Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No way to avoid Lloyd and more Tuesday notes

First weekly media luncheon in the books (turkey, stuffing, gravy and complimentary EKG tests...good times...just hope I don't pass out on my keyboard from the tryptophan). Lots to cover. So loosen that belt buckle (I had no choice) and dig in.
  • The coaches could see Greg Lloyd was ready to return at least a week ago, perhaps longer. He was doing everything well in practice, and lit it up in team scrimmages. "As we kept watching him do things and watching practice, we saw a guy who had gotten back to where he was before," Randy Edsall said. "I talked to the defensive coaches and said the guy is ready to go."

  • The players were as surprised as anyone at how quickly Lloyd regained his form. "He was at the bottom of the depth chart, and no one was even expecting him to play," linebacker Scott Lutrus said. "All of a sudden, he had moved up and was back to his old self. It's nice to have that experience back on the field."

  • Edsall wasn't very willing to give much in terms of how certain players will be used. D.J. Shoemate and Robbie Frey should both see the ball in relief of Jordan Todman at tailback. Given the very different running styles, expect Shoemate to be a short-yardage and goal line back and Frey used in situations where he can use his speed.

  • Punters Cole Wagner and Chad Christen will also likely both be used, as Edsall alluded to the fact that one is better at directional punting and the other is more of a distance, hang-time guy.

  • Is Leon Kinnard a full-time wide receiver now, or is he still working at quarterback? "Leon is an athlete," Edsall said with a sly grin. "He's not a wide receiver, he's not a quarterback. He's an athlete and has picked things up very well. How he'll be used, I'm not going to tell you. You'll have to watch the game to see if we do anything other than have him at wide receiver."

  • A crowd of over 112,000 will be on hand in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Saturday (with standing room tickets, apparently, making it the largest crowd in college football history). In talking about how he prepares the team for that kind of noise Edsall mentioned an interesting stat. The Michigan Stadium crowd will be larger than every city or town in the state of Connecticut except Bridgeport (139K, per 2000 U.S. census), New Haven (123K), Hartford (121K) and Stamford (117K).

  • Jerome Junior missed some time this preseason with a head injury, but Harris Agbor was simply more consistent at safety than Junior, and that's why Agbor gets the start. Junior will play in some situations, but Edsall, in his expanded role as safeties coach, said he has more confidence in Agbor right now. Similar comment with Taylor Mack and Gilbert Stlouis, the backup corners. Both are shifty, quick and physical, Edsall said.

  • How is Gilbert's last name not spelled St. Louis? Or shouldn't it at least be pronounced as one quick word...something like Stellewis or STAH-louis? It defies all rules of phonetics.

  • Mike Box is "a lot like Dan Orlovsky, except he's a much better athlete than Dan," Edsall said. Edsall also said he expects Orlovsky to text him as soon as ge gets wind of the comment. My guess is the text from Dan O will look something like this..."I'll believe it when he signs a $9.15 million contract."

  • Zach Frazer was recruited by Michigan out of high school (it was his No. 2 choice behind Notre Dame) and has watched a game in Michigan Stadium. So he's familiar with the atmosphere and what kind of noise a crowd of 113,000 might bring. "It's going to be loud," Frazer said. "But one of our goals is 'OK, there's 110,000 people there, how quiet can we get them?'"

  • Just how big a crowd is 113,000? When UConn played at Notre Dame last November, it was the largest crowd for a UConn game in school history at 80,795. To get to 113K, you'd have to pour in a sellout crowd from a Pearl Jam concert at Madison Square Garden (was going to say Knicks game, but that analogy won't work anymore) as well as a sellout crowd from a UConn game at Gampel Pavilion, and you're still a couple thousand short. Mix in the attendance from the Saturday's Pilot Pen Tennis final, and you're there.

  • Frazer has been known to prepare home-cooked meals for his offensive linemen and tight ends in the past. Baked ziti. Chicken. (The secret to his chicken? A dash of rosemary). Then perhaps a nice Apple Brown Betty or tiramisu for dessert. And yes, I totally made up the part about the secret ingredient and dessert. (It's not a dash of rosemary. More like a pinch). But on Sunday night, he and D.J. Shoemate splurged and took them all out for wings and burgers at Hooters. "It was nice," Frazer said. "They do a lot for me during the season, and it won't be the last time I take them out for dinner."

