Wednesday, August 31, 2011

UConn-Fordham now on for Saturday at noon

The season opening game for the UConn football team against Fordham at Rentschler Field, originally scheduled for Thursday night, has been rescheduled for Saturday at noon.

All tickets and parking passes for the original date will be honored Saturday.

The game was postponed because Rentschler Field is being used by the Connecticut National Guard as a commodities distribution center for cities and towns in need in the wake of Hurricane Irene. The announcement of the postponement did not come until Tuesday afternoon. The school was forced to wait until today for confirmation on Rentschler being available on Saturday.

The relief effort will run concurrently with the football game, and patrons are being encouraged to arrive early.

Since the two schools share no other open dates, UConn had reached out to find alternative sites for the game. Among those contacted was Yale University to inquire whether the Yale Bowl might be available as an alternative on Saturday.

The Bowl, which had power restored in the wake of the storm, would have been fully prepared for a football game anyway, as Yale will hold its annual preseason scrimmage this weekend, Yale director of sports publicity Steve Conn said.

The last time a UConn football game was postponed was 10 years ago in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when a scheduled game against Temple was replayed in November.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

UConn-Fordham postponed

The season opener on Thursday has been postponed indefinitely, as the Connecticut National Guard is using Rentschler Field as a distribution center for commodities to towns and cities in need in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

UConn is hopeful the game will be rescheduled on Saturday, but it all depends on whether the guard is finished by then. A UConn athletic spokesman said he did not anticipate an official decision being made by tonight.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene can't stop the media...some Monday notes

There's nothing like an ice cold shower to get the juices flowing early in the morning. I also enjoyed brewing coffee on my grill and driving underneath the 1,000-pound tree limb still hanging from the power lines to get out of my driveway. Thanks, Irene!! Actually, I didn't enjoy any of that. But thanks, anyway, you uppity weather system.

Lots of notes from today's media gathering. No lunch, but there was an option offered for a hot shower. Should have brought my soap.

  • Everyone from Pasqualoni to George DeLeone to the three quarterbacks insists no decision has been made on who will start Thursday at QB. But everyone recited the mantra that all three are ready if needed, and it certainly sounded like at least two will be used -- though that may well be because Fordham could (should) prove to be little more than a glorified exhibition game.

  • The scuttlebutt from those in the know is that Johnny McEntee has "the edge". But it sounds as if none of the three have been notified, and aren't expecting to know until the 11th hour.

  • DeLeone says that the learning curve with the three quarterbacks is unusually wide since they're so young and inexperienced. "The great quarterbacks that I've been around have to learn to study on their own, to learn to watch film on their own, take points in the game plan and hone in on watching those specific things important to their position," DeLeon said. "These guys are young. It's like they've got to be told, coached on every step of the way. That's where we are with this bunch."

  • DeLeone on the QBs: "McCummings is a tremendously conscientious kid. John McEntee is a guy that really has never gotten a chance in his career here; no matter how well he does, someone else is going to surpass him. He's never really been given a chance. In our situation, he's been given a tremendous chance, and he's done some good things. Mike Nebrich is a talented guy, obviously the youngest of the bunch. Has good potential. How far he can come in a short period of time will be in question. His last high school game was the last game he played."

  • The core of the offense will be the same for all three quarterbacks, DeLeone said, meaning nothing changes dramatically with the less-mobile McEntee at the helm. "I think the issue is going to be what individual plays can best suit each one of the three's talents," DeLeone said. "That's why I'm a big advocate of installing a multiple offense. Once you install it, you can pick from a menu that suits not only your team's abilities, but your quarterbacks."

  • D.J. Shoemate understands why he earned a reputation as a fumbler last season, but doesn't agree. He says it's never been an issue with him and that he took extra steps to prevent it from becoming an issue again this year. He worked hard on improving his ball-carrying technique -- high and tight. "When you get that reputation, I felt I had to do something about it," Shoemate said. "It helps to get more reps. The more reps, the more familiar you are."

  • Shoemate said he first met McEntee at the start of 8th grade back in their native Southern California. "I had a 13-inch afro," said Shoemate, who, he noted, is now sports the cue-ball look. During one of the first practices, Shoemate kicked a 50-yard field goal. McEntee remembered it well. "I was like, oh my God, who is this kid?" McEntee said. "We're 11 years old, and he has a beard."

