Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Newsome looking to master gift of grab in second season at UConn

It took all of five games during Arkeel Newsome's freshman season at UConn to do one of the few things he did not accomplish during his final two seasons during a record-shattering career at Ansonia High School.

It was in a 36-10 home loss to Temple that Newsome caught a pair of passes including one resulting in a scintillating 74-yard touchdown. He caught three more passes in the next game (a 12-3 loss to Tulane).

Newsome caught a total of seven passes as a junior and senior with the Chargers and never more than one in a game. In his three seasons as the Chargers' featured back Newsome caught a total of 12 passes. He nearly matched that total as a freshman at UConn as his 11 receptions were the most for any running back for the Huskies during the 2014 season. Realizing that his pass-catching duties could be a major part of UConn's offense this season resulted in Newsome paying extra attention to that part of his skill set during the offseason.

"Now I am (catching passes) a lot," Newsome said. "I am working on the catching with the JUGS machine and also that focus on the ball when it is coming at me.

"I am just ready for whatever they throw at me, giving it 100 percent with whatever I do."
Newsome was named as a co-starter at tailback along with fellow sophomore Ron Johnson. UConn coach Bob Diaco didn't feel like it was appropriate to name one of the two backs over the other one because they will both be featured prominently in the offense.

Beginning on Thursday night when Villanova comes to Rentschler Field, we will get the first look at how both Newsome and Johnson will be utilized under first-year offensive coordinator Frank Verducci said.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Definite Xavier High flavor on UConn's depth chart

UConn's depth chart features a starting quarterback from Georgia, a starting offensive tackle from Denmark, the No. 1 center hailing from Virginia and four of the eight defensive backs calling Florida home. In the end, however, the two-deep chart has an unmistakable Xavier High School connection.

Not only is starting linebacker Graham Stewart a former Xavier standout but so are reserve quarterback Tim Boyle and backup defensive end Sean Marinan.

"It is awesome, all of those guys I have known them and it is not a surprise to me because I know their character and I know their work ethic," Stewart said.

Xavier is the only high school with multiple players on the UConn two-deep chart making it quite special for the three former Falcons.
"It is amazing," said Marinan, the son of Xavier High football coach Sean Marinan Sr. "That is something we worked for in high school, we all had a dream and we just love it. It is awesome."

With four state titles in the last five seasons, it's hardly shocking to see that success translate having players from that program on the only FBS program in the state of Connecticut. The aura around the Xavier program doesn't stop there. Back in 2010 Villanova All-American linebacker Don Cherry was a star on a Trumbull High team which lost to Xavier in the 2010 CIAC Class LL title game at Rentschler Field and one of his best memories was of the rather enthusiastic Xavier High student section.

"I remember on the Xavier fans on the other side going crazy, the whole stadium was awesome and it was packed so it was a really memorable game," Cherry said. "Although we lost, it was a great experience to play against a top-tier team like Xavier."

Stewart gave his two cents on the fan support the Xavier High athletic programs receive.

"They take it very seriously and when your whole school is full of guys, they are going to be into the sports so it is easy to join in," Stewart said.

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Colts cut loose former UConn star Donald Thomas

Donald Thomas' time with the Indianapolis Colts came to an end today.

Thomas had one of the most unusual journeys to the NFL. The New Haven native was playing pickup basketball with Danny Lansanah when Lansanah suggested he try out for the football team. He eventually earned a scholarship and a starting spot. His play was enough for the Miami Dolphins to take Thomas in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft.

However, Thomas' NFL career has been slowed by injury. He suffered a foot injury after earning a starting guard spot with the Miami Dolphins and in 2011 he joined the New England Patriots. His play was impressive enough that the Colts signed Thomas to four year $14 million contract in 2013. Thomas would only play two games for the Colts as he suffered a season-ending torn quad and also a biceps injury. He returned to the field for the 2014 season only to reinjure his quad on training camp.

The Colts, who took Thomas off the Physically Unable to Perform list a couple days ago, announced he was among the players cut as teams work to get down to 75-man rosters by tomorrow.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's finally official: Shirreffs is UConn's starting QB

A year ago there was some actual mystery involved in the naming of UConn's starting quarterback, a job that went to Casey Cochran before one too many concussions resulted in the retirement of the former Masuk High star.

