For college football’s top recruits, there’s plenty ofsecond-guessing that precedes National Signing Day, even among guyswho have supposedly made up their minds.
So it was this recruiting season for two of the area’s topcatches, wide receiver Malik Golden of Cheshire Academy and slotreceiver Sebastian Little of Cheshire High.
They weren’t engaging in any “they love, they love me not”dithering. Inescapably, Golden and Little got caught up in thecontroversies that brought down coaching regimes at Penn State andYale in late 2011. Golden had orally committed to Penn State; Yalehad offered Little. Suddenly, neither program had a coachingstaff.
Golden, while keeping his official visit to Penn State on thecalendar, also took official tours at UConn and Iowa. Little wentas far as accepting an offer from Harvard, considering it a saferchoice.
In the end, Golden and Little wound up back on square one. OnWednesday, National Signing Day, Golden inked with Penn State andLittle, in a late reversal, committed to Yale.
For both, the decision was cemented by the new coaches hired tofill the vacuum – new England Patriots offensive coordinator BillO’Brien at Penn State and Harvard assistant Tony Reno at Yale.Reno, though not involved in Harvard’s recruiting of Little,brought to new Haven some assistants who were.
Penn State did lose six verbal commitments when Joe Paterno wasfired after the revelation of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged child sexabuse. Golden opted to stick with the Nittany Lions.
“After taking a visit there and talking to Coach O’Brien and theother commits and the staff across the board, I’m 100 percent sureof my decision,” Golden said. “I just felt comfortable. I felt athome and I felt it was the best place for me to succeedacademically and in football.”
Little, meanwhile, said he began reconsidering last weekend. Bythen, Reno was ensconced at Yale, the school Little had preferreduntil coach Tom Williams resigned after inaccuracies on his resumeregarding Rhodes Scholar candidacy came to light.
Little loved the campus, loved the proximity to home.
“there was part of me that was still with Yale,” he said.”Everything with National Signing Day kind of rang a bell: that Ihad to be positive in the decision I was making and completelyconfident about where I was going.”
He talked to his mom, Jennifer Roeder. get in touch with Yale,she suggested; the worst that could happen is they no longer have aspot for you. When Little called, an offer was still on thetable.
“The decision was all mine,” Little noted. “I had to contactthem; they didn’t talk to me at all.”
On Wednesday, Little informed Harvard head coach Tim Murphy andhis staff of his change of heart.
“any coach is going to be a little disappointed, but I thinkthey understood,” Little said. “I think they knew I wasn’t makingan irrational decision. I have all the respect for them. they havea great program.”
Now, as a Bulldog, Little will commit his energies to endingHarvard’s recent domination of The Game. Either way, Little wasbound for the Ivy League. One could safely argue he never had a badchoice.
“It’s his decision. Yale-Harvard and Princeton – pick a winner;he can’t lose,” said Cheshire coach mark Ecke. “Even going back towhen Williams was there, Sebby felt more comfortable at the Yalecampus.”
There, Little will be joined by wide receiver Avery Lewis andfullback Anthony Carter, two of 10 Choate players who madecommitments on Wednesday.
“This is a spectacular group of kids. They’re allstudent-athletes in the real sense of the word,” said Choate headcoach Erik Cooper. “When you’ve got a good academic record, goodcharacter and athletic success, you’re going to createopportunities for yourself. most of these kids had multiple optionsand most got in to their first choice.”
Cheshire Academy is sending seven on to the next level. The Catshave two post-grad Ivy Leaguers in quarterback Mike Villapiano(Brown) and lineman A.J. Zuttah (Dartmouth). Villapiano is the sonof former NFL linebacker Phil Villapiano, Zuttah the youngerbrother of current NFL offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah.
Golden, whose playmaking skills as a receiver and return manwere instrumental in Cheshire Academy’s 17-1 ledger over the pasttwo seasons, is one of three seniors moving on. as certain as he isof Penn State, Golden also spoke highly of UConn and Iowa. The lureof playing in his home state was great for the Newington native. Hewas also partial to the Hawkeyes, the first school to make him anoffer.
