Monday, March 26, 2007

We've got reader mail!

There were some quick responses to my call for reader mail, so let's get to 'em.

Question: Chip, Can you give us a top 5 for position battles based on what you've seen in practice? I'm curious as to where the most heated competitions are taking place.
-- Huskypantz

CM: Good question, especially since I love to rank things, no matter how random: all-time TV shows, rock drummers, movies featuring John C. Reilly, Sinatra songs. You name it, I'll rank it. Back to the question, here's how I'd break it down after two weeks.

1. Quarterback. Obviously, this is the most closely watched position battle, continuing a UConn tradition since spring 2005. Keep in mind it's virtually impossible to make any reasonable guess as to who is the front-runner since the media has only seen a handful of drills. From what I've seen, I would say Dennis Brown and Tyler Lorenzen have looked the best. Brown seems to throw a slightly better ball, but Lorenzen might be a better runner. I would guess these two will be the starters in the spring game, but which is at the helm of the first team and which the second is too tough to call. Maybe one will emerge in a few weeks. I'm not counting D.J. Hernandez out just yet, either.

2. Defensive tackle. Dan Davis had minor surgery, and hasn't been practicing, but we know he'll start at one of the DT slots. It's between Rob Lunn and Brandon Dillion for the other spot, and this could be a decision that's not made until the summer. Dillon was held up with a nagging hamstring, so Lunn, a backup the last two seasons, could have a slight edge.

3. Strong side linebacker. Barring injuries, there will be a redshirt freshman starter there for sure as Scott Lutrus and Greg Robinson are the only two on the depth chart at the moment. Both are raw, but with a lot of apparent ability. Lutrus is a bit more physically imposing, but both are very athletic.

4. Left tackle. This may have been the No. 2 battle if Dan Ryan didn't injure his ankle. Will Beatty, a starter coming off a broken leg, isn't as physically strong as Randy Edsall would have liked him to be entering the spring. Edsall was hoping Ryan would push Beatty back to form, but Ryan sprained an ankle and hasn't practiced for over a week. Zach Hurd is now at left tackle with Beatty. Expect this battle to really heat up over the summer.

5. The safeties. Everyone is listed as a starter on the spring depth chart, but none of the five in contention have ever really been a starter. Senior Donnell Ford and true frosh Aaron Bagsby are in competition at strong safety. Robert Vaughn, pressed into action as a true frosh last fall because of injuries, is listed with Glen Mourning and Corey Stringer at free safety. Edsall lined up just behind the safeties during a red zone drill at last Thursday's practice and it wasn't pretty. He was instructing all of them on what they did wrong after just about every snap. Inexperience will do that. I think Vaughn should win a job by the time spring is out. Ford and Bagsby may be drawn out a little longer.

More of my own (very early) speculation regarding some other 'OR' spots on the spring depth chart: Donald Thomas will start at right guard and Mike Hicks at right tackle.

Q: You haven't heard from us because we haven't heard much from you. Randy's closed scrimmage and limited practice coverage is small time football. Tell him if he wants to be a big time coach at a big time program he needs to lighten up with the Tom Coughlin imitation.
-- No name given

A: Um...yeah. I'm sure that would go over well. By the way, what's with the anonymous comments? There have been way too many on this blog over the last eight months. At least have the decency to give me a fake name. That's what I always do when sending obnoxiously self-assertive email to various members of the local media. This wasn't a question, but anonymous does bring up a good issue: spring practice policies for media set by Division I football programs.

UConn will practice 15 times this spring (inlcuding the spring game), and the media is invited to all but four. I didn't think that was terrible, considering there are some programs that close all practice sessions to the media. My only issue at UConn this spring is that the players available for post-practice interviews have been pre-selected, at least through the end of March. I always enjoyed the spring because it provided the freedom for media to give readers a variety of stories after practice. Now, we writers all have pretty much the same stuff.

Anyway, I did a quick, informal survey today to see what the media policy was around the Big East as well as at a completely random selection of other schools around the country. I was somewhat surprised to find UConn is relatively strict with the media. Most schools are open to media every practice, many to the public as well. Of course, there were some schools running things a lot tighter. Here's what I found.

In the Big East

Cincinnati: Is all open to media and the public, although the policy about being open to the public is being reviewed, accoring to Cincinnati SID Kelby Siler. Nippert Stadium, where the Bearcats play and practice, is located in the middle of campus and impossible to close off (kind of like the old Memorial Stadium at UConn). Cincinnati would like to keep the public out, but can't do much about it considering there are no gates.

West Virginia: All practices are open in their entirety to the media. Only the spring game is open to the public.

Louisville: All practices open to the public and media, with video and photo limited to the first 30 minutes. Keep in mind this is a dramatic change under a new coach in Steve Kragthorpe. Last summer, Bobby Petrino closed all practices to the media and public because he felt too much information was getting out.

Pittsburgh: The media is allowed to watch all practices from start to finish, with coach and player availability each of the 15 days. They are not open to the public.

South Florida: Similar policy to UConn. All practices are open to media, but the scrimmages are closed. Photo and video for the first 30 minutes only. Practice is closed to the general public, but family members of players are generally allowed. John Gerdes, the sports info director, said things are much tighter in the fall.

Syracuse: Only five practices are open during the spring, and media gets only a 20-minute window to observe. No public.

Rutgers: All practices are open entirely to the media. No public access.

Sampling from around the country

I picked schools for no reason other than they were the first to pop into my head. Here are the 11 who had their practice policy immediately available on their websites.

Florida, Texas A&M, UCLA, Oregon State: All practices open to media and public.

Baylor: All practices closed to the media.

Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin: All practices open to media.

Boise State: Eight practices are open to media.

Oklahoma: Limited practices are open for media to view, but coach Bob Stoopes is available for interviews after all 15 practices.

Arkansas: Practices are open to media, but the early bird gets the worm. The Razorbacks are practicing at 5 a.m. this spring.

The mailbag is still open. Are there any more questions? Send to or send through the comments below.


Anonymous FillTheRent said...

Thanks for the info Chip. Since you have access to most of the practices, could you take a look around and let us know if there are any recruits checking out the practices and who they are?

March 26, 2007 5:52 PM 
Blogger Chip Malafronte said...

No problem.

Bridgeport Central junior Trevardo Williams, who verballed a couple of months ago, was there on Thursday.

I'll keep an eye out in the future.

March 26, 2007 6:50 PM 
Blogger Jim (real, not fake) said...

Well Chip you out did yourself. Since you took the time to research all the practice and media policies I took the time to register and say thanks. You went above and beyond. Nice job.

Maybe I should have waited longer to reveal myself and wrote a book called Primary Col....oh wait...already been done. Nevermind.

Keep up the good work.

March 26, 2007 7:00 PM 
Anonymous Jay said...

How are the WRs looking so far this year? WRs have definitely been a weakness in the past, will that change? or same ol'?

Also, how has the run blocking looked? Maybe it's just me but it appeared that every big run we had was outside of the tackles the last couple years and every time we ran straight up the gut we'd get a yard at the most. Any improvements there?

March 27, 2007 8:19 AM 

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