Richmond's new football coach Russ Huesman and his staff locked in 13 new players for the football roster on National Signing Day Wednesday.
In the last decade, previous head coach Danny Rocco created a legacy for the team. Richmond’s accolades during the past decade include ranking in the top-10 in the country for conference championships, total wins, playoff appearances and alums reaching the NFL.
Huesman, who was the defensive coordinator at Richmond from 2003-2008 and helped lead the team to a national title in 2008, said he was confident that his staff will be able to uphold this standard. He said he believed that the incoming athletes would meet a lot of the needs that were necessary for a smooth transition, even if the recruitment process was tricky at times.
“It was a big challenge,” Huesman said. “You build relationships with players when you recruit. We spent nine months building relationships with guys we were going to recruit at Chattanooga, but then you come to Richmond where the previous staff had built relationships, and they leave, and now you’re at ground zero again.”
Fortunately for the program, the coaching staff was able to hang on to some players that had previously committed, whom they liked. One of those players is Markus Vinson, a defensive back from Damascus, Maryland.
“Vinson is an excellent player,” Huesman said. “He was actually offered by UConn a week and a half ago but hung in there with us. I'm awful proud of him and can’t wait to hug his neck for hanging in there because it’s hard. You can say all you want, but when one of those big places offer you, sometimes it’s hard to turn down.”
Vinson, who verbally committed over the summer, said that he had already fallen in love with the university and did not see a point in leaving just because of the change in coaching staff.
“They came to my school and sat down and talked to me,” Vinson said. “I feel comfortable because my position coach from the old staff was still there, and they seemed genuine. They weren’t trying to fake anything like most schools do.”
In total, there are six offensive players and seven defensive players. Huesman said that the numbers worked out where they did not feel the need to sign any defensive linemen, or even any linebackers. In the end, they made the decision to sign a single linebacker: Tyler Dressler of Covington, Virginia.
“You will see a lot of DBs,” Huesman said, “and people may question why, but I think everyone knows that we’re going to a 4-2-5 defense. We will play with five DBs every snap, and we think we filled that really well.”
Another of the defensive backs that Huesman mentioned is Samari Springs of Ashland, Virginia, and son of Shawn Springs, who played at Ohio State before spending 13 seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Washington Redskins.
Huesman said that they did not know about Springs until Marc Bacote was signed on as wide receivers coach for the Spiders. Bacote had been recruiting Springs while he was working at Hampton University, and continued to recruit him when the switch happened.
“Richmond brought me up for an official visit and I liked everything about it,” Springs said. “I had to decommit from Albany, though, which was tough. But I really felt like Richmond was a better place for me.”
On the offensive side, Huesman said that they recruited three offensive lineman, two wide receivers and a quarterback.
“Running backs were not the biggest need right now,” Huesman said. “But we feel good about where we are.”
The work is not done, however. Huesman pointed out that there were still a few scholarship spots left.
“We plan on signing a couple more. If we didn’t think they were good enough to play for us we weren’t going to reach to sign players just to get to our number,” Huesman said. “Something will pop up, I’m sure. It always does. Maybe we’ll get a transfer or two.”
For now, Huesman is just happy that the team did not lose any players to transfer from the 2016 roster.
“That was actually a big recruiting sell,” Huesman said. "I was hugging Kyle Lauletta every time I saw him. What a great leader. These kids love each other so much that they would not do that to one another.”
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