Sunday, August 30, 2009

Depth chart for Ohio game

WR: 3 Brad Kanuch (Sr., 6-1, 192)) 1 Dwayne Difton (Fr., 5-11, 170)
WR: 80 Michael Smith (So., 6-0, 192) OR 82 Kashif Moore (RSo., 5-9, 182) 83 Isiah Moore (RSo, 6-1, 185)
LT: 73 Dan Ryan (RSr., 6-8, 316) 63 Adam Masters (RFr., 6-4, 281)
LG: 66 Mathieu Olivier (RJr., 6-6, 286) 60 Erik Kuraczea (RFr., 6-2, 333)
C: 57 Moe Petrus (RSo., 6-2, 288) 70 Gary Bardzak (RSo., 6-3, 293)
RG: 78 Zach Hurd (RJr., 6-7, 315) 74 Alex LaMagdelaine (RSr., 6-3, 310)
RT: 79 Mike Hicks (RSr., 6-6, 323) 71 Mike Ryan (RSo., 6-5, 324)
TE: 94 Ryan Griffin (RFr., 6-5, 240) 89 John Delahunt (RFr., 6-3, 243)
QB: 10 Zach Frazer (RJr., 6-4, 225) 12 Cody Endres (RSo., 6-4, 223)
TB: 23 Jordan Todman (So., 5-9, 189) 2 Andre Dixon (RSr., 6-1, 202)
FB: 49 Anthony Sherman (Jr., 5-11, 230) 47 Anthony Davis (RJr, 5-10, 243)


DE: 91 Jesse Joseph (Fr., 6-3, 238) 48 Trevardo Williams (Fr., 6-1, 221)
DT: 99 Kendall Reyes (RSo., 6-4, 286) 54 Alex Polito (RJr., 6-6, 287)
DT: 4 Twyon Martin (RSo., 6-2, 271) 52 Brandon Dillon (RSr., 6-3, 292)
DE: 9 Lindsey Witten (Sr., 6-5, 260) 56 Mike Cox (RJr., 6-3, 242)
SLB:* 32 Scott Lutrus (RJr., 6-3, 244) 28 Jory Johnson (RFr., 6-1, 211)
MLB: 95 Greg Lloyd (Jr., 6-2, 245) 10 Greg Robinson (RJr., 6-2, 240)
WLB: 8 Lawrence Wilson (RJr., 6-1, 220) 46 Sio Moore (RFr., 6-1, 219)
CB: 42 Robert McClain (Sr., 5-9, 198) 5 Blidi Wreh-Wilson (RFr., 6-0, 180)
S: 33 Robert Vaughn (Sr., 6-0, 200) 18 Marcus Aiken (Fr., 5-11, 188)
S: 15 Jerome Junior (RFr., 6-1, 212) 19 Kijuan Dabney (Jr., 6-0, 204)
CB: 6 Jasper Howard (Jr., 5-10, 180) 24 Dwyane Gratz (RFr., 6-0, 192)

Special Teams
FG: 38 David Teggart (RSo., 6-0, 214) 13 Desi Cullen (Sr., 6-0, 211)
KO: 13 Desi Cullen (Sr., 6-0, 211) 38 David Teggart (RSo., 6-0, 214)
P: 13 Desi Cullen (Sr., 6-0, 211) 13 Chad Christen (Fr., 6-1, 191)
H: 13 Desi Cullen (Sr., 6-0, 211) 10 Zach Frazer (RJr.., 6-4, 225)
SN: 93 Derek Chard (Jr., 6-3, 235) 54 Alex Polito (RJr., 6-6, 287)
KR: 23 Jordan Todman (So., 5-9, 189) 44 Robbie Frey (RSo., 6-0, 201)
PR: 6 Jasper Howard (Jr., 5-10, 180) 42 Robert McClain (Sr., 5-9, 198)


  • Dave Teggart is the field goal kicker in every situation. Cullen will begin as an emergency backup.
  • Derek Chard, the starter at long snapper and a backup tight end, has earned a full scholarship
  • Gerrard Sheppard and Alex Molina round out the top 7 wide receivers
  • Edsall said Kanuch has been consistent, but said Diton is a good player. Both should see action at the receiver spot.
  • If there's anything that even remotely qualifies as a surprise on the depth chart, it's Marcus Aiken as backup free safety. He just moved there from wide receiver a week ago. Dabney moved from free safety to strong safety, backing up Jerome Junior. Jonathan Jean-Louis is moved from the position and now third string Husky linebacker.
  • The New Haven Register has slotted me in for a weekly live chat every Thursday at 2 p.m. It's a good time slot as it's immediately after Randy Edsall's final conference call prior to the game each week, so we can have good discussion with the latest info leading into each game. I also plan to have fun and make it as entertaining as possible. We start this week. Access the chats via I will also provide a link later in the week.
  • As always, I'm also planning to run my weekly college football picks each Thursday. Feel free to play along and humiliate me with your superior skills at picking winners once again.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Previewing the potential depth chart

