Friday, August 31, 2012

Eight former Huskies on NFL rosters

It was an anxious day for some former UConn stars fighting spots on NFL opening-day rosters.

By my count there are eight former Huskies who made the cut.

Arizona: FB Anthony Sherman
Atlanta: DB Robert McClain
Indianapolis: RB Donald Brown
New England: OL Donald Thomas
New York Giants: OL Will Beatty
Oakland: S Tyvon Branch
San Diego: DL Kendall Reyes
Tampa Bay: QB Dan Orlovsky

As for those who did not make the cut, receiver Marcus Easley was let go by Bufffalo despite his 100-yard kickoff return last night, Indianapolis waived both linebacker Greg Lloyd and receiver Kashif Moore, cornerback Darius Butler was released by Carolina, running back Jordan Todman was let go by Minnesota, Tampa kept Dan Orlovsky but waived offensive lineman Moe Petrus while New Orleans let linebacker Lawrence Wilson go.

Now the hope is that another team might pick up one of the players who got released or that they will be brought back and named to the practice squad. Petrus has the option of heading to the Canadian Football League since he was taken by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 2011 CFL draft.

Wildcat is here to stay

Considering that quarterback Scott McCummings finished at UConn's second-leading rusher during the 2011 season it's pretty clear that the offensive coaches with the Huskies are proponents of adding the wrinkle of the wildcat formation into the weekly game plans.

UConn wasted little time is getting McCummings involved as he was in the game on the Huskies' first offensive series. With McCummings' running ability combined with the wrinkle of giving speedy slot receiver Nick Williams the ball on sweeps or simply handing off to tailback Lyle McCombs there are some intriguing options when the Huskies go to the wildcat.

“There are a lot of people to take account of so it is hard to keep everyone in check every single play,” said McCummings, who ran seven times for 13 yards including a 1-yard TD. “Some plays are going to burst.”
Williams is hoping that his expanded role in the offense is a sign of things to come.
“I kind of had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder because I wanted to be more than just a return guy and this season I would like to be more involved on offense,” Williams said. “In the pass game, run game, return game, blocking whatever it is I am all for it. I am excited and happy to be on the field.
“(The sweep) is the little addition we have to the wildcat. In the past Kashif (Moore) was running that now I am running it. The way they are so aggressive when Scotty goes into the game it is a nice complement.”
In his conference call with the media on Friday Pasqualoni said that senior defensive end Teddy Jennings was expected to have an MRI done on his injured left knee to check on the severity of the injury he suffered in the third quarter.
“We are going to get an MRI this afternoon but I have to wait until I know for sure,” Pasqualoni said. “I am optimistic but I don't know for sure.”

Pasqualoni also said that game balls for the UMass team will be given to the entire defensive squad as well as kicker Chad Christen.

UConn gets defensive in opener

Of all the numbers to crunch off Thursday night's season-opening 37-0 win none may be more impressive as 38 as in that UMass got no further than its own 38 yard line in being shutout for the first time in 199 games.

The defensive stars were many. Sophomore middle linebacker Yawin Smallwood led the way with seven tackles and 3.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a sack. Trevardo Williams also had a sack (the 20th of his career) while Dwayne Gratz returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown.

When the game is replayed there will be no lack of highlight-variety hits to catch the attention of the viewers.

"We are going to go for the big hits," Smallwood said. "We are going to go for the big plays and make sure we make the big plays. I feel like that is going to help our defense out going forward."

Pasqualoni loves the speed of the defense but he was quick to note that UConn was playing a UMass team playing its first game at the FBS level.

"We practice that way," Pasqualoni said. "We practice fast. I don't know if it is going to look that fast next week. We've got guys who can run. Blidi (Wreh-Wilson), the corners can run they really can. Sio (Moore) can run, Yawin can run pretty good. The two defensive ends, Trevardo (Williams) can run so we've got some guys (who can run)."

Chandler Whitmer was 7 of 9 passing in the second half and finished with 219 yards. He'd like to have both of his interceptions back but he was able to get the ball to seven different receivers led by sophomore Geremy Davis' five receptions. Nick Williams finished with 143 all-purpose yards while Lyle McCombs ran for 82 yards and had another 23 receiving.

Williams was not the only star on special teams as Chad Christen was 3 for 3 on field goals and had four touchdowns on kickoffs while Taylor Mack blocked a punt which was recovered in the end zone by Max DeLorenzo.

