UConn signs 22 despite coaching shake-up
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)
Connecticut signed 22 players to its recruiting class Wednesday, despite a shake-up in Paul Pasqualoni's coaching staff after a second consecutive losing season.
The class, which includes five in-state players and two quarterbacks, has been rated as one of UConn's strongest ever.
''I think there are some athletes here,'' Pasqualoni said. ''So, maybe it's a little larger in number, or maybe there's just a little more athleticism. There is very good size and a good chance down the road for there to be excellent size.''
The class is actually has 24 members. Wide receivers Dhameer Bradley of New Castle, Del. and Noel Thomas, of Norwalk, have already enrolled at the school.
And there also were a couple of surprises.
Tim Boyle, a 6-foot-4 pro-style quarterback who played at Xavier in Middletown, decided on UConn this past weekend after withdrawing his verbal commitment from Boston College.
Boyle told reporters at his signing day ceremony that his decision to switch was based on the styles of the two offenses. Connecticut runs a pro-style offense, while new BC coach Steve Addazio favors a quarterback who is a dual threat.
''When it came to playing football, I definitely have the best opportunity to play at UConn,'' Boyle said. ''It's definitely a weight off my shoulders.''
UConn also signed 6-5 Kivon Taylor, a dual-threat quarterback from Atlanta, Ga. The Huskies had an verbal commitment from 6-foot-6 Richard Lagow of Plano, Texas, but he did not send a letter of intent. Pasqualoni could not talk about Lagow, but hinted that he was no longer counting on him to be part of the class.
''We wanted to sign two,'' Pasqualoni said.
The newcomers will compete with an already deep set of quarterbacks, including returning starter Chandler Whitmer, last year's prize recruit, Casey Cochran, and Scott McCummings, who has been UConn's run-option threat for the past two seasons.
Connecticut also missed out a running back they had targeted, Laray Smith of Brooklyn, N.Y. He chose Indiana over the Huskies, Syracuse and several other schools.
But Pasqualoni said he was happy with the size and strength of the linemen the team recruited, and the skill players.
Pasqualoni said he did not worry about the Big East realignment in the recruiting process, nor does he believe the recent coaching changes negatively impacted the class.
Pasqualoni hired T.J. Weist from Cincinnati to become offensive coordinator after bumping 64-year-old George DeLeone up to the position of associate head coach. DeLeone will retain his offensive-line coaching duties.
Hank Hughes, who coached the defensive line for the past two seasons, is now also defensive coordinator, a position he held under Randy Edsall. He replaces Don Brown, who left UConn for Addazio's staff at BC.
''It kind of gave us a little energy coming down the stretch, coming down the final turn,'' Pasqualoni said. ''I think it kind of helped us with the guys they knew.''
Nine of UConn's recruits made up their minds in the last two weeks.
The instate players signed include Tommy Myers, a tight end from Coventry. His father, Norm, played football at UConn and mother, the former Peggy Walsh, played basketball at the school in the 1980s. Her 937 rebounds rank fifth in school history.
Pasqualoni said he's told all his recruits to be prepared to fight for playing time as freshmen. UConn has few spots on the two-deep that are expected to be up for grabs following consecutive 5-7 seasons in Pasqualoni's first two years in Storrs.
''My message to our players and to our coaches is we're going full speed ahead, getting ready for the season,'' he said, ''and let's take care of what we can take care of and let's do it in grand style.''