The depth chart for the Sept. 5 opener at Ohio will be released on Sunday, but, for the most part, the Runway has been able to piece it together through practice observations and Edsall's comments over the last few weeks. Here's what to expect to see on Sunday.

Zach Frazer
Cody Endres
Michael Box
Johnny McEntee
Casey Turner
Chip sez: Expect Frazer to be the guy all season, with Edsall providing a relatively long leash. Barring injury, or several disastrous performances in a row, I don't expect we'll see anyone else starting. The battle for backup should be competitive between Endres and Box.

Jordan Todman
Andre Dixon
Robbie Frey
Meme Wylie
Chip sez: Todman's carries for the season will lie somewhere between the 47 he received last season and the 367 Donald Brown got. We know Todman has big-play capability, we'll find out how he is as an every-down back soon. Expect to see Dixon and Frey to spell Todman a little more often to keep legs fresh.

Anthony Sherman
Anthony Davis
Chip sez: No surprises here. The Sherminator is a legit weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. Plus, gotta love a Yankees' fan with a Boston accent...Jaw-bah throws wicked haaahd.

Dwayne Difton
Kashif Moore
Michael Smith
Isiah Moore
Marcus Easley
Brad Kanuch
Michael Lang
Gerrard Sheppard
Malik Generett
Chip sez: Lots of young talent, easily interchangeable. Difton is the class of the bunch, the Moores, Smith and Easley should all have plenty of catches. Lang, Sheppard and Generett have potential, but are still raw.

Ryan Griffin
John Delahunt
Chip sez: Griffin is a huge target, and should receive plenty of work from Frazer.

Dan Ryan
Adam Masters

Mathieu Olivier
Alex LaMagdelaine

Moe Petrus
Gary Bardzak
Ben Chapman

Zach Hurd
Erik Kuraczea

Mike Hicks
Mike Ryan
Chip sez: Losing Jimmy Bennett hurts. While there's experience with the starters (only Sir Mathieu Olivier has never started a game before), the backups are still somewhat green.


Lindsey Witten
Mike Cox

Jesse Joseph
Trevardo Williams
A.J. Portee
Chip sez: Losing Cody Brown and Julius Williams (to the NFL) and Marcus Campbell (to grades) weakens the position. It's tough to replace the combination of strength and speed those three brought every game. Witten is capable, but Cox has battled knee injuries and the three on the other side have yet to play a game.

Twyon Martin
Alex Polito

Kendall Reyes
Brandon Dillon
Chip sez: Solid four-man rotation here.

Greg Lloyd
Greg Robinson

Scott Lutrus
Jory Johnson

Lawrence Wilson
Sio Moore
Chip sez: Quality, but not quantity.

Jasper Howard
Dwayne Gratz

Robert McClain
Blidi Wreh-Wilson

Robert Vaughn
Kijuan Dabney

Jonathan Jean-Louis
Jerome Junior
Chip sez: Recent shuffle in the secondary sends Dabney back from linebacker. Jean-Louis and Junior in a battle at strong safety, and could be an 'OR' on the official depth chart.





Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Suspensions and injuries

It's never good news when Randy Edsall comes over to address the media in the middle of practice. So when he ambled over Tuesday morning with a list to talk to us, we knew something was up.

Jimmy Bennett was already sitting in the medical tent with his leg heavily bandaged and in a brace. He'd been injured during Saturday's scrimmage, and the news was bad. He'll have surgery and is finished for the year. Tough break, as Bennett was a promising young talent who as a redshirt freshman gave fifth-year senior Dan Ryan a run at a starting tackle spot. With Bennett done, Adam Masters is now Ryan's back-up, while Mike Ryan will flip over from the right side in a pinch. Sophomore back-up safety John Yurek will also endure season-ending knee surgery.

We also learned tight end Yianni Apostostakos is finished with football due to a degenerative hip condition. Yianni, a third-year sophomore, had talent but has been plagued by injury since his arrival at UConn. He was at practice Monday. "Lead us off, coach Yianni," someone said as the tight ends finished post-practice stretching. So he jogged off the field with his teammates following. Nice gesture.