The downer from the game could be the knee injury suffered by senior defensive end Teddy Jennings.

"I don't know for sure (the extent of the injury). I haven't been in the training room."

Also, with the investigation into academic irregularities going on at Hillhouse where there are accusations of changing course names and altering grade to get athletics eligible to play by the NCAA, I asked Pasqualoni for an update on Hillhouse grad and freshman offensive lineman Rennick Bryan. I did not see Bryan on the sidelines and he did not play.

"We are just trying to gather as much information as we can right now," Pasqualoni said.

It's uncertain whether former UConn stars Marcus Easley and Jordan Todman will be on NFL rosters when the teams go from 75 players to 53 by this afternoon but they certainly aided their cause on Thursday night.

Easley returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, caught the ensuing 2-point conversion and also had a 20-yard reception in Buffalo's 38-32 loss to Detroit while Todman had a 76-yard touchdown run in Minnesota's 28-24 loss to Houston. Todman ran 10 times for 114 yards and also caught five passes for 21 yards. I also thought it was interesting that Kashif Moore not only signed with Indianapolis earlier this week but he played and had a 15-yard catch for the Colts against Cincinnati, the team that cut him.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Marinan a national scholar-athlete finalist

UConn freshman defensive end Sean Marinan Jr. of Middletown is one of 26 finalists for the National Football Foundation's National High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.

Marinan is one of four finalists from the Northeast and was the nominee out of the Gene Casey/New Haven Chapter of the NFF.

Five winners will be recognized at the NFF's annual awards luncheon in December in New York.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Zach Hurd placed on IR

Former UConn lineman Zach Hurd cleared waivers and was placed on injured reserve by the Oakland Raiders.

Hurd, who suffered a head injury in the preseason, was waived by the Raiders after claiming receiver Roscoe Parrish off waivers.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

UConn in NFL update; SNY broadcast plans

It was a relatively busy day for UConn grads as receiver Kashif Moore was signed by the Indianapolis Colts and lineman Zach Hurd was waived by the Oakland Raiders. By my count there are 15 former UConn players on active rosters with another (linebacker Scott Lutrus on injured reserve) as teams got down to 75 players. NFL squads still need to get down to the maximum 53-man rosters by Friday so there will be some anxious moments for some former Huskies.

Here's a look at the UConn products on rosters .

Arizona: FB Anthony Sherman
Atlanta: DB Robert McClain
Buffalo: WR Marcus Easley
Carolina: DB Darius Butler
Indianapolis: RB Donald Brown, LB Greg Lloyd, WR Kashif Moore (LB Scott Lutrus on IR)
Minnesota: RB Jordan Todman
New England: OL Donald Thomas
New Orleans: LB Lawrence Wilson
New York Giants: OL Will Beatty
Oakland: S Tyvon Branch
San Diego: DL Kendall Reyes
Tampa Bay: QB Dan Orlovsky, OL Moe Petrus

UConn will be featured prominently on SNY in the upcoming season including Thursday when it will air a season preview at 7 p.m. followed by live coverage of the season opener against UMass and live coverage of four of the Huskies' first five games.

Here are some of the plans for the upcoming season

UConn Press Pass: [Paul Pasqualoni’s weekly press conference]                                      
Huskies Power Hour: [60-minute cut-down version of that week’s game]
Re-airs of every UConn Huskies Football Game [subject to availability]
UConn Huskies Season-in-Review/Bowl Preview Special
UConn’s “Football Signing Day” Press Conference


Paul Pasqualoni talks a little about naming of captains

The subject of naming Jory Johnson, Adam Masters, Nick Williams and Blidi Wreh-Wilson as captains was the first subject brought up on a teleconference with UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni.

"It was hard because there was so much leadership," Pasqualoni said. "I talked to all the seniors together and explained to them that I did want to select captains for the team. I thought based n the uniqueness based on the amount of playing experience we had in that group that our best leadership would come from the seniors although I do think we have good leadership in the junior, sophomore and redshirt freshman group. I think in each area of the program we do have good leadership and with all due respect to everyone in the room I do think that because of the amoint of experience we have that  the seniors would be in the positon to provide the best leadership. The team decided, we decided that those four would be our captains and that is the way it worked out."