Well, there would be no such drama this season. While UConn coach Bob Diaco waited until today to announce that Bryant Shirreffs would start Thursday's season opener against Villanova, it was abundantly obvious that the North Carolina State quarterback was the clear choice to win the job.

In the two scrimmages we were allowed to watch Shirreffs was head and shoulders above the competition. In the second one, Shirreffs worked exclusively with the first-team offense while Tim

In the two scrimmages during preseason camp, both held at Rentschler Field, Shirreffs was unofficially 22 of 32 passing for 236 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as he was easily the most productive quarterback. Now it is time for Shirreffs to take control of an offense which has lacked quality play from the quarterback position since the graduation of Dan Orlovsky.

"People will tell me all the time that we have had struggles at UConn all the time in the quarterback area but I couldn't tell you that much about it because I have only been here a year," Shirreffs said. "I just know what I can do and I am going to do it to the best of my ability.

"I don't think any other quarterback is trying not to play well, I am going to try to play the best that I can. I wanted to be the best I can be and wherever the coaches, wherever I was on the depth chart, that was up to them. I wanted to prepare the best that I could and have it show up on the field. I don't really think of first string, second string, seventh string, that doesn't matter to me as long as we are winning."

Shirreffs played in eight games as a freshman at North Carolina State in 2013, running the ball 34 times and passing it five times. In his second game Shirreffs had a 28-yard touchdown run and a 7-yard TD pass in a win over Richmond.

While Shirreffs has displayed arm strength and accuracy during camp, his ability to make plays with his legs will provide an added dimension to UConn's offense.

"I can't wait to watch," UConn senior running back Max DeLorenzo said of Shirreffs taking command of the offense. "He leads by example more than by vocal but we have some other vocal guys but he will be even more of a leader when he starts making plays like I know he will."

It will be a new era with not only a new quarterback but also a first-year offensive coordinator in Frank Verducci.

"I love Bryant Shirreffs, I think his teammates will say that he is one of if not the hardest working guy on the team," Verducci said. "Bryant Shirreffs is a guy that every minute you invest with him, you get a return, he is a joy to work with."


No real surprises on UConn's depth chart

UConn's depth chart is out and not a heck of a lot of surprises.

Bryant Shirreffs, as expected, is the No. 1 quarterback. There is a share situation at tailback with sophomores Ron Johnson and Arkeel Newsome listed as starters.
On offense and defense, there are four true freshmen on the two-deep chart as second-team guys (WR Tyraiq Beals, LT Matt Peart, TEs Chris Lee and Zordan Holman).

Also, Ellis Marder is listed as the No. 2 strong safety even though Anthony Watkins was seeing most of the time with the second-team defense in the preseason.

QB: Bryant Shirreffs, SO; Tim Boyle, JR
TB: Ron Johnson, SO or Arkeel Newsome, SO; Max DeLorenzo, SR
WR: Noel Thomas, JR; Brian Lemelle, JR
WR: Thomas Lucas, SO; Tyraiq Beals, FR
TE: Alec Bloom, SO; Chris Lee, FR
TE: Tommy Myers, SO; Zordan Holman, FR
LT: Richard Levy, JR; Matt Peart, FR
LG: Tommy Hopkins, SO; Steve Hashemi, SO
C: Brendan Vechery, SO; Dan Oak, FR
RG: Tyler Samra, SR; Kyle Bockeloh, JR
RT: Andreas Knappe, JR; Trey Rutherford, SO

DE: Kenton Adeyemi, SR; Cole Ormsby, SO
DT: Foley Fatukasi, SO; Sean Marinan, JR
DT: Julian Campenni, SR; Mikal Myers, JR
DE/LB: Luke Carrezola, SO; Cameron Stapleton, SO
LB: Graham Stewart, SR; Vontae Diggs, SO
LB: Junior Joseph, SO; Jon Hicks, JR
LB: Marquise Vann, SR; Matt Walsh, JR
CB: Jhavon Williams, JR; John Green, JR
CB: Jamar Summers, SO; Javon Hadley, JR
FS: Obi Melifonwu, JR; Junior Lee, SR
SS: Andrew Adams, SR; Ellis Marder, JR

K: Bobby Puyol, JR; Michael Tarbutt, FR
P: Justin Wain, JR; Bobby Puyol, JR
KO: Michael Tarbutt, FR; Bobby Puyol, JR
H: Tim Boyle, JR; Brian Lemelle, JR
KR: Arkeel Newsome, SO and Josh Marriner, SO
PR: Brian Lemelle, JR; Tyraiq Beals, FR
LS: Dom Manco, SR; James Bedell, FR

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Looking at how Villanova/UConn game became a reality

I can't even put a number on just how many times I've been asked "why is UConn playing Villanova?" in Thursday's season opener.

