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UConn Football Welcomes 25 Newcomers To Football Program

Feb. 1, 2012

The Latest Class of Huskies | Recruiting Reception Photo Gallery

Read Coach Pasqualoni's Comments on the Signing Class

STORRS, Conn. (Feb. 1, 2012) -- UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni has announced that 19 high school seniors signed National Letters of Intent on Tuesday to attend the University of Connecticut. The 19 seniors come from seven states with the following breakdown: Florida 5, New Jersey 5, Massachusetts 3, Maryland 2, Pennsylvania 2, Connecticut 1 and New York 1.

In addition, UConn had five new student-athletes enroll for the spring 2012 semester and received a signed financial aid agreement from a junior college transfer.

The following is a list of the high school seniors that signed Letters of Intent.

NamePos.HeightWeightHometown/High School/Prep School
Battles-Santos, BrendanDE6-3250Eastham, Mass/Nauset Regional
Bryan, RennickC6-2319New Haven, Conn./Hillhouse
Clax, JazzmarFB-LB5-11236Freehold, N.J./Neptune
Floyd, JordanFS6-1205Bel Air, Md./Loyola Blakefield
Green, JohnWR5-11175Miami, Fla./Felix Varela
Gutierrez, RicardoWR6-1170Hialeah, Fla./American
Hicks, JonathanLB6-3245Palmyra, Penn./Palmyra
Levy, RichardOT6-6280Trenton, N.J./Trenton Central
Marder, EllisFS6-1185Windermere, Fla./Lake Highland Prep
Melifonwu, ObiFS6-3194South Grafton, Mass./Grafton
Myers, MikalDT6-0300Newburgh, N.Y./Newburgh Free Academy
Norris, ElijahDE6-4230Upper Marlboro, Md./Archbishop Carroll
Puyol, BobbyK6-0170North Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer
Rugg, ZackOG6-5285Windber, Pa./Bishop McCort
Samra, TylerOG6-3250Wycoff, N.J./Don Bosco
Stephens, Omaine LB 6-4220 East Orange, N.J./East Orange Campus
Sylva, JasonLB6-3235Marion, Mass./Plymouth South-Tabor Academy
Vinci, WyattLB-FB6-3238Ridgewood, N.J./St. Joseph/Hun School
Williams, JhavonCB5-11185Wellington, Fla./Palm Beach Central

The following is a list of student-athletes that enrolled at UConn for the spring 2012 semester

NamePos.HeightWeightHometown/High School/Prep School or Community College
Bockeloh, KyleC6-2286Houston, Texas/Cypress Creek
Cochran, CaseyQB6-0216Monroe, Conn./Masuk
Ghio, DrewOG6-1297Bristol, Conn./Bristol Central/Loomis Chaffee
Whitmer, ChandlerQB6-1188Newnan, Ga./Downers Grove (Ill.) South/Butler (Kan.) CC
Williams, JosephTB5-11197Allentown, Pa./Emmaus/Fork Union (Va.)

The following is the junior college transfer that signed a financial aid agreement.

NamePos.HeightWeightHometown/High School/Community College
Shortell, NeilTE6-3250Mission Hills, Kan./Butler (Kan.) CC

The following, in alphabetical order, are biographies are all Husky newcomers.

Brendan Battles-Santos Brendan Battles-Santos: Had 70 tackles his senior year with two sacks... played both defensive line and quarterback as a senior, running a single-wing offense as the lead blocker out of the backfield... named to the ESPN Boston All-State team and a Boston Globe and Boston Herald All-Star... also an outstanding wrestler... was a Boston Herald All-Scholastic pick in wrestling... captured the sectional, Division I and All-State titles as a junior in the 215-pound weight division... reached the finals of the New England Championship... was third at the National High School Coaches Association tournament..born April 28, 1994.

