By DESMOND CONNER, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
12:14 PM EST, February 4, 2014
New football coach Bob Diaco and his UConn staff had about a month to add to the existing band of Huskies. Diaco says he is eager to begin working with all the players.
So far, 16 players have committed in 2014. Two are on campus as midyear enrollees. Diaco and staff were able to retain seven who committed to Paul Pasqualoni, including Parade All-America running back Arkeel Newsome of Ansonia, and Diaco's staff received seven commitments itself in roughly a month.
"We were looking at guys that had high grades, high character and had big bodies," Diaco said Monday. "I'm really pleased with how it went, how the first month went. It was very challenging to sort out who was in and what becomes very challenging is who to add based on what the team looks like. You want to build based on what the team looks like in correlation with what your systems are, so I went off what our systems are and the brief interaction with strength and conditioning as it relates to tangible size."
Diaco, like most coaches, likes big teams and big-looking teams. And look for trend to continue.
"With a month of recruiting when you need to add more players, there's a lot less risk when you add a big guy," Diaco said. "You know you've got a big guy. There's not as much risk as when you add a skill player that you haven't had the [time] to be with and around. If a player like that doesn't work out what can they do? If a guy 6-5, 275 pounds isn't exactly like we want him to be he still has great service to the team.
"And if you just sheer have a bigger, stronger team, not that you're going to achieve all your goals but you have a good chance to win a lot of individual matchups if you're bigger. That's what we chose — and we tried to choose guys that would reflect nicely our culture we're creating,"
That's one aspect of the recruiting business. The other is how well Diaco and his staff were received.
In a month, it's safe to say the coach and staff were received well and have solid contacts. UConn got another offensive lineman from talent-rich St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) in Ryan Crozier (6- 4, 297). . The Huskies went into New Jersey, Diaco's home state, and landed Sheridan Lawley, a 6-5, 265-pound defensive end from Lawrenceville, N.J., who previously played in British Columbia. The Huskies landed outside linebacker Vontae Diggs (6-4, 200), who had committed to Ball State, and they also picked up running back Ron Johnson, from Palmetto (Fla.) High, who de-committed from Louisville after coach Charlie Strong went to Texas.
Newsome's coach at Ansonia, Tom Brockett, said he was impressed with Diaco's vision. St. Paul-Bristol coach Jude Kelly was also complimentary of Diaco and staff.
"People like him and they're going to like Bob Diaco," said Tom Lemming, national recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. "He's an outstanding recruiter and so is [defensive coordinator] Anthony Poindexter. They recruited some pretty good athletes in this class. I like the way they went after some of the guys, but this year will not be the indication of how well Diaco and his staff will do. Next year will give you 100 percent indication if they're going to do well because he came in real late this year. He still did a good job, very good job."
Diaco said he was able to carve out the Huskies' primary recruiting areas and how he and the staff will handle it.
"We're going to go Boston to Buffalo through Syracuse, Rochester," he said. "We're going to go down from Boston through Connecticut and out through the tip of Long Island. We're going to hit all the boroughs of New York because New York's football is really improving. It's really a great spot to go and kind of underrecruited frankly, down to Baltimore over to D.C., touch Northern Virginia and then go up to eastern Pennsylvania, slightly west of Philadelphia, then snap a line from there right up through New York State. That is going to be our main recruiting area. "
After all of that, Diaco did more research.
"Direct flights from major metro cities that have multiple flights per day to Bradley International from major metro cities that also have American Athletic Conference cache," Diaco said. "We're going to drop into the metro cities."
Those cities include Dallas, Cincinnati and Charlotte, N.C.
What Diaco calls the "recruiting department" will see that the list of players the staff seeks will be the best it can be.
Kevin Wolthausen is the Huskies' defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. He'll represent the department at the front of the room. Mike Painter, the director of player personnel, will be the nuts and bolts guy, on the front line collecting talent and targeting needs, and Pat McGrath will assist him.
"And their job descriptions are comprehensive," Diaco said. "It involves travel, it involves roster management, it has a compliance piece. It involves event planning and organization, sales and marketing, internship management to collect even more staff to run a recruiting department."
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