Fifteen new players were added to the Spider football roster on NLI signing day in the hopes of continuing the historical success of the program, head coach Danny Rocco announced last Wednesday at a press conference.

In the past 10 years, Richmond football has had 83 wins (seventh most nationally), four conference championships (most in the CAA) and put 10 players in the NFL (third most nationally). 

In the press conference, Rocco outlined three definitive areas that the program wanted to address with 2016’s recruiting class.

The first is what he referred to as the “big bodies” category. The team lost offensive linemen last year in Jacob Ruby and Austin Gund, and this season offensive linemen Nick Ritcher and Caleb High are both graduating seniors. In the coming season, the team will look to two senior offensive linemen in Nicholas Vergos and Thomas Evans, but the coaching staff wanted to ensure that they could continue to bolster that group.

Six of the 15 signed will be playing in the offensive or defensive line, and Rocco said he expected that many would play on both sides.

The next area to address was adding two new players to the roster that could run the ball with power and authority. Rocco admitted that they are not at the same level as Jacobi Green or Seth Fisher at this point, but the young backs do add to the dynamic when placed on the field with the other two, so they have helped themselves out in that degree.

Rocco was particularly excited about A.J. Hines of Wilson, North Carolina, whom he referred to as “a very exceptional athlete, football player and human being.”

“What made me choose Richmond was first, the great education they provide, and then the opportunity to play as a true freshman. It was just the perfect fit, and it’s not too far from home,” Hines said.

The final area that Rocco and his coaching staff wanted to ensure was a good selection of defensive perimeter players, or what Rocco calls “hybrid players.” These are athletes that can play multiple positions such as corner, safety and linebacker, interchangeably. Next year is going to be the senior year for some top performing defenders such as David Jones, so the new class has four players that Rocco and his staff believe could play in those positions.

Outside of these three priority areas, Rocco was pleased with having seven incoming players from Virginia. Two of them are Richmond locals.

“I wanted that to be a part of our footprint and makeup and philosophy in building a program, so this to me is a home run – a great group of in-state talent, a number of them local players that have a lot of history with the program,” Rocco said.

The state with the next biggest contribution is Florida, with four players. Rocco said he believed that this spoke volumes of the branding of the program, and how recognizable the program is as a top-level academic and athletic institution.

The last four players players are from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia and New York.

 Rocco credited coach Sparky Woods with much of the recruiting.

“His efforts really paid dividends for us this year as we put together this particular class,” Rocco said. “We’re excited about it and our future and hopeful to continue to build our program.”

Taz Sumpter, an offensive line recruit and Richmond local, said that choosing Richmond was easy after the players and coaches confirmed what a great place he had already thought the school was.

"I'm really looking forward to playing with the team and getting to experience what it is like to play on the collegiate level with a team such as this one," Sumpter said.

The rest of the recruiting class includes: Gabe Thomas (DB) from Orlando, Florida; Joseph Mancuso (QB) from Blairsville, Georgia; Colby Ritten (DL) from Orlando, Florida; T.J. Dunn (LB) from Glen Allen, Virginia; Michael Iamunno (LB) from Boca Raton, Florida; Daniel Jones (DB) from Williamsburg, Virginia; Darius Reynolds (DE) from Yorktown, Virginia; Maurice Jackson (LB/RB) from Levittown, Pennsylvania; Seyoum Settepani (OL) from Harlem, New York; Logan Blake (OL) from Lynchburg, Virginia; Xavier Goodall (RB) from Richmond, Virginia; and Trent Williams (DB) from Chester, Virginia.

Rocco said he was confident that the team had met their needs for the coming season and was excited to make another FCS playoff run.

Contact sports assistant Jennie Trejo at jennifer.trejo@richmond.edu

ALSO ON THE COLLEGIAN