Some other things of note. Pasqualoni was uncertain whether junior DT Shamar Stephen's knee injury will be sufficiently healed in time for him to play next week against North Carolina State.
"He has a long weekned we'll evaluate it early next week and see where we are at," Pasqualoni said.

He said that the true freshmen he'd consider playing on Thursday include defensive end E.J. Norris, offensive lineman Tyler Samra and safety Jordan Floyd

Pasqualoni said that freshman quarterback Casey Cochran has been practicing so regularly that he hasn't checked up on the timeline of when he it getting the cast removed from his injured left wrist but Cochran will be on the travel squad.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Johnson, Masters, Williams and Wreh-Wilson named captains

UConn named seniors Adam Masters, Jory Johnson, Nick Williams and Blidi Wreh-Wilson as captains for the 2012 season.
“We have an outstanding group of 17 seniors on our football team that all have shown outstanding leadership during their time here,” said UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni in a statement. “The four seniors that will serve as our team captains have been exceptional in all areas that are expected from a UConn football player.”

This is the second straight year that Wreh-Wilson has been named captain and he has started 22 career games. Masters, an offensive guard who has seen time at tackle as well, has started 23 games since arriving in Storrs. Johnson, a linebacker, was UConn's leading tackler in 2011 and has started 14 games including 12 during his junior season while Williams is UConn's career leader with a kickoff return average of 28.3 and is second all-time at Connecticut with 1,556 yards. He also will return punts and see time at receiver as a senior.

Labels: , , , ,

Highlights from Paul Pasqualoni's time on Big East call

Today was the first of the weekly Big East teleconferences and here's a synopsis of what Paul Pasqualoni had to say in his 12 1/2 minutes on the call.

Many of the questions were repeats from yesterday since those on the call were not able to make it to Storrs.

He reiterated the workmanlike, nose to the grindstone approach that earned redshirt freshman Julian Campenni the start at defensive tackle against UMass in place of the injured Shamar Stephen.

"He's been very consistent, he's a young player, but he shown a high level of maturity" Pasqualoni said. "He has practiced very consistently, tended to all his business on the academic side of his career here, dependable so he is getting the start. Obviously we are going to need to rotate people in and out of there so Angelo Pruitt will see action as well as B.J. McBryde but Julian just based on overall grades, Julian based on overall performance and overall body of work since he has been here has been good."

Pasqualoni was asked a couple of questions about starting quarterback Chandler Whitmer and he said he likes the way that Whitmer is growing into a leader on the team and he is able to "rally the troops and keep everybody together. He is gaining respect of team little by little but he has a big opportunity to really solidify his position here and show he can be a quarterback at Connecticut."

That was the leadership part of the QB job. Pasqualoni also addressed the physical characteristics that won him the job.

"He's a true dropback quarter, he has a very good release and his feet are pretty good. He can make the throws.  There's not a throw there that as a coach you say 'well, we better not try that throw.' He gets it out quick, has pretty good pocket awareness and athletic enough where he has to pull it down and run  for a first down he can do that too. "

He also revisited the possibility to playing UMass in the future calling it a "win-win for everybody."

Pasqualoni was asked about the lack of Big East representation in the preseason national polls and predicted that there would be more than one Big East school in the top 25 at the end of the season.

He also revisited the fact that since UMass has a new coaching staff it is hard to know what to expect on Thursday night and most of the film study has focused on strengths and weaknesses of the UMass personnel rather than any tendencies in offensive or defensive play calling.

New Haven Gridiron Club to honor former UConn star

Vernon Hargreaves, a former All-American linebacker and assistant coach at UConn, will be inducted into the New Haven Gridiron Club Hall of Fame on Sep. 20.

Hargreaves, a New Haven native and a four-year letterwinners at UConn from 1980-83 who finished his career with 393 tackles, spent 13 seasons coaching linebackers at UConn before making stops at Miami, Florida International, Bowling Green, East Carolina and has been coaching defensive end and special teams at South Florida since 2010.

Former UConn basketball star Scott Burrell, a standout quarterback at Hamden High in the mid and late 1980s, will also be inducted.

