STORRS - The process to build the UConn football program back up continued on Wednesday.
Standing at the podium in the Burton Family Football Complex, head coach Randy Edsall announced the final five recruits to its 2018 recruiting class, joining the other 19 players signed back in December to put the Huskies’ incoming class at a total of 24.
“I thought we accomplished the things we needed to,” Edsall said of National Signing Day. “I feel like we addressed as many of the needs as we could.”
The five players UConn signed were running back Dante Black of Lilburn, Ga; defensive backs Messiah Turner, a Tampa, Fla. native, and Jalon Ferrell of Miami; defensive lineman Pierce DeVaughn from Plano, Tex.; and Christian Hayes, an offensive lineman from Bowie, Md.
“I really feel good about this class,” Edsall said. “Our coaches did a tremendous job of evaluating these guys and finding our about them and what fits for us. I like these guys because they’re workers. They wanted to be here, wanted to make a difference and wanted to do everything they can to help get this program to where we had it.”
The Huskies haven’t had a winning season since the final year of Edsall’s first stint as head coach seven years ago. Last season, the Huskies went 3-9 for the second consecutive year.
But Edsall was also forced put together last year’s recruiting class in a short amount of time having been officially hired in early January 2017. This time around, the head coach had an entire year to put together this recruiting class
“I’m pleased and happy with these guys. I can’t wait for them to get here so we can start working with them,” Edsall said. “There’s going to be opportunities for them to get on the field this year and how they adjust will determine that, but there will be opportunities.”
Black, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound tailback, ran for 1,927 yard, had 2,295 all-purpose yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior at Brookwood High School.
“Might not be a more productive player that we’ve recruited during my time here, on both occasions,” Edsall said. “When you watch him play on film, you see all those combinations that you like in a running back. He’s got really good vision. He’s got the ability to make people miss. He’s got a really good burst, really good jump cut. To me, he possesses the abilities you want in a running back.”
Edsall said Haynes, listed at 6-foot-4, 295 pound, is “very versatile”.
“[He] will have the opportunity to play in about any of the spots up front and that’s what we’re always looking for among the offensive linemen,” the head coach said.
DeVaugh, Edsall said, has tremendous upside at 6-4, 230 pounds.
“We were fortunate that [assistant coach] Cory [Edsall] ended up down there in that Texas area and came across him,” Edsall said. “And when you put the tape on he’s a guy who has natural ability you don't teach. When you watch game film - we don't watch highlight tapes - and see the way he can bend and dip, does it full speed and never stops. There are guys playing in the NFL that can't do that.”
Ferrell, the 6-2 defensive back from Miami Killian Senior High School, is another recruit that brings versatility to an evolving roster.
“He’s a physical, tough safety that also has the ability to be a return guy,” Edsall said. “Has a lot of value on special teams as he does on defense. He’s got that length that you like and he’s a guy that’s going to be able to put on some weight on that frame too.
Turner is another defensive back out of Florida. The 6-foot-1, 198 pound comes from Tampa Catholic.
“This guy is a very smooth operator,” Edsall said. “He moves gracefully and fluent and anticipates things very well. You can tell he’s the leader on the field and just impressed with his intelligence and savvy. He grasps things very quickly. He’s a guy that could be a corner or safety type or even play in the nickel.”
Overall, Edsall sees a shift in the program, one he hopes will lead to wins on the field this upcoming season.
“The attitude is a lot different, about 180 degrees different,” Edsall said. “I really like what I've seen and what is happening.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org