Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Edsall weighs in on UConn's QB situation, Newsome's work load

Arkeel Newsome will be key piece of UConn's offense this season however
the role of quarterback Bryant Shirreffs is still to be determined for 2017
Randy Edsall's opinion regarding the battle for the starting quarterback position hasn't changed since spring practice wrapped up. That certainly makes sense since there hasn't been a practice since that time.

Bryant Shirreffs has started 21 games. He ranks in the top five in UConn history in passing efficiency (4th, 124.95) and total offense (5th, 4917 yards) and is in the top 10 in plays, passing attempts and completions and net passing yards.

Donovan Williams started the last three games and after a knee injury sidelined him in spring camp, Edsall said he is healthy again.

They certainly have the experience at UConn but certainly junior college transfer David Pindell is going to compete for the starting job and was brought here to do just that.

"It's a wide open competition," Edsall said. "The guys know that and whoever the best guy is, that will be the guy to go out there. (Pindell) is a guy who understands the game, the presence that he has about himself has been really impressive watching him and how he goes about his business. He is a hard worker, he puts the time in to be the best he can."

When Edsall spoke about the other quarterbacks, true freshman Marvin Washington's name was mentioned but Brandon Bisack (who received plenty of work in the spring) and true freshman Jordan McAfee were not. What does that mean? Not a heck of a lot. Pecking orders are not determined by quotes at a media day function a week and a half before the first practice of fall camp. Pindell, McAfee and Washington have not thrown a pass in an official practice at UConn. Something tells me that leaders will emerge early in camp because there aren't enough reps to go around for six quarterbacks.

I'm not quite sure yet if we're going to be able to witness practice or not. We were able to see more practices when Bob Diaco was the head coach than we did during Paul Pasqualoni's time at the helm of the Huskies. I did some coverage when Edsall was UConn's coach in the past but it was more of just showing up for interviews or games. Something tells me I will not be at a heck of a lot of practices this season but time will tell.

Players report on July 27 and there will be a media access period the next day with the first practice slated for July 29.

Stay tuned.

Edsall made it clear yesterday that Arkeel Newsome will not be challenging UConn's single season record for rushing attempts of 367 set by Donald Brown in 2008.

He said Newsome won't be a guy getting 25-30 carries a game. I'd look for him to be in the 15-18 range but to get plenty of balls thrown his way to try to get Newsome out in space. As a point of reference, Brown had nine games with at least 25 carries in 2008 and two years later Jordan Todman had at least 30 carries in five of the last six games. That was a different era and the offense being run by coordinator Rhett Lashlee will not resemble the one Edsall's teams ran in his previous stint. In his final three seasons UConn completed fewer than 15 passes 23 times and posted a 15-4 record when throwing for less than 150 yards. The Huskies will be passing early and often during the upcoming season and while I expect Newsome to be a major piece of that, I don't anticipate seeing him approach 300 carries in his final season at UConn. However, 200 carries, 50-60 receptions and some work on kickoff returns would still allow him to be a featured part of the UConn offense.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Wrapping up AAC media day festivities

Getting around to wrapping up today's American Athletic Conference media day festivities a little later than anticipated but the set up in Newport didn't really make sense for me to work from there so I did most of my work after driving two hours to my home.

Not a ton of news to come out today.

Randy Edsall did say he gave Southington's Jasen Rose a scholarship last week. Rose was one of the biggest names in the 2016 recruiting class but he left the program just a few practices in last summer. He returned to the fold and will compete for playing time at tight end.

"He reached out and if he wanted to be a part of that, great," Edsall said of Rose's return to UConn. "He did and he is back with us now. I put him on scholarship a week ago. I'm looking forward to having him out there competing."

There was no two-deep chart to report on today and Edsall said he might not do one in time for media day on July 28. It's quite possible the first depth chart won't appear until shortly before the season opener against Holy Cross.

Edsall hinted at the possibility of some additions to the roster which is better than suggesting that some names will be coming off the roster.

Edsall was asked which position/positions concerned him. Punter was his first response and he said there's still question marks on the offensive line (stop me if you've heard that before).