  • Injury updates won't come until Thursdays now, per regulations. My weekly Thursday fireside chats are returning, too. They begin this week at 2 p.m. at http://www.nhregister.com/. I'm still on the fence about running my weekly football picks each Thursday. Only one or two of you seem even remotely interested in it, so let me know what you think. Hope to see you Thursday.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dept chart for Michigan

Couple of surprises. Looks like Greg Lloyd is doing just fine, as he's listed as the starting MLB. Scott Lutrus moves over to Husky backer. Harris Agbor will start at safety over Jerome Junior, and the punting spot is still undecided.

WR: 80 Michael Smith (Jr., 6-0, 202)
88 Gerrard Sheppard (RSo., 6-2, 209)

WR: 82 Kashif Moore (RJr., 5-9, 180)
14 Leon Kinnard (Fr., 5-9, 182)

WR: 83 Isiah Moore (RJr., 6-1, 190)
1 Dwayne Difton (So., 5-11, 173)

LT: 63 Adam Masters (RSo., 6-4, 283)
72 Jimmy Bennett (RSo., 6-8, 290)

LG: 66 Mathieu Olivier (RSr., 6-6, 294)
50 Tyler Bullock (RFr., 6-4, 301)

C: 57 Moe Petrus (RJr., 6-2, 292)
70 Gary Bardzak (RJr., 6-3, 292)

RG: 78 Zach Hurd (RSr., 6-7, 325)
69 Steve Greene (RFr., 6-4, 309)

RT: 71 Mike Ryan (RJr., 6-5, 333)
77 Kevin Friend (RFr., 6-5, 289)

TE: 94 Ryan Griffin (RSo., 6-6, 243)
89 John Delahunt (RSo., 6-3, 244)

QB: 10 Zach Frazer (RSr., 6-4, 231)
4 Michael Box (RFr., 6-3, 209)

TB: 23 Jordan Todman (Jr., 5-9, 193)
44 Robbie Frey (RJr., 6-0, 203) OR
24 D.J. Shoemate (Jr., 5-11, 218)

FB: 49 Anthony Sherman (Sr., 5-11, 240)
39 Brett Manning (Sr., 5-11, 260)


DE: 48 Trevardo Williams (So., 6-1, 225)
96 A.J. Portee (RSo., 6-4, 237)

DT: 99 Kendall Reyes (RJr., 6-4, 298)
59 Shamar Stephen (RFr., 6-5, 300)

DT: 4 Twyon Martin (RJr., 6-2, 292)
53 Ryan Wirth (RSo., 6-2, 272)

DE: 91 Jesse Joseph (So., 6-3, 255)
98 Ted Jennings (RSo., 6-5, 247)

SLB:* 32 Scott Lutrus (RSr., 6-3, 245)
28 Jory Johnson (RSo., 6-1, 227)

MLB: 95 Greg Lloyd (Sr., 6-2, 259)
55 Jerome Williams (RSo., 5-11, 233)

WLB: 8 Lawrence Wilson (RSr., 6-1, 226)
46 Sio Moore (RSo., 6-1, 230)

CB: 5 Blidi Wreh-Wilson (RSo., 6-0, 191)
29 Taylor Mack (Fr., 5-9, 170)

S: 25 Harris Agbor (RJr., 5-11, 183)
15 Jerome Junior (RSo., 6-1, 215)

S: 19 Kijuan Dabney (Jr., 6-1, 192)
7 Mike Lang (So., 5-11, 181)

CB: 24 Dwayne Gratz (RSo., 6-0, 187)
2 Gilbert Stlouis (Fr., 5-11, 182)

* Commonly referred to as the “Husky” linebacker


P: 86 Cole Wagner (RFr., 6-2, 198) OR
13 Chad Christen (RFr., 6-1, 203)

K: 38 Dave Teggart (RJr., 6-0, 207)
13 Chad Christen (RFr., 6-1, 203)

LS: 93 Derek Chard (Sr., 6-3, 237)
67 Adam Mueller (Fr., 6-1, 208)

H: 13 Chad Christen (RFr., 6-1, 203)
4 Michael Box (RFr., 6-3, 209)

KR: 23 Jordan Todman (Jr., 5-9, 193)
44 Robbie Frey (RJr., 6-0, 203)

PR: 21 Gary Wilburn (RJr., 5-11, 195)
31 Nick Williams (So., 5-10, 183)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More UConn bus trips

Ryan Phalen, who organized the UConn fan bus trip to Michigan, emailed to say he is putting together similar trips for games at Temple, Rutgers and Syracuse. Here is the info for those interested.

