Regarding Rhode Island’s 2021 product, the time has arrived for those hailing from the Ocean State to come forward as proud native sons and also key cogs in the operation. No longer are players with an “R.I.” mailing address playing subservient roles. They are being depended upon.
“As prideful as I am of the guys on the roster … these are different guys from the in-state guys we’ve had in the past,” said Flanagan, URI’s recruiting coordinator who hails from Warwick and was a standout football player at Bishop Hendricken.
We’re talking captains and starters, key reserves and essential contributors. Together, they make up a large concentration of this year’s roster. For the second straight year, the Rams list 21 players who jumped directly from the R.I. Interscholastic League football waters to life on the gridiron in Kingston.
How does the number 21 stack up to past URI teams under the watchful eye of head coach Jim Fleming? Let’s begin with Fleming’s first season on the Rhode Island sidelines and work our way to the current group that opens the abbreviated spring season today at Villanova:
- 2013: 18 players from the RIIL
- 2014: 17 players from the RIIL
- 2015: 15 players from the RIIL
- 2016: 11 players from the RIIL
- 2017: 13 players from the RIIL
- 2018: 10 players from the RIIL
- 2019: 21 players from the RIIL
- 2021: 21 players from the RIIL
Extremely honored to say I will continue my academic and athletic career at the University of Rhode Island! Thank you @CoachFlanaganRI for the PWO opportunity! #RhodyRhodyRhody @RhodyFootball @NoKingstownHS @NKBoosterClub @RhodyWill pic.twitter.com/XakErGDxjm
— Gabe Sloat (@gabesloat) January 21, 2019
Per Flanagan, the recent rise in Rhody players with RIIL ties during Fleming’s tenure can be traced to the increased effort and awareness put in by the state’s high school coaching legion. In non-COVID times, it was common during the offseason months for 7-on-7 passing leagues and captains’ practices to be part of the high school football landscape.
You have to give a reason for college coaches to take notice. The only way that’s going to happen is if the product is worth the time and investment. From Flanagan’s vantage point, the state’s high school football faction is taking the necessary steps to put their players on the map.
“In the past, I just don’t know if there was as much understanding in how much goes into the preparation. Not just in season, but out of season,” said Flanagan. “That’s what excited me the most … seeing coaches come together and help and develop the talent across the state. They’re working their butts off.”
When it comes to recruiting, nearly every college football program says its main objective is to dominate within its home state’s boundaries. For those whose livelihood is tied to the ability to secure commitments from 17- and 18-year-old young men, Flanagan says it’s best to get on the ground floor early and build a relationship that stretches over multiple years before the player officially makes up his mind.
YURVIEW WILL TELECAST THREE URI FOOTBALL GAMES THIS SEASON – MARCH 27 VS. DELAWARE, APRIL 3 VS. NEW HAMPSHIRE AND APRIL 10 VS. MAINE. YURVIEW IS COX CHANNEL 4 IN RI.
Two examples of in-state talent that URI coaches identified early on are Pawtucket native Jaylen Smith (via Shea High) and Providence native Fredrick Mallay (via Mount Pleasant High). Both made multiple visits to URI prior to signing with the Rams during the December 2019 signing period. As true freshmen, Smith is expected to see time at running back with Mallay likewise in the secondary.
“We identified both of those guys at a young age and were excited to get them,” said Flanagan. “Since they’ve been on the practice field, we’ve been even more excited about their play … two guys who, as true freshmen, are going to make an impact this year and not just in the future.”
This year’s URI defensive captain is defensive lineman A.J. Bibeault. The redshirt senior hails from Cumberland High and has made enough of a mark to morph from someone on a partial scholarship to being rewarded with a full ride.
“There’s nothing better than coming in and saying, ‘Hey, I played against you in high school,’” said Bibeault. “It’s definitely a source of pride.”
You have redshirt junior Malik Gavek from Cranston East, who’s expected to hold down the fort at one of URI’s starting cornerback slots. Then there’s redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Gomes via Woonsocket High. Gomes earned high marks as a running back for the Villa Novans but now finds himself in line to see reps at safety for the Rams.
Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Jordan Riendeau, a beast of an offensive lineman who played at nearby Narragansett High.
“He came here as a walk-on and was super raw, but he changed his body and did everything the right way,” said Flanagan about Riendeau. “He’s going to play a lot earlier than he ever imagined.”
Offensive line depth will be provided by redshirt freshman Montaner Fresilli (via South Kingstown High). Joining Smith in the running back room that’s overseen by Flanagan are two more freshmen: Gabe Sloat (via North Kingstown High) and Rocco Cillino (via Westerly High).
“You’re talking about a lot guys from different parts of the state who are going to do a good job for us across the board,” said Flanagan.
Stayin ready for the season 😴 🐏 pic.twitter.com/Rg8QXvOIXq
— Rocco Cillino (@Roccill4) June 25, 2020
Once upon a time, Rhode Island carried a roster that included 110 bodies. Today, that number is around 90. Do the math and the 2021 Rhody edition is made up of over 20 percent of players who made their mark in the Interscholastic League. Going a step further, the Rams can lay claim to featuring a player with an RIIL connection within every position group.
“It’s about setting a standard with Rhode Island athletes,” said Bibeault.
R.I. INTERSCHOLASTIC LEAGUE ALUMS ON 2021 URI FOOTBALL ROSTER
- Robenson Antoine Jr. Cranston East
- Andre Bibeault R-Sr. Cumberland
- Firmino Benros R-So. Hope
- Rocco Cillino Fr. Westerly
- Nick Dionizio R-So. Cranston West
- Seun Filaoye R-Fr. Bishop Hendricken
- Montaner Fresilli R-Fr. South Kingstown
- Malik Gavek R-Jr. Cranston East
- Christopher Germosen R-Fr. Central
- J.T. Gibbons Jr. South Kingstown
- Emmanuel Gomes R-Fr. Woonsocket
- Brian Goodwin R-Jr. Smithfield
- Brian Hamilton R-Fr. Portsmouth
- Fredrick Mallay Fr. Mt. Pleasant
- Justin Neary R-So. Cranston East
- Matthew Osinaga Fr. Mt. Pleasant
- Zach Pinault R-So. Smithfield
- Omar Reyes Fr. Cranston East
- Jordan Riendeau R-Fr. Narragansett
- Gabe Sloat R-Fr. North Kingstown
- Jaylen Smith Fr. Shea