Feb 13, 2015, 9:23 AM EDT
Happy to be back for the second year of National Signing Day coverage for CAA Football. We’ve had some time to exhale from NSD, and I thought it would be a good idea to provide more of a breakdown from each of the league’s 12 teams and their respective classes.
I’m not writing this blog to give an immediate prediction for all of the future stars in the conference. There’s no question that incoming true freshmen, or transfers for that matter, can come in a change a program right away. That said, it’s pretty rare for either of the two to have an immediate impact. That’s just the nature of the beast at the FCS level.
Before jumping in with each class, I’d like again to point out the solid work from my colleagues for their coverage of NSD. The CAA Football Signing Day Central page remains active, where you can find links and information for each program. With that said, let’s break down the classes.
UAlbany: Last year’s recruiting class featured 22 total student-athletes — 20 high school, two transfers — and it’s clear coach Greg Gattuso is still building for the future to find “his guys.” This year’s class features 17 total players, 11 of which are listed as playing offensive positions. The Danes needs to replace two vital positions, RB and QB, after starters Omar Osbourne and Will Fiacchi completed their careers. This class already looks to fill that void with three RB’s and three QB’s listed, including Penn State transfer DJ Crook, who served as the Nittany Lions’ backup quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2014. The Danes had other big news on Wednesday as well, when the team’s 2015 schedule was released. It starts off the new season with a date against its first-ever FBS foe, Buffalo.
Delaware: The Blue Hens once again had one of the largest recruiting classes in CAA Football this year with 21 signees. Last year, the team was still young and signed 22 standouts. Coach Dave Brock’s class in 2015 certainly has one of the most unique stories when Jamie Jarmon, a former minor league baseball player for three years, signed a national letter of intent. According to UD, Jarmon, a QB from Millsboro, Del., is already enrolled in classes in Newark and will participate in spring ball as well. Of note, this year’s class features players from eight different states, including three from Delaware, seven from Pennsylvania, four from New Jersey, three from Connecticut, two from Virginia, and one each from New York, Maryland and Massachusetts. Another storyline fans will likely hear down the road is the signing of WR Vinny Papale, whose father, former Philadelphia Eagle Vince Papale, had a Disney movie made after him. Any movie with “Marky Mark” is fine by me. Keep in mind, the Blue Hens need to replace three-year starting QB Trent Hurley under center, as well as stud WR Michael Johnson, who also was a return specialist. This year’s class features 12 players on the defensive side, and coach Brock showed he won’t shy away from playing true freshman on that side of the ball the last two seasons.
Elon: Second-year head coach Rich Skrosky and the Phoenix only signed 13 student-athletes one year ago in his first “true” recruiting class. Still, he had little time to compile what exactly he is looking for. Turn the clocks forward to a year later and it’s obvious Skrosky wants Elon’s identity to be made up of players from its own home state of North Carolina. This year’s class alone has 13 players that hail from the Tar Heel State out of 19 total commits. The remaining athletes come from Georgia and South Carolina (two each), along with one player each coming from New Jersey and Alabama. I really like this class simply because Skrosky and his staff are showing a commitment to local talent now and even further down the road. Most know that Elon’s 2014 team was offensively-driven, and this year’s class added to that side of the ball with 10 offensive players — four WRs, three OL, two RBs and one QB. Not making any predictions here, but the Phoenix need a new signal-caller this season and Daniel Thompson, who has enrolled already this spring, could be that guy for the future. He had 91 total TD passes in high school and threw for over 9,000 yards as well. On top of that, he had a 4.6 GPA at Boiling Springs, which I didn’t even think was possible.
James Madison: Another second-year head coach, Everett Withers, continued to make a splash on the recruiting trial when JMU announced 21 commits to this year’s class. I wrote last winter about the potential impact of Georgia Tech transfer QB Vad Lee, and he made me look great with a stellar junior season in which he earned Second Team All-CAA honors and finished fourth in the voting for the FCS National Player of the Year award. When it comes to this year’s recruiting class, it’s hard not to look at the hype surrounding it with a handful of players up and down the board who received one or multiple stars from various recruiting services. Whether that means anything in the near future is yet to be seen, but the chatter alone has many intrigued. Eight players in this class come from the state of Virginia (including Centreville High teammates Charles Tutt, a CB, and Jordan Brooks, a DL), while the class overall is composed of 12 offensive and nine defensive players. Outside of Virginia, the Dukes’ roots stretched out to seven other states — Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and Georgia.
Maine: Coach Jack Cosgrove and staff inked 16 total players for last year’s class, and upped it this winter with a total signing class of 22 athletes. Maine has fared very well in the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania in past years for recruiting the type of players that get overlooked or often have a chip on their shoulder, and that’s no different this year. A total of 11 players — 8 from New Jersey, three from Pennsylvania — signed in this class, while all of the Pennsylvania athletes play primary offensive positions compared to six of the eight total New Jersey athletes, who will look to play on the defensive side of the ball. On a side note, I think Maine could have one of the top defenses in CAA Football with Cabrinni Goncalves, Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga and Trevor Bates all back, so expect that to have some effect on this year’s class and redshirting. Usually, I’ll reserved my giddiness for 2015 and CAA Football scheduling, but it’s almost impossible for me to not mention Maine’s incredibly bold 2015 schedule. The Black Bears play two FBS foes, Boston College and Tulane, and also play Ivy League power Yale in non-conference play.
