Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back to spring football

College hockey season is over -- Yale missed the Frozen Four by one game for the second year in a row -- and I'm back to finish spring football practice at UConn. After a quick stop by men's basketball's media session, it was off to the Shenkman Center for practice No. 7 of 15. Here's a few notes and observations.

  • Wide receiver Isiah Moore was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules, Pasqualoni said today. Pasqualoni said it's been in effect for "a couple of weeks", though there was no formal announcement. It was only when Desmond Conner, John Silver and I noticed he wasn't out there that we inquired about Moore. To be clear, we checked and there were no arrests or incidents at the UConn police involving Moore.

  • Ryan Griffin catches every ball that's thrown in his direction. Everything. The one ball he didn't catch today was because a defensive back slashed his arm well before the pass arrived in a clear interference call. He reminds me of another wide receiver I used to cover when on the Yale football beat about 10 years ago. Eric Johnson had the best hands I've ever seen. They were like Velcro. He spent several seasons as a tight end in the NFL. Now, he's engaged to Jessica Simpson. Those hands have served him well. Griffin isn't quite as good as Johnson, but it's close. (And I'm talking football, here).

  • Some pretty interceptions by the defense, which seemed to get the best of the offense today. Taylor Mack had a great one, skying high to snag it over a wide receiver.

  • I spent half the practice watching defensive coordinator Don Brown. It's impossible not to. The man is a screaming, gyrating ball of energy. I wish I could describe that high-pitched yell. Harris Agbor seems to have it down. At one point, he chased down Byron Jones, who had just made an interception for a TD, screaming about ball security. He made his point, emphasizing it with a couple of whacks to the ball Jones was carrying, then hollered, "THAT'S MY LIVELIHOOD!!!" He has to have some Italian in his blood. He'd certainly fit right in at one of my family's high-intensity summer barbecue bocce matches.

  • There's no leader at quarterback, both Paul Pasqualoni and Joe Moorhead said today. All four are getting even reps in a spring-long competition. But if you ask me, Scott McCummings just might have a slight edge on Mike Box. He's got size, can move out of the pocket, and throws a nice, tight spiral. He's also got a 4.0 GPA, and is leaning toward a business major over biology.

  • Michael Nebrich is an athlete, no doubt. But he's not quite ready and is behind Box and McCummings, at least from what we saw today. "He comes out of a sophisticated passing attack down there at Lake Braddock,” Moorhead said. “From that stand point, he’s a little farther progressed than the normal freshman in that he’s done some things in the passing game in high school. That said, he’s making a transition to a college style system now, which is a big step for him."

  • Moorhead said the accuracy from the quarterbacks isn't quite where the coaches would like at this point. But, he said, it's expected considering there's been so much installation in the new offense. The focus has been on execution, and he hopes the accuracy comes with time. "They're going against a new defense," Moorhead said. "We have a high expectation level. It's something I expect them to improve upon every day. We want them to be 65 percent or higher, and we chart everything they do, and we're going to keep working til they surpass that goal."


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