The bad news didn't stop there. Edsall told us safety Aaron Bagsby and defensive tackle Beau Brunelli were suspended indefinitely due to a violation of university athletic department policy.

With Bagsby out for an undisclosed period, and Harris Agbor shelved for "five or six weeks" (another Edsall update), safety is now quite thin. Kijuan Dabney was moved to strong safety and receiver Marcus Aiken is now a free safety. David Kenney, moved up from safety to linebacker last week when Dabney injured his shoulder, will remain at linebacker. Dabney practiced Tuesday, albeit in a red jersey.

Some other updates:
  • The team practices again later tonight, and finishes training camp Wednesday with a scrimmage. Edsall said the team needs the work, but will limit the total number of plays to help preserve the Huskies' health.

  • Among the players who came to camp in great physical condition were Jasper Howard and Lawrence Wilson. Howard has emerged as a leader on defense while Wilson, who rarely talks, knows what's expected of him.

  • Darius Butler had a day off with the Patriots Saturday and drove down to see UConn practice. Edsall said he spoke to the team and delivered "a great message" about the importance of hard work and such.

  • If it seemed like Mike Hicks' was on the verge of losing his starting job for four years running, that was part of Edsall's motivational plan. "It's just trying to light a fire under his butt," Edsall said. "Make him feel his job isn't secure. The one thing is, Mike always responds. Not that he can't do it on his own, but when you put a little more pressure on, he cranks it up a bit."

  • Jordan Todman is a tougher runner with added strength, but Edsall expects to use Andre Dixon and Robbie Frey often in his running back rotation. Part of that is needing fresh legs in the new offense "we don't have a guy built like Donald Brown, with the strength Donald had", Edsall said. It's also because all three have the ability to make big plays.

  • Lindsey Witten and Mike Cox are set on one end of the defensive line. It looks like Jesse Joseph may have a slight lead on the other starting end spot, with Trevardo Williams and A.J. Portee battling for reps.

  • Edsall said Michael Smith "has improved dramatically sine last year. He runs crisp, sharp routes and is playing a lot better."

  • Michael Box is locked in as third-string quarterback for now, though Edsall likes what he's seen of the true freshman. It sounded like Edsall thinks Box could move into the backup role as the season progresses. Edsall plans to take all of his QB's on the road.

On an unrelated note, I spent Monday working at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament in New Haven. My assignment for the day was a sidebar on Marcos Bahgdatis, but I had a tough time concentrating on the match because of a celebrity sitting two rows in front of me. Yep. Judge Wapner was there checking out the action. At least that's what I assume. The name plate on the reserved box seats read "Joseph Wapner". At a stuffy event like the Pilot Pen, where 90 percent of the crowd comes up from Westchester and Fairfield County? No chance it was a coincidence. But the elderly man and woman sitting there were both in cognito with their massive floppy sun hats and giant sunglasses, so I never got a great look at his face. I thought about pulling a Kramer and making a commotion to get him to turn around (i.e. the Joe DiMaggio sighting in Dinky Donuts). But they demand silence at tennis matches and I figured they'd throw me out of the stadium if I kept yelling "10 minutes to Wapner".

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Moore going from lucky to good

Sio Moore knows he’s been lucky on many levels.

Lucky to be contributing to the UConn football team as a redshirt freshman linebacker. Lucky to be majoring in resource economics. Lucky to have dodged a bullet aimed at his head.

Lucky to be alive.

Five years ago, Moore was an impressionable 14-year old. Born in Liberia, his family moved to the U.S. shortly after his birth to escape an escalating civil war, soon settling in West Haven.