New Hampshire: The 2014 CAA Football champs, who won the program’s first outright league title since 1994, need to replace 20-plus seniors. This year’s recruiting class of 17 student-athletes is certainly one of the larger ones under coach Sean McDonnell. Having playoff success has always seemed to help UNH find the right players for its system. Add in the fact that a new stadium is on the way for the 2016 season, and it seems the program’s recruiting reach is growing farther than ever. For instance, last year’s class had eight different states represented and this year’s class has even more with 13. The ‘Cats went out and found players as far south as Georgia, as far west as California and didn’t shy away from the mid-Atlantic region as well, grabbing players from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Interestingly, as mentioned last year, New Hampshire doesn’t have the most fertile recruiting ground. Still, for the second-consecutive year, UNH managed to sign another quarterback from the Granite State in Ivan Niyomugabo. Although New Hampshire is know for its offense and style of play on that side of the ball, this class has potential to sure up size and depth on the defensive side of the ball further down the road.
Rhody: In his first true class one year ago, Jim Fleming and his staff signed 18 student-athletes, and as expected, went large again in 2015 with 20 total signees. Immediately, the thing that sticks out about this class is the number of offensive players, including five QBs, three WRs and two OL. Five quarterbacks is unusual for any class normally, but it’s clear URI needs a go-to-guy under center for years to come. Whether the Rams actually expect to have more than four QBs on the roster is unknown, but I’m guessing they recruited some of those players knowing they could play another position as well. Keep an eye out for 6-foot-6 local QB Isaiah DeSilva, who’s dad, Scott, played at URI during the old Yankee Conference days. Rhody inked another local guy, Power Kanga (front runner for the best new name in CAA Football) and also added fellow QB signee Wesley McKoy, who played high school ball at the notorious Don Bosco Prep school in New Jersey.
Richmond: This year’s class is 17 athletes deep, plus three mid-year FBS transfers. Michael Strauss was a multiple-year starter under center and Stephen Barnette was one of the league’s top pass catchers, so both will be missed. I truly believe that the Spiders will have to replace more on defense than offense, as two senior RBs and a handful of capable WRs are all back in 2015. This year’s class addressed those needs on D with a number of solid looking defensive line and linebacker prospects. The three transfers — DL Devin Cook (Pitt), TE Garrett Hudson (UNC), LB David Norris (UAB) — played agaisnt top-notch competition and are already enrolled at UR for spring ball. Once again, UR stayed true to its recent recruiting methods, as the class includes 10 offensive players and 10 defensive players. On top of that, this class is huge again in pure size. The smallest listed height among signees is six feet tall, while six other class members are at least 6-4 or taller.
Stony Brook: In recent years, coach Chuck Priore’s recruiting model has been to find players from all types of levels and states that fit his aggressive and physical style of football. This year’s class proves that, as it features 19 total athletes — four of which are junior college transfers and one post-gad transfer — hailing from eight different states. Interestingly, Florida and Connecticut are represented by three players each, while Stony Brook’s home state of New York paced this year’s class with seven athletes. It should also be noted that 10 players in this class will likely play defense, including six DBs, and there are no quarterbacks listed among the group.
Towson: Towson’s 2015 recruiting class is 19 players deep, with a couple of high-profile transfers – including former Miami QB Kevin Olsen and former Penn State WR Richy Anderson – and a group in general that Ambrose called “maybe the fastest overall class that we’ve ever recruited”. Olsen is the brother of NFL tight end Greg Olsen and now has three years of eligibility left after transferring. Out of high school, he was a four-star recruit and an Under Armour All-American. Staying on offense, this class is stacked at the WR position, as Anderson is joined by three other incoming pass catchers from Pennsylvania, Texas and Maryland.
Villanova: Longtime coach Andy Talley has been around the block a few times or two when it comes to finding the right players to fit his program. This year’s class, at least on paper, is simple, and you have to imagine that’s just what Talley was looking for. The Wildcats inked a total of 16 players on signing day, all coming from four states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland. It’s also a split class in terms of position players, with eight offensive and eight defensive. Nova already brings back QB John Robertson, the reigning Payton Award winner, as well as fellow rising senior LB Don Cherry, who finished second in the voting for the FCS Defensive Player of the Year honor. As if that wasn’t enough, 13 other returning starters are with them in 2015, so this signing day class could have a larger impact further down the road. I really like how VU identified a couple of offensive needs in this class, specifically signing four players who could be running backs or wide receivers. One of those players, Aaron Forbes of Newburgh, N.Y., actually received a late scholarship offer from Vanderbilt, but decided to stay loyal to the Wildcats, who reportedly offered him earlier.
William & Mary: Last but not least are the Tribe, who signed one of the smaller classes across the league last week with 13 student-athletes. This year’s incoming class is balanced, with six defensive players and seven offensive, while the class is represented by seven different states and Canada. It seems that coach Jimmye Laycock is going to stick to Stephen Cluley, who will be a junior next fall, at QB and perhaps hope that this year’s lone QB signee, Brandon Battle, can take some time to develop for the future.
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