Sunday, January 25, 2015

Former UConn commit Ulizio headed to Michigan

UConn's list of commitments just got a little bit smaller.

Nolan Ulizio, an offensive tackle out of Lakota West High in West Chester Township, Ohio, posted on his Twitter account that he has committed to Michigan.

Proud to say that I have officially committed to the university of Michigan #GoBlue pic.twitter.com/7v2WS5HsDf

Once word got out that Michigan extended an offer to Ulizio, it figured to be just a matter of time before he was going to flip from UConn to Michigan.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Former UConn coach Pasqualoni headed to new team

Former UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni landed on his feet when he was named the defensive line coach with the NFL's Chicago Bears but now he is headed to become the defensive line coach with the Houston Texans according to multiple reports from the Houston media.

Pasqualoni earned praise for his work as the Bears line was the one of the bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season. Chicago was tied for last in sacks during the 2013 season, finishing with 31. This season the Bears had 39 sacks, 35 coming from the defensive line and the play of the line improved in other areas as well. However, as usually happens with a coaching change, the previous staff is not retained so when Marc Trestman was fired and John Fox was hired, the changes to the Bears staff began to take place. The Bears have been sending out released in the last few days with the new hires and also with the list of assistant coaches not being retained but Pasqualoni's name was not mentioned leading some to think he may be retained.

However, that speculation ended today.

Texans hiring Paul Pasqualoni to coach their defensive line.

Pasqualoni's new position will allow him to work with perhaps the best defensive player in the game as J.J. Watt is coming off a season where he had 20 1/2 sacks and the Texans had 38 total sacks. Also, the Texans took three defensive linemen in the 2014 draft as defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (since moved to linebacker) went first overall, defensive tackle Louis Nix (who played for current UConn coach Bob Diaco at Notre Dame) was a third-round pick and defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan was selected in the sixth round.

Friday, January 23, 2015

UConn a possible landing spot for former Notre Dame safety?

Pete Sampson from Irish Illustrated tweeted not too long ago that Eilar Hardy was released from his scholarship at Notre Dame and UConn is among the possible schools he could transfer to.

Irish Illustrated @PeteSampson_
Eilar Hardy has been released from his scholarship at ND and will transfer after graduation. BG, Miami (OH), Purdue, UConn possibilities.

Hardy started against Pittsburgh and Brigham Young during the 2013 season, recording eight of his 26 tackles that season in the game against the Cougars. He played in five games in 2014 and finished with nine tackles. With Hardy set to graduate, he will be eligible to play immediately.

Hardy was one of the players originally suspended as part of an academic investigation. Hardy was reinstated after being held out of seven games and had eight of his nine tackles against USC in the regular-season finale.

Obviously UConn coach Bob Diaco is rather familiar with Hardy as he was the defensive coordinator during Hardy's best season at Notre Dame.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Five underclassmen UConn could have faced in 2015 eligible for NFL Draft

The NFL officially announced the 74 underclassmen who have declared for the NFL Draft and five of them would have squared off against UConn in the upcoming season.

Leading the list is Missouri defensive end Shane Ray, the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year, who had 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss and I've seen some talk that he could be a top 10 pick.

Central Florida will lose both defensive back Jacoby Glenn and receiver Breshad Perriman. Glenn had 34 tackles and seven interceptions a season ago while Perriman caught 50 passes for 1,044 yards and nine touchdowns, one coming in UCF's loss to UConn.

Tulane defensive back Lorenzo Doss, who had 48 tackles with one of his three interceptions coming against UConn, and Houston receiver Deontay Greenberry (72 catches during '14 season) are also turning pro.

UConn will play at Missouri on September 19, will host Houston and play at Central Florida and Tulane during the 2015 season.

Speaking of the draft, I noticed that Scott Wright of the www.nfldraftcountdown.com site lists UConn's Byron Jones as the No. 4 cornerback in the draft while Geremy Davis checks in as the No. 26 receiver.

Changes continue to UConn's offensive staff

UConn has posted its offensive coordinator job (first noticed by Boneyard Blog Beat Writer Matt Schonvisky) meaning the shakeup of the offensive staff continues.

A source confirmed that 2014 offensive coordinator Mike Cummings is still on the staff and he will likely move over to coach the offensive line which is something he has done successfully in the past. The Hartford Courant first reported that veteran offensive line coach Mike Foley will not be part of staff moving forward which I was able to confirm.

When I spoke with UConn football coach Diaco recently he made it clear that some changes were coming to the offensive staff after a disappointing season on that side of the ball.

"I am going to make sure I make the offense looks like I want it to look so there will be changes over there," Diaco said. "I am not trying to double secret agent, I am trying to paint a little bit of a picture for you. There will be changes, I have a very detailed plans and I am working that plan."

