Recruiting can be a shrewd business.
Ryan Dickens thought he had his college decision wrapped up. The linebacker from Raritan High School in New Jersey committed to UConn back in June and was ready to sign with the Huskies in a few weeks, but found out Sunday night that the school no longer had a spot for him in its 2017 recruiting class.
Dickens was offered by Bob Diaco and UConn’s previous coaching staff. But Diaco was fired in late December and the school brought in Randy Edsall, who led the program from 1999-2010 before bolting for Maryland (where he was fired in 2015).
Dickens told NJ.com he received a phone call from Edsall on Sunday night. Edsall delivered bad news:
Dickens’ cell phone rang while he and his parents, Matt and Patti, were still in the parking lot of the awards banquet in Princeton Junction Sunday night. UConn coach Randy Edsall was on the other end. Ryan Dickens excitedly answered the phone, but in an instant his world was shattered.
Edsall was calling to tell Dickens the unthinkable: The school no longer had a scholarship for him.
“And the next thing you hear is Ryan’s like, ‘You’re kidding, right?’” Patti Dickens said. “And then he put the phone on speaker and Edsall said, ‘No, Ry, we just decided we’re going to go in another direction. We don’t have a spot for you.’”
“We’re going in another direction” can mean a few things. It could be a numbers game where there are only so many scholarships available and the new staff favors other prospects over Dickens. Dickens could be deemed a poor fit for the scheme Edsall hopes to implement. Or Dickens, who has been recruited by mostly FCS programs, might just not be an FBS talent in the opinion of the new staff.
No matter the true reasoning, it’s just brutal news for a kid just a few weeks away from national signing day on Feb. 1. It happens far too often, too, especially at a program that underwent a coaching change. But what makes this situation worse is that Dickens’ parents said Edsall called their son a few days after his hire to ensure him that his scholarship was safe. A few weeks later, however, that turned out not to be the case.
UConn’s decision to pull Dickens’ scholarship was a gut-punch for several reasons, including the timing, his parents said. Dickens had originally committed to UConn and head coach Bob Diaco in June of 2016, effectively shutting down his recruiting process and prompting him to refuse overtures from other schools. UConn fired Diaco in late December and hired Edsall — who had previously served as head coach of the Huskies from 1999 to 2010 — on Dec. 30.
Dickens worried about his scholarship offer, but Edsall called on New Year’s Day to assure Dickens the school still wanted him and his scholarship was safe, his parents said. UConn linebackers coach Jon Wholley even met with Dickens at Raritan Thursday to talk about signing day and his upcoming visit to UConn on Jan. 20, Dickens’ 18th birthday.
Three days later, the scholarship was gone.
UConn’s decision has left Dickens scrambling to try to find a new home with signing day two weeks away (Feb. 1 begins the signing period; prospects do not have to sign that day). His high school coach told NJ.com that Rhode Island came calling with an offer this week, but Dickens turned down interest from Monmouth just last week, opting to stick with UConn.
Dickens’ situation recalls that of running back Matt Colburn. Colburn, a running back from Irmo, South Carolina, had his scholarship pulled by Louisville coach Bobby Petrino just two days before signing day. Petrino gave Colburn the option to greyshirt, which means he would enroll at Louisville the following January, but Colburn decided to explore his options. He landed at Wake Forest, and he led the Demon Deacons in rushing this year as a sophomore.
Two more high-profile instances involved Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Erik Swenson, an offensive lineman from Illinois who committed when Brady Hoke was UM’s coach, had his scholarship offer rescinded by Harbaugh (though he apparently should have seen the writing on the wall). Swenson eventually signed with Oklahoma. Another player, Florida defensive lineman Rashad Wheeler, decommitted after he said Michigan told him there was a “50-50 chance” there would be room for him in UM’s 2016 class. Wheeler ended up signing with Pittsburgh.
For more Connecticut news, visit UConnReport.com.
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