Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kashif Moore looks ahead to draft

Spoke with Kashif Moore this week regarding his draft chances. He's excited for the new doors about to be opened, and was reflective about his career at UConn. Here's the link.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Whitmer, Wirth star in spring game

A few notes and observations from today's spring game.
  • Chandler Whitmer was clearly the most productive of the four quarterbacks who played (Scott McCummings sat out with a toe injury). He completed 18-of-27 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns while the combination of McEntee-Nebrich-Cochran combined to complete 14-of-38 passes for 138 yards, no TDs, three interceptions and eight sacks. Still, Pasqualoni insisted the competition will carry over into preseason camp. "There's no reason for us to (name a starter) now," Pasqualoni said. "We'll get into camp and as soon as we can, we'll make a decision." 
  • New UConn quarterbacks coach Shane Day said while Whitmer was accurate at times, he still has issues with his technique and learning the offense that are among other things to work on in the offseason. "No one jumped up and taken the job, it's still there for all those guys," Day said. "The sonner into cam we can figure out who the starter is, the sooner we can prepare for the season. We're not going to put a time table on it. You have to find the right guy and that's the most important part of the puzzle. ... We don't want to make a hasty judgment based on the spring game."
  • UConn's offense really lagged in the running game, and that was probably the most notable concern. George DeLeone said the line is struggling with injuries. "Our best players aren't here," he said, referring to injured tackles Jimmy Bennett and Adam Masters. "When you split it in half, you don't have a strong group and a second group. You have a mismatch of the whole group. With that said, I don't think we protected the passer very well. The defense, in many ways, outworked us and that was disappointing." The big test, DeLeone said, will be seeing whether the line, at full strength, can come together and produce.

  • Back to the talking to the coaches there's little doubt they don't like having to split practice reps between five players. It limits them all, and hampers the progress of the offense as a whole. "There’s going to come a point in time where we have to decide, move on and get ready for a game,” DeLeone said. “I don’t know when that point is, but it will come. By that time, the Little League rules will be over. We all don’t have to play three innings." If there's no rush to declare a starter now, expect it to come early in training camp. And expect it to be Whitmer. But, if you saw the game, you already know that.
  • DeLeone, like Pasqualoni and Day, wasn't outwardly gushing over the performance of Whitmer. Asked how he thought Whitmer played today, DeLeone was still upset over the interception he threw near the end of the first half. "Ridiculous," DeLeone said. "And I told him that on the sideline. You can’t lose the game for us. You don’t have to win the game necessarily, but you can’t lose the game. That was a disappointing play and I told him ‘Chandler, you know better.’ You throw that one to the tuba player in section 114.”  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

And we're down to a week left

Final Saturday practice of the spring. We'll be back up here on Tuesday, and then everyone gets to see for themselves at the spring game. Here's what happened today.
  • Another day for the defense, but we saw some impressive running from Max DeLorenzo at tailback and Mike Osiecki at fullback. DeLorenzo broke off a couple, and ran hard in short yardage situations. At one point, Sio Moore, on the sidelines watching, wondered if Mike Alstott hadn't slipped on the white and blue No. 44 jersey. "We saw some wiggle from Max," Pasqualoni said. "He looked like he did at Berlin High School." DeLorenzo knows Lyle McCombs has the experience and talent, but says he's doing all he can to get on the field this fall. "I still feel we're two different types of back," DeLorenzo said. "We're all competing and supporting each other. I think we'll use two or three backs this year. Don't quote me on that. We don't know anything. But, yes, I'm trying to make it happen."

  • Osiecki has shown he can be a weapon out of the backfield in the Anthony Sherman mold. Several times this spring he's been able to make a catch on the swing pass, then make tacklers miss. He can block too, though he's still learning. But look for him to have a few catches this season.

  • Joe Williams remains in contention to get some carries as well, but he's also returning kickoffs along with Nick Williams.

  • It was Nick Williams who had the catch of the day, streaking up the outside he caught a perfect pass from Chandler Whitmer in stride for a touchdown. Pasqualoni said Williams is learning to do everything on offense this year, noting the pass he caught was an outside route, and not the inside and underneath routes Nick ran all of last fall.

  • Jimmy Bennett stayed out for the scrimmage, but did don a helmet to shadow some offensive line drills early in the practice while wearing his knee brace.

  • Scott McCummings remained out with his toe injury, and isn't expected to play in the spring game. Shakim Phillips, Geremy Davis and Ryan Wirth all wore the red cross jersey with pads, but were limited. Same with linebacker Ryan Donohue.

  • Pasqualoni was on the war path with the players today, and it started early when Sean McQuillan forgot his yellow beanie during kickoff coverage. The head coach was as vocal today as he's been all spring. It's a long month, and perhaps after several good practices in a row the team started to drag a bit.