  • Seems like Connecticut is a long (and obscure) choice for a quarterback from Southern California to come without a scholarship. But McEntee said he didn't have any other options, aside from some Division III schools near his hometown. Some UConn coaches were attending a convention in California, and word got to McEntee that they were looking for a scout team quarterback. He jumped at it, and now has a chance to become the starter.

  • Wallingford's Brett Biestek is listed as the backup outside linebacker for Fordham, and at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds is only about 10 pounds smaller than some of their offensive and defensive linemen. Biestek was a tremendous athlete at Sheehan, where he set school records as a passing quarterback for the football team, all the rebounding records on a basketball team that won the Class M state title and won the Class MM shot put in outdoor track.
  • That's it. Time to head home. No cable, no internet. Guess it's time for another classic from my DVD collection to play on the freshly juiced lap top. Anyone else up for Red Dawn?

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    Starting quarterback will be game time announcement

    Much like the pool at Bushwood Country Club on Caddie Day (caddies welcome! 1:00-1:15) today's "open" practice had only a limited viewing window for the media. So, not a lot of color with today's notes, but there is some news.

    • UConn's quarterback situation seems to be sorting itself out, even though Paul Pasualoni isn't willing to give up any information. Mike Box, it appears, is out of the running. He ran the scout team offense today. "We haven't finalized the decision yet," Pasqualoni said. "It will probably be a game-time announcement, so you guys are going to have to wait until pre-game warm up."

    • Pasqualoni later added that he's delaying an announcement because "No. 1, we want to be sure, and No. 2 why give out information if you don't have to? I'd rather collect it than give it out."

    • Jesse Joseph didn't practice today, a brace covering his knee, but it's not believed to be season-ending. Pasqualoni, who won't say much on injuries this year, either, said Joseph is "bumped up, but we're expecting him back."

    • At least six linebackers, "probably seven", will dress for games and be part of the rotation. Some will be core special teams players. Sio Moore, Yawin Smallwood and Jory Johnson are the starters, with Mike Osiecki, Dave Kenney, Andrew Opoku, Marquise Vann and Jefferson Ashiru as the backups. "We'll have some depth there," Pasqualoni said. "It's just inexperience."

    • D.J. Shoemate says he feels as fast as he ever has, and has gotten leaner and in better "running back shape" since spring practice. From what we've seen, he's looked like he's ready to handle a full load. Still, Jonathan-Jean Louis could work his way into some sets and Lyle McCombs could be used in third-down situations.

    • My opinion on the quarterbacks still hasn't changed, though I didn't see anything today, anyway. Nebrich, then McEntee (but wouldn't be surprised if both played in the opener), then McCummings, then Box.

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    Saturday notes: Last of the two-a-days

    Nice early start at UConn this morning. An 8:45 a.m. practice started off beautifully, but it got hot in a hurry. Final day of two-a-days for the players. Media won't be back until Wednesday. A few notes.

  • Lots of fundamentals and reviewing the basics today. There was a scrimmage on Thursday, and yesterday was an off day. So with under two weeks until the season-opener, the coaches took the opportunity to square some things before the afternoon session.

  • No decisions on the quarterback. No surprise there. I think it will be at least a week before a decision is announced, and we might not know until the last minute. Pasqualoni acknowledged that Scott McCummings is working on some accuracy issues, and that he's impressed with how Mike Nebrich is handling himself as a true freshman.

  • Me? I still have Nebrich atop my depth chart. Both he and McCummings are mobile, and that's going to be crucial to the offense this season, but Nebrich has shown he is more capable of running the passing attack right now. UConn needs as many play makers as possible, and he's definitely a play maker.

  • Geremy Davis and Isiah Moore wore the red cross injury jerseys and spent a lot of time on the stationary bikes. So, on Saturday, there were four eligible, scholarship receivers healthy and practicing.

  • Adam Masters will play both tackle and guard, but Pasqualoni said the staff feels he might be a more natural guard than tackle. "We feel we want him to stay (at guard) and get more comfortable and aware there in fundamentals and assignments," Pasqualoni said.