Playing an FCS team could be a nice way for UConn to get going after a 2-10 season. However, facing a team ranked third in the preseason FCS polls and led by reigning FCS national player of the year John Robertson is a risky venture for the Huskies.

UConn coach Bob Diaco was asked if he knew how the game got on the schedule at Wednesday's media day but he said it happened before he got to Storrs.

I spoke to Villanova coach Andy Talley a couple days ago and he has an answer to this question.

"I think we've been playing a I-A team for a lot of years and certainly when we were looking into moving into the Big East as a football program and going I-A in football, UConn was a familiar foe in basketball and in many sports," Talley said. "That was sort of the beginning of trying to schedule teams who could potentially were Big East schools. Last year we played Syracuse, this year UConn and we have Pittsburgh next year, Temple was at the time was a Big East member when this game was set so we started to schedule teams that potentially we would play if we were to go into the Big East in football. I think that was 'let's test the waters a little in the Big East and see how we shape up as a FCS team on our way to being a FBS team.' Of course it never happened so we ended up with these games. We played Maryland, the Air Force Academy, Central Florida so we play a lot of different teams."

Villanova and UConn played every season from 1987-1996 as Yankee Conference rivals with six of those games decided by seven points or less. The last meeting came in 1999 at UConn's Memorial Stadium and it was a classic three-overtime game  won by Villanova 48-45. It was Randy Edsall's first season at UConn so Talley is one of the few coaches who can say he owns wins over Tom Jackson, Skip Holtz and Edsall while they were the head coaches of the Huskies.

"It was always a heated rivalry," Talley said. "I always enjoyed our games with Connecticut. It was always special because it was really my second home (Talley played at Southern Connecticut State and got his start in coaching as an assistant coach at Simsbury High School) so to come back there and bring the Wildcats into town and play in front of a lot of people who knew me was always a very special feeling."

Good start for UConn commit

While we are still a couple weeks away from the start of the high school football season in Connecticut, that is not the case in other parts of the country.

Case in point, UConn commit Quayvon Skanes accounted for four touchdowns in his first game as the starting quarterback as Chicago's Phillips Academy High School opened the 2015 season with a 40-16 win over Fenwick.

I did not see stats for Skanes but he had two scoring runs, including one of 80 yards and also threw touchdown passes of 30 and 12 yards.

Skanes caught 41 passes for 981 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior but he moved to quarterback following the graduation of Dewayne Collins.

Fellow Class of 2016 commit Donovan Williams missed Hylton (Va.) High's season opener with a back injury.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Time for some UConn offensive line chatter

Bob Diaco had a lot to say in the 30 or so minutes he was available to the media at Wednesday's media day.

However, the one comment that really surprised me was when he spoke about the freshmen and had this to say:

"The offensive line, the defensive line, the tight end position, in the linebacker corps and that group there, that could become a mess. So where are they participating? They are participating, potentially, in the skill positions. I am fairly certain that is going to be the hallmark of this year. I can't imagine in the two deep there being a true freshman that is going to be a guy that the team is counting on (at those positions). The only one would be Matt Peart at left tackle and he is by no means ready to go in the game and play. We'll see if we can get him ready to go into the game in a week."

Peart was consistently working as an offensive tackle with the second team during all the three practices/scrimmages we were able to check out during preseason camp which made Diaco's comments all the more noteworthy to me.

When you look at the fact that UConn has been forced, mostly due to injury, to start four different players at right tackle during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, having quality backups at tackle is no small matter.

I followed up with offensive line coach Mike Cummings on which players would join sophomore Trey Rutherford as options as tackle behind starters Richard Levy and Andreas Knappe.

I assumed that former starting tackle Dalton Gifford would be at the top of the list of contenders and Cummings had plenty to say about Gifford.

"Dalton has played every position on the offensive line," Cummings said. "There are four tackles in there for sure who have played tackle. Tommy Hopkins have played tackle, there are a lot of guys who can play at that position."

