Monday, December 21, 2009

Huskies focused on South Carolina

Final exams are over, and UConn returned to practice over the weekend in preparation for the Bowl. It was brunch with the Huskies today, the only media session before the team leaves for Birmingham next week. Here's a taste of some news.

  • Cody Endres has been practicing, and worked with the second team in practice over the weekend. However, he will not be cleared in time for the game and won't play. Johnny McEntee remains the backup to Zach Frazer.

  • Alex Polito is out with mono, but is expected to return after the Christmas break.

  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson will have shoulder surgery right after the bowl game. "He's played with a bum shoulder all year," Edsall said. "And he's had the ankle to go with it."

  • Erik Kuraczea is moving better on the bad leg that sidelined him late in the year, and is "more viable" an option to play in the bowl, Edsall said. More will be known in the next few days, but the plan is for Matthew Olivier to start at guard.

  • Olivier is still planning to leave UConn despite having one more year of eligibility. He had told Edsall that about a month ago, but since he returned to the starting lineup, Edsall asked him again after the South Florida game. Nothing's changed, Edsall said.

  • What word comes to mind when Randy Edsall thinks of Lawrence Wilson? "Inconsistent," Edsall says. Despite his status as the Big East's leading tackler on the heels of a huge season, Edsall thinks Wilson hasn't even brushed the surface of what he can become. "He makes a lot of tackles, but he is still inconsistent. He has to be more physical. He has to play and practice to a higher level. That's not to say he's a bad player. But he could be better."

  • Wilson wasn't surprised at all when I told him Edsall thinks he's been inconsistent. "He gets on me all the time in practice," Wilson said. "He's going to push to get the most out of his players. That's what good coaches do, they don't give you a break no matter how good you're doing. Sometimes I can get a little lazy. They want me to play physical all the time, not just sometimes, and not take any plays off. The best thing you can do is listen to it and learn."

  • Wilson grew up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., about 30 minutes from Birmingham, and is thrilled to be playing a bowl game so close to home. He's been to Legion Field for the state high school championships, though only to watch, and will have a big family contingent on hand for the bowl game. He's also excited about playing an SEC opponent having watched a lot of Alabama football. No SEC teams were interested in Wilson coming out of Paul Bryant High. "UConn was the only team that offered me (a scholarship)," Wilson said. Averaging 107 tackles over the last three seasons, and with 136 and counting this fall, some of those teams might regret overlooking him now.

  • Seeing the Cincinnati Bengals lose on a last-second field goal to the Chargers just days after Chris Henry's death triggered some familiar feelings for Edsall. "It was eerie to see them lose like that, then think of how we lost at West Virginia," Edsall said.

  • Did Edsall know of Marcus Easley when he was a high school player in Stratford? "Nope," Edsall said. "I didn't know who he was when he was on campus until he came to see me to say he wanted to try out." Now, Easley is perhaps the best receiver UConn has ever produced with a chance to be a first-day NFL draft pick. He's 6-2, 215 pounds and ran a hand-timed 4.39 40 in the spring. He also has an incredible ability to catch anything thrown his way. "If we threw the ball better the previous two years, maybe we'd have had a better weapon," Edsall said.

  • Steve Spurrier spoke to us via phone at noon. Here's a little of what he had to say. "I just met Randy at the press conference last week at Birmingham, but certainly, I follow UConn football and watched just about all of the UConn-Notre Dame game. I admired the way they ran it down Notre Dame's throat at the end of the game, and overcame those two holding penalties that were a little suspect. I talked to Randy about that. Those were close ones, as they say. But it didn't bother the UConn guys, and I really admired the way they hung in there and won in overtime."

  • I was hoping to hear Spurrier open the teleconference by saying, "Yeah, this is the head ball coach". Instead, I had to settle for this on You Tube.

  • The Huskies practice until Wednesday, then will be allowed to return home for Christmas from Wednesday night until the 26th. Then it's practice on the 27th and 28th, a walk-through on the 29th before they head out to Alabama at 3 p.m. that day. They'll return to normal practice routines from Wednesday-Friday in Birmingham before the game on Saturday, Jan. 2.


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