When Paul Pasqualoni was the football coach at Syracuse he did what he could to lure Connecticut’s best talent out of state. How times have changed.
Pasqualoni, who is in his first season as UConn’s head coach, is now doing everything he can to keep Connecticut’s top players at home. He got off to a good start when Ansonia High School running back Montrell Dobbs committed to UConn on July 7.
"I'm a Connecticut guy, and UConn is like the Rutgers of New Jersey -- it's our big-time school," Dobbs said. "I'm not sure if they had any interest in me when [former coach] Randy Edsall was there. Edsall had a reputation of not getting in-state kids [Connecticut signed eight in-state players in its last three recruiting classes], but I think with Pasqualoni there things are gonna change."
New Britain's Tebucky Jones and Bloomfield's Dwight Freeney are two of the Connecticut residents who played at Syracuse under Pasqualoni.
Connecticut was the only FBS school that made a scholarship offer to Dobbs, who said he also received mild interest from Pittsburgh, Louisville, Syracuse and Cincinnati.
He's the first in-state recruit Connecticut landed since Pasqualoni replaced Edsall as UConn's head coach.
Dobbs ran for more than 300 yards in seven of Ansonia's 13 games last season. He finished the season with 3,445 yards rushing -- the second-highest single-season total in state history -- on 406 carries.
He'll attend Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y., next season and plans to enroll at UConn in January. LeSean McCoy (Pittsburgh/Philadelphia Eagles) and Shonn Greene (Iowa/New York Jets) are among the running backs who played at Milford Academy.
He is expected to sign a national letter of intent in February.
"A year of prep school is going to help me," Dobbs said. "Milford is known for its running backs and that kind of got my attention.
"I think me going to Connecticut is going to open up the door for more Connecticut kids to go there."
IMMACULATE HIRES FOOTBALL COACH
Bryan Pinabell, who has spent the last three years as an assistant coach at St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta, was recently hired to become the head football coach at Immaculate.
Pinabell, an East Boston native, replaces Gary Bellagamba, who took over the program last year after spending several years as an assistant coach. Bellagamba resigned earlier this month after Immaculate posted an 0-10 record last fall.
Immaculate hasn’t had a winning season since 2003, when Steve Kaplanis led the Mustangs to the Class S semifinals. Kaplanis died at age 50 in 2005, and Immaculate has an 8-53 record under three head coaches since then.
Rebuilding programs is nothing new to Pinabell, who spent two seasons as the head coach at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School in Fayetteville, Ga. Our Lady of Mercy had won five games in six seasons when Pinabell took over, and he guided the Bobcats to seven victories – including six in 2007 – during his two seasons as the program’s head coach.
BRANFORD’S KACZYNSKI RETIRES
Branford girls basketball coach Ted Kaczynski announced his retirement on July 11.
Kaczynski, 62, spent the last 20 with the Branford girls program. He also spent one season coaching the Branford boys basketball team.
He coached boys and girls basketball at East Haven before moving on to Branford.
Kaczynski finished his career with a 355-290 record. He guided his teams to the state tournament in 26 of his 29 seasons as a head coach.
GUILFORD HIRES NEW AD
Jake Jarvis has been named to replace Chip Dorwin as the new athletic director at Guilford.
Dorwin retired at the end of the 2011 school year after spending 25 years as the school’s AD.
Jarvis, a 37-year-old Branford resident, spent the last two years as an assistant to New Haven athletic director Joe Canzanella. Jarvis has coached baseball boys basketball and girls basketball at Hyde.
Roger Brown has covered high school sports in New England since 1992. He currently covers high school and college football in the Northeast for ESPN/Scouts Inc.