Kyle Bockeloh: Enrolled at Connecticut for the spring 2012 semester and will participate in spring practice... played at Cypress Creek High School in Houston and graduated in the spring of 2011... team went 9-4 in his senior season and team won three playoff games to advance to the regional round of the 5A Division I championship... delayed his enrollment to college until this semester... earned Greater Houston Academic All-State honors and also participated in track and field..born October 20, 1992.

Rennick Bryan: Named to the Connecticut High School Coaches' Association All-Star Football Team and the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-Connecticut Team..named to the Levi Jackson All-Star Team, honored by the New Haven Gridiron Club... also throws the shot put and discus in track and field... was All-Southern Connecticut Conference in the shot put... born December 1, 1993.

Jazzmar Clax: Led Neptune HS to its first Central Jersey Group 3 title since 1998... had 156 tackles (72 solo) with six sacks and a pair of forced fumbles... born August 23, 1993... was an Asbury Park Press All-Shore first team selection in each of the past two years... began his high school career at Freehold Borough HS and helped lead that school to the Group 3 title in 2010... born August 23, 1993.

Casey Cochran: Enrolled at Connecticut for the spring 2012 semester and will participate in spring practice... Gatorade Player of the Year in Connecticut for each of the past two seasons... named to the Connecticut High School Coaches' Association All-Star Football Team and the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-Connecticut Team... holds the Connecticut high school career records for passing yards and completions... played his final two years of high school at Masuk and led the team to the Connecticut Class L title in 2010... started his scholastic career at New London HS and led the team to the state class SS title in 2008... born February 25, 1994.

Jordan Floyd: Named to All-Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association team.. named all-state honorable mention by the Baltimore Sun and was a second team All-Metro pick in a junior had 700 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns and also had 70 tackles..played in the 2011 Maryland Crab Bowl on December 17 for the Baltimore team... also plays basketball and runs track and field in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash... born April 19, 1994.

Drew Ghio: Enrolled at Connecticut for the spring 2012 semester and will participate in spring practice... graduate of Bristol Central High School and spent the fall 2011 semester at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn. ... team captain at Bristol Central and earned team MVP honors... was an all-city and first team all-conference pick... honor roll student at both Bristol Eastern and Loomis... played for the Connecticut team in the 2010 Governors' Cup All-Star Game... participated in track and basketball... born July 17, 1992.

John Green: Had 13 receptions for 186 yards and three TDs in 2011... had a 32.3 yards punting average as a senior... also runs track in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter events... born November 12, 1993.

Ricky Gutierrez: Wide receiver whose team played in regional semifinals of Florida Class 7A regional quarterfinals... son of former Major League Baseball player Ricky Gutierrez, who played for six teams from 1993-2004 and won a World Series ring with the '04 Red Sox..born February 15, 1993.

Jonathan Hicks: Was named to the Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class AAA All-Star Team... Made 140 tackles, including 25 in one game, with 4.5 sacks as a senior in 2011 along with two blocked punts and two forced fumbles... played both inside linebacker and offensive line... will play in the Big 33 All-Star game (Pennsylvania vs. Ohio) on June 16 in Hershey, Pa. ... will be first Palmyra HS player in that game since 1977 and is just one of four LBs for the Pennsylvania team... led high school team to a regular season record of 9-3, its best in four decades... team made its first-ever District Three playoff appearance and won a triple OT game in the first round... born December 10, 1993.

Richard Levy: Played both on the offensive and defensive line... also wrestles in high school... born September 12, 1992.

Ellis Marder: 2011 Central Florida all-star..Played defensive back in high school... team played in regional semifinals of Class 4A championship... born January 14, 1994.

Obi Melifonwu: Played both running back and defensive back in high school... rushed for 1,394 yards in senior year with 17 touchdowns... made 14 tackles on defense and had three interceptions..also had ten two-point conversions... named to the ESPN Boston All-State team... rushed for 320 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Leichester in also a long jumper and triple jumper on the track team... born April 5, 1994.