Now is as good a time as any: I'm trying to gauge interest in day bus trips to Temple, Rutgers, and Syracuse (no overnight).

Roundtrip prices would likely be as follows: Rutgers: $75/pp bus and ticket. Cuse and Temple: $45-60/pp bus only, I’ll get ticket prices shortly.

The more people we have the less the rates will be (or we can get a good tailgate going with any extra $$).I've contacted the Athletic Dept about getting group tickets but haven't had any response back, however we’ll likely get better group rates through the home team Athletic Depts.

Stops would likely be Torrington, Manchester/Storrs, Waterbury/Danbury/North Haven depending on the trip and level of interest. Temple is first (Sept 18th), so please let me know your interest level as soon as possible on that one. Departure times would obviously be dictated by gametimes. Temple will be an early departure (game is at noon) and Rutgers we'll be fighting Friday traffic so the earlier we leave the better....


Ryan Phalen

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last open practice in the books

With Friday's media session canceled, today was the final open practice of training camp. Here's what happened.
  • It was a double-session day, and the media was at the morning practice. That meant Zach Frazer and Scott Lutrus were among the starters with light days, the backups got most of the work and there wasn't much to see in terms of action.

  • We knew Mike Box was the leader to become Frazer's backup. Edsall confirmed Box has the edge. Expect Johnny McEntee to be the third quarterback as the season opens. Leon Kinnard got work at QB and receiver today, and didn't look great at either position.

  • Andrew Opoku was moved to tight end to help a depth need there. He played a lot of wide receiver in high school and at Fork Union prep. Since arriving in January, he's now moved from safety to linebacker to tight end. Perhaps we'll see him at all 22 positions before he's finished, and he can pull a Bert Campaneris and play them all in one game. Edsall said he liked what the Husky linebackers were showing (Jory Johnson, Martin Hyppolite and David Kenney), and the coaches decided Opoku could be more valuable at tight end. Opoku said running and catching are easy for him, it's the blocking he needs work on. Edsall doesn't think Opoku will be ready to contribute at the position by the season opener.

  • Bret Manning suffered an ankle injury, and was in a boot. Edsall lists him as day-to-day, but an X-ray is scheduled for later today.

  • Twyon Martin caught lots of heat from Edsall in spring practice because the coach didn't feel Martin was working hard enough. Martin took it very personally, and vowed to renew his commitment to the game. It started with shaving off his dreadlocks for a more conservative appearance. "I felt it was time for a new look," Martin said. "I want to be a new man, and that's part of it." Where does Martin stand on the depth chart? That's something even Martin isn't sure about, as he's spent as much time working with the second team as the first. Edsall said he sees the changes in Martin's work ethic and attitude, which bodes well for him lining up alongside Kendall Reyes at defensive tackle.

  • There has been separation at the tailback position, though Edsall reserved comment until seeing the results of the final scrimmage on Wednesday. Todman should be safe at starter; how Shoemate and Robbie Frey are worked in to share the load will be interesting.

  • The wide receivers are in a similar situation. Edsall says seven will likely travel to road games, but only four will get the bulk of the action. Michael Smith, Kashif and Isiah Moore were identified as the top three by Edsall. No. 4? Probably Nick Williams. The last three are, in some order, Dwayne Difton, Gerrard Sheppard and Tebucky Jones, though Edsall said Jones is expected to redshirt the season.

  • Kijuan Dabney and Jerome Junior returned to full practice, although Harris Agbor and Mike Lang spent a good deal of the day working with the first team. Edsall seems somewhat concerned about where his secondary stands with Michigan just around the corner. But he says his players are "listening" "learning" and "doing everything asked of them". It's been said before, but Byron Jones has impressed Edsall, as has Ty-Meer Brown.

  • Edsall spent more time than usual talking about the freshmen. Mike Osiecki and Brandon Steg are likely to redshirt; fullback Reuben Frank has put himself in the mix to play right away, as has tailback Lyle McCombs, though likely on special teams. Yawin Smallwood was moved to middle linebacker, and the offensive linemen (Gus Cruz, Greg McKee, Mark Hansson) have shown themselves bigger, stronger and with more ability than in years past. "It's the best freshman class we've ever had," Edsall said. "No doubt."

