Rhode Island Football Recruiting: National Signing Day 2016 Recap

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The Rhode Island Rams announced their best recruiting class of the Jim Fleming era yesterday. Here’s a recap.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the Rhode Island Rams football team yesterday. But in fairness, there was a lot of buzz at every Division I football school on National Signing Day 2016. And sometimes that buzz turns out to just be no more than hype and noise.

But Rhody fans didn’t get that feeling this time around. This feels like a very real, program-changing recruiting class. Here’s one more look.

QB – (2): Rayshawn Phillips, Vito Priore
National Signing Day 2015 was “the day of the quarterback” in Kingston, with URI bringing in five QBs to run their total, at least temporarily, to eight. Fast forward to now and the Rams had just four in tow before yesterday: Paul Mroz, Wesley McKoy, James Caparell and red-shirt freshman Jordan Vazzano.

It’s safe to assume that Mroz and McKoy will be the featured players in 2016, and they may compete for the starting job in camp. Caparell should slot into the third-string role, with Vazzano, Phillips, and Priore providing depth. But as we’ve seen the past two seasons with injuries, depth is never a bad thing.

RB – (2): Deshawn Collins, Joey Kenny
Two things became evident about Rhody’s running back situation in 2015: 1. The Rams have a very good starting RB. 2. The Rams do not have a ton of RB depth. So Rhode Island went out and added some. Both Collins and Kenny should slot into the depth chart this coming season, with Kenny also seeing time at fullback. Harold Cooper is tremendous, but he can’t do it all by himself.

WR – (4): Sam Benjamin, Harold Buckner, Ja’Quan Buffaloe, Gene Coleman
With Khayri Denny and Marven Beauvais emerging as two of URI’s young stars last season, the Rams are looking to build off it. And with veteran Rutgers transfer Sam Benjamin and JuCo addition Harold Buckner, Rhody has added some complementary pieces to the mix. True freshmen Buffaloe and Coleman should fill out the depth chart.

TE – (1): Anthony Christian
Rising junior Charlie McKeeman looks to have the starting tight end spot locked up, but Ohio native Anthony Christian should join Nathan Holmes and Shane Nastahowski on the TE depth chart. Christian may be a year or two away from contributing, however. He only played one season of football in his high school career.

OL – (5): Keith Coleman, Jahmir Johnson, Kevin Lawrence, Kyle Murphy, Jordan Velez
Oh man, Rhode Island has some big boys coming in as part of this class. The o-line struggled a bit last season, and the Rams have addressed the need with five players who are all capable of stepping in and playing right away. Add in returning players like Sam Hartman, Dino Boyd, Michael Gilbert, Derek Allen, and Dave Steinmetz, and URI should be set in the trenches.

DL – (6): Andre Bibeault, Brandon Ginnetti, Danny Harry, Geoff Horwitz, Raees Johnson, William Mack III
There was perhaps no bigger weakness for Rhody last season than their defensive line. And based on the fact that Jim Fleming brought in six guys — including two JuCo transfers — he agrees. And much like their o-line additions, URI has added some serious size. These six join forces with returning contributors Mike Ezirike, Jose Duncan, Marcus Pantoja, and Anthony St. Laurent as Rhode Island’s defense all of a sudden looks much more formidable.

LB – (1): Aaron Parker
Between Adam Parker, Tez Wilson, Justin Hogan, and Khilyni Kennedy, the Rams are pretty deep at linebacker. And they’ve added to that depth with yet another Parker. Based on both the film and the coaches comments, Aaron looks like he may do more than just fill in a spot on the depth chart. The freshman could end up in a personnel grouping right away.

CB – (2): Kwadir Brown, Rashod Dickerson
The loss of Myles Holmes is going to sting, but Rhody is equipped to handle it, especially with these two new additions. Dickerson appears to be the star of the duo, but either player could easily see playing time on either defense or special teams (or both) in 2016.

S – (2): A.J. Baxter, Myles Ross
The story at safety is pretty much the same as cornerback. Just replace “Myles Holmes” with “Tim Wienclaw” and the song remains the same. Both Baxter and Ross should compete for a starting role, with sophomore Nasir Jones likely to earn the other spot.

K/P – (1): John Bowers
URI is set at kicker thanks to the leg of Justin Rohrwasser, but they’ll be looking for a new punter this season. So an FBS transfer could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Former Rutgers commit John Bowers comes to Kingston with four years of eligibility remaining, and he could be Rhode Island’s primary punter right away.

Thoughts? Strengths? Weaknesses? Leave ’em in the comments.