  • UConn should be fine at tailback. Sure, it would be nice to have Jordan Todman and Robbie Frey back. But D.J. Shoemate has shown some speed, and Jonathan-Jean Louis seems to be pushing him most.

  • Pasqualoni was asked about Jeff Hathaway, the man who hired him in January put was pushed out the door Friday. "I would thank Jeff for all he's done for UConn football," Pasqualoni said. "This program has gone a long way in a short period of time, and what he did here is appreciated."

  • Pasqualoni said his policy on awarding scholarships to walk-ons is that if a player wins a starting job, he'll be put on scholarship. Punter Cole Wagner got one in the spring. Johnny McEntee remains a walk-on. For now.

  • Masters said a few extra pounds has done wonders for him this preseason. He spent last season playing around 288, unable to gain any weight during the season. Now at 301, he said he's been able to maintain that weight, though it's not easy. He eats eight meals a day. There's the regular breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then smaller meals like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as often as he can in between. "I'm forcing a lot of food down," he said. "I'm just eating non-stop."

  • Personally, I've been cutting back. I'm down to second breakfast, lunch, second lunch and first dinner. Makes a huge difference. My reflexes? Cat-like.

  • Nebrich took a couple of big hits, but bounced back up both times. Dwayne Gratz stuck him on an option run, and about an hour later Teddy Jennings flattened him on a play he probably shouldn't have. Jennings did help him up, then tried to play it off like he didn't mean to do it. "He just ran into me," Jennings said.

  • Kashif Moore caught a slant and turned it into a long run; D.J. Shoemate flashed breakaway speed and Nick Williams used the same 360-spin to elude Gilbert Stlouis that Michael Jackson first made famous in his Jackson 5 days.

  • Don Brown moment of the afternoon -- coaching up a student manager on proper blocking shield technique, then snatching the padded shield and doing it himself. I would not be the least bit surprised if Brown showed up in pads and a helmet for practice this afternoon.

    • Tuesday, August 16, 2011

      Sio Moore is fine (and has great taste in eyewear)

      Got a couple of funny looks driving through campus this afternoon. Guess it’s not cool to crank Dio on the car stereo anymore. Then again, I suppose that was never cool.

    • Sio Moore didn’t practice today. He walked a bit gingerly along the sidelines. Coach Pasqualoni said he would be fine, and is expected back “in a day or two”. On a side note, he wears the same glasses frames as me. Got them in Malaysia. Didn’t think anyone else had ‘em.

    • Pasqualoni then said he’s not going to give injury information, at least with those of the non-serious variety. “If someone is out for the season,” Pasqualoni said. “We’ll let you guys know.” So, be ready for less info on the injury front.

    • Corey Manning also not practicing. Sean McQuillan left early after getting dinged.
      Isiah Moore had a nice day, catching a long pass and using his legs to turn another into a long gainer.

    • Punters Cole Wagner and Chad Christen exchanged ceiling-scrapers in the Shenkman Center.

    • If it’s me, the depth chart of quarterback is Nebrich, then Box OR McEntee, then McCummings. Of course, it’ll probably change next practice.

    • If you’re looking for a decision on the quarterbacks, don’t expect any news for a while. Pasqualoni said he’s enjoying the fight, and what that brings out of the players. “It’s been a fierce competition,” Pasqualoni said. “Let’s keep it going.”

    • McCummings and Nebrich got the bulk of the work today, though there’s nothing to read into that. Just part of the practice rotation. The linebackers got a little extra work in, as well, especially Mike Osiecki, Jefferson Ashiru and Marquise Vann in the middle with Sio out today. A decision will be made by the end of next week as to who will redshirt, Pasqualoni said. Osiecki, a redshirt last fall, will play, at least on special teams, right away.

    • Pasqualoni is impressed with Nick Williams’ ability to make plays, as well as how fast he plays in practice/game situations. It’s a big reason UConn will look to get him the ball more in offensive sets. “I don’t know what his 40 time is,” Pasqualoni said. “It might be 5.0. But his playing speed is pretty good.”

    • That's it. "Holy Diver" is cued up and ready to roll. They just don't make lead singers like Ronnie James Dio any more.

      Friday, August 12, 2011

      Media day at Shenkman

      A couple of notes from today's media day at the Shenkman Center.