  • We knew training camp was tough on the players...double sessions, extreme summer heat, so much learn in a short time frame. But Edsall said the coaches are just as excited to be done with training camp as the players, mainly because it means no more sleeping in the office. Not one coach on staff goes home during the preseason. Days begin at the crack of dawn, and don't end until 11:30 or midnight. Sometimes, they'll stay up until 1 or 2 talking shop. Then, Edsall walks across the hall and goes to bed on an air mattress in his office. Some coaches live in the dorms until students get back to campus. "That's the way it is with training camp," Edsall said. "That's how I was brought up."

  • Matt Millen spent the morning patrolling the practice field at the Shenkman Center along with some other ABC producer-types. No, he wasn't searching for another wide receiver to draft in the first round or another ethnic group to offend (assuming on that last one). He'll be doing color commentary for the season opener at Michigan. Sean McDonough, who'll handle play-by-play, arrived a little later. Also good to see West Haven High coach Ed McCarthy and his coaching staff taking in practice today. McCarthy, now in his 40th (40!!!!) season as a head coach, also spent a little post-practice time chatting with Sio Moore, who be coached for a year before Sio moved to North Carolina.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tuesday's open practice no longer open

If you were planning to attend Tuesday's open practice, you're out of luck. The heavy rain has pushed it indoors, and the public is no longer welcome. Don't take it personally. We were just shut out of Friday's practice, which was originally open to the media.

Here's the UConn press release...

UConn Athletic Communications --- August 22, 2010 -- Tuesday Practice

STORRS, Conn. (August 22, 2010) -- The University of Connecticut football team’s practice on Tuesday morning will no longer be open to the public as originally scheduled. The practice has been moved inside to the Mark R. Shenkman Training Complex because of the rain that is passing through Connecticut at the beginning of the week.

“I want to thank all of our fans that have attended our first two open practices of the season,” says UConn head coach Randy Edsall. “We have to keep our outdoor practice fields in good shape for the entire season and with all the rain we have had and are supposed to have, we decided we need to move the practice indoors.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Edsall unhappy with Endres, Kuraczea

Good morning from UConn, where the 8 a.m. start time kept today's open practice a rather intimate affair. Have to love the morning practices. I can't say all members of the media are morning people, though...

On to the news of the day.
  • Indefinite suspensions were handed out to backup quarterback Cody Endres and backup offensive guard Erik Kuraczea last night. Randy Edsall won't disclose the nature of the team rules violation or how long the suspensions will last, but if history is any indicator expect it to be a game or two into the season.

  • Edsall was, as expected, annoyed with Endres and Kuraczea. He cut off a question regarding the suspensions to say, "I don't even want to talk about guys that aren't here. The only guys who mean anything to me are the guys who are out here practicing. ... The guys who aren't here, I don't even want to talk about them because I'm just wasting my breath. Obviously, they didn't feel it was in the best interest of our team to do what was right to be out here. That's all I'll say."

  • Endres was clearly behind Zach Frazer, but was still the top understudy. No one has moved into Endres' No. 2 QB spot as of now. Mike Box, Johnny McEntee and Leon Kinnard would all be considered to move up to the No. 2 spot, and the three played in a rotation at practice today (Frazer rested as did most of the starters, a routine move during two-a-days). You have to give the edge to Box at this point, with McEntee and Kinnard close behind. Kuraczea was fighting to win the job at guard from Mathieu Olivier, but this has to be considered a giant leap backward. He's been in Edsall's doghouse before. Steve Greene, Tyler Bullock and Gus Cruz are all in the mix to backup Olivier, and Edsall said center Gary Bardzak could also slide over and be considered.

  • Kijuan Dabney and Jerome Junior were on the field today, but didn't participate in contact drills. Both wore red jerseys. Jimmy Bennett appeared to hurt himself and spent time getting treatment, but Edsall wasn't concerned. Ryan Griffin has a sore leg, and Jonathan Jean-Louis hobbled off at the end of practice.

  • How much time Robbie Frey gets at tailback is still a question with all the depth UConn has at the position. But Frey has looked very good, and seems to be making his case to get on the field. He underwent two surgeries on his shoulder after he was injured last fall on a kickoff return. Frey caught a helmet to the shoulder, cracking his acromion and scapula. He had surgery to repair the bones, and another to clear up the torn labrum he had been playing with since the 2008 season. He sat out spring practice, but got into heavy lifting over the summer. Once the first tackle was in the books, he said his confidence was 100 percent. "Right now, I honestly think it's better than it was before," Frey said. "I'm excited to be back there." Frey is in line to return kicks once again.