  • Don Brown was all over the referees for one particular pass interference call during a live drill. Brown, in his inimitable way, felt the pass was uncatchable. "Are you (kidding) me?" he shrieked. "He threw the ball off the wall!" It didn't end there. Brown kept on about it for the entire rest of the drive. At least the coaches are in midseason form.

  • The interior line will be young, but there's some real potential at a position that took a big hit with the losses of Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin. Shamar Stephen, Angelo Pruitt and Julian Campenni have been getting plenty of reps with Wirth slowed by injury, with B.J. McBryde working in there too.

  • Shamar Stephen is huge. At one point while on the sidelines, he walked in front of myself and Joe D'Ambrosio of WTIC and completely obstructed the field from us. I had to slide a few feet to the left. But at least we may have a nickname for him: Eclipse.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Practice 10 is in the books...some notes

Couple of quickie notes from today's practice:

  • Tailback D.J. Shoemate had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder today. Linebacker Andrew Opoku remains on indefinite suspension, according to Paul Pasqualoni.

  • Among those remaining out with injuries today were Shakim Phillips, Kamal Abrams, Ryan Wirth, Adam Masters and Scott McCummings.

  • Defensive back David Stephenson caught hell from defensive coordinator Don Brown for failing to make a tackle on Martin Hyppolite during a live drill. "Make the tackle or push him out of bounds!" Brown screamed with his trademark air horn shrill. Brown took a breath, then told Stevenson he needs to be a big-time tackler. Stevenson took it to heart. A couple of plays later, he crushed DeShonn Foxx after a short pass in the flat. Foxx remained on the turf face down in pain before slowly getting up and walking off. Foxx was OK, and later returned to practice. But what a hit.

  • Max DeLorenzo and Martin Hyppolite both ran the ball well today. DeLorenzo ran over a walk-on safety during one play.

  • Said Pasqualoni of backup linebacker Ryan Donohue, a transfer from Maryland, "He's going game speed all the time. He's never in practice mode."

  • Hillhouse football coach Tom Dyer, senior Rennick Brian (who'll officially join the Huskies this summer) and several other Hillhouse players took in practice today. Pasqualoni shook all their hands during practice, and New Haven native George DeLeone met with the entire group afterward. I didn't get to hear what was said, but if I know DeLeone he asked each of them where they lived and spoke glowingly to the kids of his time living in New Haven.

  • Odd play of the day: Casey Cochran threw a pass into the flat that Hyppolite didn't know was coming. It hit him square in the helmet, bounced a good 10 feet in the air and was intercepted.

  • Penn State transfer Alex Mateas has never played center before, but he's the man who will replace Moe Petrus. Pasqualoni didn't know Mateas, an Ottawa native, was new to the position but, "He acts like he's played there before." Mateas, a monster at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, is very athletic for the position, Pasqualoni said. "We feel he's so athletic there. Part of being the center is the coordination of snap, step, hit; because they have one more function as a lineman. He seems to be very natural. He has good flexibility, so each way he steps his snaps are pretty consistent."

  • Quick trivia: who was UConn's center prior to Petrus? Can't believe I forgot and had to look it up, although it seemed like Petrus had been at UConn since the Clinton administration.

  • There's still no real hint of what the coaching staff is thinking in regard to quarterback. Pasqualoni said they'll take as long as they need to, even if a decision isn't made until the day of the UMass game. My feeling, and really there's not much to base this on as no one is saying anything, is that Whitmer is the guy they want to be quarterback. In a perfect world, Casey Cochran will be redshirted, but there's no question the kid can throw, which may well get him on the field if need be this year. McCummings will have his own package again, but won't be the every down QB. Nebrich is visibly better this spring. He could always run, but seems to have a better grip of the passing game. McEntee has experience, and is in better shape physically. Would think if the season opened tomorrow, the depth chart would be Whitmer-McEntee-Nebrich, with McCummings getting his plays and Cochran the redshirt.

  • Brief scary moment when Michael Smith went down, then gripped his knee. But he shook it off and finished practice with no problems.

  • Trivia answer: Keith Gray played center -- and did it very well -- before Petrus. Have no idea why I couldn't remember that.

  • Joe D'Ambrosio says he has settled on 'Mighty' as the nickname for Joe Williams. So it is written; so it shall be done.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Two more weeks of spring ball

EDIT: There are two weeks of spring ball left, not one as I originally reported. As usual, I have no idea what day it is, much less what week it is.

Another practice is in the books. Some news and notes from today.
  • Linebacker Andrew Opoku, who was originally suspended for Tuesday's practice, is now suspended indefinitely, Pasqualoni said Saturday. Judging by Opoku's Twitter feed, his days at UConn are over. On April 3, he tweeted "waiting on my release forms". He mentioned he was hunting for scholarships on Friday. And on Saturday, he wrote "OK, we have another school! Unv Delaware" Doesn't sound promising he'll be back in Storrs.

