Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hard Hittin' Lindsey Witten

The feature on Lindsey Witten from Sunday's Register.

STORRS – One of the first things his University of Connecticut teammates noticed about Lindsey Witten is the way he carries himself.

Witten, a true freshman defensive end from Cleveland, has a confidence that belies his 18 years. Junior Dan Davis, the Huskies other starting defensive end, noticed it immediately during Witten’s first start of the season against then-No. 4 West Virginia two weeks ago.

“I tell you, that kid isn’t scared of anyone,” Davis said. “He’s a real tough guy.”

Much of Witten’s poise and self-assured demeanor come from observing his older brother, Donte Whitner, now a rookie starting safety for the Buffalo Bills. The rest could be attributed to Witten’s playing at Glenville High in Cleveland, which saw 21 players from last fall’s team earn college football scholarships, 15 to Division I-A programs.

No matter the source of Witten’s conviction, the UConn coaching staff knows it has a defensive star in the making. At 6-foot-4, 217 pounds, Witten isn’t even close to a finished product. Coach Randy Edsall imagines Witten at around 250 pounds with his 4.7 speed and envisions a sack machine as good as anyone has seen in Storrs.

But for now, Edsall is simply looking for Witten to continue to improve at the position and get stronger in the offseason.

“He has a chance to be a very good football player,” Edsall said. “It all depends on how much he’s willing to work. He needs more weight, he needs more strength. But he has a chance to be one of the better defensive ends we’ve had if he works hard and is motivated to be the best he can be.”

Witten, three years younger than Whitner, spent his days growing up eastern Cleveland idolizing his older brother. Whitner was the best cornerback in the country at Glenville, where his teammates included current Ohio State stars Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr.

Whitner went on to an All-American career at Ohio State, then declared for the NFL draft after his junior season. The eighth overall pick in the first round, Whitner moved into a starting role with Buffalo early this season and is third on the team with 46 tackles.

“He was a big influence on me,” Witten said. “I went to all his games in high school and at Ohio State. I want to achieve all he did and more. The biggest thing is how he carries himself. Even if he was still in college and not a millionaire, he’d still be the same person. I want to be like that; confident in myself, but not too cocky.”

Witten’s transition to major college football was made easier because Glenville, coached by Ted Ginn Sr., was in many ways like playing for a college team. Last season’s senior class sent three players to Ohio State, two to Iowa and others to programs like Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Cincinnati and Marshall. Many, like Witten, have seen time as true freshmen.

“Practice hasn’t changed since high school,” said Witten, who transferred to Glenville after three seasons at rival Collinwood High. “The speed was there, just like it is in college. It might be the same.”

Witten, a lanky 190 pounds in high school, earned all-state honors in Ohio after recording 98 tackles and 18 sacks as a senior.

“I watched him in a state playoff game at Browns Stadium,” Edsall said. “I was impressed with the way he came off the edge, his speed and acceleration. But it was his intensity that caught my eye.”

He originally gave a verbal commitment to attend Toledo, but changed his mind and decided to attend UConn. It was academics as much as football the prompted the switch says Witten, who wishes to fall back on a career in sports medicine if the NFL doesn’t pan out.

Edsall would have preferred to redshirt Witten to see him bulk up without losing a season of eligibility. But injuries and a lack of depth at defensive end forced him to use Witten right away. He’s hardly been a disappointment.

A reserve for six games until a season-ending injury to Cody Brown forced him into the starting lineup against West Virginia, Witten has impressed. He’s made 10 of his 17.5 tackles in the last two games --- both against nationally-ranked opponents in West Virginia and No. 15 Rutgers.

His intensity is also apparent, as Witten hasn’t backed down from anyone and isn’t afraid to exchange barbs with older, more experienced opponents.

“When you have a brother who was the No. 8 pick in the draft and you played for a high school program like Glenville, you’re not going to be intimidated by too many things,” Edsall said. “He has a nasty streak in him. I don’t think he’ll be shooting those pistols too many more times. We had a talk with him about that. But I like his enthusiasm.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

lindsey this is your cousin all ways rember that the only way u can grow is up so keep your head up and strive for the most pinncle point and never let anyone say u cant
love u lots

January 29, 2007 5:01 PM 

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