  • Edsall wasn't very happy with the morning practice. His voice was bordering on raspy in his post-practice interview. "Too inconsistent," he said. "We need to be able to get through a whole practice without the ups and downs. we did some good things, and we leveled off during the 7-on-7s, which wasn't too good. We got a long way to go. They have to start buckling down, paying attention to detail and battling though the mental fatigue and physical fatigue you have at this time of camp (when two-a-days are more frequent). That's where you build your mental toughness and strength to get through games and be able to play in the fourth quarter."

  • A Big East officiating crew has been in town the last two days, and met with the coaches and players to go over rules and questions. Edsall said the program helps players understand that officials aren't the enemy, and that they are willing to work with them to get a true grasp of the rules and what can and can't be done on the field. A couple of the officials were the ones who worked the Notre Dame game -- infamous for the phantom holding calls against UConn that could have cost it victory. Edsall joked that some video clips were shown, and jokes flew, but it was all in good fun.

  • Had to chuckle watching a TV news reporter from Fox 61 attempt to loudly (and wrongly) berate a member of UConn's PR staff for not getting the answers he wanted with regard to the player suspensions. This news reporter (NOT one of the station's sports personalities) obviously showed up to this assignment unprepared, and left after only a few minutes. His reply when asked if he had read the press release from a day earlier? "Not the whole thing". Mind you, the press release was all of two sentences. Helpful tip: need a comment on a news story? Stick around to ask the coach.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Endres, Kuraczea suspended

Here is the press release from UConn

STORRS, Conn. (August 18, 2010) --- University of Connecticut redshirt junior quarterback Cody Endres (Washington, Pa.) and redshirt sophomore offensive guard Erik Kuraczea (Ansonia, Conn.) have been suspended indefinitely from the football team due to a violation of University of Connecticut and Division of Athletics policies.

There will be no further comment on this matter.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More from media day....and shave those sideburns, hippie!

Spoke to some players and Edsall again. Here's some more from media day...

  • Marcus Campbell is not eligible for a medical hardship. Edsall said a player needs to miss two full seasons due to injury to be considered for a sixth year. So next year is the last for Campbell, who was very down today. Campbell apparently apologized to teammates for letting them down a second year in a row. A year ago, Campbell was academically dismissed. He had to take classes at UConn's Hartford branch and reapply for admission over winter break. During one of the first spring practice sessions, Campbell reiterated over and over how grateful he was to get another chance, vowing he wouldn't let his grades or football slip. Today, Campbell simply couldn't get any words out when asked about the injury. He was fighting off tears before saying he couldn't even talk about it right now.

  • Edsall eased his policy on beards this season. In the past, ala George Steinbrenner, the only facial hair players were allowed to have was a mustache (wonder why more guys didn't take him up on that offer?) But in the player handbook this summer, the language said beards were OK. Zach Hurd was among those pleased. "Finally, the linemen can look tough," Hurd said. "When I shave, I look like a 12-year old." Reminded he's way too big to ever look 12, he said, "Then I look like someone with a huge man's body and a baby face."
  • By the way, the beards must be trimmed and neat. No bushy Jerry Garcia nests or Kimbo Slice neck beards allowed. And, it's either a mustache or a beard. Derek Chard happened to be walking past as Edsall was talking about the policy, and got reprimanded for his goatee. "Shave that," Edsall told him. "No goatees." I suppose if I hadn't asked Edsall about beards at that moment, he wouldn't have noticed Chard. So, sorry about that, Derek.

Garcia! Trim those whiskers!

  • There are tatoos, and there are works of art. Hurd's left arm falls more toward the latter. He spent roughly 95 hours in the tatoo parlor (that's 12 sessions of about eight hours a piece) completing a sleeve mural that paints quite an impressive scene of his family history. Among the prints on his massive arm are the British naval ship on which his father, who passed away when Hurd was 12, served upon as well as an American and British flag. His grandparents are also represented, including a portrait of his grandfather (who died earlier this summer) as a Grenadier Guard in England. There's also a replica of a photo of Zach as a boy with his mother. And there's also a treasure chest with Jasper Howard's No. 6. Hurd says he's done with tatoos, at least for a while.