Mikal Myers: Will played defensive tackle at UConn after playing on both the offensive and defensive line in high school... was named a first team Class AA selection on the offensive line by the New York Sportswriters Association... was second team in junior year... on defense as a senior, had 91 tackles with 14 for a loss and 10 sacks... team was 10-2 in senior year and advanced to championship game of NYSAPHSAA Class 4A tournament... team won its first Section 9 Class AA title since 2003... born August 14, 1994.

Elijah Norris: Was a receiver on offense and had 20 receptions for 440 yards and four TDs... also made 102 tackles with 16.0 sacks... had a 37.03 yards punting average... born July 4, 1994.

Bobby Puyol: Was a finalist for the Palm Beach (Fla.) Placekicker of the Year by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission... had career mark of 22-27 in field goals with a long of 54, to break a school record... was 189 for 198 on PATs and had a KO touchback percentage of 82%... first team all-conference 3A-4A as a senior and first team all-area by Orlando Sun Sentinel... third team all-state 7A... was 9 of 12 on field goals and 50 of 52 on extra points... also was the backup QB... team won three playoff games in Class 7A tournament as team made it to state semifinals and was regional champion... team went 50 games over his four-year HS career... first-team all-conference three times... team won state championship in sophomore year..also plays baseball... high school baseball coach was Frank Torre, Jr... .son of former major leaguer Frank Torre and nephew of legendary Joe Torre... son born August 17, 1993.

Zach Rugg: Had 72 tackles in senior year with two double-digit tackle games... also had 2.5 sacks... also played on the offensive line... named first team All-Area by the Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)... also named to the Pennsylvania Sports Writers all-state team... team went 7-4 in senior season... as a junior had 99 tackles... in junior year, team went 8-5 and reached the District 6 Class A championship game... born February 16, 1994.

Tyler Samra: Helped team rush for 1,910 rushing yards and 1,194 passing yards in senior year... was named first-team all-state by the Newark Star-Ledger... team went 11-0 in senior year and won the New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 state championship... born December 23, 1993.

Neil Shortell: A junior college transfer from Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas... same junior college as UConn spring enrollee Chandler Whitmer... will have two years of eligibility over three at UConn... had four receptions for 60 yards and a TD as a tight end for Butler in 2011... was named All-Kansas Junior College Conference first team honors... Butler was the second-ranked junior college team nationally this past season... born July 9, 1991.

Omaine Stephens: Worrall Community Newspapers All-Area co-Defensive Player of the Year... also named First Team All-Group 4 by the Newark Star-Ledger and First Team All-Essex County... made 70 tackles as a senior (54 primary) with 13 sacks... born June 2, 1993.

Jason Sylva: Will play linebacker at Connecticut... made 72 tackles on defense with 22 for a loss and 10 sacks this past fall at Tabor Academy (Marion, Mass.)... .also rushed for 900 yards and 10 TDS... was a three-time All-Colonial League pick, a first team All-New England selection twice and a runner-up for the New England Player of the year as a senior... began his high school career at Plymouth South HS, earning Atlantic Coast League honorable mention all-conference honors in football and basketball... his father, Ed, played football at Boston State (now UMass-Boston)... his uncle, Bob, played football at Norwich with current UConn DC Don Brown... born July 14, 1992.

Wyatt Vinci: Attended same prep school as current Husky wide receiver Nick Williams... played high school football at St. Joseph HS in Montvale, N.J... born January 9, 1993.

Jhavon Williams: Team went 7-4 in senior season and played in the regional quarterfinals of the Florida Class 8A championship... played in the Florida Atlantic Coaches' Association North-South All-Star game following his senior season... started his high school career at American Heritage HS... born January 20, 1993.

Joseph Williams: Enrolled at Connecticut for the spring 2012 semester and will participate in spring practice... spent the fall 2011 semester at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy after graduating from Emmaus High School in the spring of 2011... .at Emmaus, rushed for 1,243 yards as a senior and was a second team all-area pick... first team All-Lehigh Valley Conference selection... was a track standout winning the LVC outdoor track titles in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash... born September 4, 1993.

