Although 2018 didn’t hold many victories on the field for UConn football, Wednesday morning should count as a win for a program desperate to return to respectability.
After having the worst defense in college football since World War I and going winless against FBS competition this past season, UConn football added 11 players that can make an impact in 2019 and beyond.
“These kids that we got, we all feel they fit exactly what this program stands for and what we’re going to be as we move forward,” said head coach Randy Edsall.
The crown jewel of the Huskies’ newest recruiting class is cornerback Myles Bell. A three-star prospect according to 247sports.com, the Fort Lauderdale native reportedly also had offers from Power-5 schools such as Syracuse, Nebraska and Virginia Tech. His commitment to UConn is a coup for the Huskies and especially for a secondary that ranked 125 out of a possible 129 in terms of total passing yards allowed.
“We think Myles Bell is an outstanding young man, an outstanding football player and an outstanding student,” said Edsall. “This kid is a really good cover guy. He’s smart, instinctive, has all the things that you’re really looking for.”
Although he played wide receiver in high school, apparently UConn has plans for Malik Dixon to join Bell in the secondary, announcing the 178-pound Florida-native will play safety at the collegiate level. Winston Jules, a 156-pound cornerback from Salisbury School rounds out the additions to the secondary.
The signee that will likely pay the most immediate dividends is Michael Hinton, a graduate transfer from Columbia University. A captain for the Lions and an All-Ivy League honorable mention, the defensive end turned defensive tackle will provide a veteran presence for a UConn defense that often started four freshmen up front. According to Edsall, the fact that the Huskies will not have a plethora of seniors on the roster next year played a role in pursuing veteran leaders from outside Storrs.
“We need some leadership and he’s a guy that will do that,” said Edsall. “He’s been productive at Columbia and talking to their coaches, they had nothing but great things to say about him.”
Joining Hinton on the defensive line will be Eric Watts, an agile and athletic defensive end who choose UConn over Tennessee Tech, South Carolina State and North Greeneville and will be enrolling in the spring.
Edsall often bemoaned the lack of depth at linebacker throughout the season and addressed the issue on the recruiting trail signing Dillon Harris and Jackson Mitchell, two Connecticut natives to held command the middle of the field.
UConn will be without their record-breaking quarterback in 2019. David Pindell, who broke the Huskies’ all-time single season rushing record for quarterbacks in October and finished with 1131 total yards on the ground, is graduating this spring. To help fill the void left by Pindell’s departure, the Huskies looked north, signing Canadian quarterback Jack Zergiotis. Edsall and his coaching staff first welcomed Zergiotis to Connecticut during a camp this summer and kept tabs on him throughout his senior season. An official visit on December 14 clinched the Huskies’ offer to the dual-threat passer.
“When you have him here on an official visit, you get to sit down with him and pick his brain a little more in terms of his knowledge and awareness in terms of what the quarterback position is and how to read things and understand the defenses,” said Edsall.
Other additions to the offense include Rayonte Brown and Chase Lunt; two offensive linemen that Edsall says don’t have to play right away and Jayce Medlock, a tight end in High School but will move around on offense for the Huskies.
While December’s National Signing Day has quickly become the preferred day for signees to announce their decisions rather than February’s traditional date, it is merely beginning of signing window. Edsall says that he could see the Huskies’ 2019 recruiting class totaling as many as 25 newcomers when the signing period ends in the spring. Some he hinted are already committed to UConn but he would not announce them on Wednesday due to either NCAA rules or to allow the High Schools to announce them at a later date.
After UConn’s 57-7 season-ending loss to Temple in November, Edsall gave an impassioned speech about the kind of players the program needs to acquire.
Head coach Randy Edsall drops the mic at his last postgame press conference of the year. "This game's too hard to play if you don't love it. If you don't love the grind…This game isn't for the weak of heart. And we'll go find those guys." pic.twitter.com/dbtzhaidzl
— Daily Campus Sports (@dcsportsdept) November 25, 2018
“We’ve got to get guys that loved the game, that want to pay the price each and every day in everything that they do,” Edsall said then, every word punctured with a rap of the podium. “Cause this game ain’t for the weak of heart. It isn’t. And we’ll go find those guys.”
The Edsall that spoke to the media on Wednesday was much more calm and upbeat. Judging by his jovial demeanor, the program’s mission that he stated in November is at least partially accomplished in his mind.
“Some guys want the easy way out. These guys wanted to be a difference maker and do something that’s going to change our program around.”
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.