Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring (football) is in the air

Now it feels like spring. It finally stopped raining, the weather is phenomenal and the UConn campus is buzzing with activity. The baseball team was playing Boston College, spring football practice opened, and from the bowels of Gampel Pavilion, you can hear dozens of fans getting psyched up for tonight's NIT game with Northeastern.

Here's a few observations from the official start of a new football season:
  • Almost everyone who was supposed to practice today did. Martin Hyppolite is out for a little while with mono, and Michael Lang tweaked a hamstring. He should be ready by Saturday.

  • I won't get too much into who looked good and who didn't today. There were no pads and guys playing in shorts, and as Randy Edsall said today, "everybody's an All-American in shorts". However, Mike Box flashed a strong arm, Marcus Campbell looked very, very fast and new tailback Jonathan-Jean Louis looked like, well, someone new to the tailback position. Edsall says he'll get a lot of repetitions this spring.

  • Campbell is thrilled to be back after missing last semester due to academic dismissal. He took two classes at UConn's Hartford campus and had to reapply like any other student. And while he made the short drive from Bloomfield often to visit teammates, he said he couldn't bear to watch any games at Rentschler Field. "I was too ashamed," Campbell said. "It would have felt wrong, guilty, because I know I should have been out on the field helping the team." Campbell often repeated how grateful he was for the opportunity to be back, and how he wasn't about to let himself slack off in the classroom or on the field. That was evident. Campbell had a good practice, displayed his sprinter's speed (I think I can still run a 10.8 [100 meters], he joked), talked trash with Zach Frazer ("Frazer, you're too slow) and blocked a few passes.

  • Edsall said UConn has never had a pair of defensive ends with the kind of speed Campbell and Trevardo Williams bring. Heck, they were two of the best high school sprinters in the state a few years ago. "Now, it's about fundamentals and technique, so that speed is better utilized," Edsall said. Campbell, at 230 pounds, is targeting 245 for the fall.

  • The Huskies have several returning wide receivers with game experience, and Edsall wants as many as possible who can contribute. One he's looking at is Dwayne Difton, coming off a rough freshman season. "He learned a valuable lesson last year," Edsall said. "It's not easy to go from high school to college. That's why the stars (rating system) aren't fair to young people. The big thing with him is to improve each and every day."

  • With Lutrus a full-time middle linebacker, Edsall expects a strong competition for the Husky backer spot between Kijuan Dabney, Jory Johnson and Emmanuel Omokaro.

  • Frazer bulked up from last season, and says he's about 13 pounds heavier this spring at around 238 pounds. Frazer said there's not much difference with the added weight -- though its not really added weight...he dropped weight last season to get sleeker. It should help him absorb hits.

  • A fair amount of coaches watching today. I wouldn't say there were more there than usual, but not a bad showing.

  • I'm running out of movies on Netflix, so I added a bunch of "classics" I've never seen before to my list. I watched "Citizen Kane" last night. Did it live up to its billing as the greatest movie of all time? Pffft. Not on my list. Your still untouchable at the top, "Cannonball Run".


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