UConn's Mora taps state's prep schools for first football recruiting class
Jim Mora’s first recruiting class for UConn football addressed team needs, such as pass rushing and the offensive line, with a heavy emphasis on Connecticut’s prep schools.
“I believe there is good talent in this state,” Mora said Wednesday with the announcement of over a dozen signees on national signing day. “At the high school level, certainly, and at the prep school level, definitely. The only misconception I had was what prep school talent looked like. I had not been exposed to too many young men from prep schools, and I think it’s just a great avenue for these kids to develop as players and men.”
Three players from Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor signed with the Huskies, including offensive lineman Brady Wayburn, versatile tight end Denzel Mountali and defensive back Derek Spears. Massive offensive lineman Ben Murawski from St. Thomas More and quarterback Victor Rosa from Bristol Central, who will be an all-purpose player at UConn, signed as expected.
The 6-foot-6, 344-pound Murawski is an offensive tackle who can also long snap.
“He’s a massive man,” Mora said “He’ll probably play at 320-325 pounds. His hands are like 11 [1/4] inches, size 18 feet, the circumference of his knee was 19 [3/4] so he might not be done growing. He would snap it and be the first guy down the field making the tackle.”
More signees were expected in the coming days. Mora had said getting a quarterback was a top priority. Later in the day he landed one, as Cale Millen, the son of former NFL quarterback Hugh Millen, announced via Twitter he was transferring to UConn.
“We have work to do there,” Mora had said. “We’re going work in the transfer portal, with high school players. We are being aggressive there.”
Millen, 6-4 and 190 pounds, is a pro-style quarterback who began his career at Oregon, then transferred to Northern Arizona, where he played in three games last season, completing 7 of 15 passes.
Mora, who coached in the NFL and at UCLA, got several players who had decommitted or wavered in their commitment when he was hired Nov. 11 to recommit to UConn. He gave a lot of credit to Michael Zyskowski, UConn director of player personnel, for the long hours he put in.
“When you come into a new situation you have two choices,” Mora said. “You can concede the class a little bit and start building toward the future, or you can attack it and say ‘we’re going to point towards now as we build for the future,’ and that’s what we did.”
Donovan Branch a 6-2, 234-pound defensive end from Chicago who is projected as an edge rusher, addresses UConn’s need to put pressure on the quarterback. The Huskies had only 12 sacks as a team in 2021. Branch had 11 sacks, 56 total tackles, 20 for a loss, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries at Foundation Academy.
“He’s a playmaker that can come off the edge and create havoc in the backfield,” Mora said.
Branch is a re-commit. D’Mon Brinson, a 5-9, 172-pound defensive back from Miami, never wavered, Mora said. Both came for second visits.
“I think [Brinson’s] a savvy football player,” Mora said. “You see a lot of guys get themselves in position to make a play but at the moment of truth they don’t make the play. D’Mon is a guy who makes the play.”
Bo Estes, a 6-2, 224-pound versatile tight end from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was playing at Northeast Oklahoma A&M.
“We think he’s a tremendous athlete who can work in space and create matchup problems,” Mora said.
Kylish Hicks, a 6-foot, 194-pound athlete from the Baltimore area, committed earlier this week.
“This guy is a wide receiver as we see him now, but he is equally adept at defensive back,” Mora said. “This guy’s an explosive playmaker.”
Justin Joly, a 6-3, 215 pound tight end from Iona Prep in New Rochelle, New York, is a hybrid wide receiver, tight end.
“Tremendous athlete,” Mora said. “Still has a ways to go in developing his body, but watching him move in space, you say, ‘wow, this guy’s really got special traits.’”
Nate Voorhis, 6-2, 229 pounds, recommitted to UConn, and Jeff Passamore, a 6-1, 298 pounder from Florida, will join the defensive line, pass-rushing corps. Passamore, an interior lineman, is the only signee Mora hadn’t met personally.
The Huskies also picked up Matt Hoffman, a 6-4, 214 pound defensive lineman from Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.
The one question Mora had to answer, for every recruit or parent is UConn’s status and future as an independent FBS program. He emphasized UConn’s future schedules, with games against Syracuse, Boston College, Michigan and other Power Five programs.
“This is what I told them, because this is what I truly believe and feel,” Mora said. “It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter to me quite frankly it shouldn’t matter to them. It’s nice to play for a conference championship, but when you come to UConn you get a chance to play some of the best football teams on the biggest stages. If you are a competitor and you want to challenge yourself against the best, then you want to come here.”