NEW BRITAIN - For Ryan McCarthy, National Signing Day was a familiar event: secure final commitments from high school players and welcome them into the program.
But Wednesday, college football’s second signing day, also had a different twist to it than his previous seasons working as a coach. It was his first one leading a program.
“We had to move pretty quick,” said Central Connecticut State’s interim head football coach, who took over following Pete Rossomando’s departure for Rutgers in January. “We lost some guys we were going after, but I thought our staff did a nice job of recruiting the type of players we’re looking for in our program.
In all, the Blue Devils signed 12 recruits on Wednesday - seven offensive players and five defensive - six of which are Connecticut natives.
Kyren Petteway (WR, Kingswood Oxford), Malik Thomas (RB, Danbury HS), Connor Peterson (TE, Tabor Academy (MA)), Shamaar Mohr (WR, Viera HS (FL)), Jordin Martell (OL, Piscataway HS (NJ)), Nas Johnson (TE, Jireh Prep (NY)) and graduate transfer Aaron Winchester (QB, Georgia State) highlight the offensive additions.
Prince Boyd (DL, Milford Academy (NY)), Jaavon Brown (DL, Milford Academy (NY)), Kobe Stigler (CB, E.O. Smith HS), Jayden Anderson (OLB, Naugatuck), Duane Binns (OLB, Everett HS (MA)) were the defensive signees.
“The first thing we always want to make sure is we want make sure of a player’s character,” McCarthy said. “Talent and what they can do on the football field is always important, but it’s also important that we’re not going to have to keep an eye on him when he’s away from the field. Is he going to class and doing the right thing?”
CCSU has had a recent string of success over the past two seasons. The Blue Devils snapped a streak of six consecutive losing seasons in 2017, which also saw the program win its first Northeast Conference title since 2010, and they went 8-5 this past year, when they were again in contention for a conference crown.
McCarthy believes this incoming class can help continue to build on what those currently in the program have already done.
“On offense, we lost two wide receivers in Courtney Rush and Jose Garcia and bring in two more,” McCarthy said. “We have some talent in the program already, but we look at it from a depth perspective. Petteway is a good all-around football player that plays bigger than his size and has a high football IQ. Shamaar Mohr is a player who we knew about, but got on late. He has great body control and someone who has only scratched the surface. We brought in two tight ends. We have an all-conference tight end in Arthur Gilmore, Jr., but we felt like we pinpointed on two guys that are going to help us. We only took one offensive lineman with Jordin Mitchell. We have our entire offensive line returning, which we’re excited about, but we felt like we really hit on this one. He could probably play on either side of the ball.
“Defensively, we were able to get some outside linebackers. Anderson, I think is a hidden gem, who has the ability to put on weight and grow into his frame and with Duane, you watch the film and he jumps off the screen at you. Kobe Stigler, we believe has a lot of athleticism and a lot of upside. I’m also excited about the two tackles from Milford Academy, who might have been overlooked for size or whatever reason. They have the ability to get pressure and push the line up front.”
But perhaps the most intriguing signee was Winchester, the graduate transfer quarterback from Georgia State. With the departure of three-year starter Jacob Dolegala to graduation, it will be among the Blue Devils’ biggest questions it the offseason.
They currently have four quarterbacks on the roster in senior Tanner Kingsley, redshirt-sophomore Edison Galan and true sophomores Romelo Williams and Kyle Zajack.
“I’ve thought about it for a long time,” McCarthy said. “We have a number of guys on our roster already, but it’s a young room and Aaron has been around for four years. A friend of mine turned me on to him and he’s been a backup and started some games at Georgia State. But I’m more impressed with him as a person. He walks in to the room and lights it up. I think he’ll be good in the quarterback room.”
Winchester has three career starts and appeared in 18 games for Georgia State, where he’s passed for 721 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 405 yards and three more scores.
If there was one area McCarthy and his staff would have liked to shore up, it was the inside linebacker position.
“We have numbers there, but we have injuries that have carried over from the season and into the offseason,” McCarthy said.
But overall, the head coach was pleased with his first Signing Day as the coach in charge.
“Again, we’re excited about this class and something our staff worked diligently on,” McCarthy said. “This is a group we believe has a lot of upside.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org