New recruiting class injects talent, athleticism, speed into UConn football program

UConn football coach announced the officials signings of 19 future Huskies on Wednesday during college football's first early signing period, calling the group 'the best Christmas present you could have.' (AP file photo)
UConn football coach announced the officials signings of 19 future Huskies on Wednesday during college football's first early signing period, calling the group "the best Christmas present you could have." (AP file photo)

Storrs — These future Huskies check off all the required boxes.

They offer an upgrade in terms of talent, speed and athleticism.

They're high character, hard-working individuals.

They're good students.

They're eager to help rebuild the UConn football program back to a respectable level.

Head coach Randy Edsall is quite pleased with his incoming class of 19 players committed during the early signing period.

"We feel very good about those 19," Edsall said Wednesday. "They're driven. They want to be good. They do things the right way. They're good students, good people and really good athletes. I had a chance to see some of them play in person and that was impressive to watch them."

Edsall addressed "quite a few" of his team's needs with this class, which includes seven offensive players and 12 on defense, including seven defensive backs.

Four future Huskies are from Connecticut — running back Khyon Gillespie and defensive back Oneil Robinson II of Capital Prep in Hartford, defensive lineman Travis Jones of Wilbur Cross in New Haven, and linebacker Kevon Jones of East Hartford.

The program, which posted its last winning season in 2010, is in early stages of a complete overhaul. In Edsall's first season since returning for his second stint in Storrs, the Huskies went 3-9.

The new early signing period gives college football programs a chance to get an early jump on next season.

"For us to know that I have 19 guys already committed and locked in, it's the best Christmas present you could have," Edsall said. "It's huge. Plus, these young men can now just enjoy themselves for the rest of their senior year and also get six weeks in terms of getting a jump on our strength and conditioning program."

Edsall, who prefers to go solo on recruiting trips, looks for more than just talent. He places a high value on character and personality. He learns by observing players and their relationships on the field, at school and in the community. He can tell a lot about a recruit when meeting with family. The social media world can offer a revealing look as well.

This incoming class meets all his requirements.

"I'm looking for kids who want to do the things the right way and are willing to work, that they don't think they're entitled to anything," Edsall said. "This group is very, very impressive."

Robinson, a Class S all-state selection, is a perfect example.

During a game this season, Robinson, a two-way standout at defensive back and wide receiver at Capital Prep, helped an injured opponent off the field.

"Oneil is a really good kid," Edsall said. "When you sit down with him and his family and his mom, you can see where he gets it from. I'm not going to have to worry about anything because his mom has held him accountable ... He's been raised the right way and has the right values.

"That's all part of this. It's just not all their athletic ability, at least for us. There's more components that go into making a determination whether we're going to make an investment."

There's only one quarterback in the incoming class. Steven Krajewski, who checks in at 6-foot-4, led Colquitt County High School (Norman Park, Ga.) to the state final this fall. Edsall made the trip to watch and came away impressed with Krajewski's presence and demeanor.

"He can make all the throws," Edsall said. "He's a smart young man and a guy that can move in the pocket and do things from an escapability standpoint that we like in our quarterbacks."

Perhaps the most intriguing player is Travis Jones, a 6-4, 350-pound All-State pick from Wilbur Cross. Jones, who had 61 tackles and seven sacks this season, will play nose tackle at UConn.

"He's a tremendous athlete," Edsall said. "He told me he weighed close to 350 the last time I saw him, but you never would have guessed it. You watch him move and do the things that he's capable of doing, it's pretty impressive. ... He's athletic and he can run. He knows he has to continue to work on better conditioning. There's nobody that's going to handle him one-on-one."

The recruiting season is far from over. Edsall and his coaching staff will target two offensive linemen, two defensive backs, a running back, defensive end and linebacker to bring in the next signing period in February.

The Huskies are off to a great start.

"We got faster, we got more athletic and we got quite a bit better today," Edsall said. "We'll look to add seven more to this class on Feb. 7. ... We're not going to be where we want to be from a numbers standpoint. We can't get it done in one year. It's going to take us some time."


Following is a list of the 19 players who signed their National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to attend UConn, the first day of the new early signing period (with position, height, weight, school and  hometown):

Malik Banks, S (6-foot-1, 175 pounds), Howard Technology (Hockessin, Del.)

Ryan Carroll, CB (6-1, 180), Potomac (Temple Hills, Md.)

Khyon Gillespie, RB (5-11, 175) Capital Prep (Hartford)

Elijah Jeffreys, WR (6-4, 190), Somerville (Mass.)

Kevin Jones, LB (6-3, 238), East Hartford

Travis Jones, DL (6-4, 334), Wilbur Cross (New Haven)

Steven Krajewski, QB (6-4, 205), Colquit County (Moultrie, Ga.)

Shamel Lazarus, CB (6-3, 170), Erasmus Hall (Jamaica, N.Y.)

Jeremy Lucien, CB (6-2, 180), Choate Rosemary Hall, CT (Moore Township, Pa.)

Heron Maurriseau, WR (5-10, 168), St. Anthony's (Mastic Beach, N.Y.)

Jordan Morrison, S (6-1, 190), Steinert-Hamilton East (Hamilton, N.J.)

Dylan Niedrowski, OL (6-4, 280), Exeter Township (Reading, Pa.)

Noel Ofori-Nyadu, OL (6-3, 285), Timberview (Arlington, Tex.)

Jonathan Pace, DE (6-5, 260), St. Sebastian's (Boston)

Keyshawn Paul, CB (6-0, 170), Miami Jackson (Miami, Fla.)

Oneil Robinson, S (6-1, 177), Capital Prep (Hartford)

Peter Rooney Jr., OL (6-5, 282), Westminster School (Atlanta, Ga.)

Lwal Uguak, DE (6-4, 245), Harry Ainlay (Edmonton, Alberta)

Hunter Webb, S (6-2, 210), Loyalsock Township (Mountoursville, Pa.)


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