Back home, John Marinelli is embracing new job at UConn
John Marinelli is back home, but he’s not settled. He and his family haven’t had time to look for a new place of residence.
So for now, he’s living out of a hotel.
“That’s this time of year,” Marinelli said Tuesday from the road. “It’s not unusual. It just is what it is. Once this period’s over, we’ll have a good chance to sit down and look at where we want to reside.”
That will come in due time, but in the meantime, Marinelli, 35, is busy adapting to his new gig as UConn’s tight ends coach.
Recruiting is the priority at the moment for Jim Mora and his assistants, with the start of the NCAA early signing period fast approaching on Dec. 15. Marinelli visited close to a dozen Connecticut high schools over his first couple days on the job.
“We’re late into the game,” Marinelli said. “We’re all new, and we’re trying to fill up our ’22 class. We haven’t really started to hit ’23s yet. We’ll get there.”
Marinelli, the former state championship-winning coach at Greenwich High, needed no reintroduction to the state. He grew up in these parts — a graduate of New Canaan High — and his familiarity with the area aligned with Mora’s plan to mend relationships and strengthen UConn’s most important recruiting base.
“People are so thirsty for UConn, and the high school coaches are so thirsty to
have a connection with the state university,” Marinelli said. “The people I talked to say they feel like a weight’s been lifted off their shoulders. They finally have a place and a person and a staff that, I think Coach Mora said it, this is what they’ve always wanted.”
Marinelli coached for four seasons at Greenwich, compiling a 36-10 record. In 2018, he led the Cardinals to a 13-0 record and their first Class LL title since 2007. He then left for the college ranks, working as an analyst for Arizona for two seasons before landing a similar role on Bret Bielema’s staff at Illinois in 2021.
Mora first contacted him Nov. 16 about returning to Connecticut. Marinelli’s still not certain who recommended him, though he assumes it was former UConn offensive analyst Noel Mazzone. The two worked together at Arizona, when Mazzone served as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
No matter, Marinelli and Mora hit it off over Zoom.
“He’s got a lot of energy,” Marinelli said of Mora. “He cares about making in-state relationships, which was obviously one of the main reasons I accepted. My worry about coming back here was that I’m just here as a person that has a connection, so people feel that someone they know is on staff. I didn’t want to be a poster child.
“My resume is my body of work and this is the next step and direction of my career. When I made the jump to college, I never knew that this would happen, that’d I’d be back in my home state recruiting with familiar faces.”
Part of the draw was working with Mora.
“He’s so eager to learn about the things that Connecticut can offer and the people that they have,” Marinelli said. “Every room that he’s walked into has been wellreceived. He actually truly cares. He asks 1,000 questions about each school and the people. He really wants to get to know the state of Connecticut and the people that we’re going to be recruiting.”
Mora’s made a real effort to be visible and connect with the community — from fans to high school coaches and recruits to boosters — in his first month on the job.
He was in Meriden Tuesday to see Bristol Central dual-threat quarterback Victor Rosa, a UConn commit and the state’s No. 2 prospect, take on Maloney in the Class L playoffs. Marinelli, meanwhile, caught some of the Class LL quarterfinal between Fairfield Prep and Greenwich before stopping in to see his father Lou’s team, New Canaan, host Southington.
The staff has handed out several offers lately, many of which have gone to players at schools the previous staff didn’t recruit much, if at all. They want to show they’re serious about investing in local talent.
“There’s such things as political offers. We’re not political offers,” Marinelli said. “Part of my job is going to be having hard conversations with coaches that are going to push their players on me. They think that they’re D-I athletes, and I’m going to have a hard conversation with those coaches and say, ‘Look, we don’t think so or it’s not the right fit.’
“Everyone that we’ve offered we think is a legitimate Division I football player through their film and character evaluations and academic performance. We feel like those kids are worthy of an offer from us and we want to build our class around local talent. We want to continue to build every class with local talent. Connecticut has good football.”
The Huskies currently have just two commitments from in-state products in the Class of 2022: Rosa and Loomis Chaffee offensive lineman Brady Wayburn.
“I don’t know about the last staff; the past is the past. … I don’t know if we’re doing it differently,” Marinelli said. “We’re doing it the only way we think we can build a successful FBS program by offering local kids who deserve to be offered. They’re all over the place, and our job is to keep them at home or at least let them know they’re welcome at home. You’re not going to win on every kid, but you want to be in the conversation with all of them, especially from our home state.”
They see opportunity on the transfer market, as well.
“We have such a young team,” Marinelli said. “We have five seniors, nine juniors. We’re so young we have to bring in some leadership, veteran leadership, guys that have played, guys that we think would be a great fit in our locker room.”