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UConn's early signing day recruiting class fits Edsall's mold

Storrs — UConn football's recruiting class embodies what coach Randy Edsall values in his players.

Edsall is looking for players who love football and love to compete as well as being eager to be part of the program's rebuilding process.

This early signing period class fits his mold.

"These kids that we've got, we all feel that they fit exactly what this program stands for and what we're going to be as we continue to move forward," Edsall said. "You know that, they all wanted to be a part of what we're doing.

"Some guys want the easy way. These guys wanted to be a part and wanted to be a difference-maker and do something that's going to change our program around. Those are the kind of guys that you look for."

Edsall spoke about his 12-player recruiting class on Wednesday at the Burton Family Football Complex.

In the early stages of a major rebuilding project, Edsall is still developing a culture and talent base needed to return the program to a competitive level.

Relying heavily on youth, the Huskies stumbled to a 1-11 record in Edsall's second season since returning to UConn. These incoming recruits add another layer to the foundation that started with Edsall's previous class.

"Those are the kind of guys that we had before — the blue collar guys, the guys that have a chip on their shoulder, the guys that want to work, the guys that want to be developed," he said. "Those are the kind of guys that fit this program and fit the mentality of what we need to do here and what I want to do here and what we've been successful doing here.

"So that's the thing that excites me about these guys that we have and the guys that we continue to go after. They understand exactly what the expectations are and they don't shy away from that."

Seven of the signees line up on defense, not surprising considering the Huskies ranked dead last in the country in several defensive categories.

The class features two graduate transfers — Toledo running back Art Thompkins and Columbia's Michael Hinton, an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection. They will provide valuable leadership and experience.

Two players, both linebackers, hail from Connecticut.

Dillon Harris, a Bloomfield High School graduate, played two seasons of junior college football at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa., where quarterback David Pindell honed his skills before coming to UConn.

Jackson Mitchell set Ridgefield High School's single-season sack record with 14.5 last season and earned CHSCA all-state top 25 player honors. Both players attended Edsall's summer football camp.

"They're exactly what we're looking for," Edsall said. "We had both those kids in our summer camp, so we know them and we know who they are and know what they're all about."

Myles Bell, a defensive back out of Florida power St. Thomas Aquinas, is one of the marquee players in the incoming class. He was recruited by some high level programs, including Virginia Tech.

Edsall doesn't pay attention to recruiting sites and rankings.

"Don't believe everything you read on those recruiting sites," he said. "All I know is this: In our opinion, and that's the only opinion that matters to me, we think Myles Bell is an outstanding young man and outstanding football player and an outstanding student. And we're glad that he's here. ... I'm just glad that we got him along with all the other guys."

Edsall's recruiting class is far from complete. He could add as many as 13 more players by the second signing period in February.

"There are some kids here that are going to be with us that we cannot talk about, even though we have their letters, because they have something bigger in February to announce at their high schools," Edsall said.

Edsall started his press conference by mentioning the Pro Bowl selections of former Huskies Byron Jones (Dallas) and Anthony Sherman (Kansas City). Their selection brought back fond memories of Edsall's successful first coaching stint in Storrs.

"It just brings you back to, those are the kind of guys that we recruited," Edsall said. "Those guys that have the ability but also have that personal drive and that desire to want to be the best they can be each and every day.

"It's a great thing for those guys to have that honor bestowed upon them. Now we've got some guys in this class who we feel have those same kind of qualities that Anthony and Byron, and all those other guys that we've had here previously, had."

g.keefe@theday.com

UCONN FOOTBALL / RECRUITING CLASS BIOS

UConn coach Randy Edsall's breakdown of his incoming recruiting class:

• Jack Zergiotis, 6-foot, 208-pound, quarterback, Quebec, Quebec — passed for 2,390 yards and 24 touchdowns last season at John Abbott College. Attended UConn football camp last summer.

"When you have him here on an official visit, you get a chance to sit down with him and pick his brain a little bit more in terms of his knowledge and awareness of what the quarterback position is and how to read things and understanding defenses. Very, very impressive."