“I think a lot of appreciation goes to coach (George) DeLeone atUConn and coach (Ken) O’Keefe at Iowa,” said Cheshire Academy coachDan O’Dea. “they were excellent; they were informative. they werenot people who did the recruiting the wrong way once I felt Malikneeded to take a second look.”
O’Dea urged the second look because he was gravely concernedover the “convulsion” at Penn State. While Golden had met Paternoand liked him, the dismissal of the legendary coach did notentirely turn him off to State College.
“I didn’t pick the school solely on Joe Paterno because I knewhe wasn’t going to be my coach all four years,” Golden said.
Caban to Hobart
Coming out of Wilcox Tech, Christian Caban opted for the preproute at Tabor Academy to up his college prospects. Despitere-injuring a knee he had torn in high school, the move paid offfor the Meriden native, who signed Wednesday with Hobart, aDivision III school in upstate new York.
“they were the school that, after I re-injured my leg, showed mea lot of love,” Caban said. “The coaches kept calling me everyweek, telling me to keep my head up, seeing how things weregoing.”
Caban, a slot receiver, likes the Hobart campus, its footballprogram and its academics. he says he’ll enroll in pre-med withhopes of going into plastic surgery to help children inunder-developed nations afflicted with facial deformities frombirth or illness.
For now, he’ll finish up the academic year at Tabor, located onthe southeastern coast of Massachusetts.
“It was a big adjustment in the beginning just because I wasaway from home,” Caban said. “But as the season went on, Tabor grewinto me. It’s a great place to learn. It’s right next to the water.just the scenery itself is amazing.”
With a collective GPA of 3.5 among its senior players, Cheshireis sending forth a bumper crop to college football. Along withLittle, the Rams saw commitments Wednesday from linebacker BillyWeyrauch (Stonehill), kicker Kyle Pulek (Trinity) and linemen JesseEddy (Colby) and Sean Bowman (Sacred Heart).
Quarterback Michael Ecke and lineman Dave Brzozowski havecollege offers, but are considering a year of prep schoolfirst.
Said coach mark Ecke: “The amazing thing, you look at BillyRagone’s class, we had Billy (go to Princeton). even the statechampionship year (in 2009), I think we had two kids play afterthat year. we thought we had college football in this group, butit’s nice to see that many players going on.”
Wait and see
Most of the top players at the other area schools are in aholding pattern, waiting to see how offers pan out, such asAll-State linebacker Isaiah Thomasson of Maloney.
“he can play,” said Spartans coach Bob Zito. “He’ll end up someplace.”
Over at Platt, coach Jason Bruenn said quarterback JohnathanMarks is going to Western new England. “It should be a good fit forhim,” Bruenn said. “he needs a place where he go in and be part ofit right away.”
Western new England already features a bevy of local talent,particularly from Southington. The top prospects coming out ofSouthington this year, linebackers Andrew Walowski and MattO’Connor, did not sign Wednesday. Coach Mike Drury said they arelooking at several Division II and III schools.
That’s the case in Wallingford, as well. Sheehan’s BrodieCorless and A.J. Pascuzzo have made some visits. Coach JohnFerrazzi said his alma mater, Springfield College, is tops onCorless’ list, while Pascuzzo is eyeing Endicott.
“without question they’ll both be playing somewhere,” Ferrazzisaid. “they want to play.”
Prospects for Sheehan quarterback Billy Gannon and Lyman Hallrunning back Joe DeSandre are uncertain at this juncture.
“with Joe, I don’t think he really wants a Division III type ofschool,” said Chip McKeehan, who recently retired as Lyman Hallcoach after seeing DeSandre’s career through. “People say how canthis kid not play, but when you’re playing running back, it’s justtough to find a fit into what schools are looking for.”
The top recruit out of Wallingford could turn out to be LymanHall lineman Conor Riordan. The three-year starter at defensive endis getting looks from Princeton.
Said McKeehan, “He’s a sleeper kid who I think can go on andplay college ball and have a great career.”
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