"Who the punter is going to be?" Edsall said. "We're OK in field goals and PATs. We have a couple of positions on the offensive line that have to be sorted out. Having (center) Ryan Crozier back is going to help, that is going to give us some leadership and experience. Who is going to step in the offensive line positions. And to see who some of the young guys have matured since spring."

Edsall said he'd like to see more consistent leadership in the secondary. Linebacker Junior Joseph rattled off the names of defensive backs Brice McAllister, Omar Fortt and Tony Watkins are under the radar defensive players to keep an eye on.

If all of Edsall's decisions are as wise as the one to bring Joseph, tight end Tommy Myers and defensive end Luke Carrezola, it could be a memorable season. They are three of the most engaging players on the team. I would have added Foley Fatukasi as well and speaking of Foley, he was named to the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy which recognizes work in the community.

My focus was on the connection between Pennsylvania natives Carrezola and Joseph so look for that story on the Register's site shortly.

One funny moment came when I was wrapping up an interview with SMU receiver Courtland Sutton. When UConn headed down to SMU in 2013, the 1989 UConn at SMU game was mentioned quite frequently by media in Connecticut including myself since it was SMU's first victory after the program received the "Death Penalty." I asked Sutton if that game is talked about and he wasn't aware of it so that answered my question. Myers and Joseph were a few feet away looking to say hello to Sutton and Joseph thought I was referencing the 2014 game when a winless SMU team beat UConn in the regular season finale. I laughed as I mentioned that I was talking about the 1989 game.

Didn't get around to as many non-UConn players as I would have liked but had enjoyable interviews with the very personable Sutton as well as the USF duo of Auggie Sanchez and Quinton Flowers.
Sanchez said he has been in contact with Joseph via Instagram since last year's UConn/USF game and I including that info in my story.

For people who worry about such things, UConn was picked sixth (and last) in the AAC East Division preseason poll. Once you get past USF, UCF and Temple, the other three teams in the division could have landed in any order.

Verne Lundquist was the master of ceremonies. More than a few players and media members got photos taken with him which he willingly obliged. He also had question and answer sessions with all the head coaches. I caught some of the answer from Edsall about him not monitoring the social media accounts of his players. Unfortunately, I stopped taking the video just before he went off about needing to stop offering recruits as such a young age and doing so when they were juniors.

As I mentioned, UConn's media day is in a week and a half so keep an eye out for more stories then.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Some catching up to do

After taking the last two weeks off, it's time to catch up on what I missed.

Obviously, the biggest news in the last few days was that Connecticut ethics lawyers ruled that Randy Edsall violated the state's ban on nepotism with the decision to not only hire his son Corey as an assistant coach but having it written into his contract.

UConn officials dispute the ruling saying that the deal to hire the younger Edsall was done before Randy Edsall officially started work. They can state their case on July 20 when the issue goes up for a vote. If the ruling stands, Corey Edsall's stint as UConn's tight ends coach will be a one-year deal as the initial ruling declared no action would be taken if Corey Edsall is not reappointed to the position for the 2018 season.

As a state employee, Randy Edsall is held to a different standard than if UConn were a private institution. It would see as if the ethics committee could use their time a little more productively than concerning themselves with the appointment of an entry-level assistant football job. On the other side of things, Randy Edsall's assertion that he would never be his son's supervisor seems silly since a football coach is responsible for every position on the field. If Randy Edsall believed that one of the tight ends should be seeing more playing time or featured more in the passing attack, he should be able to make that happen. The thought that he would need to go through Beth Goetz to make that happen is rather foolish.

With American Athletic Conference football media day set for Tuesday in Newport, R.I., it will be interesting to see how Randy Edsall handles inquires on the matter. I would have to think he will respectfully decline to answer such questions.

Speaking of media day, hard to dispute Edsall's choice of players to accompany him - linebacker Junior Joseph, defensive end/linebacker Luke Carrezola and tight end Tommy Myers are three of the team's most engaging personalities.

Carrezola and Myers are also among 26 UConn football players named to the 2016-17 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team. Fellow 2016 starters Alec Bloom, Folorunso Fatukasi, Tommy Hopkins and Bryant Shirreffs were also honored for their work in the classroom.