Moore had potential as a football player. But he wasn’t exactly a model student or citizen.
“I wasn’t hanging around the right people,” Moore said earlier this week after finishing up a double practice session at UConn. “I was getting myself into situations I shouldn’t have been in. It took a near-death event for me to realize the path I was going down was the wrong one.”
One night, he says he was lingering around after a late-night party had been shut down. Gunshots were fired. He took off running, only to hear more shots ring out behind him.
“A bullet went right by my right ear and hit a car next to me,” Moore said. “That haunted me for a good while. I kept thinking about it. What if I turned around at the wrong time? That bullet would have hit me in the head.”
He decided a change was necessary. It would begin with a new environment. He phoned his sister, Tiplah, older by 19 years, in Apex, N.C., and asked to move in with her family.
Living with Tiplah and Grady Broadnax gave Moore the basis to change his life. He developed into a major college football prospect, but also a student with goals beyond football.
“My sister was always like a mom and a sister because she’s so much older,” Moore said. “And her husband is a guy I really looked up to because I saw how he took care of his family and is able to live a comfortable lifestyle. Seeing that, as I got older I realized I wanted to be able to take care of my family and be successful.”
In the summer of 2007, not long after finishing his junior year of high school, Moore accepted a scholarship to UConn. He briefly toyed with the idea of returning to live with his mother and attend West Haven High, but ultimately returned to Apex.
Since arriving in Storrs last summer, Moore has gotten bigger and stronger. He’s added over 20 pounds of muscle, and increased his bench press from 300 to 370 pounds. He also had the luxury of learning to play linebacker by watching the Huskies’ talented starting crew of Scott Lutrus, Lawrence Wilson and Greg Lloyd.
“There’s so much you can learn from guys like that,” Moore said. “They are such good players.”
Still raw, Moore has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief career. He was named scout team player of the week four times in the fall. At the annual Blue-White Spring Game in April, Moore registered a game-high 17 tackles.
UConn coach Randy Edsall bumped Moore up to backup weakside linebacker behind junior Lawrence Wilson, himself a Freshman All-America in 2007.
Moore has continued to impress during preseason camp. On Thursday, the second of two practices in 95-degree August heat, he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown during a live scrimmage.
But afterward, Moore could only think about the plays he didn’t make.
“It’s nice to have one, but I should have had three,” he said, shaking his head.
Moore is being hard on himself. It’s a trickle down effect. Edsall has been pushing him all preseason. Moore has otherworldly ability, but is still learning the nuances of the position.
“One play he looks like an All-American,” Edsall said. “The next play, he looks like he’s never played the game before. We just need him to be more consistent.”
Moore’s main contribution this fall will begin with special teams, where Edsall has him involved in all facets. The screaming from Edsall, and he’s heard plenty over the last three weeks, doesn’t bother Moore in the least.
“Him being hard on me like that is a positive thing,” Moore says. “There are little things I need to improve technique wise.”
Moore also has a post-football plan in place. Sort of.
“I’m not sure exactly what I want to do,” Moore said. “All I know is I want a Fortune 500 job.”


Thursday, August 20, 2009

More from Thursday's open practice

Post practice updates...
  • The injuries to Lindsey Witten and Mike Hicks aren't believed to be serious. Edsall expects them both to be back by Saturday. Receiver Kashif Moore didn't practice as a precaution with a tweaked hamstring. Erik Kuraczea is back at practice after having "his bell rung" last week.
  • Kijuan Dabney was hurt during a blitz drill Wednesday. His status is unknown, pending more examinations, but in the meantime David Kenney has been moved up from defensive back to back-up Husky position. He'll remain there as long as Dabney is out.
  • Michael Smith's grandmother passed, and he left campus to attend her funeral.
  • Linebacker Jerome Williams suffered a burst appendix earlier in the summer, and underwent a difficult surgery that was touch and go. He is slowly working his way back, and will be limited much of this fall.
  • Those who were at practice got to see how exciting a player Dwayne Difton really is; the rest of you will be pleasantly surprised this season. Difton evoked images of Donald Brown by stiff-arming Jasper Howard to the turf on one play. Howard got up and drilled Difton, who was already out of bounds, with Difton laughing at his "big brother". Howard has taken Difton, a fellow south Floridian, under his wing, and the two have become close. "It's the same thing Darius Butler did with me," Howard said. "I want to make him feel at home." Still, the pair like to go at it in practices. Howard has been impressed with Difton's ability. "Whatever he was, 4-star, 5-star, he's living up to the billing," Howard said. "He's doing a tremendous job."
  • I, for one, keep forgetting Howard isn't a captain. He's such a natural leader, and has really been working with many of the younger players, not just Difton. He also wants to keep the UConn cornerback tradition of heading to the NFL alive. Bigger and stronger this fall, Howard also seems faster. "I can't slack off," Howard said, speaking about leadership as well as pro aspirations. "Tyvon did it, Darius did it. It's up to me and Reggie."
  • There was a full referee crew on hand for today's practice, and if I didn't know better I swear the umpire was Tom Morello, the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine. Could have been his twin brother.
  • Bulls, err...Huskies on parade?

  • Michael Box and Cody Endres got more action this afternoon simply because it was the second session of the day, so Zach Frazer got a bit of a break. Both looked good, Box in particular. He seems to be a heady player with lots of potential.