      • The first scrimmage took place Thursday, but no decisions have been made at quarterback. All four will continue to be evaluated with no time table or plan to pare the competition down. Pasqualoni said anything is possible, which includes using more than one quarterback.

      • Pasqualoni is hoping to have linebacker Jerome Williams and tailback Martin Hyppolite back by Oct. 1. That's the target date, whether it happens or not depends on how quickly they heal.

      • With the transfer of Malik Generett, the Huskies are down to seven wide receivers. There's quality, just not quantity. Pasqualoni said he had some ideas about defensive players who might be able to do double duty, although offensive coordinator George DeLeone later said he didn't think it was necessary. "I don't think we're that desperate," DeLeone said. "We can move on because we have so many personnel groupings, if it doesn't work out with three wide receivers we can do it with two tight ends, three tight ends, we can do it with running backs. We have enough flexibility in our system we can get into what we need to get into with the number of receivers we have."

      • Kashif Moore said he was surprised by the decisions of Leon Kinnard, Gerrard Sheppard and Generett to transfer, but understood it was a personal decision for all three. "We still have good depth at wide receiver," Moore said. "I was telling the younger guys, this is a great opportunity for them to play early."

      • The names have returned to the backs of the jerseys. It's not exactly large-type lettering, so I'm not sure fans in the stands are going to see them. But was a great help to me today on media day.

      Tuesday, August 09, 2011

      Day one in pads, fighting and another transfer

      Just a brief few notes from practice today, which was open to the public. Quite a few fans showed up, though many left once the rain got a little heavy. Cheshire Academy wide receiver Malik Golden, being recruited by UConn, was in attendance. At least two fans let him know they'd like to see him in Storrs next fall. The Huskies will need the help. Junior Gerrard Sheppard announced he will transfer immediately, joining Leon Kinnard as the second receiver to leave school in a week. Pasqualoni was disappointed, but said he understood the players point of view. Competition is heavy, and the two could see the writing on the wall.

      “We’ve got a lot of competition, and Shep just felt like he wanted to go somewhere where he could just go in and play; not necessarily in a role, but just go in and play,” Pasqualoni said. “I liked him a great deal. We were trying to find a niche for him. But in the end, he felt it was best. We have him our blessing. … I don’t like seeing good guys like Leon and Shep go, but at the same time I have a hard time talking guys into doing something they really in their heart don’t want to do. This is a hard game to play if your heart isn’t in it.”

      It was the first practice in pads, and the emotions, as the usually do, spilled over. A mild donneybrook broke out when tight end Corey Manning and linebacker Andrew Opoku continued going at it after the whistle. A few other players got into it, but it was David Kenney who went over the top by piling onto Manning. Pasqualoni wasted little time sending Kenney to the showers, then angrily called the team to the center of the field where he sent a message. Settle down and play, or you'll be gone, too.

      "In a game, if anybody comes off the sideline and goes into any kind of ruckus, they’re out, they’re suspended,” Pasqualoni said. “I didn’t see everyone who jumped in, but I saw one guy so he was suspended. There’s always going to be some back and forth, but you’ve got to keep your poise. You can’t lose your head. So we all learned that today."

      Asked to clarify the suspension, Pasqualoni said it was only for the day. Kenney will be back at practice tomorrow. It's training camp, after all.

      "This isn’t Holiday Hill,” Pasqualoni said, referencing the day camp in his native Cheshire. “We don’t give days off here.”

      Another nice day for Jonathan Jean-Louis, who had his best run on the first play after Pasqualoni settled the troops. Jean-Louis is looking more and more like he could be a major equation in the offense.

      As for the quarterbacks, much like the spring game the rain didn't help the coaches settle much. McEntee probably had the best day; McCummings, not so much. Linebacker Jerome Williams remains out with an injury.

      That's it for today.

      Monday, August 08, 2011

      UConn coaches on Dave Solomon

      Just wanted to share a couple of quotes from Paul Pasqualoni and George DeLeone, who both go way, way back with Dave Solomon. He covered both when they were coaching at Southern Connecticut in the 1970s, and their relationships continued even as both went on to bigger and better things. Of course, Dave spoke with both following UConn's practice Saturday night.

