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Here is the line from Marcus Outlow, the whiz kid running back at Norwich Free Academy, that should have fans of UConn football petrified about the future:
"UConn has been sending me a lot of stuff and calling lately," he said earlier this week. "I wouldn't be surprised if they offered me. I'm keeping my options open."
Keyword in previous sentence: lately.
Reaction to keyword in previous sentence: sigh.
And while it would be hyperbolic for Outlow to wonder, "where have you been all my life?" he certainly could wonder where the Huskies have been since the summer.
"We know we have a special player," NFA coach Jemal Davis said. "This offseason we sat down and talked about what we needed to do to play at next level. Marcus committed himself to doing that by going to various combines. Then he made it to a special combine in Oklahoma and he was rated one top backs in his class."
Davis alluded to the National Underclassmen Combine. This is what was written about him a few months before his senior season commenced:
"Outlow was one of the most impressive looking players. His physical attributes are very special. … He already has the build and speed of a Division One running back. … He was able to beat the linebackers with his speed and he can match the linebackers in physicality."
This explains why the following schools have already offered him: Oregon, Alabama, Florida, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, BC, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and others.
And the best we get from State U is "lately?"
Now I'm not the first guy to suggest that recruiting is inexact. The hucksters who have turned this into an industry, attaching "ratings" to high school kids, are stealing money. Questionable credentials and too many variables cannot possibly offer foster a hint of believability.
Still, the evidence suggests Outlow has potential. And so why UConn wasn't on him first — he lives 30 minutes from campus — appears to be a really good question. Even if there are doubts, he's 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, ready physically and a good student.
"Marcus is definitely ready. A great head on his shoulders," says teammate Ryer Caruso, who drives Outlow home from practice every day. "He's ready to take on the world. A very smart kid."
Outlow also offers the anecdotal value of the state kid. It's significant to any program, but positively critical for UConn, which isn't merely fading into irrelevance nationally, but within the state, too. They didn't fill their home stadium once all season. Now here is a kid Outlow who has captured the attention of the state left to tell his story that UConn has been calling "lately."
Outlow moved here with his family from Philadelphia when he was 12. He describes himself as "a city boy," and grinned at the memory of seeing so many trees in this corner of the world. Maybe he would go elsewhere, even with superior effort from UConn. Maybe not. It's sort of not the point anymore. The point is this: Why was UConn so late to the party?
Selected high school coaches across the state attended the news conference the day Paul Pasqualoni was hired. They lauded the choice and even suggested that state borders had closed. Except that Outlow, arguably the state's top running back probably isn't headed there. Neither is arguably the top quarterback, Tim Boyle of Xavier, who is headed to BC.
Until this week, I thought UConn football's biggest dilemma was a perception problem. Dead program walking. No juice. No buzz. Not to outsiders (which is why Louisville just got the invitation to the ACC). Not to insiders (too many empty seats).
Now I wonder if the problem isn't obliviousness.
I'm not suggesting Outlow is Barry Sanders Jr. But his potential is too great for UConn's nonchalance. I don't understand.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.