One of the more intriguing situations in camp centered around Dalton, who began the 2014 season starting at right tackle while Knappe got healthy. Yet, there he was working with the third string as he was behind a true freshman (Peart) and true sophomore (Rutherford) and at the first practice I was at true sophomore Steve Hashemi was also seeing time at tackle ahead of Gifford.

"Dalton is doing a good job, he is working hard, he is a good teammate," Cummings said. "If he is taking anything personally, it is probably on the positive end. He has a great attitude and is a great senior. Anytime we ask Dalton to go in, he is ready to go. He isn't day dreaming through camp, he is ready to go."

Hashemi, a former St. Joseph of Trumbull star, has had an interesting camp. He moved to tight end as a freshman and after moving back to his natural offensive line position, he has worked in at both guard and tackle.

"We have him at both right now, we have him playing guard," Cummings said. "He has the skill to play either of them and he is a tough guy. We are trying to get the right people on the field at the right spots. He could play guard for us, he could play tackle. he is doing a great job. The biggest thing is he athletic, he is tough, he loves the school, he loves the state and that goes a long way."

Of course who is going to be the second string offensive tackles isn't as pressing of an issue as how the interior offensive line is going to perform. They seem to have had their struggles when I was there but Cummings and offensive coordinator Frank Verducci said they are encouraged by what they have seen from center Brendan Vechery and guards Tommy Hopkins and Tyler Samra.

Cummings believes Vechery will benefit from going head to head with defensive tackle/nose guard Julian Campenni every day in practice.

"I don't know if there is a better guy you could practice with at that position, I don't know if there could be," Cummings said. "He is getting a lot of work.

"Hopkins and Vechery are doing well, they learn every day. It is not like they are new to the position, they are working very hard."

Samra, who could be the only senior starter on offense depending on what happens with running back Max DeLorenzo, has plenty on his plate as he needs to take care of his duties but also add leadership with first-time starters Vechery and Hopkins next to him.
"We came a long way just coming from spring ball," Samra said. "Losing Ryan Crozier (to a season-ending leg injury) was pretty hard on us but Vechery is stepping up. You can see we are working together as a unit which was something that was kind of hard for us last year because we had a lot of newcomers, a lot of new starters so this year, this camp we have come a long way.

"They all know the game, it is not getting them used to (playing). We are getting better as a unit. It is more fluid in everything we do on the line."

UConn coach Bob Diaco also weighed in on Vechery's growth as the Huskies starting center.
"I am very interested what that play is going to look like (at center)," Diaco said. "I can't wait for the game to watch these guys play. I can't wait to watch Vech and see what he's going to be in the game after all this preparation and work that he's put in. He looks good, every day he gets better and better, learns something new about the spot so it is exciting."

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Wain getting his kicks on the field and in the classroom at UConn

In the eyes of Justin Wain, success as a punter and in the classroom pretty much go hand and hand or perhaps hand and foot would be more appropriate.

Twice during Wain's time at UConn he earn a 4.0 grade-point average and more often than not, his GPA has been north of 3.9.

At yesterday's media day I finally had the chance to catch up with Wain and discuss his brilliant work in the classroom.

"Everything has to be perfect, it might just be the punter thing, everything has to be perfect for a good punt and everything has to be perfect in the classroom too," Wain said. "That carries over, that is what Coach (Bob) Diaco tries to get us to do, classroom carries over to the football field."

Wain has been a regular on the American Athletic Conference All-Academic team. I was curious when he first went all in during his pursuit of a perfect report card.

"In high school," Wain said. "They teach you that it is important to get good grades to get into college. I wouldn't say they were all straight A's in high school but I was trying to get good grades in high school. It is the same thing in college, get good grades and go to grad school."

Wain might be onto something in terms of the correlation between special teams productivity and academic success. A total of 31 football players marched in the parade of UConn student-athletes with at least a 3.0 in either the spring or fall, 2014 semester. Joining Wain on the list was starting kicker Bobby Puyol, long snapper Dom Manco and punt protector Sean Marinan. When UConn recognized its top student-athletes at halftime of a February women's basketball game against South Carolina, Wain, Marinan and reserve kicker Will Rishell were among the 20 athletes in all sports honored for attaining a 4.0 GPA.

"In special teams, you have to do everything right," Wain said. "For us, we only get one chance to do it so eliminate all the errors that you can so we get the counts right, the directions right and execute everything else right so it is just like school."