  • Netflixed Iron Maiden: Flight 666 last night (which I watched by myself...the wife isn't as enamoured with 80s metal as I am). Great documentary. Iron Maiden is truly a global band, drawing crowds in excess of 100,000 for concerts in places like India, Costa Rica, Mexico and Columbia. In Brazil and Argentina, the band is revered as true rock gods. They were greeted by tens of thousands of fans both at the airport and hotel...incredible. The coolest part is lead singer Bruce Dickinson is also a commercial airline pilot, and personally flies the group and their entire road crew and equipment on a customized 757, known as Ed Force One. Worth watching if you're into that kind of thing. If not, I'll stop now.

Two .... touch down...

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Open practice updates

Turned out to be a nice day for open pratice, though a bit on the hot side. Lots of people lining the sidelines. Some news and observations from mid-practice.

  • Kijuan Dabney has his left arm in a sling. Lindsay Witten hobbled off early on in practice, and has been sitting under the injury tent. Blidi Wreh-Wilson is practing, though he's in a red jersey. Not sure why. Mike Hicks went off and has ice on his right ankle.

  • Recruit Bjorn Werner of Berlin, Germany, now playing at the Salisbury School, is here. So is Seymour's Mike Osiecki.

  • Sio Moore had an interception and touchdown off a tipped pass from Cody Endres. Later, Endres threw another interception that was returned for a touchdown by Dwayne Gratz. Endres then had to pass Edsall, screaming in his ear to chase down the runner.

More soon...


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What the future holds (so far)


UConn’s future non-conference football schedules to date. Note the Towson game in 2013, the return of Rob Ambrose. Don't expect big-name opponents to fill open dates in 2011 and 2012, as there are already two BCS games scheduled and Edsall has been adamant UConn won't play three in a single season after this fall.

Sept. 4: at Michigan
Sept. 18: at Temple
Sept. 25: vs. Buffalo
Oct. 2: vs. Vanderbilt
Oct. 9: vs. Northeastern

Sept. 3: vs. Fordham
Sept. 10: at Vanderbilt
Sept. 17: vs. Iowa State
Sept. 24: at Buffalo
one open date

Aug. 30: vs. UMass
Sept. 8: vs. North Carolina State
Sept. 15: at Maryland
Sept 29: vs. Buffalo
one open date

Aug. 31: vs. Towson
Sept. 7: vs. Maryland
Sept. 14: at Buffalo
Sept. 21: vs. Michigan
Sept. 28: vs. Temple


Sept. 26: vs. Tennessee

Sept. 3: at Tennessee


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Big East gets a new bowl

The Big East Conference has reached a four-year agreement with the Champs Sports Bowl to send a team to the Orlando, Fla., game beginning in the 2010 season.

The Champs Sports Bowl will have the first selection from the Big East after the league’s BCS representative has been determined. The Big East's opponent for the game for 2010-13 is to be determined. The payout to the Big East could reach $2.4 million.

Big East officials said all options are being explored for an opponent. Notre Dame is part of the package, eligible to go once every four years as long as it finishes 7-5 or better and are within two wins of an eligible Big East team. So, a 7-5 ND team can be taken over a 9-3 Big East team.

The Big East also hopes to make another bowl announcement shortly, commissioner John Marinatto said. Marinatto also said the Sun Bowl remains "very much" in the picture with the Big East.

”We are thrilled to be a partner with the Champs Sports Bowl, said Marinatto. “I know our schools are very excited about the agreement. Orlando is an outstanding destination for our teams and fans. It’s going to be a great experience for everyone. The Champs Sports Bowl is an outstanding addition to the BIG EAST bowl lineup.”

“We are very excited about gaining another top pick through the BIG EAST and Notre Dame,” said Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports. “If we are successful in signing our other planned selections, it will be tough to argue that Orlando doesn’t deliver the best week of the college football postseason.”

The Champs Sports Bowl will have the opportunity to select Notre Dame once during the four-year agreement.

The dates for the Champs Sports Bowl will remain Dec. 27, 28 or 29. The game will have an exclusive window on ESPN.

Since 1994, the BIG EAST has had a relationship with the Gator Bowl that has included the conference’s top selection after the BCS representative has been determined. “We have been fortunate to have had a long and fruitful partnership with the Gator Bowl for 16 years,” said Marinatto. “We enjoyed the relationship, but our athletic directors and head football coaches were unanimous in the decision to forge a deal with the Champs Sports Bowl.”

