Boston High School: Dan DiNicola

Dexter hanging hat on towering bookends

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
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The 2013 season is going to be a big one for the Dexter School — on a number of levels.

Casey Day's team is anchored by seniors James Hendren and Dan DiNicola, two of the best offensive linemen in New England. Both have already verbally committed to Division I colleges: Hendren is heading to Boston College, while DiNicola plans on attending the University of Massachusetts.

Dexter's big boys have had a busy 12 months. Between school and the grueling recruiting process, Hendren and DiNicola have spent hours honing their skills against each other. Both athletes are 6-foot-7 and nearly 300 pounds, so in order to get better, they have to pick on someone their own size.

“Both guys have come into the season in tremendous shape,” Day said, adding that Hendren is down to 280 pounds after tipping the scales at 310 last year. “Both of them really work well with each other in different situations. They work together, one-on-one, on different skills and fundamentals. It's paid off, and both have really improved.”

Hendren and DiNicola will buy time for Dexter's stable of speedy skill players, who are getting more accustomed to Day's spread offense, which is now in year two of its implementation.

“We'll line up in different personnel packages, but we're pretty much in a full-blown spread attack,” Day said. “We will come out in a traditional spread with one back, or we'll line up in the Pistol package with two backs and a tight end. We feel like it's the best approach for our skill guys.”

Dexter's spread is specifically designed for starting quarterback Luke Cuneo. At 5-foot-7, Cuneo looks tiny behind his towering tackles, but his diminutive size hasn't held him back. A three-time captain, Cuneo had more than 1,500 total yards and 20 touchdowns last year. While he has good speed, Cuneo also has a “real live arm,” which he has honed as a varsity baseball player.

“He's another kid who has made huge improvements over the years,” Day said. “Considering his size, he takes people by surprise when they see him throw the ball. He can really air the ball out pretty well.”

Cuneo's main target is C.J. Okafor, a speedy receiver who has drawn interest from the University of New Hampshire and Monmouth University. He had 600 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last year for Dexter – including three game-winning catches.

“He kind of has a knack for making the big plays in the big situations. He's got explosive speed and great ball skills. We're going to need him to get down the field for us and stretch the field,” Day said. “He's been just tremendous for us.”

Day is also looking forward to watching Colin O'Brien, a senior transfer from Milton High School. O'Brien doesn't have a defined position, but it Day thinks he can cause damage as a receiver or on the ground.

Defensively, Dexter's base is a 3-3 stack, but Day indicated that his team will jump into a 4-3 on passing downs. The defense, much like Dexter's offense, is based on the play of DiNicola and Hendren in the trenches. Day said he likes to “move them around a little bit” based on the opposing offense and will play them either inside or outside to cause mismatches.

“College-wise, they're offensive linemen, but in high school, at this level, they are really good defensive linemen,” Day said.

Day, who is in his fourth year with Dexter, knows the 2013 campaign is particularly important. Large portions of his 16-member senior class have been starting since they were freshman and have gone through a trial-by-fire growing process.

“We've been on the verge, but we just haven't been able to get over the top,” Day said. “This is the biggest senior class in school history, and they're a tight group of kids. We also got a few seniors who haven't been around to come out, and that should give us some added depth.”

THE DEXTER SCHOOL AT A GLANCE
Coach: Casey Day (4th season, 10-14)
Last season: 4-4
Returning Starters: 19
Key Returnees: Sr. OL/DL James Hendren, Sr. OL/DL Dan DiNicola, Sr. QB Luke Cuneo, Sr. CB/WR C.J. Okafor, Sr. ATH Colin O'Brien.
Strengths: Senior leadership, veteran playmakers, offensive/defensive line.
Weaknesses: Depth on offensive/defensive line.
Overview: Division I linemen don't come around very often at schools with less than 500 boys. So, it's quite the anomaly for the Dexter School to have two FBS-level tackles. Both Hendren and DiNicola have greatly improved during the past two years and will be asked to carry Dexter to what could be its best season, ever. The big fellas' aren't alone – Dexter has 19 returning starters and bring in a big-time transfer in Colin O'Brien, a kid who Day sees as a FCS-level talent. Okafor is still fighting for a verbal offer and will look to turn some heads during his final year. Pair that with do-everything Luke Cuneo, and Dexter should have no problem putting points on the board. Day's defense will be stout up front, and he will need a linebacker to step up to solidify the middle of the field. Okafor, a spectacular receiver, can also make opposing offenses pay from the cornerback spot. 2013 should be Dexter's year to jump above the .500 mark. It won't be an easy ride, but with nearly 600 pounds of Division I linemen in the trenches, Dexter won't be pushed around.