Although a new person will be in charge of calling plays, I am not expected as drastic of a change in how the offense will look since he brought in Cummings to run an offense built around a power running game and the new OC will be asked to have a similar philosophy.

Here's what Diaco had to say about how wanted his offense to look in our recent conversation.

"It is no different (than when he was hired)," Diaco said. "It is Stanford, it is Alabama, in terms of what kinds of games you are watching it is a run the ball with authority attack, it is deep vertical drop-back passing, it is plays that protect that run, there are a lot of screens and the rest of the passing game on first and second down is three-step (drops_ otherwise third down is critical so you have to call plays that have those situations (in mind).

It is not different to when I stood in front of everyone and that is what we are building towards. At different times during the year, we try to do what our players could do at this point, get a win and minimize some of the issues but never stop building towards that model even if that game didn't necessarily look like that at times, we never stopped building towards that model in recruiting, in the weight room and on the practice field."

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Worcester Academy's Tabur headed to UConn

It didn't take Tom Tabur long to impress his new coach when he took a postgraduate year at Worcester Academy and apparently he caught the eyes of the UConn staff almost as quickly as he is among the growing list of preferred walk-ons heading to UConn in the fall.

Worcester Academy coach Tony Johnson said the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Tabur is one of the strongest players he has coached and the biggest thing was to get him to shed some weight to get quicker.

"He's become a lot quicker and he did a great job for us," Johnson said. "He's at about 295 pounds and I don't see him taking much more weight off."

Tabur, who also has a 3.7 grade-point average, was up at UConn over the weekend and it all felt right for him according to Johnson.

The bigger recruiting news of the day, however, involves quarterback Carter Stanley who committed to Kansas and that UConn commit Nolan Ulizio was offered by Michigan according to Steve Wilfong, the director of recruiting for 247sports.com.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Former NFL receiver impressed by UConn's Geremy Davis

It was 17 years ago that Az-Zahir Hakim was hoping from a call from an NFL team so he could live his dream of playing professional football.

Unlike players like Randy Moss and Kevin Dyson, who were locks to get drafted, Hakim had to sit, wait and hope that he heard his name called on draft day after playing at San Diego State.

Hakim not only got his opportunity but he won a Super Bowl playing with the St. Louis Rams and had more receiving yards than all the players selected in the '98 draft than Moss and Hines Ward so he has a pretty good idea of what players like former UConn star Geremy Davis is going through.

As the receivers coach for the National Team in today's NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Hakim has gotten to see Davis up close and personal and liked what he saw.

"He had a good week on camp," Hakim said in a phone interview on Saturday afternoon. "He catches the ball well, he isn't afraid to go over the middle."

Hakim, who caught 316 passes for 4,191 yards in nine NFL seasons, has been working with Davis and the other receivers on getting lower in the stance and being more explosive coming off the line of scrimmage.

"I really liked working with him," Hakim said. "He's a good kid, a hard worker, a good teammate."

What Hakim doesn't know if how the 6-foot-3, 216-pound Davis will transition from being one of the most productive receivers in UConn football history to becoming a pro prospect.

"I don't really know what they are looking for," Hakim said. "It's not really my department. I have just tried to work with these players, help them. He's a good player, a good receiver. When he and the other receivers got here and worked with me and Andre Reed, they were bright eyed and bushy tailed. They want to learn and we wanted to teach them as much as we could."

EASLEY HONORED BY BILLS
One former UConn receiver who has made it into the NFL is Stratford's Marcus Easley.

Easley has become one of the best special teams players in the NFL. People are noticing as Easley was named as the Buffalo Bills' winner of the Ed Block Courage Award after rebounding from a pair of knee injuries and being involved in plenty of charitable endeavors away from the field.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Increased video presence on signing day for UConn

UConn announced what it has planned for Feb. 4 when the newest members are added to the UConn football family.

UConn football season ticket holders and donors are invited to attend Coach Diaco’s National Signing Day press conference, which will be held in the Burton Family Football Complex/Mark R. Shenkman Training Center in Storrs at 4 p.m. Those wishing to attend, should RSVP to the UConn Athletic Marketing Office at 860-486-6949 or email to marketing@uconn.edu.
As has been the case in recent years, UConn will post updates on Twitter as the letters start rolling. They have added an hourly video update including interviews from UConn coach Bob Diaco and his assistant coaches. Season-ticket holders can submit questions via email or Twitter than could be answered during these video segments.
The signing day press conference will air live beginning at 4 p.m. on www.uconnhuskies.com and the football signing day will be shown on the big screen in Gampel Pavilion starting at 5:45 p.m. for those fans in attendance for the men's basketball game.

