Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tuesday notes: No. 19 Tar Heels on deck

I was running a little late driving up to Storrs for Randy Edsall's 11:30 a.m. press conference. I also needed gas badly but didn't have time to stop, so I got to play the always thrilling game of chicken with my gas gauge, which was actually below the last empty notch when I hit campus. But I made it. Whether I have enough left in the tank to make it from UConn to a gas station is another matter.

On to the Tuesday notes...

  • The bar has been raised for Trevardo Williams, who surprised the UConn coaching staff with his sparkling debut. Trevardo, who moved to Bridgeport from Jamaica at 9, is an interesting guy. Very soft spoken, he saw hit future in track and field until a friend convinced him to try out for the Bridgeport Central team as a freshman. In five years, he's come quite a ways. Still undersized (he's 6-1, 221), he's going to be too fast for many an offensive tackle. Once he puts on some more weight, he could be a true terror. More on Trevardo in Wednesday's Register.
  • One more note on Trevardo. As a junior in high school in 2007, he ran a 10.69 in the 100 at the CIAC Class LL Championships. At the State Open that year, he lost to Terrell Wilks of Hillhouse (who set a state record with an insanely fast 10.42), but easily beat former UConn defensive end Marcus Campbell. Williams ran 10.74; Campbell ran 11.02.

  • Even more telling as to how fast Williams is? At the New England Open that same year, Williams ran a 10.94 to finish in second place. Jordan Todman, running the same race while at North Dartmouth (Mass.) High, finished seventh with a 11.17. Williams says he's not as fast now as he was then because of the additional weight for football, but it's still close.
  • Lindsey Witten was the Big East defensive player of the week, and Edsall is expecting huge things from him this season. The first game was a good start. "Sometimes you just see the light go one with a kid," Edsall said. "With Lindsey in the preseason, you could see the light went on."
  • Edsall is only giving injury updates on Sundays and Thursdays now. So, he had nothing new on Scott Lutrus' condition other than he will be at practice today in full gear. Of course, Lutrus told us he's fine and will definitely be in the starting lineup for Saturday.
  • Cody Brown, on injured reserve with Arizona, sent a text to Edsall. He had watched the Ohio game, and told the coach to tell Lindsey to stop bull-rushing so much and to use his speed. "I guess Lindsey's performance still wasn't good enough for Cody," Edsall joked. Brown is going to try and finish his degree online now that his season is over.
  • Zach Frazer needs to see the big picture and do what the defense dictates him to do, Edsall said. His biggest problem Saturday was staying on certain routes too long and not seeing other things that would have been better options.
  • Edsall stressed balance in the offense is the main thing he's striving for, and that means more in terms of yardage rather than plays. It's no-huddle, it's multi-dimension. But this isn't a spread offense, a popular misconception. "In this (New England) climate, you have to be able to run the football," Edsall said. "You have to be able to throw the football (also), but first and foremost, you have to run the football." Expect Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon to continue to share the workload.
  • UConn will work to redshirt Marcus Aiken. He was listed as top backup at safety behind Robert Vaughn for Ohio, but the coaches determined he just wasn't ready yet. Gary Wilburn is in there now, and is the nickle back. Edsall also mentioned part of the decision with Aiken is that in a couple of weeks, the Huskies will be getting guys back at that position (Aaron Bagsby).
  • Keith Gray, Dahna Deleston and Tyler Lorenzen were all cut this NFL preseason (sorry, this National Football League preseason). But Five players from last year's squad are currently on NFL rosters: Donald Brown (Colts), Cody Brown (Cards), Will Beatty (Giants), Darius Butler (Pats) and Julius Williams (Jaguars). Danny Lansahah, released by Green Bay, hooked on with Miami and is reunited with Donald Thomas.
  • To illustrate how far in advance schedules are set, Jeff Hathaway said the North Carolina series was signed in Sept. 2000 and Baylor in March of 2001. Ohio was a return game originally slated for Sept. 2002, and was moved a year later after UConn entered the Big East a year sooner than expected. That's how UConn wound up with a rather tough home opener this season, contrary to the usual "easy" opponent we've seen the past several seasons. Hathaway also mentioned if a team has an open slot, the Big East as the right to come in and use that date for a conference game, which is why we saw Cincinnati and Rutgers on Labor Day (a game I'm sure Rutgers is wishing was a little later in the season now).
  • Hathaway was on hand to promote a new student initiative, the message to fans is essentially to come to the games and be loud, but do it in a way that's wholesome and fun for the whole family. "We want fans to come early, cheer the Huskies onto the field, and stay to the end," Hathaway said.
  • There are still around 4,000 tickets left for the North Carolina game. Hathaway carries some around in his pocket, and, apparently, he'll accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express if you want some.
  • Punt protection problems marred UConn last season, none more apparent than the North Carolina game when Bruce Carter blocked three himself. Edsall said changes have been made in that area. The objective? To simplify. The Huskies are running a new scheme called simply "The Shield". No word on whether Michael Chiklis helped develop the plan, but Edsall said it allows them to simplify the blocking schemes in an attempt to avoid missed assignments. No one bothered to pick up Carter last season, and it was a running theme. "It spreads guys out, and doesn't clog the middle," said Lutrus, who is on punt protection. "Last year we were twisted and king of tight in our protection."

  • You'll never convince me that the Chiklis from "The Commish" is the same guy as the Chiklis from "The Shield". Unless aliens are somehow involved. And why doesn't Hollywood test for performance-enhancing drugs like baseball? Chiklis' body transformation may have come naturally, but look at that head.

Think of Chiklis every time UConn gets into punt protection formation this season.

  • Punter Desi Cullen may still be waking up in a cold sweat, with visions of Carter jumping out from the closet dancing through his mind. He says he's done his best to put that game out of his mind, but would be lying if he said thoughts of the North Carolina game don't occasionally creep into his thoughts.
That's it. If you see a Jetta stranded on Route 150 between UConn and the I-84 entrance ramp, feel free to pull over and give me a lift to a gas station, would you?

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