Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hockey's over. Let's watch some spring football practice!

And we're back.

As some may or may not know, my other beat here is college hockey. It's kind of a big deal around New Haven. Both Yale and Quinnipiac play in a major conference, and both sellout their 3,500-seat arenas pretty much every game. Plus, Yale had its best season ever, winning the league regular season and tournament championship. The Bulldogs were ranked fifth in the nation heading into the NCAA tournament, helping Bridgeport's Arena at Harbor Yard (capacity: 8,500) to sellout the East Regional. Having Michigan, Vermont and Air Force also playing in Bridgeport certainly didn't hurt ticket sales.

Anyway, Yale lost over the weekend, so I'm back to UConn football for the rest of the spring. I'll be at the remainder of the Tuesday and Saturday practices (not Thursday, players and coaches don't speak, and it's too long a drive for me to simply give observations for the blog). I'll also do my best to make blog entries on the off days, news or no news, just to get back in the good graces of you, dear reader.

Here's what I got for today, bullet-points for your convenience.

  • It wasn't a great day for the offense. Lots of high snaps, bad throws and dropped passes. Randy Edsall wasn't the least bit concerned. "That's why you practice," Edsall said. "We're only seven practices in, and we're putting something new in. Understanding the base offense is the big thing. We don't play games until September. But we're meeting our objectives."

  • Chip's March 31 disclaimer: The player/coach quotes today won't be perfect. My 1-year old son got a hold of my digital recorder and hid it somewhere in the house (probably in the garbage)...he doesn't know how to talk yet, so, until I find it I have to make do with my hand-written notes. My shorthand is comparable with my son's scribbles, so I need to find that recorder soon. The search continues...

  • Meme Wylie is running well, and he's tough to tackle because he's always so low to the ground. Jordan Todman is still fast. How fast? He ran almost completely out of his football pants today. I kid you not.

  • Zach Frazer broke free for an 80-yard run, pulling a Deion Sanders "high-step with head turned" before spiking the ball in the end zone. Needless to say, it didn't go over well. He actually broke loose again later, with no hot-dogging.

  • Matt Edwards made a pretty one-handed interception on a deep ball, taking it away from Alex Molina. Jerome Junior, also in the vicinity, then planted Molina with a block.

  • Scott Schultz was switched from defensive tackle to offensive guard today. Edsall said it was something he's been considering for a while, and suits both UConn and Schultz in the long run. Schultz, by the way, looks exactly like John Silver of the Journal Inquirer. They could be brothers. Schultz is twice the size of Silver, however.

  • Your top four defensive tackles as of today: Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes; Alex Polito (out for spring ball with injury) and Brandon Dillon based on experience, with Ryan Wirth and Beau Brunelli in the mix, too.

  • Dwayne Gratz and Blindi Wreh-Wilson were moved up to second team cornerbacks today, behind Jasper Howard and Robert McClain. Gary Wilburn and Harris Agbor are with the third team.

  • Anthony Sherman was bothered by a tight hamstring, and sat out the second half of practice. It's nothing serious.

  • One of the more interesting position battles is between senior Dan Ryan and redshirt freshman Jimmy Bennett on the offensive line. "It's Dan's job to lose because of his experience, but Jimmy is putting pressure on him," Edsall said. "(Ryan) has a guy breathing down his neck and who wants to play."

  • Freshman Billy Ferriter joined the football team today in an attempt to win a roster spot. Ferriter, from Nashua, N.H., was an outfielder with the UConn baseball team. He was an all-state quarterback and defensive back in high school, and is trying to make the team as a defensive back and special teams player. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Edsall said he saw some good athleticism from Ferriter.

  • Michael Smith, Marcus Easley, Brad Kanuch and Kashif Moore are the top four wide receivers, but Isiah Moore is closing in quickly. Edsall said Isiah is the closest of several young receivers to being ready, ahead of Brian Parker and Gerrard Sheppard, though all three are making strides. They key for all is getting stronger and being more precise in the routes. None is afraid to get hit, however. More on the young receivers in tomorrow's Register.

  • Randy Edsall served as UConn head coach/sports information director today. He sauntered over near the end of practice to jot down which players Chuck Banning of the Day, Zac Boyer of rivals.com and myself would like to speak with, then rounded them up for us when practice was over. He even yelled at the players who were dilly-dallying to hurry up and come talk to us. Think Jim Leavitt does that for the South Florida media? Edsall then retreated to his office to work on game notes and the media guide.

  • What will they do with the highway sign just off exit 68 on I-84 commemorating UConn's 2004 men's and women's basketball national championships? Do they take it down and replace it when both win titles next week? Do they simply add the year 2009 to the old one? What if one team wins and the other doesn't...will they toss one team's 2004 accomplishment aside? Is that politically correct? Does anyone but me care?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Chip. With the depth of sheer physical talent increasing each year in a growing program, is it premature to have high expectations this year? Clearly Frazier and Endres are lightyears ahead of recent years' QB's in throwing the ball. I'm sensing a big breakout year for the program, a truimphant return to South Bend for Frazier, and could we perhaps a bowl bid among the conference's top three slots??? This could be like Rutgers or USF a couple of seasons ago.

April 05, 2009 9:01 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you know that DJ Hernandez is player coach of a team in a fledgling football league in Austria? I guess its not just the NFL/CFL with opportunities, eh? Speaking of DJ, hands down he is the poster boy for what is easily the most most memorable play (and game) in UCONN football history vs. Pitt in '06. Nothing remotely compares, and the 4th quarter of that game should be beamed on big screens in the parking lot and in the stadium before every game as a reminder to the semi-fans to stick around 'til the end.

April 05, 2009 9:12 AM 

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