Dexter OL/DL Dan DiNicola commits to UMass

July, 28, 2013
7/28/13
7:57
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Dexter School head football coach Casey Day confirmed to ESPNBoston.com this afternoon that Class of 2014 two-way lineman Dan DiNicola has verbally committed to UMass.

The 6-foot-6, 275-pound DiNicola, a Walpole resident, had a variety of Division 1 FBS and FCS interest, including offers from Old Dominion, James Madison and Monmouth.

"He felt like it was his top choice since the junior day," Day said. "He loved the director of the program under Coach Molnar. [Tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator] Shane Waldron has done a fantastic job recruiting him all along, and he has built a great relationship with [offensive line coach Dave] Johnson."

UMass also had an offer out to Dexter's other big lineman, James Hendren, who committed to Boston College in late May. One of Dexter's Class of 2013 products, lineman Costa Toubekis, is coming to UMass as a preferred walk-on.

Scouts Inc. praises DiNicola's strength and run blocking ability, while suggesting offensive guard may be the fit for him at the next level (complete scouting report HERE -- Insider only)



DiNicola has the size and athletic ability most would like for in an Offensive lineman at the next level. May be a Guard in college if he does not improve his quickness to be an edge protector. Improved technique and strength will increase his value. Most likely a low level Division 1 prospect.



Here's some highlight film on DiNicola:

Recruiting notes: Baker gets first B1G offer

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
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Shortly after the 2013 recruiting class was signed, the Rutgers coaching staff met to discuss their needs for 2014. They determined that one of those needs was Jon Baker, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive lineman from Millis High School.

Rutgers offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski extended an offer to Baker during a trip to Massachusetts earlier this month.

"I'm not sure how they heard about Jon, but he (Wroblewski) told me that after reviewing his film and looking at his transcript, based on their needs he would be a good candidate for their program," Millis coach Dale Olmstead said. "Then, when Holy Cross saw the update, they offered as well."

Before he received offers from Rutgers and Holy Cross, Baker had offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Harvard and Yale.

Baker plays right guard for Millis, but because of his height is projected to be a center in college. He played center for Millis as a freshman.

"Not only his height, but he has the football IQ to handle the position," Olmstead said. "He plays guard for us, but he makes all the line calls from that position."

Olmstead said Baker is interested in the medical field, and that he will likely visit Stanford this summer.

"He's getting letters from a lot of major programs, but Boston College has kept his interest the most," Olmstead said. "BC has him rated as the top lineman in New England, and they're constantly calling. They've lost some top talent from Massachusetts to other programs in recent years, and the new staff wants to keep those kids here.

"BC is his top choice right now, but that could change."

HENDREN ADDS OFFERS
February has been kind to Dexter School offensive lineman James Hendren.

Hendren, a 6-foot-7, 295-pound tackle, entered the month with no scholarship offers, but has since landed four: Holy Cross, Rutgers, Massachusetts and Old Dominion.

"Things are picking up," Dexter school coach Casey Day said. "He's really close with a couple other schools. I think he's going to visit Wake Forest and Duke during spring break, so hopefully he get offers then. We're still waiting to see what BC is going to do."

Old Dominion has also made an offer to Dexter School junior Dan DiNicola, a 6-foot-6, 280-pound offensive tackle.

TOP PAIR
Two Massachusetts players in the Class of 2014 are included on the ESPN Watch List: St. Sebastian's linebacker Connor Strachan and St. John's Prep running back Jon Thomas.

Strachan, who lives in Wellesley, has offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia and Wake Forest.

"The schools I think are close that we might visit soon are Penn State, Iowa and Rutgers," Strachan said.

Strachan's uncle Steve played at Boston College and in the NFL for the Los Angeles Raiders, and his brother Brian is a sophomore wide receiver at Brown.

Thomas, a Peabody resident who helped St. John's Prep win the Division I Super Bowl last season, has offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Holy Cross, Maryland and Massachusetts. The Maryland offer came earlier this month.

"I got offered on the spot when I visited [Maryland] two weeks ago," Thomas said. "Maryland was very nice. Great facilities."