    The tattoo on Zach Hurd's bicep, a portrait of him and his mother, courtesy of johnnyberrios.com.

  • Greg Lloyd won't be moving back to defensive end, this year or next year. UConn toyed with the idea of moving him there in the offseason, but Lloyd's heart was at linebacker. He's getting back into the flow of the practice field, but likely won't be officially be back until the spring.

  • Kendall Reyes isn't worried about the defensive line. There's still plenty of speed and depth, he said. "Jesse and Trevardo both gained weight in the offseason," Reyes said. "Trevardo is very strong in the weight room, too."

Media Day in Storrs

Some early notes from media day, Will update later sfter speaking with players.
  • Edsall said Marcus Campbell was injured pursuing a play in practice. Leon Kinnard was at quarterback and made a sharp cut. Campbell planted his foot to cut, and his ACL gave out. He'll have surgery Friday. Trevardo Williams will start opposite Jesse Joseph. A.J. Portee and Teddy Jennings move into backup roles.
  • Right now, Mike Lang is the starting free safety. Harris Agbor is starting at strong safety. Jerome Junior, expected to be the starter at strong safety, still isn't ready after suffering a head injury last week, and Kijuan Dabney got his bell rung, and out for the moment.
  • Edsall says he has some things in mind at this point for the tailback slot, but will wait to make any decisions, specifically on the back up to Jordan Todman. Robbie Frey and Meme Wylie seem to be in the running along with D.J. Shoemate. Lyle McCombs is also looking strong, Edsall said.
  • Don't expect a lot of true freshman to be involved, Edsall said. Only three played last season, so that's not unexpected.
  • Adam Mueller, a freshman from Park Ridge, Ill., is the backup long snapper behind Derek Chard.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Campbell tears ACL, out for year

STORRS, Conn. (August 15, 2010) – University of Connecticut junior defensive end Marcus Campbell (Bloomfield, Conn.) will miss the entire 2010 season after he torn an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in practice on Saturday.

Campbell suffered the injury in a non-contact drill. He will have surgery for the injury later in the week.

Campbell has played in 23 games for the Huskies in 2007 and '08 and has 24 career tackles with a pair of sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss. He did not play during the 2009 season.

Campbell tears ACL, out for year

STORRS, Conn. (August 15, 2010) – University of Connecticut junior defensive end Marcus Campbell (Bloomfield, Conn.) will miss the entire 2010 season after he torn an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in practice on Saturday.

Campbell suffered the injury in a non-contact drill. He will have surgery for the injury later in the week.

Campbell has played in 23 games for the Huskies in 2007 and '08 and has 24 career tackles with a pair of sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss. He did not play during the 2009 season.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Miss open practice? Then read on.

Pretty decent turnout for open practice today. I'd guess there were around 300. Even got a chance to meet a few. For those who weren't here today, here's a rundown.
  • Jerome Junior didn't practice today after taking a hit to the head earlier in the week. Edsall said it's not serious, and expects him back in a few days. Andrew Opoku missed practice with a stiff back. Those were the only new injuries.

  • Greg Lloyd caught Edsall by surprise by entering at middle linebacker on scout team during a goal-line drill. "What are you doing out here," Edsall asked Lloyd. "Just running around a little," Lloyd said. "You better not get hurt," Edsall said. Actually, Lloyd had played during an earlier drill that Edsall must have missed. "He's cleared to go, I just didn't know he was going in to play," Edsall said after practice. "It's fine. If he wants some reps, he can go."

  • Leon Kinnard is still working with the receivers; Edsall still says he's a quarterback. But today, he conceded, "He's a quarterback who's an athlete, is what he is," Edsall said. "He's a very good athlete who can do a lot of things."

  • Adam Masters and Mathieu Olivier are still working with the first team on the left side of the offensive line. Jimmy Bennett and Erik Kuraczea are behind them at tackle and guard. "We're still evaluating," Edsall said, adding that Bennett is improving every day and that Kuraczea is working hard but hasn't been better than Olivier at this point. Kuraczea is listed at 324, down a few pounds from last season. Edsall would like to see him lose even more.

  • Mike Lang said he wasn't disappointed at all when told he would be switched from receiver to safety. He played both in high school, and says he enjoyed hitting people just as much as he enjoyed catching the ball and making plays. Lang and true freshman Byron Jones have looked strong thus far, and are in position to secure backup roles to Junior and Kijuan Dabney. Lang is also behind Jordan Todman and Robbie Frey as a kickoff returner.