      “Dave had a passion for what he did and a love for the state of Connecticut. His enthusiasm showed for whatever he was writing about – professional, college or high school sports. He loved covering football and my condolences go out to his family.”
      -- Paul Pasqualoni

      “I’ve dealt with hundreds of media people over the years and I’ve have never known won that cared so much about sports, people, coaches and athletes as Dave Solomon did. He covered our teams at Southern Connecticut so we go a long way back. He was a UConn grad and a great friend in the media community. One thing about Dave was that he never put himself into the story – it was never about him. This one will be hard for me to get over”
      -- George DeLeone

      By the way, the above photo is the Dave "So Long" Solomon bobblehead doll from the Home Run Derby between him, Steve Balboni and Luis Sojo prior to a New Haven Ravens game in 2002.

      Sunday, August 07, 2011

      Remembering Dave

      Last night was devastating. Things haven't been much better today. But it's never easy to lose a friend.

      Dave Solomon and I were two of the last to leave the UConn football practice facility last night. I hung around while he and Roger Cleveland of the Waterbury Republican-American finished a final interview with UConn quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead. Like always, I wanted to touch base with Dave and make sure we weren't overlapping too much in our coverage.

      Dave, as usual, was in great spirits. He had his column, and was excited about a quote he had from coach Paul Pasqualoni. And you knew he would build a great story around it. He always did. As we walked to our cars in the parking lot, he asked if I was staying at UConn to write. I was. He said he would write at home.

      "Take care, Chipster," he said as he approached his car.

      "OK, see ya, Dave," I replied.

      Had I known it would be our last "goodbye", I would have thought of something more meaningful to say. Within a few hours, I got the excruciating phone call that he never made it home. He died in a car accident on I-91 near his home in Meriden.

      Dave was one of my favorite people, period. He always seemed to be in a great mood, and never missed an opportunity to needle me about something, while flashing his sly grin. Always quick with a joke, they were usually sarcastic and often whispered to whoever was sitting next to him in the middle of a press conference.

      We took more than a few carpools to out-of-state events together. He'd do something like force me to listen to the all-Jimmy Buffett station on my satellite radio against my will for an entire trip to Yankee Stadium, then make up for it with his amazing knowledge of the highways of his native New York. "There's a little dip coming up in the left lane. You're going to want to get right, here." Find me a GPS with those tips.

      But his writing, simply, was something to behold. He was to journalism what Larry Bird was to basketball or Neil Peart is to the drums; a guy you want to emulate even though it's darn near impossible, no matter how much practice you put in.

      Not only could Dave craft a brilliant column, even on sports he didn't necessarily enjoy, but his resources were incredible. He broke countless major stories over the years. It was uncanny. Earlier this year I had a scoop on the UConn football coaching search, new information contrary to some national reports making the rounds. My cell phone rang as I frantically typed. It was Solomon. I thought to myself, "I got him...I finally know something he doesn't." Of course, Dave not only knew what I knew, his sources had told him Pasqualoni was offered and was about to accept the position.

      It's not easy to one-up a giant.

      We had some memorable times away from the office, too, none more so than the Home Run Derby prior to a New Haven Ravens game in 2002. Dave had written a column about Ravens hitting coach Steve Balboni, the former big leaguer who, Solomon opined, still looked like he could launch a few out of Yale Field. Ravens management seized the moment, and devised home run contest between Dave (who would have a temporary fence set up midway through the outfield), Balboni and Luis Sojo, then coaching in the Eastern League. They even ordered a few thousand Solomon bobble head dolls to give away at the gate -- how many sportswriters can boast of that honor?

      Dave enlisted me to serve as his batting practice pitcher for the event. We practiced for weeks in anticipation. On the day of the contest, over 5,000 people jammed into the park. I'd thrown so many practice pitches to that point that my arm was gone. Pain seared through my rotator cuff with every pitch. Yet when it came time for Dave to hit, he suddenly developed the batting eye of Kevin Youkilis. Pitch after perfectly good pitch went past with no swing. He was only going to go after the ones in his wheelhouse. It didn't take long before I lost the strike zone completely.

      "Dave, you have to swing ," I said, drenched in sweat, during a break. "This is just like batting practice."

      "I can't afford to waste swings against these guys," he said.

