Saturday, April 09, 2011

Spring injuries, special teams and good days for the young guys

A few notes from the last Saturday practice before the spring game next week.

  • A couple of notable injuries happened during Tuesday's practice. Linebacker Jerome Williams, who had been working with the first-team defense, went down with a knee injury. Pasqualoni said he it looks like he'll be back "by September". Coach P said the same of offensive lineman Mike Ryan, who has been out all spring recovering from his knee injury. Tailback Martin Hyppolite, whose injury appeared serious, is "banged up". Pasqualoni said he'd know more about him on Monday. For now, UConn is down to three healthy tailbacks, one of whom participated in his first practice off suspension this week (McCombs) and the other is a walk-on (Huxtable).

  • Most memorable moment today was a terrific throw by Scott McCummings, who had been chased out of the pocket and threw while on the run, to tight end Ryan Griffin 40 yards down field. It was a great throw and catch, but Griffin was a little too enthusiastic. He unleased an epic spike, sending the football about 100 feet in the air, and drew a flag from the referees. Now, Randy Edsall would have chewed Griffin out in front of the whole team, media, alumni and recruits, and likely sent Griffin to the showers early. Pasqualoni waited for the play to finish (an extra point was kicked), then used it as a teaching moment. He called the team together and had the referee explain the rules on taunting. Pasqualoni was firm, but doesn't feel the need to put on a public show.

  • It's still a quarterback competition, but to me McCummings is ahead of the pack at this point. He has size, can move, runs extremely well and throws a good, accurate ball. His one problem in the spring has been his ability to hang onto the ball, snaps specifically.

  • A good day for young receivers Geremy Davis and Tebucky Jones Jr. The passing game was clicking today, and those two made quite a haul. Davis is a big, strong target. Jones has good hands and feet and is fast. Then, as seems to be their custom, the two, who have become good friends, spent time after practice doing extra work with quarterbacks and then the tennis ball machine.

  • Davis was a high school basketball teammate of current UConn freshman Jeremy Lamb, at least until Davis gave up the sport to concentrate on football after his sophomore year. Davis said he was a a decent baller "a defensive specialist and spot-up shooter. Jeremy was a scorer. We looked to him to get all the points."

  • Tebucky Jones is looking to bulk up a little more. "I was a string bean in high school," he said of his days at New Britain High, where he weighed just under 170 pounds. He's listed at 179 in the spring media guide, but says he was at 188 today. He'd like to get to 200.

  • Big East refs working today's live scrimmage appeared to be in mid-season form. Teddy Jennings beat his man on a speed rush, then sacked quarterback Johnny McEntee from behind with a big hit. A flag was thrown, and Jennings was beside himself. The ref spoke to Jennings for a moment, then put his hand on the crown of his helmet as if to say "don't lead with this." But it was a brutal call. Jennings laid a clean hit.

  • Pasqualoni spoke a lot about special teams after practice, with a couple of good stories about Tebucky Jones Sr. ("a human highlight film on special teams") and David Tyree. More on Tyree later. Pasqualoni has been big on special teams since Syracuse, and said UConn will be using their best players on special teams in addition to their roles on offense and defense. There will also be a core of other players who will be used on all four special teams.

  • Pasqualoni told the story of his recruitment of Tyree, and how how he sat in the Tyree family living room and went back and forth with Tyree about what position he'd play at Syracuse. Tyree wanted to be a receiver, Pasqualoni saw him as a strong safety. The deal the pair made was Tyree could play receiver as long as he played all four special teams and vowed to do it all four years. "I don't want you to come to my office and tell me you're sick of special teams," Pasqualoni recalled. Tyree eventually made the Giants as a special teams player, though his "craft" was receiver. When injuries pressed him to duty at receiver, he wound up making one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history.

  • Look for UConn's defense to use plenty of 4-3 and 3-4, as they've set up for most of the spring.

  • Sio Moore is wearing No. 3 this season, a number he's worn since high school. Moore said he took No. 46 when he got to UConn because Brad Kanuch had No. 3. Last season, Sio wanted to change but Edsall wouldn't allow it. I joked that opposing coaches watching last season's game film might be thrown when there's no No. 46 out there this fall. "They'll know who No. 3 is soon enough," Sio said.


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