment as scholarship players and will bring a lot to the program in the character department. Teddy Allmendinger is an intriguing fullback prospect who played linebacker and running back for Avon High. It is believed, but not confirmed that Jay Rose's teammate at Southington, Austin Morin, will be joining in this capacity as well.