Bloom and Fatukasi were selected to the preseason watch lists for the major college football awards. Bloom was one of 55 players named to the watch list for the John Mackey Award. Sort of surprised not to see Myers name on that list.

Fatukasi was included on the watch list for the Outland Trophy and Nagurski Trophy. Linebacker Vontae Diggs has been nominated for the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team,
Diggs has served as a mentor at events hosted by the Goal Line Project, which provides guidance to inner-city students, read to local elementary school students through the Husky Reach literacy program and encouraged his teammates to band together to make holiday cards for local students.

Next, according to their social media posts, former UConn players Teddy Allmendinger and Nazir Williams are headed to Trinity College and Coffeyville Community College. Also, per social media posts, former Robert Morris receiver Kyle Buss is planning to transfer to UConn.

Last but certainly not least, Reuben Frank was not only signed by the CFL's Calgary Stampeders but also had two tackles in Friday's 30-23 loss to Montreal.

Sure there were other items I missed but will catch up on more news later.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Not exactly a slow news day in world of UConn football


It's been a rather busy day of news for the UConn football program between getting commitments from two linebackers, one slated to be a part of this year's team, seeing one of its most prominent alumni lost his job unexpectedly and now UConn is set to play at Clemson in 2021.

Let's start with that.

The game will be played on Sept. 11, 2021.

Credit goes to the UConn Football Facts Twitter account for pointing out that the details of the game are in the next UConn Board of Trustees' list of agenda.

The document, dated June 28, reports that UConn will receive $1.2 million for agreeing to play the game.

Currently, the only non-conference game in 2021 listed on UConn's official site is an Oct. 2 game against UMass at Gillette Stadium. I would not expect an official announcement from UConn until the subject comes up at the Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday.

As for the recruits, junior college linebacker Santana Sterling and Hunter Webb, a Class of 2018 linebacker from Williamsport, Pa. both committed to UConn today.

Sterling originally committed to Arizona State. He landed at Mesa Community College and had 105 tackles during the 2016 season.

Webb had 131 tackles as a junior at Loyalsock Township High School in Williamsport, Pa. He also had three sacks, an interception, a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and returned a fumble for another score.

Last but certainly not least, the Kansas City Chiefs made the rather surprising announcement that it was parting ways with general manager John Dorsey who happens to be the leading tackler in UConn football history.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Another in-state commitment for UConn

Three in-state commitments by June 16 - so much for the thought that Randy Edsall would prefer recruiting anywhere but in the state of Connecticut.

Capital Prep's Khyon Gillespie was the latest player to commit to play for Edsall at UConn. He made his announcement not too long ago via his Twitter account.

With no running backs in this year's freshman class and Arkeel Newsome heading into his final season, replenishing things at the running back position had to be pretty high on Edsall's recruiting wish list.

Gillespie, who ran for 1,750 yards, 22 touchdowns and averaged 10.5 yards per carry as a junior in leading Capital Prep to a 9-2 record and top seed in the CIAC Class S playoffs, was one of two running backs to commit to the Huskies on Friday.

However, Kevin Mensah said via his Twitter feed that he was enrolling at UConn in time to be a member of the 2017 UConn team.

Mensah ran for 1,255 yards and 13 TDs in nine games at Shepherd Hill Regional during the 2016 season and averaged 26 yards on nine receptions. His numbers would have been even more impressive if not being prohibited from taking the field early in his senior season after transferring to Shepherd Hill.

Gillespie had 615 career rushing yards in his first two seasons. He had topped that mark by the fourth game of his junior campaign. He is the fourth known commitment in the Class of 2018. East Hartford linebacker Kevon Jones was the first player in the class to commit on March 4. On April 5 it was Dillon Harris' turn as the linebacker from Cheshire Academy committed. Malik Banks, a defensive back from Delaware, committed on Thursday followed by Gillespie.

UConn's 2017 roster has been released

UConn has released its 2017 football roster.

Among the noteworthy items is that a pair of transfers (former Miami defensive lineman Courtel Jenkins and South Carolina running back David Williams) who were expected to be a part of the team are not with the program. Williams announced on Twitter that he has committed to Arkansas.

Also, linebacker Nazir Williams has been dismissed due to violation of Division of Athletics policy.

