Analysis: What UConn football coach Jim Mora said about his latest recruiting class

Photo of Paul Doyle

STORRS — The sprint from arriving in Connecticut to securing his first recruiting class is over for UConn football coach Jim Mora.

Well, sort of.

While UConn announced its class of spring signing Wednesday, the act of building a roster never ends. The transfer portal remains active and Mora is monitoring.

“The portal is ever-evolving,” Mora said. “We’re going to be hunting high and low.”

The immediate focus is on March 21, the start of spring practice. There are plans for a spring scrimmage on April 22, a game held on campus on a Friday night.

A point of interest at spring practice? The quarterback competition. Mora has overhauled the position, adding Penn State transfer Ta’Quan Roberson and Florida high school standout Zion Turner Wednesday. Also expected to sign is Northern Arizona transfer Cale Millen, who began his college career at Oregon.

But Millen has not officially signed and won’t be on campus for spring practice. Turner also won’t be enrolled before spring practices.

Roberson will join returning quarterbacks Steven Krajewski and walk-on Jacob Drena. Tyler Phommachanh is coming off a torn ACL and Mora said there is not timetable for his return.

“He’s doing really good,” Mora said. “He’s moving around well. We’re very hopeful and he’s working towards being able to some things in the spring. We’re certainly going to protect him.”

The verdict on the first recruiting class? Mora said he’ll know years from now, based on wins and graduation rates and overall energy around the program.

UConn signed 12 players in December and 15 on Wednesday. His class of new players includes the most decorated high school players in the state (Victor Rosa of Bristol Central, Cam Edward of Norwalk), an intriguing prospect from South Florida (Turner) and a number of college transfers.

So nearly three months after he was hired, Mora can exhale.

“We faced some challenges, like any team does when it’s a new staff,” Mora said. “You’re hitting the ground running, you’re out there building relationships, you’re a little bit behind. But I thought our guys came together very, very well.”

Rundown of UConn’s signing:

Tres Barboza, OL 6-4, 310, San Antonio, UTEP

Skinny: Transfer from UTEP, also played at Tyler Junior College. … Awarded Conference USA Commissioner’s honor roll in 2021

Mora: “Extreme position versatility. He can play probably all five positions, probably projected as an inside guy for us.”

Marquez Bembry, LB, 6-3, 242, Stone Mountain, Ga., Kentucky

Skinny: Graduate transfer played 24 games, including two starts, over two years at Kentucky. … Moved from inside to outside linebacker as a senior in 2021.

Mora: “He can do a lot of things well. He’s got strong hands, he’s violent at the point of attack. … He’s got great leadership qualities.”

Isaiah Davis, DB, 6-1, 190, Fairburn, Ga., Creekside High

Skinny: Had 40 solo tackles and 107 total tackles in his four-year varsity career. … Led his team to an 11-3 record as a senior.

Mora: “What caught my eye most about Isaiah was his ability to track and make a play on the ball.”

Cam Edwards, DB, 5-10, 181, Norwalk, Norwalk High

Skinny: Three-year starter, finished with 2,349 yards and 35 touchdowns for his career. … New Haven Register/GameTime CT state player of the year.

Mora: “I think he’s a dynamic player. I watched him a lot. I think he’s equally adept at playing offense or defense. We’ll start him off at safety. … I think Cam is a ball magnet. Savvy, just a great attitude.”

Nigel Fitzgerald, WR, 6-3, 210, Greensboro, N.C., Old Dominion

Skinny: Transfer from Old Dominion, where he had 14 receptions for 219 yards in 12 games. … All-Area high school players at Dudley High in North Carolina.

Mora: “Got strong hands, he can run, he’s athletic. … Really good person, a really good player.”

Jake Guidone, OL, 6-3, 300, Westwood, Mass., Dartmouth

Skinny: First-team All-Ivy League player transfer from Dartmouth. Also All-New England and an FCS All-American. … Member of 2019 and 2020 Ivy League champion.