At the last scrimmage Wain was among the players I mentioned as standouts as he dropped one punt on the 1 and boomed another one out of the end zone for about 45 yards. Although there were no returns in the scrimmage, the punt would almost certainly had resulted in a fair catch in a real game situation. If that is an indication of where Wain is right now, he could be a much improved punter in his second season as the starter.

"I am working hard right now," Wain said. "It is all about getting consistent, consistent, consistent so I spent a lot of time with that. I am definitely a lot stronger than I was last year and I have a lot more explosion so I have seen that carry over from a weight-lifting standpoint and a leg standpoint."

Wain decided to spend the entire summer up at UConn rather than heading home to North Carolina.

"We keep working on it and it has been a good year," Wain said. "I spent all of my summer here so I didn't have a chance to go back home. It is all consistent drops and that is what we do."


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

UConn's Campenni had a day to remember

Media day is in the books and not too much news of the earth-shattering variety came out of the day.

The captains were linebacker Marquise Vann (the only 2014 captain returning this season), offensive tackle Andreas Knappe, safety Andrew Adams and defensive lineman Julian Campenni.

I'm not really surprised by any of the picks. I thought there was a chance of a second offensive player being named a captain and perhaps junior receiver Noel Thomas could have been that player.

Campenni, who might have been UConn's most consistently efficient player a season ago, reminds me so much of former captain Shamar Stephen.

People around the program were aware of what Stephen brought to the table heading into his senior season but not many outside of the program seemed to be as aware of his talents as they should have. The same could be said for Campenni who was fourth on the 2014 squad in tackles for loss but likely first in number of blockers he occupied and number of opposing center he tormented.

Stephen went from relative unknown to NFL prospect and then was one of the better rookie defensive linemen in the NFL a season ago after being drafted in the seventh round by the Minnesota Vikings. While I'm not sure if Campenni/s lack of height will scare off NFL scouts, I believe he is primed for a special senior season.

The naming of the captains was done on Wednesday which also happened to be Campenni's 22nd birthday making it a rather memorable day all around.

"I am very happy to hear that they named me one of the four captains," Campenni said. "I am honored to have that. I love every guy in there so."

When I mentioned to Campenni that he is a bit quiet especially compared to fellow captain Vann, he got a good chuckle admitting that in comparison to somebody like Vann, he would be considered to be on a quiet side.

"I guess I am quiet, yes I am more of the behind the scenes guy," Campenni said.

He was not quiet, however, in stating his expectations for the defensive unit returning 10 of its top 12 tacklers as he believes it has the potential to be among the best units in the country.

"I think there is a lot of excitement about our team and we have to go out there and get some wins," Campenni said. "I think the Rent is going to be rocking this year

"That is what you want to aim for, you want to aim to be the best. A lot of the older guys like Andrew (Adams), Junior (Lee), Marquise (Lee), we were two defense that were top five in the country so we know what it takes. Every guy on the team that is what we are working for."

There's plenty of experience on the defense led by seniors Campenni, Vann and Adams as well as classmates Kenton Adeyemi and Graham Stewart as well as junior Obi Melifonwu. However, for this to be an elite defense, it will be imperative that a talented group of sophomores hit the ground running. Linebacker/defensive end Luke Carrezola has been rather impressive at the practices/scrimmages the media was able to watch while defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi drew incredible praise from defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter today.

"Foley has as much skill as any guy I have been around as a defensive lineman," Poindexter said. "When he's got it going, he is going to be hard to block. He is a young player so he has a learn to do it on a down by down basis but he has as much skill as anybody we are going to play so we are excited about that."

Just as a frame of reference, 14 players from the University of Virginia were taken in the NFL draft when Poindexter was a star safety from 1994-98 and another 32 selected during his time on the Virginia coaching staff from 2003-13. That list includes defensive linemen Chris Canty and Chris Long.

Poindexter also talked up Carrezola, who could add some pass rush off the right side that has been lacking since the graduation of Trevardo Williams.

"Luke, he is in the right spot, he knows how to play the defense, he is big, a lot stronger," Poindexter said. "I am very excited about him. He got to play a little last year, he got nicked up towards the end of the season but he got that game experience. We are excited about what he is able to do this year."

Campenni also had plenty of praise for the two talented sophomores.

"You look at him (Carrezola) from last year to this year, he really transformed himself so it is going to be exciting," Campenni said.