Michigan series finalized

The University of Connecticut has finalized an agreement with the University of Michigan for a home-and-home football series in the 2010 and 2013 seasons. UConn will travel to Ann Arbor on Sept. 4, 2010 to play in Michigan Stadium while the Wolverines will come to Rentschler Field on Sept. 21, 2013 to take on the Huskies.

“It is very exciting for our football program to have a series with Michigan,” says UConn head coach Randy Edsall. “We want to challenge our team by playing a strong non-conference schedule in addition to the BIG EAST slate we face every year. Michigan is a nationally-prominent program and we are happy to have them on our future schedule.”

The contest at Michigan next season will serve as the rededication game of the historic stadium after a large-scale renovation. Connecticut’s home game with Northeastern in 2010, originally scheduled on Sept. 2, will now be played on Oct. 9.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Scheduling, bowls and more from Media Day

Part III...(theme from Eye of the Tiger now running through my head)...
  • Erik Kuraczea won't be practicing until Wednesday. He's gotten himself in better shape, but still needs to trim some of his listed 333 pounds, according to coaches.

  • Harris Agbor suffered a LCL injury to his knee, and could be out as long as six weeks. Robert McClain missed three days this weekend with the flu, but should be back Tuesday.

  • No surprises on the linebacker depth chart. It's Lutrus-Dabney; Lloyd-Robinson and Wilson-Sio Moore. "We're a little thin at linebacker," Edsall said.

  • Moore will see significant special teams action, Edsall said. Physically, he's gotten bigger and stronger since arriving here a year ago. His weight is up to 227 from 204, and he's now bench-pressing 370 pounds (up from 300) while maintaining his above-average athleticism and speed. "I'm always looking at Scott and Bama (Wilson)," Moore said. "Watching them has made the transition much more fluid. They're good players, and I know I can learn a lot from them."

  • Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt have separated themselves from the pack at tight end, which includes Corey Manning, Yianni Apostolakos and Derek Chard.

  • Edsall on future scheduling: "There's rhymes and reasons why you want to schedule certain teams," he said. "Does it make sense to schedule games against UCLA or someone on the West Coast? I don't know, maybe two or three years from now when our program is a bit more nationally noted you might do something like that. Now, we've got Michigan, Tennesse, NC State, Maryland, teams along those lines coming in, Vanderbilt next year. You're getting that cross-section of teams, we might maybe go to (another) Big 10 team from the Midwest. Maybe someday we'll play someone from the Pac-10, but I don't think that would be a yearly type of a situation."

  • Edsall said the possibility of a Big East bowl lineup including the BCS bowl, Champs Sports Bowl, Sun Bowl and Meineke Car Care Bowl as the top games, which is what's been reported, is fine by him. "Notre Dame will be part of the package," Edsall said. "We as coaches understand that and embrace it. We're not disappointed with that at all."

Edsall calls out CIAC

Part II from today...

Edsall spoke of how hypocritical the CIAC is with its current football set-up, particularly the playoff system which teams could play three games in a 9-day span.

“It’s crazy,” Edsall said. “They say everything is about player safety, but then they contradict themselves by asking kids to play three games in nine days. They play Thanksgiving Day, then if you make the playoffs you play the following Tuesday and then the following Saturday. To me it’s not fair to the kids and it’s not the way you should have a state championship in my opinion.”

Edsall would like to see Connecticut change policy to become more like other states by beginning football practice in early August instead of August 24, then finish the regular season the first week of November and begin playoffs with a larger field.

"It could still all be finished by the first or second week of December," said Edsall, who compared the CIAC with the Ivy League in terms of its slowness to adapt change.

Connecticut high school players are far behind other states in terms of experience and coaching because they have less time to practice and play games. Take Difton's alma mater, St. Thomas Aquinas of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. They played 30 games the past two seasons, more than double what Connecticut's best team played over that span. Florida schools also have longer preseason and spring training camps. That gives Florida players a distinct advantage, and several other states have similar rules.

"I sat down and figured it out once, and it's like an extra year and a half of football over a four-year span in Florida," Edsall said.

Another Media Day in the books

Tons of info, and time is short. I will be posting notes in 20 minute bursts starting's part one:
  • Zach Frazer's throwing mechanics aren't great, but he's past the point of being broken down and starting all over from square one like one might do with a golf swing, Edsall said. "To change his whole throwing motion now, it's too hard to do where he's at. He just has to deliver the ball on time. He accuracy could be better, but he has leadership and knowledge of the position and he does have a strong throwing arm," Edsall said.