Chandler Whitmer: Enrolled at Connecticut for the spring 2012 semester and will participate in spring practice... will have three years of eligibility at Connecticut... originally enrolled at Illinois in the fall of 2010 and was a redshirt... named to The Champaign News-Gazette's All-State team following his senior year of high school at Downers Grove (Ill.) South... earned all state and all-area honors... spent the 2011 fall semester at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas... was 180 for 316 in the air for 3,022 yards this past season with 25 TDs and 14 interceptions... was named All-Kansas Junior College Conference first team honors... named National Junior College Athletic Association All-American honorable mention... Butler was the second-ranked junior college team nationally this past season... born August 16, 1991.

Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni

Opening Statement

"First off, I'm excited about the players we are bringing in. This group is a little bit unique in the fact that we have junior college players, we have prep school players and we have student-athletes from the high school level. We are including in this group players that are already on our campus, five of which we've already brought in in January. I'm gonna talk about two of which who we brought in last August that we've never formally discussed in Shakim Phillips and Brendan Donegan. They spent the summer and preseason camp in the fall with us."

"We're excited about the players from the state of Connecticut that we have. When we got here a year ago, we made the statement that we were going to recruit the state of Connecticut as aggressively as we could. So we are excited about Casey Cochran. We are excited about Rennick Bryan. We've brought in to enroll Drew Ghio who has a knee injury. As he gets better, we'll expect Drew to compete as well at the University of Connecticut."

"I like the character, I like the profile of this group. When I say profile -their character, their commitment, their passion for football. Their willingness to do this the way we want to do it at the University of Connecticut. As a head coach, I think you have to be comfortable with them. What I've learned about it is that I want to be in the house, I want to look them in the eye. I want to meet their mom and dad and their high school coaches and look them in the eye and be very, very comfortable in the conversation that what we're asking them to do, they're going to commit to. We're talking about the academic side of this thing as well as the football side of this. I've traveled around, in and out of high schools and home, meeting parents and family. I'm really, really comfortable with who these guys are. You talk about the evaluation process. Position-specific skills, critical factors. Every one of these guys, from an athletic-specific standpoint, in our evaluation, have the potential to really develop into really good players. Are they all going to develop into really good players? No. They aren't all going to be starters or really outstanding players next year. In my experience with this, the profile of the guys we're bringing in here, as the years go by, I feel confident that each of these guys will really be able to contribute to the program athletically and helping us win BIG EAST Conference Championships and going to Bowl Games and all the things that everyone here in the state of Connecticut and at the University of Connecticut really wants to do.

"This has been a tremendous effort by everybody at the University. Our admissions office worked tirelessly with us, had a lot of patience with us and hung right in there. Our compliance people hung in there with us and really, really worked hand in hand and really hard. Our administration was involved every way they could be with the recruiting of these players. Being over for lunch, coming for dinner, sitting down and talking to moms and dads. From an academic support standpoint, from the counseling end of it, worked endlessly and tirelessly with us. It goes on and on. The strength staff. When we bring prospects onto campus, everybody is involved. Paul Pendergast coming out to dinner with us and coming over for lunch. Neil Eskin being involved and being around for people to meet.

"The effort started a year ago. We started evaluating these guys last year at this time. Just like for 2013 we've already offered some people. In the last few days, we're writing up evaluations. We have a big evaluation day tomorrow and Friday. We'll have junior days coming up soon where a lot of these kids are gonna come. Many of the kids we're gonna sign here were in our camps. We had somewhere between 1,400 and 1,500 kids in camp over the summer. We tried to get them on campus and try to get to know them and give them a real good football experience. The staff did an unbelievable job of working and working and working. You go through the season and the recruiting season and coaches are gone during the week and on weekends. There's a lot of sacrifices and a lot of work that goes into this by a lot of people. So those efforts were very much appreciated by everybody. I think we have a very athletic class and we'll prove it to be in the next four-five years, whatever it is."

