UConn football inked sixteen recruits to national letters of intent on Wednesday, bringing in a new generation of future stars along with, no doubt, a few players who inevitably won’t end their college careers in Storrs.
Throughout National Signing Day, head coach Randy Edsall and co. received a slew of faxes, with five coming from three-star recruits, two from local Connecticut players, and five from UConn’s new recruiting hotbed in Texas. The class was equally balanced between offense and defense, bringing in seven players on each side of the ball, along with one kicker and one punter.
Here are some key players and takeaways from UConn’s 2021 early signing period class:
A typical school adds at least one QB every recruiting class, and UConn stayed in-state to grab their quarterback of the future this time around. Tyler Phommachanh, whose brother Taisun was a four-star recruit now playing at Clemson (and indirectly led to Dabo Swinney comparing his high school to both Hogwarts and the Shire), is the No. 2 dual-threat QB in the state and has the potential to be the crown jewel of this year’s recruiting class.
“He’s one of those guys who has that it factor as a quarterback,” Edsall said in praise. “He’s confident but he’s not cocky, he’s smart, takes everything in and those are the traits that you look for to go along with the throwing ability and movement skills.”
Phommachanh has a good arm and great touch, able to fit the ball through tight windows, but his standout skill is his pocket presence. He knows when to step up in the pocket, when to roll out and when to tuck and run. He gets away with some moves on tape because he’s the best athlete on the field, but quarterback mobility is always a great asset.
“He can make the throws you want him to make, he can run...and he’s a smart football player,” Edsall said. “As you talk to him and you watch him, he understands the game and he understands what people are trying to do to him.”
Phommachanh will be a mid-year enrollee along with high school teammate Josh Tracey, a quick slot receiver with good hands who committed to UConn just days before his quarterback. Tracey had 41 catches for 817 yards and 11 TDs in his last 10 games during his junior season
“These two kids are, you know, [two] peas in a pod,” Edsall said of the Avon Old Farms duo. “They’re very honored that they’re going to be able to play for their home state.”
Flipping and fending off
Recruiting connections are essential to Coach Edsall and his colleagues every window, but the Huskies seemed to lean on them a little more than usual this year in an effort to offset the impact of recruiting limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The coaching staff was able to leverage their connections in order to land two players in particular: defensive end Langston Hardy and tight end Christopher Johnson.
Hardy’s father, Kevin Hardy, was a linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars when Edsall was a defensive backs coach there, and that relationship allowed the Huskies to fend off Maryland, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech to land the edge rusher. Langston has a reputation as a bruiser with super-quick hands and his 6’3”, 220 lb. frame makes him a solid project for UConn defensive line coach Dennis Dottin-Carter.
Johnson’s journey to UConn was a bit more tumultuous than Hardy’s. The talented tight end committed to the Huskies way back on June 6th but received an offer from Illinois ten days later, prompting him to reopen his recruitment. Edsall was once again able to leverage his connections in order to ward off a Big Ten opponent — Phommachanh’s father knew Johnson’s head coach in high school — and was able to convince the tight end to stick with the Huskies.
UConn similarly had to ward off another, unnamed Power Five program who attempted to swoop in at the last minute for kicker Joe McFadden.
Returning for recruiting riches Down Under
After punter Luke Magliozzi announced he would be pursuing a grad transfer before the start of the 2021 season, Coach Edsall knew it would be hard to replace him. Not only was Magliozzi one of UConn’s best players, but he was also a team captain who excelled in the classroom — a true scholar-athlete.
Edsall’s approach to finding his next special teams star was simple, however, as he turned to the same place he found Magliozzi: The Land Down Under. There the Huskies found Haydn Kerr, who liked what UConn had to offer and will be making the long trip from Australia to Storrs in 2021.
“We knew we needed a punter. Eddie got involved and we used our connections throughout the punting world that we have nowadays,” Edsall said. “This will be our third Australian punter that we’ve had.”
Kerr had to jump through a lot of hoops and fill out so many forms that Edsall said he “was just hoping we’d be able to get it done in time for signing day.”
Dozens of DBs
UConn went big on defensive backs in the early signing window, signing four from across the country, several of whom will be mid-year enrollees.
Edsall described Kaleb Anthony as a natural leader who’s very athletic and can play the safety and corner position. He led his high school to a Georgia state championship with 5 interceptions and a fumble recovery in 20 games played.
Malcolm Bell is a big-bodied defensive back who can play corner and safety. He made the all-Canadian team in 2018 and has some bone-crushing hits on film.
Stanley Cross is another mid-year enrollee coming all the way from a junior college in Iowa. He primarily plays corner and has a knack for finding the ball.
Deon McLean hails from Lawrenceville, New Jersey and plays corner and safety. He has both size and speed as a state 200m dash champion, and you can begin to see a theme. These are all pretty traditional Edsall recruits: good athletes who might turn out to be diamonds in the rough.
Where we go from here
UConn has quite a few spots to fill before the final signing day on February 3, and will be able to improve in multiple areas. Edsall said that they’re still looking for players who can play “rover,” their hybrid outside linebacker-defensive back position, and looking for help at offensive tackle, among other spots. Edsall noted that these positions could also be filled via the transfer portal.
The Huskies are also waiting on decisions from over a dozen 2021 athletes they’ve extended scholarship offers to. These players include:
- Phommachanh’s teammate and main competition at quarterback, three-star Xavier Copening from South Windsor, Connecticut
- Three-star Florida defensive tackle Laron Davis
- Connecticut lineman David Siegel, currently playing at New Canaan High School
- Terrance Anthony, a three-star wide receiver from Orange Park, Florida