  • The team got to see the depth chart after a 145-play scrimmage Sunday afternoon. Here's a little of what we know about it. Quarterback: 1) Frazer; 2) Endres; 3) Michael Box; 4) Johnny McEntee (though he's right there with Box, Edsall said) and 5) Casey Turner.

  • On the offensive line, experience has pushed Dan Ryan past Jimmy Bennett at left tackle. Edsall says Bennett has a ton of talent, but just isn't quite ready yet. At center, it's Moe Petrus, LaMagdelaine (who can also play tackle) and Bardzak in that order. Zach Hurd starts at RG, with Adam Masters backing him up; Mike Hicks at right tackle with Mike Ryan second string; Matt Olivier backed up by Kuraczea at left guard. "We feel we have 11 guys, some are further along, but if we have to put them in we won't feel too bad," Edsall said.

  • Dwayne Difton was a popular guy today, and with good reason. He's moved into a role where he'll be utilized a lot as a starting wide receiver. "Yeah," Edsall said. "He could (start)." Difton reminds Edsall of Darius Butler, right down to Difton choosing the No. 1 jersey worn by Butler. Difton is confident and talented. "He's as good a route runner as I've seen as a freshman," Edsall said. "He has good hands and courage. He's not afraid to go across the middle."

  • Here's what Difton said when asked what kind of receiver he sees himself as with these choices: a) someone who goes deep b) someone who goes over the middle or c) someone who gets the ball in space and makes people miss. "All of the above," Difton said. "I just want to catch the ball, that's it." More on Difton tomorrow.

  • Todman and Robbie Frey are your kickoff returners. Howard will return punts.

Monday, August 10, 2009

UConn media hard at work.

This was taken minutes before I burst into flames from the oppressive heat. Next time, I'm bringing an umbrella and chair like Desmond's. Thanks to Pat Eaton-Robb of the Associated Press for the photo.

First practice: No day at the beach

Sometimes you have to make snap decisions; you know, things along the lines of…do I want to look like a fool or do I want to be comfortable. I opened my car’s trunk outside the UConn football practice facility this afternoon and looked at my wife’s lime green beach chair with pink stripes. I then mulled that very question…for about a nanosecond.

It was 92 degrees and I was about to spend two-plus hours watching practice in the blazing August sun. I was bringing the beach chair. Comfort beats looking like an idiot by a mile on days like today. Plus, Desmond from the Hartford Courant looked really comfortable on his portable chair (his was much more dignified, but I digress).

As I entered the practice fields, Desi Cullen gave me a nod of approval (or he might have said 'dude, you're not at the beach'). Odd looks and snickering made no difference, I had a seat with which to work. Besides, it’s far from the most ridiculous I’ve ever looked.

Here’s a rundown of practice today (written from a beach chair on a football field).

  • Lots of Mohawks today; let’s just say some players wear them better than others. Scott Lutrus looks like Road Warrior Hawk. Brad Kanuch looks like a roadie for Blink 182. On a side note, one of the other linebackers should have gotten the Road Warrior Animal reverse Mohawk. And I realize I’m losing some of you with 80s tag-team wrestling references.

  • Gotta love the ‘welcome to college football’ moments. During a one-on-one drill between receivers and defensive backs, 5-foot-7 corner Jasper Howard jammed 6-foot-5 true freshman receiver Malik Generett hard at the line of scrimmage. Generett couldn’t go anywhere, then spun to late to the outside to catch a pass. He missed. “C’mon Malik!” Howard woofed. “You’re 6-5, cuz!”

  • Only a trio of players didn’t practice, running various strength drills on the sides; defensive tackle Beau Brunelli, defensive end A.J. Portee and fullback Brett Manning, all reserves. Only Brunelli, who had ACL surgery in the spring, is out for extended time. The others should be back by Friday or early next week.

  • Make no mistake, it was a hot one. The players started strong, but, as Randy Edsall said later, they began to wilt around the 90 minute mark. The final 10 minutes, Edsall was in rare form. Among those who caught an earful were Kijuan Dabney and Sio Moore. But it was Moe Petrus who got the brunt of Edsall's rage for dogging it. "The guy just needs to grow up," Edsall told media afterward.
  • Andre Dixon worked as hard as anyone today. He later said he knows this is his final opportunity to play. Asked if he mulled not returning this year, he said "If Don (Brown)came back, I probably would have left. He had such a great year, I don't think he was about to slow down, so who knows."

  • There's only so much stock you can put into drills, but freshmen wide receivers Dwayne Difton and Michael Lang looked quick with decent hands. But as Edsall said, we'll know how ready they are once they're practicing in full pads and getting hit. It's still early, but I also think Marcus Easley will have a big year; as in, lead the team in receptions big.