When you get together your plan, do you have a list of "these are the four we must get kids" and then we'll take anybody else after that or do you throw them all 19 out there and say let's go get them all?

"I think that you have position-specific needs that you kind of earmark and you focus on filling those spots. At the end of the day, you are never-ever going to pass up a good player, regardless of the position. That's one philosophy. If you have a chance to get a real, real good player, regardless of how deep you are at that position, if this guy can really help you and play, I think you're gonna take that guy. I don't think it's any different in the NFL with the draft. If you got a chance to take a real good player and you have a good player in that position, I think you still take that player. I don't think that's any different in college. You have to fill these needs. You try to fill these needs, it doesn't always work out. You want to recruit good players who can fit the profile and can do this thing the way you want to do it and the academic part of this is pretty important as well. You are trying to balance the whole thing out. For example, we felt like we needed to bring in a couple quarterbacks - we did that. We felt like we needed to bring in a kicker - we did that. We felt like we needed to sign a tight end - we did that. We needed to bring in some offensive linemen that we thought could develop and grow in the program. We wanted a couple linebackers and wide receivers. From a needs standpoint, did we do everything I would have liked to have done, no not everything, but pretty close. We'll keep working on those other areas as well."

Can you address the quarterback situation with the now five QBs you have after bringing in two quarterbacks in this class? Will all five compete in the spring?

"Yes, it's an open competition. We're gonna have to be creative in practice in regards to giving these kids reps and make sure we are maximizing the number of minutes we have with them in spring practice. We're probably gonna sneak a few more reps in there, with scrimmages. Maybe have a little bit more scrimmage. Put them out there, see what they can do. We're going to coach every one of them and have a fair and open competition. At the end of the day, we'll go into preseason camp and maybe add. I've been in this position before, and maybe instead of having three preseason scrimmages, we'll have four. We'll probably try to create as much competition and as much of a gameday environment to clearly evaluate as much as we can. We're gonna pick the guy we think is the most productive to start the season and we'll go."

Can you talk about Casey Cochran (QB - Monroe, Conn.)?

"Casey is very, very passionate about the game. When we had him in camp, I thought he played fast. I thought he anticipated very well. I thought he got the ball out of his hands very, very quickly. Now, from a fundamental standpoint, he's a real young player. Like they all do, he needs to work on his fundamentals and techniques and footwork. He's very passionate about it. He's got a tremendous work ethic. He seems to pick things up very quickly. He seems to be able to handle information very well. I just like how quick he got back and how he anticipated things and threw the ball to the open guy. We're hopefully we'll see that as we go through spring practice."

On Chandler Whitmer:

"Chandler is in a lot of ways, similar to Casey Cochran. He's very passionate about this. Very passionate. He's really excited about it. Very good fundamentally in his drops. Has good touch on the ball. Anticipates as well. Same type of thing. He runs pretty well. Probably a little better than people think he can. Probably a little bigger than people think he is too. Of course, he played at Illinois, was there, went through that preseason. Went to Butler (Butler Community College) had a perfect 13-0 season. He has some pretty impressive highlights you'll see today. I think they are two young and exciting guys. I think they'll create a great environment, a competition, with Mike (Nebrich) and Johnny (McEntee) and Scotty (McCummings) and all those guys working. They are working well together with the weight conditioning and the conditioning drills. We're excited about that entire group. We're going to grind this thing out with all five of them."

On playing with one starting quarterback:

"We will always have the wildcat component, but I would prefer not to play three quarterbacks. That's a separate entity if you will, but I would like to have a starting quarterback and stick with that guy."