  • There are serious concerns over D.J. Shoemate's latest shoulder injury. After his MRI on Tuesday, Shoemate was back at practice but as an observer. But Pasqualoni doesn't know yet if it's something he can recover from. "If his shoulder isn't right, and if there's going to be chronic problems, it certainly is (career-threatening)," Pasqualoni said. "We've got to see what this shoulder is and we're hopeful he's going to be OK but if he's not he has a decision to make." Pasqualoni said he expects to know Shoemate's status sometime after the end of final exams in May. "There's no urgency today, and there won't be for two weeks," Pasqualoni said. "As we start to set the calendar for the summer, the day the summer program starts would be the day I'd like to know the direction we want to go."

  • The injuries continue. Adam Masters and Ryan Wirth, both of whom left Tuesday's practice, were out today. Masters was in a protective boot and on crutches. Wirth was walking in sneakers, and seemed better off than Masters. Scott McCummings was out of his protective boot but still walking gingerly and not practicing. Receivers Geremy Davis, Kamal Abrams and Shakim Phillips all remained out. Dwayne Gratz hopped off at one point, but returned to practice. So did OL Steve Greene.

  • The offense seemed to struggle during the goal-line situations in the live scrimmage. But freshman tailback Joe Williams had a heck of a day, breaking off a couple of long gainers including a TD that showed the kid will be dangerous in open space. Pasqualoni said Martin Hyppolite and Max DeLorenzo have also been good this spring. But Lyle McCombs, it appears, is ahead of the field. "We know what Lyle (McCombs) is," Pasqualoni said. "We're not concerned with who the No. 2, 3 or 4 guy is. We just want to know who we can put in."

  • UConn radio man Joe D'Ambrosio and I decided Joe Williams is too electric to be an ordinary Joe. He needs a nickname. We tossed around a couple...Smokin' Joe Williams, Diamond Joe Williams. We're leaning toward Mighty Joe Williams. Be excited to watch him at the spring game.

  • Linebacker Ryan Donohue, a transfer from Maryland, has a Randy "Macho Man" Savage vibe going when he takes off his helmet. They look a lot alike. If Donohue conducted manic interviews in the classic "Macho Man" style (Oh, yeeeahhhh) -- well, my journalistic career will be complete. Then I can go back to being a carnival barker.

  • Quarterbacks...all five still have a lot to work on at this point. Saw some good things from the four practicing today, but some struggles as well.

  • Pasqualoni said his main focus is on the defensive tackles and plugging the holes left by Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin. Shamar Stephen and Ryan Wirth look like the starters, but there is some depth with Julian Campenni and Kenton Adeyemi amongst others on the second team.

  • Replacing Moe Petrus is the biggest task on the offensive line. Penn State transfer Alex Mateas has the inside track on the job, but is struggling with the shotgun snaps. Not a major concern, since he's a guard by trade and there is plenty of time.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Practice No. 7 wrap-up

Good, intense practice today. We even saw a scuffle -- always a sign that guys are playing hard -- that Paul Pasqualoni jumped right into to help separate. Some notes...
  • The injuries are mounting, though Pasqualoni isn't too concerned with most. Gilbert Stlouis was injured in Saturday's scrimmage and had his right foot in a plaster cast and was on crutches, and will be out "a while". Center Kyle Bockeloh (shoulder) is in a sling and tailback D.J. Shoemate missed practice to get an MRI on his shoulder. Scott McCummings, dinged during Saturday's practice, was in a walking boot. Receivers Geremy Davis, Shakim Phillips and Kamal Abrams all remained out today, as well, along with David Kenney, Joe Danielson, among others.

  • Defensive tackle Ryan Wirth and offensive tackle Adam Masters both left practice with undisclosed injured.

  • Pasqualoni said he's been trying to be cautious to help prevent injuries, but it's not easy. Players try to keep each other off the ground, but with goal line and other drills it can be difficult. "We tried, and they didn't do bad with it," Pasqualoni said. "That's kind of the way we want to do it, other than three opportunities in the spring to scrimmage. We're hoping that cuts back on the injuries."

  • Lyle McCombs looked to be in peak form, his footwork and speed helping him break off a couple of long gainers. Joe Williams, Martin Hyppolite and Max DeLorenzo got some additional work.

  • Noticed backup defensive tackle Julian Campenni drawing high praise on more than one occasion from Hank Hughes. Wirth had a strong day prior to his injury, too. Sean McQuillian showed good hands and an ability to move after the catch.

  • Not much to report on the quarterbacks. With McCummings out, there were more reps to go around but it's still difficult to assess with the four.

  • Fun play of the day: Yawin Smallwood made a goal line interception, and as he was tackled flipped the ball to Sio Moore who sprinted 85 yards to the opposite end zone.