Thomas finished his junior season with 1,794 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on 220 carries. He also caught nine passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns.

Recruiting information regarding high school or prep school football players in New England can be sent to Roger Brown at rbrown@nhfootballreport.com.

Dexter looks to Logan for breakthrough

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
12:05
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BROOKLINE, Mass. -- Casey Day has preached versatility to his players from the day he took the job at Dexter School as the head football coach. With only 33 players on his roster, and more than half of those underclassmen, Day constantly demands that his team be able to adapt and adjust to whatever role he thrusts them into during the course of the season.

Luckily, the second-year head coach can point to his star player as the model for his talking points.

Abner Logan Jr., the 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound senior who was already a fixture in the recruiting scene as a defensive lineman and linebacker, decided to help the team out on the offense side of the ball last season by taking over the lead running back position.

The results were solid for a player who never played the position before. Learning on the job, he finished with 750 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, with another 450 yards and four scores receiving. Logan knew that in order to get a young team on the same page with the new philosophy of the coaching staff, he would have to step up and do something new to help the team.

“The team looks to me as a leader, so I have to kind of set an example,” said Logan, who holds offers from a slew of Division 1 schools including Northwestern, Maryland, UConn and Boston College. “I’m not really a big talker, so I have to do my leading on the field. The program is really new, so you have to start from somewhere and hopefully it can start with me.”

The learning of a new position didn’t come without its bumps and bruises along the way, however. The coaching staff had to teach the talented junior how to do the basic things that running backs learn from their days in Pop Warner, like finding a hole and hitting it quickly, to taking a hand off correctly from the quarterback.

“I had to develop it,” said Logan. “I worked hard on my versatility, my footwork, my explosiveness and my fundamentals.”

The work, which sometimes would last two-and-a-half hours a day during the offseason, that Logan put in over the past year and a half, where he wowed schools with ahleticism as he ran a sub 4.6-second 40-yard dash and displayed a 36-inch vertical leap, has Day thinking that this year could be a big surge for a program that went 2-6 last season.

“Last year was a work in progress,” said Day. “This year he is light years ahead of where he was running the ball. It was clear to all of our coaches. He’s making cuts and doing things that he didn’t do last year. He’s turned himself into a top five percent athlete in the country. It’s a testament to his hard work and his commitment to our team to want to improve himself.”

The new position also helped Logan brush up on his defensive techniques as well. Logan, who finished with 55 tackles and seven sacks last season, said he is learning more and more about his defensive assignments by becoming well-versed on the offensive side of the ball.

“It helps both ways,” said Logan. “As a linebacker I can see where the holes are. As a running back I can see where the linebackers might be playing so I can avoid the contact.”

Logan look to show off his maturity at running back in his second season behind a big offensive line. Lucas Hinds, Dan DiNicola, Costa Toubekis are all 6-foot-3 or bigger and all weigh in at 250 pounds or more, while sophomore James Hendren towers over everyone at 6-foot-8 and 275 pounds.

“We are going to be able to come off the ball against any team that we play,” said Day. “We are strong up front and we can get the ball to (Logan) or (quarterback Luke Cuneo). With those guys speed and the guys we have up front it’s going to have to come down to execution.”

DEXTER AT A GLANCE
Coach: Casey Day (second season, 2-6)
Last year: 2-6.
Players to Watch: Abner Logan Jr., Sr. RB/LB/DE 6-2, 220; James Hendren So. OL/DL 6-8, 275; Luke Cuneo So. QB/DB 5-7, 155; Craig Strand Jr. TE/LB 6-2, 185; Costa Toubekis Jr. OL/DE 6-3, 255.
Strengths: Offensive and Defensive Line, Skill Positions
Weaknesses: Depth
Outlook: The season could hinge on the year that Abner Logan has on both sides of the ball, but Casey Day wants to guard from being a one-man show. Day will need his line, on both sides of the ball, to carve its way through opposing teams and open gaping holes for Logan and quarterback Luke Cuneo to run through. Cuneo should have time to operate in the pocket, but will need to prove doubters wrong that a smaller quarterback can make the throws and be effective with traffic in his throwing lanes. An injury here or there could really haunt Dexter, as the team only has 33 players on the roster. However, Logan should put on a show this year and get that win total up well past the two wins Day picked up in his first season.

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