  • Frey had a nice practice, breaking off some very good runs. Meme Wylie too. Along with Todman and D.J. Shoemate, there could be great depth at tailback. "If you have that many guys that can do that many things, it only aids what you're trying to do offensively," Edsall said. "It's hard to play that many, but certain guys can do things in certain situations. That's what we have to determine over the next 24 practices."

  • Double sessions tomorrow. No media access until Monday, however.

Monday, August 09, 2010

It's football season...practice one in review

First day of practice is in the books. Temps still in the 90s at 4:10 p.m. when things got underway. A long, sticky two hours. Here's the rundown (typed in between my guzzling a bottle of Dasani water).
  • Edsall anointed himself as safeties coach, and will work exclusively with those players this season. Darrell Perkins still holds the title of defensive backs coach, but he will concentrate on the cornerbacks. "It's no reflection on Darrell," Edsall said. "I feel I can help those guys. It's too much for one guy with all the youth and inexperience we have back there. You do these kinds of things when you're the CEO, the head coach. You're trying to be the best you can be and doing what's best for your organization. It's too much for one guy to handle."

  • The safeties understand why Edsall wants to work with the personally, Jerome Junior said. "He doesn't' want what happened last year to happen this year," Junior said. "I don't blame him. We came up short a lot, and a lot of the blame was because of me and a couple of other guys in the secondary. We don't want that to happen again, we don't want to be the weakness of the team. He always says you're only as strong as your weakest player, so you're trying to get everybody to work as one."

  • Edsall admits he needs to work on his throwing ability. A lot of wounded ducks out there in those drills with the secondary. "It's been a while," Edsall said. "The first one I threw, they were laughing. Dwayne Gratz said 'man, you threw it end over end."

  • Leon Kinnard lined up at wide receiver for the entire practice, and didn't work at all with the quarterbacks. He's still a quarterback, according to Edsall and Kinnard. But it seemed like the coaches are kicking around some ideas. "We have a lot of new guys that came in this summer, and they moved me out to get them some reps," Kinnard said. "I'm still a quarterback, and just out here having fun." Of course, Kinnard is a still new guy himself, having only one spring practice under his belt. Frazer, Endres, Box, McEntee, McCummings and walk-on Blaise Driscoll out of Avon Old Farms all partook in the QB drills. Kinnard makes seven, and that's a lot of quarterbacks to carry. Kinnard said he didn't find out he was working at a different position today until this morning, when an assistant told him his play book was in the receivers' room. Kinnard said he's had no discussion with Edsall about a switch, and he doesn't anticipate anything changing, so it's certainly possible it was just for today.

  • D.J. Shoemate will be an outstanding fit here, both as a player and a person. And yes, I can tell after one practice. He's shifty and strong, with the ability to carry tacklers. He's also humble and down-to-earth. Will likely be a go-to guy in the interview room win or lose.

  • Geremy Davis, Alex Polito, Jory Johnson and Angelo Pruitt were among the injured players working on the sidelines during practice.

  • Greg Lloyd will indeed redshirt, a decision Edsall made this week after speaking with him. "Greg thought he was a certain percentage (health wise)," Edsall said. "I won't say what it was, but I don't think he felt confident yet. And you don't take someone not feeling confident and put him out there. The best thing is to redshirt him."

  • Not a lot to see on the first day of drills, but John Delahunt made a pretty one-handed grab in traffic and Tebucky Jones made an athletic leaping catch in the back of the end zone. Saw Dwayne Difton make a sliding touchdown catch, and freshman Lyle McCombs showed speed and elusiveness.

  • On defense, Edsall said he was impressed by freshman Byron Jones ("he plays pretty fast for a freshman") and Mike Lang, who also plays fast. He said Jerome Junior is much more comfortable out there than he was a year ago.

  • D.J. Shoemate said he spoke with new USC coach Lane Kiffin often in the weeks before he decided to transfer. Shoemate knows Kiffin well because Kiffin was the USC coach who recruited him (Shoemate committed to the Trojans at age 15, by the way). "He said they weren't going to use the fullback in the same way," Shoemate said. "I didn't play a lot in spring practice because of some hamstring issues, but I saw the depth chart and could see the writing on the wall. I wasn't going to get the ball anywhere near as much as I would have wanted to." Shoemate, a lifelong Southern California resident, has yet to see New York City or Boston. His only experience on the East Coast is in North Carolina, where his mother is from. He was a little taken aback at the cow pastures across from campus, but ultimately, he said, "it's about football."