      That's how he approached his writing. Nothing was wasted, no words, ideas or sources. His columns were perfectly written, his arguments laid out in a thought-provoking, often humorous manner.

      If Dave said he liked something you wrote, well, you knew you did something right. I remember breathing a deep sigh of relief when he mentioned he enjoyed the "I was thinking" column, his Sunday staple, that I wrote while he was on vacation. Reassured, I quickly went back to re-read the column again to absorb what worked.

      The sports world has lost a great man, husband and father. Rest in peace, my friend.

      Saturday, August 06, 2011

      We've got a quarterback competition

      Day 2 of practice is in the books (Day 1 for we ink-stained wretches of the media). Priority No. 1 for this team is to find a quarterback, and it's a true four-man competition (sorry Blaise Driscoll fans...looks like he's no longer an 'OR'). I have no idea where the four stand (and coach Pasqualoni says he doesn't either), but I can say this with confidence. It's going to be entertaining.

      Some notes from the day.

      • The four quarterbacks are rotating in live drills, and apparently that is changing from practice to practice. Today it seemed to be Box, McEntee, McCummings, Nebrich. "Just so everybody knows I'm telling the truth," Pasqualoni said with a laugh. "If you guys can tell them I'm telling the truth. But if you can figure out the rotation of who's in when then God bless you, because I can't."

      • Each of the quarterbacks brings his own personality to the position and approach. It would be unfair to state my opinion off each because, well, I don't really know these guys yet. But it's safe to say that, at least today, Mike Box was the most intense interview. He scooted off to throw a few more balls while the others were chatting with various media, and then was all-business in his interview. Intense, focused and confident with every answer. He's certainly acting like he believes he's going to be the starting quarterback. "I'm going to put my best foot forward and continue to prepare myself like I am the starter," Box said. "I expect all three of them to do the exact same up until the coaches all decide one of us has separated ourselves from the pack and is worthy of the starting job. But it will not be given. It will be earned."

      • In the spring, I wasn't sure if Mike Nebrich would be a serious contender for the starting job. Now, I believe he has a real chance to see the field. He's put on 20 pounds (20 good pounds, of course) and no longer looks like a high school player. At 205, he has the body more suited to take the physical pounding. Important, since he's a threat to run. "I got a lot stronger in my legs," Nebrich said. "One of the big things they've helped me with is to get stronger in the legs and not lose speed. The extra weight brings more force with the speed." Nebrich didn't expect to be in this situation right away, mostly because of Cody Endres, but knows he's in the thick of the race at this point. "It took me a bit to get my head wrapped around it," Nebrich said. "I knew I had a lot of work to do and time to spend getting better on the field and with the playbook. Once I got going, I realized I can do this if I push myself."

      • Johnny McEntee may not be at the same athletic level of the other three -- he's the least mobile of the group -- but he throws a tight, accurate ball and certainly understands what's going on out there. He's also lacking one other thing the other three have. A scholarship. Still a walk-on, McEntee has proven himself a viable candidate. "I have no idea where I stand. I could be first, I could be fourth," McEntee said. "We all have our different advantages. It's just a matter of who will come out on top and where (the coaches) want to go with the offense.

      • Scott McCummings said a better understanding of the offense has made a world of difference in the preseason, as compared to the spring. "It feels slower out there, and that comes with better understanding," McCummings said, who added the competition has been exciting. "You try to make your best play every play. You get disappointed with a bad play, and you can't wait to get back out there. It's kind of hard not being able to get into a rhythm because they switch plays."

      • Despite taking a big hit to the receiving core -- Michael Smith can practice, even though he's ineligible -- even thinner with the recent losses of transfers Dwayne Difton and Leon Kinnard, things don't seem bleak at the position. Perhaps that's partly because with the exception of Marcus Easley in 2009, there's been no breakout star receiver at UConn since, well, ever. But Geremy Davis and Tebucky Jones continued to show they are ready to contribute after solid springs. Davis had a particularly impressive day, including a full-extension dive for a grab on an out pattern. Malik Generett is also on his way. The recent losses have put Nick Williams back into the equation. "He was the leading punt returner in the nation last year," Pasqualoni said. "We'd like to get his hands on the ball more."