• Jayce Medlock, 6-1, 210, tight end, DeSoto, Texas — played four years at DeSoto High School, catching 71 passes for 822 yards and seven touchdowns in his career.

"He's a guy that's been committed to us for a long time. In the summer time, we had him up. We're excited about him. Great family. Just a kid that loves to play and has a smile on his face all the time and somebody that you really love being around."

Michael Hinton, 6-3, 275, defensive lineman, Winston-Salem, N.C., graduate transfer, Columbia — honorable mention All-Ivy selection at defensive tackle. Started 10 games last season, posting two forced fumbles, 3.5 sacks, 29 tackles, including seven for loss. One of four team captains. Will arrive on campus for summer camp.

"We need some leadership and he's a guy that will do that. He's been productive at Columbia. Talking with his coaches, they had nothing but great things to say about him in terms of what he did to help them change that program around. That's something we're excited about. He's a great kid."

Eric Watts, 6-5, 233, defensive lineman, Sumter, S.C. — Led team to County and Region championship, selected for Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, lettered in basketball. Will enroll at UConn for spring semester.

"Being here in the spring is something that will be very beneficial for him and us. ... He brings a lot to the table in terms of the speed and athleticism you're looking for in a defensive end."

— Dillon Harris, 6-0, 183, linebacker, Bloomfield — spent two years at Lackawanna College, appearing in 15 games last season with 73 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, three interceptions. Will be a junior at UConn.

"We've had good success with guys from Lackawanna in my tenure, not only with David (Pindell) but also previously with guys from there. He'll be here in the summer time. He'll fill a need that we have in terms of linebacker and an older guy and good football player."

Jackson Mitchell, 6-2, 212, linebacker, Ridgefield — played three seasons at Ridgefield H.S., Walter Camp All-Connecticut first team pick, CHSCA all-state top 25 player, team captain, set school single-season sack record with 14.5 as a senior to go with 35 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and four touchdowns. Attended UConn summer camp.

"He works, he loves the game. Loves to compete. Great family. Really excited about him and he's got a lot of growth potential as well. He's a guy that we really like."

Myles Bell, 6-foot, 165-pound, defensive back, Plantation, Fla. — totaled 14 tackles in 12 career games in two seasons at St. Thomas Aquinas, also had five passes defended. Attends same school that Ryan Crozier, UConn's starting center, graduated from. Dad was high school teammate of UConn assistant head coach Terry Richardson.

"This kid is a really good cover guy. Smart, instinctive. Has all the things that you're really looking for. ... Myles is just a great young man who is very talented."

Winston Jules, 5-11, 156, defensive back, Brooklyn, N.Y. — Attends Salisbury School, finishing with 31 tackles, including one for loss, and one interception last season. Played wide receiver and cornerback in high school. Attended UConn summer football camp.

"He'll get better and put weight on, but he can run and can cover and can do the things that we want to do. So we're excited about him."

• Malik Dixon, 6-0, 183, defensive back, Orlando, Fla. — Lettered in football, basketball and track and field at Wekiva High School. Member of National Honor Society.

"He can come up and hit you as a safety. A guy that will be a leader back there. Somebody that we really liked in terms of watching him play and getting to know him. He's another guy that we really feel good about."

Chase Lundt, 6-7, 270, offensive lineman, Arlington, Texas — All-District tackle, team captain

• Rayonte Brown, 6-6, 252, offensive lineman, Dundalk, Md. — first-team All-County, lettered in basketball.

"I'm really excited about the guys that we got up front, Chase Lundt and Rayonte Brown. Two big kids that are athletes. They have the athletic ability that you want and they're guys that don't have to come in here and play right away. We can put them out to pasture and let them graze a little bit, get stronger and bigger."

Art Thompkins, 5-8, 180, running back, Pittsburgh, graduate transfer — Graduated this month from University of Toledo. Rushed for 563 yards and six touchdowns and caught 15 passes for 139 yards while playing in 12 games, starting three last season.

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