On what the team did not get in recruiting this year:

"I would have liked to signed another interior defensive lineman. Mikal Myers is a terrific prospect and inside guy with great hands, excellent leverage and gets off the block quickly. He's an inside player. I would have liked to sign one more and that didn't happen. I like the guys that we signed on the outside. Elijah Norris is going to be a big kid who battles. He has a chance to be a national wrestler right now at 245. He's going to be a big guy. I'm good with the outside guys, I wish we had another inside man. I also would have liked to sign another corner. I would have been very pleased if I could have added each of those positions, but I will still keep my eyes and ears open."

On hitting the recruiting hot beds:

"We are very happy with what we did in Florida. Ricky Gutierrez is very impressive. We are still involved with another high profile kid from south Florida that hopefully we can sign by the end of the day. So, we are happy with what we did in Florida. People were trying to get Ellis Marder to change his mind as late of last night but he stuck with us. He is going to be a very good player with us at the safety position."

"I am happy with what we got from New Jersey. We got kids from great programs, including Tyler Samra from Don Bosco which may be one of the best high school programs in the country. New Jersey was important for us. Jazzmar Clax is going to be a big kid for us. I know he can play linebacker but I can't wait to see him at running back. He is a very explosive player that is very versatile and flexible to multiple positions."

On Elijah Norris:

"I consider E.J. a super athlete. He can play tight end. His highlights show him jumping over everyone in the endzone to catch the ball. We're bringing him in as a defensive end because he is an excellent edge guy. We're really excited and happy about recruiting him."

On the decision to recruit so many linebackers:

"We were in some 3-4 defense last year and we like it. I think it goes back to not passing up on good players. Jason Sylva is a great kid that is passionate about UConn football, the state and the institution as a whole. Jon Hicks is going to play in the Big 33 game in Pennsylvania and it doesn't get any bigger than that in Pennsylvania. There are two tough guys that committed a while ago and never wavered. We are going to take all those guys we can get. It is our job to fit them into the scheme and get them onto the field. When you have so many players like that coaching is a real fun job."

On coaching Casey Cochran:

"We just brought in Shane Day from the Chicago Bears and I promise you Casey [Cochran] will be coached. He has been well coached but this is a whole different level. We're a pro style attack. We will run some wildcat and spread offense but we are going to be a drop back and throw the football program."

On redshirting Casey Cochran:

"Walking into each kid's house I told them I do not want them to come in June with the mentality to redshirt. I don't want that mentality. We will make that decision once we are done with preseason. I don't want them coming in here thinking it will be a redshirt season."

On having five student-athletes already enrolled:

"It's tremendous. Kyle Bockeloh is a good lineman. That's an important one. We obviously have two quarterbacks. Joe Williams is a great athlete. He ran a 10.6 in the 100m in track last spring and he is over 250 pounds."

On recruiting with all that is happening in BIG EAST:

"I did feel that there were times you had to give an explanation or positive statement on what you felt the direction was. Personally, I feel great about the BIG EAST and where it is going. We have Navy coming in and there will be another school that would fit out West. The people in the BIG EAST are working hard and our leadership is excellent. I see it as a very positive thing with the BCS Bowl issue. We can provide the student-athlete with everything that is wanted in playing college football. From my perspective it is going to be pretty darn good in the end for the University of Connecticut."

On Mikal Myers:

"I love his hands. As a coach that is exciting. He is a great kid, I loved being in his house with his mother and father. I think he will be a great player at the University of Connecticut." On Rennick Bryan:

"Rennick is very athletic. He is a powerful guy. He was in our camp so we were around him for a little bit. He can play guard for us. What I like about him is that he can also play center for us, he is that athletic. He has great position flexibility."

On bringing in so many transfers:

"This year we had a lot of information on the transfers. We either had interest in the players coming out of high school or our coaches had connections to past coaches of the players. If the guy is a good player, fit the UConn profile and we have a need for the position we will continue to bring in transfers."

On signing Ricky Gutierrez:

"He broke his collar bone and had to sit out seven games. He kind of fell to the wayside. I started watching his game film and told everyone we had to get moving on this kid. We got in there quick and it worked out great. We are very fortunate for getting him up here and that is credit to Don Brown."