Also, Jay Rose is back with the program. The former Southington All-State quarterback was moved to tight end but left the team not long after the start of preseason practice last year. He is listed at a tight end. Long snapper Nick Zecchino, who was not with the team during spring drills, is also back. Another long snapper, preferred walk on Brian Keating of Darien is part of the true freshman class.

With Rose back in the fold, every high school player signed in the last two recruiting classes is a part of the program. On the other side of things, seven high school players signed in 2015 are no longer with the program (Frank Battle, Blackwell,  Chris Lee, Dallas Parker, William Richardson, David Ryslik and Williams).

Looking at the roster, the Huskies seem a little thin at the running back and punting positions.

At tailback, senior Arkeel Newsome is the top rusher in each of the last two seasons but the rest of the running backs on the roster had a combined total of three carries (all by former walk-on Jason Thompson last season). Redshirt freshmen Nate Hopkins and Ja'Kevious Vickers had strong showing during spring practice. Hopkins ran for 50 yards and three touchdowns while Vickers had a team-high 49 rushing yards in the spring game.

An interesting turn of events came about not long ago when Kevin Mensah, thought to be reclassified to the Class of 2018, not only announced his commitment to UConn but that he was planning to enroll at UConn in time for the upcoming season.

Brett Graham punted four times for an average of 41 yards during the spring game although it should be noted, it was without any pressure at all.

Kicker Michael Tarbutt did punt while he was in high school and averaged 39 yards per punt as a junior while freshman Ryan Fitton was the punter at Staples as averaged 40.4 yards per punt as a senior.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

TV details on UConn/BC game

It was announced today that the Nov. 18 game between UConn and Boston College at Fenway Park will air on CBS Sports Network and the game will kickoff shortly after 7 p.m.

Here is the press release

The football game between the University of Connecticut and Boston College at Fenway Park in Boston on November 18, 2017 will be played at 7:00 pm and televised nationally on CBS Sports Network, it was announced Wednesday by UConn and CBS Sports Network. The Huskies are the host for the game, which is part of The Fenway Gridiron Series presented by Your Call Football.

“When we announced this event, we promised a first class experience for our alumni and fans”, said UConn Director of Athletics David Benedict. “To date we have sold a significant share of our ticket allotment and setting a game time will allow everyone to lock in their plans for what will most definitely be a memorable day and night of UConn Football. This is a great opportunity for our fan base to show its support for the program, sell our complete offering of tickets and turn Boston into UConn Nation.”

“I want to thank our partners at CBS Sports and the American Athletic Conference for making it possible for this game time to be set so far in advance,” said Benedict. “One of the goals of working with Fenway Sports Management to move this home game was to create an event that people would not want to miss. We also wanted to make sure that UConn fans all over the country would be able to experience the 2017 edition of this New England rivalry, whether in person or on national television. This is a match-up that should be televised annually and we are excited that this year it will be.”

Ticket sales for this event are being handled by Fenway Sports Management and are on sale now at:
www.redsox.com/gridiron

CBS Sports Network is available across the country through local cable, video and telco providers and via satellite on DirecTV Channel 221 and Dish Network Channel 158.

For more information, including a full programming schedule, and how to get CBS Sports Network, go to
www.cbssportsnetwork.com
 

Monday, June 05, 2017

Former starter Allmendinger no longer part of UConn program

Teddy Allmendinger, one of three true freshman to appear in games for UConn during the 2016 season, has left the program.

Allmendinger, an Avon native credited with the start at fullback against Navy, is expected to continue his football career playing at a lower level.

He was the first of the true freshmen to see playing time as he was on the kickoff coverage team in the season opener against Maine. Long snapper Nick Zecchino, who was also removed from the roster but has a chance to return to the team for the upcoming season, and quarterback Donovan Williams are the other true freshmen to see time during the 2016 season.

Allmendinger becomes the fourth player to leave the program since the spring game. I previously reported that freshman linebackers William Richardson and Luke Sowa and freshman lineman Tom Tabur are no longer a part of the program. I do need to correct that report because I said that Sowa and Tabur were walk-ons in my initial report but both of them were given scholarships by former coach Bob Diaco last year.