In sports like college football and the NBA, it has been said that winning the offseason is better than winning the regular season, that the endless optimism that accompanies shrewd moves off the field is better than fleeting success during the regular season.
I used to think that was a bunch of bullshit, but now I think they’re onto something. Because UConn won in the transfer portal and on the recruiting track, and it feels good.
UConn ended the 2022 recruiting window with a few big-name signings to send its fans into the truly happy offseason, inking five Class of 2022 recruits and eight transfers on National Signing Day.
Overall, UConn has been emphasizing offensive linemen and quarterbacks, two areas head coach Jim Mora would be wise to bolster if they want to win right away.
Nikko Pohahau is an important addition, a 6-foot-5, 278-pound offensive tackle from City College of San Francisco. Tres Barboza is transferring from UTEP as a 6-foot-4, 310-pound junior offensive tackle from Tyler, Texas. Rounding out the group is Jake Guidone, a graduate transferring from Dartmouth. Handlebar is 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, with plenty of experience and a good size for an inside lineman.
“He has aspirations to go to the league, and he has the skills,” Mora said during his signing day press conference. “I predict he will be an NFL center.”
UConn’s quarterback room also got a major upgrade on Wednesday, with the addition of Ta’Quan Roberson and Zion Smith. Roberson transfers from Penn State, where he fell in the pecking order behind Sean Clifford. He was rated a four-star freshman out of high school and was ranked the fourth best freshman in the state of New Jersey by ESPN. He is a threat on the ground and in the air and is looking to revive his career at Storrs.
“This kid is a winner, and we’ve seen him before, organizing the guys on the pitch on Saturdays, galvanizing the locker room,” Mora said. “It was necessary to add talent, competitiveness, maturity. He has the intangibles.
Zion Turner was the second QB addition of the day, a three-star recruit to St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the nation’s most popular high school football teams, where he put up some pretty sick stats. Turner received offers from several Power 5 schools before he got lost in the recruiting shuffle, but still possesses immense talent and certainly has a winning resume.
With a focus on the offensive line and quarterback, Mora takes an important step toward rebuilding UConn’s roster with the idea of improving the chances of short-term success. Building a roster in the era of the transfer portal is all about balance, and Mora hopes to find the right one in 2022.
UConn’s marquee signing of the day, however, came on the other side of the ball. Marquez Bembry, a junior linebacker from Stone Mountain, Georgia through Kentucky, is an inside linebacker turned outside linebacker and played in 24 games for Kentucky during his three years at the school.
“He can do a lot of things well,” Mora said. “He has strong hands, he is violent at the point of attack [and] he has great leadership qualities.
UConn also added a pair of defensive backs on the same side of the ball. Cam Edwards is a 5-foot-10, 181-pound player from Norwalk High School, where he was named New Haven Register State Player of the Year. Edwards played both sides of the ball in high school but will be safe for the Huskies. The Huskies also added 6-foot-1 defensive back Isaiah Davis from Fairburn, Ga., and Lee Molette III, a big defensive back from Nashville.
Other UConn signatories in February include:
LB Prince Samuel, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Windsor, Connecticut
WR Nigel Fitzgerald, 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Greensboro, NC (Old Dominion)
DE Matt Hoffman, 6-foot-4, 214 pounds, Cheltenham, Pennsylvania
Mat 1 Tommy Zozus, 6ft 1in, 240lbs, Punta Gora, Florida (FIU)
RB Will Knight, 5-foot-8, 213 pounds, Smyrna, Delaware (Delaware)
Next up for UConn football will be spring training, culminating in a spring game to be held at Joseph J Morrone Stadium, Mora announced Tuesday.