That's it for now. My thumb is throbbing from an afternoon spent assembling a 15-foot trampoline in my back yard. It's now swollen to the size of a golf ball. However, I did finish after several hours in the sweltering sun, and was astonished to see a gathering of about 10 neighborhood kids lurking as I hooked the final spring. I'd never seen any of them in seven years living there. Where were they when I was breaking my back shoveling snow? ANYWAY, I fully expect to return home to a sea of wounded, crying children lying in my backyard, all suffering from various trampoline-related trauma. Kind of like the image below.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Listen to Iron Maiden...and this podcast

Here's a link to a podcast of myself and Register columnist Dave Solomon talking UConn football and some other current sports topics.

Oh yeah. The podcast has nothing to do with Iron Maiden. Maybe another time.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Media Day rundown

The annual media day in Newport, R.I. has come and gone. Sorry for the lateness of a blog. My laptop decided it needed to take roughly two hours to do anything and everything internet-related. So rather than run the risk of my throwing it through a plate glass window at the Hotel Viking, I drove back to New Haven and am posting from my home computer.

Here's a few notes after the fact:

Many of Skip Holtz’s memories of UConn revolve around the facilities – or lack thereof – back in the 1990s.
“The coaches dressed in this tiny room where if you were taking a shower and someone flushed the toilet, you’d get scalded with hot water,” Holtz said. “I had the opportunity to go back two years ago and see the facilities. They’re tremendous. To see how far the program has grown is truly incredible.”
Holtz, who left East Carolina to become head coach at South Florida in the offseason, still takes some pride in the Huskies’ success. It was during Holtz’s tenure there that UConn decided to upgrade the football program to join the Big East and build a new stadium.
“We built the little pea,” Holtz said Tuesday at Big East Media Day. “Randy (Edsall) rolled it down the hill into a big snowball. But we built that pea.”
Holtz’s connection to UConn runs deep on multiple levels. He was born in Willimantic when his father, Lou Holtz, was an assistant coach at UConn in 1964. And at age 29, he left Notre Dame, where he was offensive coordinator under his father, for his first head coaching job at UConn.
There, he guided UConn to national top 25 rankings in four of five seasons as well as its first NCAA Division I-AA playoff berth in 1998. His first season wasn’t quite as promising, at least to Holtz.
“I was 29 years old, and we went 5-6 my first season,” Holtz said. “After the season I met with Lew Perkins, who was the athletic director, and said with as many mistakes as I made this year, if I were you, I’d fire me.”
Despite UConn being on track to enter major college football, Holtz left join his father as an offensive coordinator again, this time at South Carolina .
Holtz spent the past five seasons at East Carolina , drastically improving the program there in winning 26 games over the last three years.
“People wondered why I’d leave Notre Dame for a Division I-AA program,” Holtz said. “I wanted to learn how to be a head coach, and I learned a lot at UConn. Fifteen years later, I’d like to think I’m a better head coach.”
Holtz will coach against UConn for the first time on Dec. 4 when South Florida visits Rentschler Field.


It was one of the more tumultuous off-seasons in college football history with the Big 10 and Pac-10 among the conference’s expanding membership and the Big XII narrowly avoiding extinction.
There are almost certainly more moves to come over the next few years, with the Big East both a target for other conferences and likely looking to expand itself.
But there would be no discussion of the topic at media day. During his opening remarks Tuesday, Big East commissioner John Marinatto said he asked the coaches in attendance not to discuss league expansion or realignment.


The conference will issue official injury reports for the first time this fall. Players needing surgery or suffering season-ending injuries will be announced on the league’s conference call each Monday. Schools will provide additional updates 48 hours before that week’s game, with players listed as probable, questionable, doubtful or out. … Edsall said safety Kijuan Dabney, back at the position after spending time at linebacker, has dropped over 20 pounds and moving much better. … Edsall had no update on injured defensive end Greg Lloyd, who is attempting to return from major knee surgery last November. Edsall has said Lloyd, one of the team’s top linebackers the last two seasons, will be redshirted if it appears he won’t be ready as the season-opener approaches.