Football: Diaco welcomes 16 players in 2016 recruiting class

UConn head coach Bob Diaco addresses the media at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field on National Signing Day. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

East Hartford — Bob Diaco was in rare form on Wednesday afternoon.

As he stepped in front of the podium in front of reporters at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field to announce the 2016 recruiting class, he spoke for about 25 minutes and was incredibly enthusiastic to introduce the new class. 

“Just overall, talking personnel, we’re so excited about the class that we put together today,” Diaco said. “Our coaches and players are in charge with making sure that the people we bring in and the people that we’re trying to add to the football family are what we call RKGs; the Right Kind of Guys.”

We didn’t cut any corners. No corners cut in building this foundation. We bought the nice cement. We had spectacular masons lay it. We reinforced it with rebar. We tied it properly at every corner.
— Bob Diaco

The class of 2016 includes 16 players from nine different states, including four from Connecticut, two from Pennsylvania, two from Massachusetts, two from Florida, two from New Jersey and one from North Carolina, Illinois, Virginia and Texas.

“They’re competitive people,” Diaco said of the 2016 class. “They’re high achievers in the classroom. They’re high achievers at their positions and on their teams. They’re a team of achievers. So we’re very, very pleased with that.”

Diaco said that between the 16 players, there are 140 wins and 40 losses between them all, seven state titles and eight All-American or All-State players.

Diaco, who will coach his third season at UConn in the fall, started his comments by making an opening statement and then went into talking about each player before taking some questions from the media.

Two players he talked about a lot were Jay Rose (Southington, Connecticut) and Nick Zecchino (Cedar Grove, New Jersey).

Rose was named The Hartford Courant’s Offensive Player of the Year this past season. He was also named to the Walter Camps Football Foundation All-Connecticut team.

“When you think about Jay, you have your almost like kind of a flagship guy. This guy here in the state, was one of the highest rated players in the state. He could have went, in our area and beyond, anywhere he wanted to go, play a lot of different positions, and he chose the University of Connecticut. He distinctly made the choice to serve the state, to serve the university and to serve our football team.”

Rose, listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, was a quarterback at Southington High School but Diaco said that Rose will be in a lot of different positions.

Rose is one of four Connecticut players who committed on Wednesday. He joined Tyler Coyle (Windsor), Keyion Dixon (Glastonbury) and Tahj Herring (Hartford).

Zecchino is a long snapper listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds. Diaco said that out of the whole class, he would be the one that could impact the team immediately.

“If there is a guy that has to be ready to roll right out of the shoot, it’s really Nick,” Diaco said. “If I had to pick one that has to be ready to do his craft right out of the shoot it is probably Nick. And he has the mindset to do it: unflappable, tough, gutsy, gritty.”

Zecchino played long snapper, quarterback and defensive back in high school. He passed for 1,370 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior.

Diaco also recruited some big players, like last year. Eight players in the class of 2016 are listed at 6-foot-3 or taller.

Two players that especially stood out were Noel Brouse and Nino Leone.

Leone is from South Hamilton, Massachusetts and is listed at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds. He was named the Boston Globe Lineman of the Year for New England PSAC Class C.

“A big, physical, rugged player. He’ll be an interior offensive lineman for us,” Diaco said. “He’s a guy that’s mature. He’s tough. He’s active on the field. He really took the time and care in vetting out the process and inspecting where he wanted to go and he had a lot of opportunities.

Brouse is listed at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds from Slatington, Pennsylvania. He was named to the 2015 Pennsylvania Football Writers Class 4A all-state team as an offensive lineman.

“Just a great guy,” Diaco said. “Worker. Grinder. Achiever in other areas because he loves football. He’ll play defensive end. Athletic, plays basketball. Just going to be a great program guy for us.”

Along with the 16 players who signed on Wednesday, the Huskies will also welcome three preferred walk-ons. UConn could not comment on the players.

“Our culture has been built with so much care and it’s been so hard and not care on my part, care on my part for sure, but care on everyone’s part,” Diaco said. “I mean blood, sweat and tears with the players and the essential staff and the coaching staff and administrators, it’s been a massive undertaking and amount of work that we accomplished.”

“And we didn’t cut any corners. No corners cut in building this foundation. We bought the nice cement. We had spectacular masons lay it. We reinforced it with rebar. We tied it properly at every corner. But the cement is still wet. So we need to be careful. But we definitely feel like that now, which is really one piece that we did a real good job; the 16 young men that have been added to our university’s student body and that have been added to our football family are great people.”