Signing day returned to The Rent on Wednesday, as the Huskies coaching staff introduced the sixteen full scholarship players joining this summer. Recruiting is a long and winding road for the UConn staff that begins well in advance of the culmination of their efforts on the first Wednesday in February.
The Huskies Director of Player Personnel, Michael Painter, revealed some additional details that are necessary to make an event the fan base saw this week, a success.
“The search process begins in earnest at the beginning of the prospects junior year of high school,” Painter said. “Our personnel and coaching staffs start with an extensive list of names, about 17 months before signing day.”
One unique entity that goes into the well-publicized RKG (right kind of guy) for the Huskies is how they assess each and every detail in the prospects’ life.
“By tracking the students transcript and social media we are able to eliminate names from the list before the staff hits the road recruiting,” he said. “We then kick off our marketing campaign where we begin to promote our program to prospects we intend to recruit.”
Contacting individual recruits and having a marketing plan has evolved as technology and social media have gained steam. The Huskies begin contact over social media, as well as through direct mail. But as Twitter and Facebook have picked up, the contact has gotten much easier.
“The presence of social media has established a level of accessibility between the prospects and our staff,” Painter said. “Most of the prospects are on at least one form of social media, which allows us another way to market our program to them, and for them to contact us. This greatly expedites the recruiting process, allowing us to communicate with Juniors instantaneously and in their preferred method of contact, as opposed to mail alone.”
The class the staff has put together for 2016 is talented, film provides evidence of that, but one thing you can’t measure, the mental makeup of the athlete, is an area the Huskies coaches also look for. It’s one thing to be able to stand out on the field and be successful week after week at the high school level, but Division I football requires perseverance. That’s why the staff looks for the intangible traits, in addition to their ability on the field. Having the right mindset, portraying leadership, being confident in themsevles and possessing a strong work ethic and a drive towards a goal and success, is paramount.
“Finding a recruit with the characteristics you listed is really necessary for the player to love his experience at UConn,” Painter confirmed. “When the recruiting process reveals that one of our targets lacks one or more of those traits, they are typically deleted as a potential target. Our entire football family embodies those characteristics.”
Why is building a cohesive team that all thinks the same way important?.
“Our locker room is full of players who display those characteristics every day. If someone slips through the cracks of our vetting process, they are going to have a hard time having a locker next to Bryant [Shirreffs], Luke [Carrezola], Mikal [Myers] or Tommy [Meyers] and right down the roster. That is why we work to make sure we don’t add anyone to our program who is not like the people already in our offices and locker room. For those recruits that we find who do display that type of personality and this year we found 16, they are going to have one of the greatest experiences of their lives.”
Glancing through the newcomers, one thing runs rampant. While Donovan Williams (CD Hylton) is the quarterback of the group, there are several others who played the position in high school, including Jasen Rose, Eddie Hahn, Keiyon Dixon, Quayvon Skanes and Nick Zecchino. The knowledge gained at the position will be beneficial for each as they begin their college careers, regardless of their position.
“I would say the major advantages of these guys playing quarterback is an accelerated development of their growth as a football player,” Painter said. “There are only a few positions in sports that demand you develop as a leader, possibly chief among them is the quarterback position. They have already gone through the process of leading their teammates and have been forced to communicate with their teammates, whether it be in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage. They’ve had the ball in their hands at critical moments in the game and have been asked to carry their teams. This will allow each of them to be successful at the next level.”
With the experience, understanding and talent of the players already in Storrs, it will be hard for a freshman to supplant a returning starter. But with the ability of each of the commits, don’t count anything out too soon.