"He (Fatukasi) is a monster, he is strong, he is quick and he is what you would want. If I could pick who I could be like, I would like to be like Foley. He kind of has the whole package. He has, including this year, three more years and it is going to be scary in these next three years what he is going to start doing. He is a great player. Since I got here, he has always been kind of a physical freak but he is just starting to get better and better in practice. He played well last year, he got better in the spring, he got better this camp so he is just getting better every day."

Other sophomores expected to make a major impact on the defense are linebacker Junior Joseph, defensive ends Cole Ormsby and Cam Stapleton and cornerback Jamar Summers.

I asked defensive line coach Kevin Wolthausen specifically about Ormsby, who led the team in sacks as a redshirt freshman.

"Cole has done everything we have asked him to do," Wolthausen said. "He does all the same techniques for stopping the run, he is very explosive, has hand speed and just happens to be one of our better pass rushers but that is not all that he can do."

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Some thoughts from UConn's media day

The major news coming out of UConn football media day might have been that there wasn't much news at all.

Seniors Julian Campenni, Andrew Adams and Marquise Vann were named captains along with junior Andreas Knappe after a balloting from what UConn coach Bob Diaco said was a vote from everybody in the UConn football family.

He also said he would wait until Sunday to name his starting quarterback and go into specifics on most starting spots. Bryant Shirreffs has been running with the first team throughout preseason camp and it would be a surprise for him not to be the No. 1 guy at quarterback. The only other positions where there were multiple players seeing first and second team reps came at defensive end where Kenton Adeyemi and Cole Ormsby are both pushing for a starting spot and receiver where there has been a battle for the No. 2 spot. Diaco said Thomas Lucas is looking like he could start along with Noel Thomas, who was the most impressive player I saw at the three practices/scrimmages I witnessed.

Media day began with about 30 minutes of Diaco addressing a variety of issues. He was rather upbeat, as you would expect him to be, about how camp has progressed. The biggest surprise to me was him saying that older players could be in line to get reps over true freshmen Matt Peart and David Ryslik, who have been consistently working with the second team at offensive tackle and defensive tackle respectively. I think it would be wise to try to protect their redshirt this season so perhaps that is the plan. That would especially be the case with Peart since starting tackles Knappe and Richard Levy are only juniors so if Peart played this season, he would be a junior by the time Knappe and Levy graduated. If he is redshirted, he would have three seasons of eligibility.

 "I think it is hard to play freshmen," Diaco said. "As ready as they are, they are still going to cost you. It is going to be that moment, they are freshmen, even the best freshmen I have ever been around that is all players. When you specifically boil it down and start thinking about freshmen participating at the power positions and skill positions, now it is like a disaster. The offensive line, the defensive line, the tight end position, in the linebacker corps and that group there, that could become a mess. So where are they participating? They are participating, potentially, in the skill positions. I am fairly certain that is going to be the hallmark of this year. I can't imagine in the two deep there being a true freshman that is going to be a guy that the team is counting on (at those positions). The exceptional freshmen, the only one would be Matt Peart at left tackle and he is by no means ready to go in the game and play. We'll see if we can get him ready to go into the game in a week.

"The skill players, they are really talented players. Tyraiq Beals is going to play, Hergy Mayala is going to play. He is exceptional, Tyraiq is exceptional. Aaron McLean, he is going to be in there and possibly Frank Battle. I don't anticipate any freshmen defensive player participating in the two deep at this point.

"We are going to slide Sean Marinan over and take a look at him behind Foley because David (Ryslik) is just not ready."

Diaco also said that tight ends Chris Lee and Zordan Holman should be on the travel squad and participating in very specific roles.

It isn't often that Diaco is critical of one of his players but he admitted that junior receiver Dhameer Bradley "had a very listless beginning to camp, a lackluster beginning."

Here's more of Diaco on Bradley.

"The reasons are irrelevant, he struggled producing. We love Dhameer, a great teammate but like a batter in a slump, almost like the harder you try the worse it gets or a golfer whose game is off the tracks and you are trying to get it back on the tracks and the harder you try, the worse it gets. He kind of went through a little bit of a phase like that which set him back a little bit. He has taken great accountability for that time, he is indomitable in changing it. We are going to allow for him to perform and produce at the level that he can and he should.

"Those younger players are on fire so yes it is a challenge."