  • Speaking of receivers, Brian Parker remains ineligible this semester, but unlike Marcus Campbell he remains in school and can practice. He just isn't game eligible. Also, K.C. Chambers left the team due to a university discipline issue, according to Edsall. Linebacker Matt Ashmead graduated over the summer and opted not to return.
  • Again, it's only the first day, but Zach Frazer looked pretty darn good. We mentioned this during the spring, but he has transformed his body into a sleeker version (he's listed as 6-4, 225). That's a testament to how hard he's worked, Edsall said.
  • Michael Box, freshman quarterback from Suwanee, Ga., took No. 4. I kept thinking he was Tyler Lorenzen. The list of invited walk-ons included receiver Eric Sawicki of Frankfort, Ill.; offensive lineman Stephen Brown of Clifton Park, N.Y.; receiver Cole Wagner of York, Pa. and long snapper (that's his listed position) Glenn Kolebrenner of Santa Monica, Calif.
That's it. Sweat is now pouring onto my keyboard, and the 'c' key is getting stuck.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

More on scheduling

Left this out of the previous post: UConn coach Randy Edsall said this fall will likely be the last time the Huskies schedule non-conference games against three BCS opponents. UConn plays Baylor (Big XII), North Carolina (ACC) and Notre Dame. "We'll play two BCS opponents in the same year," Edsall said. "But based on the strength of our conference, I don't see us playing three any more."

Edsall has repeatedly stated his ideal non-conference slate would include annual games against Army, Boston College and a Division I-AA opponent. One other, ideally, would be against a BCS team. Army hasn't been receptive to rekindling the series with UConn, and everyone knows the deal with Boston College. Non-conference scheduling isn't easy, a reason coaches are pushing for a 9th football member for the Big East.

Newport News

Greetings from the basement of the Hotel Viking, the swankiest hotel in Newport. Yours truly woke up at 5 a.m. to make the drive up this morning. Several cups of black coffee later, I'm still going strong...but looking to avoid a crash.

The latest from Big East Media Day:
  • UConn's series from Michigan is in the final stages. The contracts are in the hands of lawyers to shore up minor details, but it's set to roll. It's major on many levels, including future scheduling. That proposed six-year deal with Notre Dame, with three in South Bend and three at NFL sites? A source with some clout in the matter told me not long ago that the series, as proposed, is dead. UConn is unwilling to pursue the series as proposed, with no games at the Runway. Bolstered by Michigan and Tennessee, both on deck in coming years, UConn doesn't need to play anyone at neutral sites now. Not even almighty Notre Dame.

  • New Big East commissioner John Marinatto was democratic in speaking of the future of the conference as far as new bowl agreements and expansion, but the coaches are in agreement that something needs to be done. The league as a football conference is treading water, in the words of one coach. Agreements and deals are up soon, and there is pressure on Marinatto to improve the situation.

  • Representatives from the BCS as well as the Gator, Sun and the other four Big East-affiliated bowls were all on hand today.

  • Randy Edsall deemed it a quiet summer, meaning no major problems or injuries.

  • UConn was in a familiar spot in the polls: sixth. Seems they've been there just about every season. "Maybe it will start practice off with a fire, but we don't really concern ourselves with the polls," UConn fullback and co-captain Anthony Sherman said. "We have to worry about winning games. The polls will work themselves out in the end."

  • Desi Cullen's goal for the day was to win "best dressed player" honors, and he may have succeeded. On first glance, I saw his all-white suit and thought, "he looks like Colonel Sanders". But, it turned out to be quite the ensemble. Very GQ. "All these guys are wearing dark suits," Cullen said. "Look, we're in Newport in the summertime. You have to wear white." All Desi needed was a yacht and a glass of champagne and he would have blended right in with the old-money crowd.

  • Once again, South Florida's Jim Leavitt was in rare form. He spent the morning yukking it up with anyone and everyone, the antithesis of his football season personality. My theory is he sends a stunt double to Newport each year while the real coach Leavitt is in a dark room in Tampa poring over game film.

  • Randy Edsall loves the depth on the defensive line, and doesn't see any changes. The four-man rotation at defensive tackle is perfect, and there are plenty of ends. He doesn't feel the same about the depth at linebacker, although there's some big-time talent at the top.

  • The captains chose "Sacrifice to win" as the team motto for the season.

That's it for now. Maybe more before I head back to Connecticut.