University of Rhode Island head football coach Jim Fleming announced that he and his recruiting crew have secured 20 student-athletes, including five quarterbacks, at National Signing Day in the Thomas M. Ryan Center yesterday afternoon.
Headlining the class of 2015 were two local players, Burrillville High School quarterback Isaiah DeSilva and Bishop Hendricken cornerback Power Kanga. DeSilva brings considerable size under center, coming in at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds. The First-Team All-Division IV quarterback led his squad, the only unbeaten team in the state last season, to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Division IV Super Bowl title. DeSilva registered 2,130 yards through the air and 27 touchdowns in 2014 while completing 60 percent of his passes. He also tallied double-digit scores on the ground.
“Isaiah is a monster of a mountain of a man,” Rhode Island defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis said. “He was voted captain which is critical, to be voted captain by your teammates. We’re very excited to have Isaiah.”
Kanga continues the string of champions that Fleming and his staff intended on bringing to URI. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound cornerback captured a state title in each of his four seasons with Bishop Hendricken in Warwick, Rhode Island. He was a First-Team All-State selection last year and three-time All-State pick for track and field during his time with the Hawks.
Fleming stressed the importance of competition at the quarterback position, and signing of four in addition to DeSilva will provide just that. Brian Dolan, a quarterback out of Worcester Academy in Lowell, Massachusetts, who threw for 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns last season and brought the team its first ever playoff appearance and victory. Wesley McKoy garnered All-League, All-County and All-Metro honors last season at the Don Bosco Preparatory School and was responsible for 36 touchdowns over the past two years.
Paul Mroz transfers from Victor Valley College, where he led his team to an undefeated 10-0 regular season during which he tossed 26 scores and had 2,434 passing yards. Connecticut native Jordan Vazzano rounds out the quarterback class after playing a prep season at the Gunnery School last year. Vazzano captured two state titles at St. Joseph’s High School and threw for 3,000 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior two years ago.
Whoever wins the starting job out of the eight possibilities, they will have new weapons to target and ones to defend them. Justin Caines, a transfer from Cerritos College in La Habra, California, used his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame to reel in nine touchdowns last season. Khayri Denny, who measures in at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, can help to replace graduated wide receiver Robbie Jackson but also works out of the backfield in some instances, putting together 500 yards through the air and 860 yards on the ground last year.
“Kahyri is explosive,” URI wide receivers coach Ari Confesor said. “The kid is quick, dynamic, he can do a lot of things for us in terms of catching the bubble screens and getting down field and returning punts and kicks. He’s very explosive with the ball in his hands. He wants to be the best wide receiver on the field at all times and so far in winter workouts he’s been doing a hell of a job and we’re excited to bring that energy to our room.”
Alex Ganter and Dwayne Scott both measure in at 6-foot-2 and allow their presence to be felt on the offensive line. Ganter has only played football for three years, including a prep season at Williston Northampton last fall during which he was a Cape Ann League and Colonial Prep League All-Star. The 300-pound Scott accumulated several awards as an offensive lineman, including the Catholic High School League Lineman of the Year last season at Archbishop Steinpac, and helped the team rush for 3,500 yards in the fall.
Four linebackers join the Rams to help fill the void left by Andrew Bose, who registered 295 tackles during his time with URI. Leading the crew is Justin Hogan, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound All-League, All-County and All-State pick out of Wayne Hills High School in Wayne, New Jersey. He amassed 200 tackles and 20 sacks during his career and ranked in the state’s top 30 players last year. Fleming said he could be the most ready-to-play recruit from the class.
Lorenzo Bryant, Perry Schrader and Tez Wilson will also join the linebacking core. Bryant doubles as a rushing weapon, collecting 1,655 yards on the ground and 7.4 yards per carry. Schrader can help duplicate what Bose did in terms of tackles for losses as they represented have of his 30 total tackles last year. Wilson was the 2014 Conference 6 Defensive Player of the Year at Hayfield High School in Virginia and once recorded 22 tackles in a game during his junior season.
Nate Pauls represents the sole addition to the defensive line, collecting 11 sacks and 52 tackles last year at Cedar Creek High School in New Jersey last fall. Ahkema Evans and Nasir Jones bring their durability to the Rams’ secondary. Evans doubled as a slot receiver while at Coatesville High School in Pennsylvania but picked off 10 passes in two years. Jones was a two-time All-State and All-Conference selection and had 75 tackles and two interceptions during his senior year in high school.
D.J. Stewart out of Bloomfield, Connecticut, represents a sort of hybrid player that could be used in numerous ways. He had 20 interceptions at Bloomfield High School, but also rushed for 2,487 yards, passed for 1,930 more and was responsible for 910 receiving yards.
“He can play a whole bunch of different positions for us,” URI linebackers coach Matt Dawson said. “On offense, he played quarterback, he played running back, he played wide receiver in high school. On the defensive side of the ball he’s probably athletic enough to play corner[back], safety for sure and may even be big enough to be a linebacker. He’s just a tremendous athlete.”
Senior place kicker Dylan Smith will have his work cut out for him as well as two new players will be joining his ranks. Justin Rohrwasser never missed an extra point in two seasons at Catholic Central in Clifton Park, New York, en route to being named the top-ranked kicker in New York. Don Bosco’s Leo Vagias was ranked in the country’s top 50 kickers and had 27 touchbacks as a senior. He also averaged 41.9 yards per punt, which is nearly six yards more than punter Connor McHugh averaged this past season. Vagias was also able to kick a field goal from 47 yards last year, three more than Smith’s best.
Fleming reaffirmed his promise from last year’s National Signing Day that he vows to take Rhode Island to “the promised land” and win championships. He said the team will continue to build off of their “1-0” season, negating their 11-game losing streak to start year and focusing on their sole victory over Towson on Senior Day.
“The future is bright for Rhode Island football,” Fleming said. “What we achieved last year was something I think, as hard as it may be for [people] to believe, was a very proud, proud accomplishment for our staff and our players to be able to grind through a long season and finish up with that win versus Towson. We have sold that vision to a number of people all around the country and they believe. We are going to deliver on our promises and deliver a championship and compete heavily for it this next year.”