Today happens to be the first day that the UConn coaches can return to the road trying to add to the list of commitments as well as keeping the players already committed.

Here is the breakdown of the 22 players currently committed to UConn. It should be noted that quarterback Tyler Davis will start classes on Tuesday when the spring semester commences and his letter of intent has already been signed and delivered.

Frank Battle, WR, Belen Jesuit (Fla.): 22 catches for 327 and three touchdowns in run-dominated offense for team reaching the Florida 8A regional quarterfinals
Tyraiq Beals, WR, East Orange (N.J.): Had games with 16, 13 and 10 receptions, had four games with multiple touchdown catches including six in game against West Essex. Finished with 80 catches for 1,308 yards and 16 TDs
Trey Blackwell, DL, Cedar Creek (N.J.): Leader of defense which posted four straight shutouts in middle of season, Blackwell had 11 tackles for loss in first four games
Ian Campbell, TE, Pequannock (N.J.): 21 catches for 280 yards including touchdowns in back to back games for 9-2 team which reached the NJSIAA North 1, Group 2 semifinals
Brian Cespedes, OL, New London: Helped Whalers have five games with at least 338 yards of total offense en route to state playoff berth
Tyler Davis, QB, Mepham (N.Y.): Was 73 of 129 passing for 1,092 yards with 13 TDs and six interceptions, ran 213 times for 1,553 yards and 22 touchdowns. Will enroll at UConn for spring semester
Connor Freeborn, TE/LB, Salesianum (Del): Earned second-team All-Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association honors at linebacker
Aaron Garland, DB, Fenwick (Ill.): Had four interceptions, two he brought back for touchdowns, two fumble recoveries and 38 tackles for team which reached Illinois 7A quarterfinals
Chris Lee, TE, Severna Park (Md.): 27 catches for 353 yards and six touchdowns, three coming in a 28-27 loss to Annapolis. Earned first team Anne Arundel County honors
Kirk Livingstone, DE, Stranahan (Fla.): Had 14 sacks in just eight games as a senior and had a game as a junior with seven pancake blocks.
Hergy Mayala, WR, Trinity-Pawling (N.Y.): Had 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns, also saw time as cornerback and punter
Aaron McLean, WR, St. Mark's (Mass.): Had TD catches of 14 and 65 yards in win over Thayer Academy. Team MVP and was also named to All-NEPSAC Class C team for second year in a row
Kevin Murphy, OL/DL, West Chester (Pa.) East: Two-way starting lineman earned second-team All Ches-Mont honors as an offensive lineman although he projects to be a defensive lineman with the Huskies. Had 23 tackles for loss and 4 sacks and 32 pancake blocks.
Philippe Okounam, Dl, St. Paul's (N.H.): Team captain and Montreal native saved his best for last with seven tackles in 33-7 win over Rivers in season finale
Dallas Parker, DE, Ponte Vedra (Fla.): Had four games with at least 10 tackles as a senior including 17 with a sack and four quarterback pressures against Merritt Island
Matthew Peart, OL, Governor's Academy (Mass.): Offensive tackle helped Governor's Academy to the Wayne Sanborn Bowl Game as offense scored at least 25 points in seven of first eight games
William Richardson, DE, Ballou: Had 72 solo tackles, 15 sacks and four fumble recoveries as a senior after recording 8 1/2 sacks as a junior
John Robinson IV, WR/DB, Dwight Morrow (N.J.): 24 catches for 372 yards and 5 TDs, also caused two fumbles and recovered another as a defensive back
Michael Tarbutt, K, Canisius (N.Y.): Was 11 of 17 on field goals with kicks of 52 and 60 yards for 12-0 team. Also, 57 of his 79 kickoffs went for touchbacks and had punts of 47 and 50 yards
Marshe Terry, WR, DB, Northern Burlington (N.J.): 4 of his 11 catches went for TDs. Had interception and fumble recovery in 12-6 loss to Pemberton in Commander's Cup game.
Nolan Ulizio, OL, Lakota West (Ohio): Offensive tackle helped Lakota West reach Ohio Division I quarterfinals. Offense threw for 200 yards six times and ran for at least 180 yards in five games
Nazir Williams, WR/DE, Bridgeton (N.J.): 35 catches for 566 yards and 3 TDs; 45 tackles, 9 sacks, 5 pass breakups with back to back games with two sacks
 

UConn's Mateas to play in College Gridiron Showcase

Former UConn center Alex Mateas will be playing in the College Gridiron Showcase at Maverick Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Jan. 31.

Mateas started 29 games over three years for the Huskies at center, including all 12 games in each of the last two seasons. He is also the No. 2 rated prospect in the upcoming CFL Draft.