Edsall raves about his UConn football recruiting class
Storrs — New UConn coach Randy Edsall didn't let a late start to the football recruiting season prevent him from completing his checklist.
In a whirlwind few weeks, Edsall and his staff racked up the rental car and frequent flier miles in pursuit of recruiting targets.
During a press conference at the Burton Family Football Complex, Edsall talked enthusiastically about his promising class of 20 players Wednesday, the first day of the signing period.
"I'm really pleased and happy with the group of young men that we were able to sign this morning," Edsall said. "As we talk about them, I think you'll be impressed with quality and athleticism of these young men.
"But we wouldn't be able to accomplish what we accomplished in such a short period of time without the efforts of the staff. The staff did a tremendous job in really a two-week period to go out and evaluate these young men and then go out and sell the University of Connecticut to them and their families. My hat's off to them and the hard work that they did and the relentless pursuit to secure these commitments."
It's been just over a month since Edsall was introduced as the UConn coach for the second time in his career, replacing the fired Bob Diaco who went 11-26 and made one bowl trip in three seasons. Edsall served in that position for 12 years in Storrs before bolting for Maryland after the Huskies appeared in their first and only Fiesta Bowl in 2011.
Selling UConn was easier this time than his first stint despite the fact that program has suffered through six straight losing seasons. He has an ample supply of success stories that he could tell.
"It was fun to be able to go out and sell UConn in terms of what these young men can come here and accomplish," Edsall said. "The neat thing was anything that these guys want to accomplish, for the most part, we've done here.
"... We have a resume that's pretty darn strong here to be able to sell that people can't go and punch a lot of holes in. That aided us to be able to have the kind of success that we had in such a short period of time."
Edsall targeted a few key areas in his recruiting search, particularly offensive line, quarterback and secondary positions. He succeeded in making upgrades in overall size, speed and athleticism.
The Huskies really need help with the offense, which averaged a paltry 14.8 points per game last season for a 3-9 team.
Competition will be wide open for the starting quarterback job that Bryant Shirreffs and Donovan Williams shared last season without much success.
Junior college standout David Pindell, one of three incoming quarterbacks, is expected to push for playing time. He threw for 2,424 yards and 31 touchdowns while running for 459 yards and eight scores last season at Lackawanna Community College in Scranton, Pa.
Marvin Washington, who led Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando to the Class 8A state championship, originally committed to Central Florida before switching to UConn after visiting Storrs last weekend. Jordan McAfee helped Everett capture the Division I Super Bowl in Massachusetts.
They all share a dual-threat ability to use their strong arms and fast feet to move the ball.
"We were able to get an outstanding group of quarterbacks," Edsall said. "I'm a firm believer that it all starts under the center. You've got to have somebody there who can pull the trigger. We have three young men that will come in and provide tremendous competition."
Edsall also is excited about the addition of graduate transfer David Williams, who spent the last four seasons playing for South Carolina where he rushed for 253 yards and three touchdowns in nine games last season. Williams will be eligible to play this fall.
On defense, the Huskies focused on improving the secondary, bringing in six players.
UConn closed the deal on three in-state kids. Staples tight end Ryan Fitton, a three-time all-state selection, has good size at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, and a strong work ethic. Defensive back Omar Fortt, who's from New Canaan, starred at St. Luke's where he played for former Husky receiver Noel Thomas's father. Fortt already is enrolled at UConn.
Windsor linebacker T.J. Gardner, who first committed to Boston College, reached out to UConn and made a visit that helped convince him to become a Husky.
"As long as we can get them here on campus, we'll have a chance," Edsall said.
After a well-deserved break, Edsall and his staff will tackle the next items on their to-do list. They're off to a strong start.
"We'll dive right into the installations of what we're going to do offensively and defensively amongst the staff," Edsall said. "We already started on the 2018 (recruiting) class. So basically it will be football and recruiting up until March 21 when we'll start spring practice."
UCONN FOOTBALL / 2017 SIGNING DAY
Look for links to highlight videos below.
Darrian Beavers, LB (6-4, 215), Colerain (Cincinnati)
Brayden Brown, S (6-1, 193), Fort Hill (Cumberland, Md.)
Garrison Burnett, WR (6-0, 190), Maret (Washington, D.C.)
Ryan Fitton, TE (6-5, 240), Staples
*Omar Fortt, DB (6-1, 190), St. Luke's (New Canaan)
T.J. Gardner, LB (6-2, 227), Windsor
Cameron Hairston, WR (6-3, 180), Lee's Summitt North (Mo.)
Robert Holmes, OL (6-5, 330), Oxbridge Academy (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
Stanley Hubbard, OL (6-3, 300), St. John's (Chevy Chase, Md.)
Robert King III, CB (5-11, 180), Father Judge (Philadelphia)
Jordan McAfee, QB (6-4, 220), Everett (Mass.)
Abiola "Bebe" Olanyan, CB (5-11, 180), Woodberry Forest (Va.)
David Pindell, QB (6-0, 182), Lackawanna CC (Columbia, Md.)
Jordan Swann, CB (5-9, 165), St. Frances (Baltimore)
Ian Swenson, S (6-1, 180), Loyola Academy (Wilmette, Ill.)
Caleb Thomas, NT (6-1, 275), Mansfield (Texas)
James Tunstall, OL (6-5, 315), Lackey (Indian Head, Md.)
Ryan Van Demark, OL (6-7, 265), Hun School (Princeton, N.J.)
Marvin Washington, QB (6-2, 195), Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.)
**David Williams, RB (6-1, 220), South Carolina (Philadelphia)
*Enrolled in January
**Transfer from South Carolina with one-year of eligibility