There Are Multiple Reasons to be Deeply Excited about This Class

  • May 8, 2018

BY JAY GREENBERG

First of Three Parts

It is not merely the most publicized recruit for Princeton ever that has caused 247Sports to declare the Tigers’ football class of 2022 the best in the FCS. Nor is quarterback Brevin White the only incoming player who turned down opportunities to play in one of the Power Five conferences. This is the deepest and most talented group of recruits in the Bob Surace era.

“Sometimes there is a position group you are a little worried about,” said Coach Bob Surace. “But this year there was nobody about whom we said ‘We better throw an offer out because we might get shut out at this position.’

“There is not one guy in this class we worry might not be good enough; that we took because others we wanted went elsewhere and we needed a body to practice.

“As always, we built relationships with the majority of these kids out of (pre-senior season) camps. A few got hurt, causing some schools to drop off them while we stayed committed, so we got some talented kids that we might not have otherwise. And this year we also got fortunate with a number of players who decided on us later, a few of whom had de-committed at other schools. A lot of it is luck.”

More of it is tireless work by the coaches and trust in them by the recruits. Whether choosing Princeton before their senior high school seasons or after, all these kids valued the opportunity to receive the nation’s highest rated undergraduate education while playing under a head coach who has produced two Ivy championships and a coaching staff that has had three players drafted to the NFL.

White’s last-minute flirtation with national champion Alabama before keeping his commitment gave Princeton’s program a level of national attention beyond even what it received when Chad Kanoff de-committed from Vanderbilt five years ago. And, just like Kanoff, White will suffer no shortage of skill around him, or a defense that can’t get him back the ball, or regrets about choosing Ivy League football.

“All along, Brevin had a great idea of what he wants to do post-college, which is work in finance, probably on Wall Street,” said Surace. “He knows his goals, had done his research and knew in that area (academic reputation and alumni networking) we are better than anybody else.

“But the maturity about the guys we get is not just from an academic standpoint.  Brevin had done his research in football, too, knew that our offense fit his abilities and that we have had three (Ivy League) offensive players of the year (Kanoff, John Lovett and Quinn Epperly) in a short time.

“Chad obviously had an incredible experience here in developing his potential to play professional football, something Brevin wants too. A lot of guys in this class saw that, why they stuck with us when Power Five programs came to them in January about changing their minds.

“Kurt Holuba (’19) turned down schools (Florida State most notable) that compete for the national title. But of course that didn’t get Princeton the headlines that a quarterback did, and Alabama has won so many national titles that its interest in Brevin became a big deal, too.

“At the end of the day, Brevin is coming here because we built a really long, and I think very good, relationship with him. He summed it up when he told reporters that ‘Princeton checked all the boxes.’ I’m sure practically every recruit in the country read that, and obviously that’s good for us going forward. But we don’t go through recruiting spending a lot of time looking at national rankings or the number of stars somebody attaches to these prospects. We find the guys who fit us; guys you love in ability and character.

“We wanted Brevin from the day he performed so well on a bad weather day at one of our camps. He quickly made it clear he wanted us and the relationship grew from that, not from any rating, not that I am disparaging those. Obviously, when we get a kid this highly rated, that brings us attention.”

So did the 2016 Ivy League title.

“Because we get the majority of our commitments before (senior high school) seasons end, winning that championship made a bigger difference on this class than the one we recruited in 2017,” said Surace. “And [White], should make a difference on next year’s recruiting class in a lot of ways because it opens up a visible other option to every recruit of schools that go to major bowl games.

“Outside perceptions are a bonus for us, though, not a goal. You can’t help not be aware sometimes of the competition, but there are times I don’t even know who else recruited a kid until it is mentioned in a news article. The rules give us limited time with them. We spend it talking about us.”

This 31-member class (schools are allowed 120 over four years) is lighter in quantity on defensive backs and running backs and heavier on linemen, the numbers largely based on replenishment needs.

There are three eye-catching speed merchants–running back Trey Gray, receiver Michael Polk and defensive back Christian Brown. There are three athletic tight ends–Carson Bobo, Harrison Caponiti, and Caden Dumas–who have Surace fantasizing about someday running two and three tight-end sets, plus six offensive linemen, each one almost as exciting as the last to an old center who is now the head coach.

There also were at least three of the five defensive linemen who had Power Five opportunities.

“We wanted both quality and quantity on both lines and got it,” said Surace.

The class includes linebackers with speed and a top-ten-in-the-nation punter, George Triplett, who could come in handy as early as this season.

But then so could any of these freshmen who are coming from 18 states. “It’s not like our program is like it was in 2011 when we were starting 12 or 13 freshmen,” said Surace. “But if we do, we do. I don’t put limits on anybody.

“Some positions are harder to learn than others. At some, like at receiver and defensive line, we are deep with accomplished returning players. But someone is going to be this year’s C.J. Wall and make an impact right away. As these players get acclimated, they have a chance to be really special. Every skill guy we brought in, I feel that way about.

“It is a very interesting class.”

Coming:  Surace’s evaluation of the individual offensive (part two) and defensive (part three) recruits. 

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The Princeton Football Class of 2022

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown High School
Luke Aschenbrand OL 6-3 285 Phoenix, Az. Pinnacle
Michael Azevedo DE 6-4 250 San Diego, Calif. Clairemont
Tola Banjoka DL 6-5 245 Fort McMurray, Alberta Episcopal
Zachariah Beagle LB 6-0 235 Rockledge, Fla. Cocoa
Daniel Beard LB 6-0 190 Mobile, Ala. St. Paul’s Episcopal
Carson Bobo TE 6-5 235 Birmingham, Ala. Oak Mountain
Christian Brown DB 6-0 180 Delray Beach, Fla. Atlantic Community
Kevin Bruce LB 6-1 240 Needham, Mass. Needham
Henry Byrd OL 6-5 270 Nashville, Tenn. Ensworth
Harrison Caponiti TE 6-4 230 Rye, N.Y. Brunswick School
Jack Carter OL 6-5 270 Cornelius, N.Y. William A. Hough
Dylan Classi WR 6-1 190 Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Bergen Catholic
Dawson De Iuliis S 5-9 195 Yardley, Pa. St. Joseph’s Prep
Caden Dumas TE 6-5 225 Holden, Mass. Choate Rosemary Hall
Trey Gray RB 5-11 180 Greenville, S.C. Wren
Ike Hall LB 6-2 225 San Diego, Calif. St. Augustine
Andrei Iosivas WR 6-4 185 Honolulu, Haw. Punahou School
Larkin Ison LB 6-1 195 Augusta, Ga. Westminster School
Matthew Jester LB 6-3 230 Spring, Texas Klein
Alex Kilander DL 6-2 265 Santa Margarita, Calif. Santa Margarita Catholic
Tré McMillan RB 5-11 200 Dacula, Ga. Dacula
Emmett McNamara DL 6-6 240 Little Silver, N.J. Red Bank Catholic
Uche Ndukwe DL 6-4 230 Dedham, Mass. Noble and Greenough
Preston Parsons WR 6-5 220 Hanover, N.H. The Hun School
Michael Polk WR 6-0 180 Long Beach, Calif. Williston Northampton
Ford Roberts OL 6-4 280 Duluth, Ga. Greater Atlanta Christian
Ché Rogers CB 5-11 170 Tacoma, Wash. Stadium
Connor Scaglione OT 6-5 265 Cloister, N.J. Northern Valley Regional
George Triplett P 5-11 165 Elkins, W.V. Elkins
Brevin White QB 6-2 185 Stevenson Ranch, Calif. Paraclete
Zackary Zambrano OL 6-4 290 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. American Heritage