The Huskies signed 21 players on national signing day on Wednesday and no place was there more interest than at the wide receiver position.
Among the 21 players signing with the Huskies were highly sought after Dwayne Difton from the country’s No. 1 high school team St. Thomas Aquinas of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 6-foot-5 Malik Generett from William Penn in York, Pa., speedster Mike Lang from Largo High in Largo, Fla. and local product Marcus Aiken out of St. Paul-Bristol and a New Britain native.
The Huskies passing game was one of the least productive in the FBS averaging less than 140 yards a game and producing only five touchdowns. With a new quarterback set to be under center this spring in Zach Frazer or Cody End res, and a new no huddle spread offensive scheme in place, all that is missing is playmakers to help the pass flourish.
Edsall feels the team took a major step toward that with this incoming class of receivers.
“We have seen that we have been able to get wide receivers in high school instead of trying to convert them,” Edsall said. “Wide receiver is a position where they have more of an opportunity to play (right away). We’ll see how it plays out.”
“What I tell them is there is only one person who has an say in playing time is – ‘you.”
The first recruit to commit last March was Aiken, who had been coming to UConn for summer camps when he was 16. Aiken played running back for St. Paul, but at the camp the Huskies worked the 6-foot-1 Aiken as a wide receiver and liked his development. A state champion in the 300 meter hurdles, Aiken rushed for 1,000 yards and had 14 touchdowns. Receiving, he had 19 receptions and three touchdowns.
Generett is a 6-foot-5 from York and played at the same high school as UConn’s Will Beatty, who is expected to be a first or second round pick in the NFL Draft. He played quarterback until midway through his junior year and finished with 933 yards and 11 touchdowns this past season. Several schools including West Virginia tried to come in after a very early commitment from Generett but he remained firm.
Difton is one of the top wide receiver prospects in the country and at 5-foot-11 175 is the kind of playmaker the Huskies don’t have. Running back coach Terry Richardson, from the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. area, handled the recruiting and used almost every in to get Difton from the No. 1 high school team in the country. Richardson’s brother works with Difton’s mother and Edsall recruited several Aquinas coaches to Boston College when he was an assistant. Richardson made several home visits and the UConn staff worked overtime getting Difton to Storrs after he went back on a verbal commitment from USF in September.
Difton is also coached by former NFL great Chris Carter, who spends his Sunday’s as an analyst for ESPN.
Lang had 38 catches for 960 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior for Largo High, which lost to Difton’s Aquinas team in the state playoffs. Lang is a speedster and according to the coaching staff runs a sub 11 seconds 100 meter dash. He was the last recruit for the Huskies, who sent Moorhead down to talk with him to help seal the deal.
The Huskies were strong with both Difton and Lang through December, but the hiring of Moorehead did help.
The Huskies also signed a pair of quarterbacks in Michael Box from Collins Hill in Suwanee, Ga. and Leon Kinnard from Reisertown, Md. and Loyola Bakersfield.
“We want guys who can throw the football and who can maneuver in the pocket,” Edsall said.
Kinnard is an interesting signing at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds many other schools wanted him as an athlete and potential defensive back. Edsall said that Kinnard will come to UConn as quarterback and compete for a spot there.
“He is a quarterback until he comes to me and says he doesn’t want to be a quarterback,” Edsall said.
Kinnard’s grandfather worked with Edsall’s father in a steel mill many years ago. Kinnard committed quickly enough where he didn’t even need that angle.
The Huskies also added three defensive ends who enrolled for the spring and will participate in spring practice in Bridgeport’s Trevardo Williams, who prepped at the Canterbury School, Keensen Chamber from Greenville, S.C. by way of Worcester Academy and Jesse Joseph out of Vanier Prep in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Other highlights in the Huskies’ class include 6-foot-5 311 pound offensive lineman Steve Greene from Bishop Carroll in Edensburg, Pa., Seymour High linebacker Mike Osiecki, and Wakefield, Mass. standout Martin Hypolite. Hypolite was brought in when Donald Brown declared early for the NFL Draft.
The Huskies also signed DB Tevrin Brandon (Bethlehem, Pa/Bethlehem Catholic), OL Tyler Bullock (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Mechanicsburgh High), K-P Chad Christen (Etters, Pa./Red Land), OL Kevin Friend (Warrenton, Va./Faquier), SS David Kenney (Hightown. N.J./The Peddie School), DB Chris Lopes (Brockton, Mass., Tilton School (N.H.), DT Stephen Shamar (Brookville, N.Y./ Long Island Lutheran), ATH Nick Williams (East Windsor, N.J./The Hun School), and DT Tim Williman (Fulton, Md./Resevoir).
“This class is better than last year’s class,” Edsall said. “They are more athletic and more speed. This is another upgrade for us and it’s going to get better.”