Mora: “He’s a man. He understands how to take care of his business. This is important to him. He has aspirations to go the (NFL). He’s probably got the skill set to go to the league. It’s my prediction that he’ll be an NFL center.”

Matt Hoffman, DL, 6-4, 214, Cheltenham, Penn., Cheltenham High

Skinny: Had seven sacks, 38 solo tackles and 57 total tackles as a high school senior. … All-Conference player as tight end and defensive end.

Mora: “He’s got some developing to do. We’re going to play him at defensive end. We think eventually this young man can be a 6 foot 5, 275 pound guy that can wreak havoc off the edge.”

Will Knight, RB, 5-8, 213, Smyrna, Del., Delaware

Skinny: Former Delaware Gatorade Player of the Year in high school played at Old Dominion, Delaware, and Garden City Community College before transferring to UConn. … Rushed for 656 yards and nine touchdown for Garden City CC in 2021.

Mora: “He’s bounce around a little bit. I really believe he’s found a home here. He’s not tall but he’s thick and he’s big.”

Sokoya McDuffie, DL, 6-5, 310, Florence, S.C., Old Dominion

Skinny: A redshirt junior, played 13 games for Old Dominion last season. … Had 28 tackles, four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.

Mora: “Nose tackle, great technique … he’s got strong hands, he’s got length but he can bend, he’s powerful, he can take up blocks, he’s got some pass rush ability.”

Lee Molette III, DB, 6-3, 180, Nashville, Ravenwood High

Skinny: Led high school team to 10-3 record and trip to state title game last fall. … All-Region defensive back.

Mora: “Big, two-way player in high school. … This is a guy with length and tremendous ball skills.”

Nikko Pohahau, OL, 6-5, 278, Redwood City, Calif., City College of San Francisco

Skinny: Spent redshirt season at Colorado before playing at City College of San Francisco last season. … Has nine siblings.

Mora: “We just met him really this weekend. He’s already in school. … Tremendous young man, very serious, he’s a winner. Football is very important to him. He’s going to add a lot of value in that room.”

Ta’Quan Roberson, QB, 5-11, 197, Orange, N.J., Penn State

Skinny: Threw for 2,432 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior at DePaul Catholic in New Jersey, earning all-state. … Appeared in four games for Penn State last year after redshirting in 2020.

Mora: “This kid’s a winner. We’ve already seen it. We’ve already seen him step on the field, organize groups. He can throw. … Getting his teammates together, galvanizing the locker room, building that relationship with the running backs and receiver. He’s a serious kid.”

Prince Samuel, LB, 6-3, 205, Windsor, Windsor High

Skinny: Had 42 solo tackles and 14 sacks for 11-2 Windsor. … All-State selection as a senior

Mora: “You just see a guy who’s not played a lot of football in his life. … He’s got length, he’s got athleticism, he’s got a great attitude, he’s got a great personality. He’s a competitor.”

Zion Turner, QB, 6-1, 195, Overtown, Fla., St. Thomas Aquinas High

Skinny: Won three state titles as a three-year starter, winning 37 of 39 career games … Passed for 4,951 yards and 59 touchdowns in his career.

Mora: “You got a winner. He’s a great decision maker, he’s a leader. … There’s some great players (at St. Thomas Aquinas) and they all just percolate around him. That’s what you’re looking for, especially with the quarterback.”

Tommy Zozus, LS, 6-1, 240, Punta Gora, Fla., Florida International

Skinny: Graduate transfer appeared in 31 games as a long snapper at FIU. … Named to Conference USA Honor Mention team in 2018 and 2020.

Mora: “The thing that you're looking for in a long snappers besides a guy that can get it consistently back to the punter is … you're also looking for somebody that can run down the field on a punt and make the tackle. … Tommy can do those types of things.”

paul.doyle@hearstmediact.com