Storrs — UConn football coach Bob Diaco signed 14 players to his first recruiting class Wednesday, including one of the top high school running backs in the nation.
Arkeel Newsome is among three running backs who signed with the Huskies. The 5-foot-7 170 pound Parade All-American ran for more than 10,600 yards at Ansonia High.
Diaco's recruiting class also includes four offensive linemen, a recent weakness for the Huskies. The 40-year-old former Notre Dame defensive coordinator took over the program in December, following a 3-9 season during which Paul Pasqualoni was fired.
"What we did is we kind of went with the right kind of guys," Diaco said. "We have guys that have strong grades, high character that have tough reports - people report toughness."
Most players, including Newsome, were recruited before Diaco was hired and kept their commitments despite the coaching change.
Diaco said he didn't try to convince any of them to stay with the Huskies. He said he just laid out his vision for the program, and told them not to come if they didn't feel they would fit in.
Diaco also brought in several recruits late in the process, including another running back, Ron Johnson of Naples, Fla. The 6-foot, 215-pound Johnson had committed to Louisville, but re-opened up his recruiting after Cardinals coach Charlie Strong left for Texas.
The Huskies also signed 5-11, 195-pound tailback Brice McAllister, who played at Suffield Academy and was twice named the Class B New England Prep School player off the year. Diaco said all three have different running styles.
"We got three completely different tools in the tool box to get the jobs done, as needed," he said.
In addition to the 14 players who signed Wednesday, two other players, linebacker Chris Britton and defensive back Jamar Summers, have already are enrolled at UConn for the spring semester.
The Huskies also lost a few of Pasqualoni's recruits, including quarterback Logan Marchi of Winchester, who threw for more than 3,000 yards last season at St. Paul High School in Bristol. His scholarship offer was rescinded last week for academic reasons.
Diaco would not comment on his case specifically, but said making sure student-athletes can compete in UConn's academic environment is big part of the recruiting equation.
"Not that every student has to be able to launch a missile into outer space, but you have got to be able to read and write and communicate well enough to compete in these classrooms, and have a willingness to do it," he said. "And I believe there is a direct correlation between that attitude and that achievement and performance on the field."
Diaco acknowledged UConn didn't get everything on its wish list, including a quarterback, and could still use "a bunch more" big skilled athletes on the defensive side of the ball.