      • D.J. Shoemate is atop the depth chart at tailback, with Lyle McCombs at No. 2. But Jonathan Jean-Louis (now wearing Difton's old No. 1) is looking like he could open some eyes for consideration, too. In fact, he may well already be knee-deep into the discussion. "(Every year) there's a fifth-year senior somewhere in college football who will step up and so something," Pasqualoni said. "We're optimistic that maybe we have one who will step up and contribute and it might be him."

      • You would think that at some point, sooner rather than later, the quarterback competition will have to at least be trimmed from four. Quarterback coach Joe Moorhead didn't want to speculate about that. But the team will hold it's first live scrimmage next week, and we could see some separation following the breakdown of that film.

      Tuesday, August 02, 2011

      Media Day in Newport recap

      It's information overload here at the Big East's annual Media Day at the swanky Hotel Viking in Newport, R.I. Here's a few notes and observations from the morning.

      • Paul Pasqualoni says he has no idea who the starting quarterback will be for UConn right now, but it's one of the first things he needs to figure out. Of course, he relayed a story from his Syracuse days when he was in a similar situation. On a hunch, and at the last minute, he decided the right guy was Donovan McNabb. "He took every snap for the next four years," Pasqualoni said, adding he didn't know how long it might take to name UConn's quarterback this preseason but that "We're prepared to go the distance. We want to get it right."

      • Prior to the 2007 season, UConn brought in Tyler Lorenzen from a California junior college to help at quarterback. Pasqualoni said he never really considered that option in part because, "There was no one out there we could go after", also adding that he likes the group competing for the job.

      • Other priority issues to sort out this preseason are on the interior offensive line and at tailback. Pasqualoni did say D.J. Shoemate would handle the load at tailback, Lyle McCombs as the guy who would spell him.

      • Kashif Moore wore his diamond-studded Big East championship ring, which was only slightly smaller than the size of his entire fist. He says he's worn it a few times since receiving it in April. "I just need to keep it away from my dad, because he'll keep it for himself," Moore joked.

      • TCU, the defending Rose Bowl champion, will play at Rentschler Field next season. Nick Carparelli, the associate commissioner of the Big East, said TCU will play road games at the schools that only have three conference home games next fall. That includes the Huskies. It's also up to the individual schools that already have a full slate of five non-conference games schedules to dump one so TCU can be squeezed into the schedule.

      • John Marinatto, the Big East commissioner, said "12-to-15 teams" were considered for the expansion spot that went to TCU. He wouldn't go into specifics, partly because the conference will remain in discussions with many of those programs as it moves forward. He did say Villanova is still very much in the picture, though it will have to find a home stadium to gain entry. "There's no timeline in place (for Villanova)," Marinatto said, adding that the conference would like to have its plan set by September 2012 when goes into negotiations for a new TV deal.

      • There's also a scenario for a Big East championship game being considered, and Marinatto has targeted Yankee Stadium as a possible destination. "To be in New York City during the Christmas season for a championship game?" Marinatto said. "How exciting would that be?"

      • Louisville was the lone school without players at the event. Weather problems stranded them at the airport.

      • Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, recalling his days as an assistant coach at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, said it was one of the more enjoyable experiences in his 20 years as a football coach. "If my career had stopped there, I would have been very happy," Marrone said. "And that's not meant to take away from my career goals or ambition. But I had a great time there."

      • The Big East decided to follow the model of other conference media days and allow the coaches time at the podium before going to their individual tables to answer questions. The idea didn't translate very well, at least to those who suffered through the various recruiting propaganda and basic roster information most coaches rambled on about. It took well over an hour to get through all eight coaches, whose times at the microphone ranged from Marrone's efficient 2 minutes, 59 seconds to Pasqualoni's 10:37. (Times courtesy of Joe D'Ambrosio's cell phone). The conference should have had someone cuing up music, like the Academy Awards, to speed things along.

      • Joe D also made the astute observation that new Pitt coach Todd Graham looks a little like Alec Baldwin. Perhaps. But there's little question that new West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is the spitting image of Phil Collins, circa 1985. Just get him a Hawaiian shirt and cue up "Sussudio".

      That's it for now. First practice session is Friday, and the media will make its debut on Saturday evening at 5:30.