The induction dinner will be at the Cascade Banquet Facility in Hamden at 7 p.m., Tickets, at $50 each, may be ordered by sending checks made out to the New Haven Gridiron Club to P.O. Box 32, New Haven, 06501, no later than Sept. 13. Ticket orders should include the names of the persons attending. For further information, call Don Nielsen at 203-795-5331.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chandler Whitmer's dream about to be realized

Chandler Whitmer wanted nothing more than being the starting quarterback at a BCS school when he was coming out of high school.

He thought it would be at Illinois but when that wasn't going to be the case me took a detour to Butler Community College before landing at UConn.  On Thursday the sophomore is slated to be the Huskies starting quarterback when UConn hosts UMass in the 2012 season opener.

“You have to have a lot of confidence in yourself,” Whitmer said. “That is what I did. I just came in and took things one day at a time and learned the playbook. That is all I could do and if the hard work paid off then I am excited about it. I have seen a lot of things. I still have a lot to learn. This is my first year (playing) at a major Division I college football and there are a lot of things I haven't seen yet. I am just going to take it, roll with the punches and see what happens.”


Don Brown downplaying UMass reunion

UConn defensive coordinator Don Brown is about as competitive a person as you will ever meet so you will excuse him if he doesn't take time this week to reminisce too much about two stints at UMass heading into Thursday's season opener against the Minutemen.

Brown's first stop at UMass came as the defensive coordinator in the 1998 and 1999 seasons. In 1998 UMass won the FCS national title and the following season reached the national quarterfinals. After four seasons as the head coach at Northeastern Brown returned to Amherst for a successful five-year run as the head coach including a pair of playoff appearances.

"It was a really good experience," Brown said. "I was there in '98 and that is when we won the national championship. Then I came back in '04 as the head coach and had a five-year run which was the best in school history. Nothing but real fond memories but we have a game to play s all of that stuff you put behind you.

"It was really important. I din't know it but somebody brought it up to me but I was a part of every playoff win since 1998 in one way, shape or form. Obviously it gave me a lot of confidence knowing I was able to do that as a professional."

Now looking ahead to Thursday's opener, UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni said other than junior defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (who will miss the game with a knee injury) the Huskies are in pretty good shape injury wise.

Pasqualoni said that he hopes to rotate in four or five players both at defensive tackle and defensive end because of UMass' no-huddle, uptempo style of offense.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Derek Chard among those cut by New York Jets

Derek Chard was one of seven players waived by the New York Jets on Saturday as the Jets got their roster down to 80 players. Chard, a long snapper who played at UConn and hails from Burlington, seemed like a long shot to make the final roster with Tanner Purdum holding down the long-snapping duties.

Depth chart for UMass game

UConn has announced its two-deep chart for the season opener against UMass.

Not a lot of surprises to report. A couple of things that caught my eye was John Delahunt listed ahead of fellow senior Ryan Griffin at tight end. Redshirt freshman Julian Campenni, who was seeing the bulk of first-string snaps at defensive tackle at the last practice I was able to watch, is listed as the starter at DT alongside senior Ryan Wirth. Shamar Stephen, who is still working his way back from a sprained knee, is not listed as he isn't ready yet.

The only true freshman on the two-deep is second-string center Kyle Bockeloh.

Let's hope starting left offensive tackle Jimmy Bennett stays healthy because there is no other player listed on the two-deep.

For those who want to buy tickets for Thursday night's game at Rentschler can click here

Also, SNY will replay UConn's spring game tomorrow at 1 p.m. and will show Paul Pasqualoni's press conference on Monday at 4 p.m.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Report: UMass coach releases unofficial depth chart

After yesterday's practice UMass head coach Charley Molnar gave reporters a breakdown on the likely starters at the start of the season just a week before the season opener against UConn.

Looking at the list it's pretty obvious that there's more work to do at UMass in determining the starters especially on offense were only one player in listed at five of the 11 positions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Holines decommits from UMass and commits to UConn

Sha'Ki Holines, a linebacker from Commerce High in Springfield, Mass., committed to UConn shortly after decommitting from UMass according to his high school coach Tyrone Mathis.

Holines is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker who had 132 tackles, six sacks, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions as a junior. He also had three games with at least 16 tackles and as a receiver caught 23 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns and both of his rushing attempts went for short TD runs.

I just got off the phone with Commerce head coach Tyrone Mathis who said that knowing Holines he was sure it is a difficult decision not to honor his commitment to UMass but that UConn was his No. 1 school. When he decided to commit to UMass, there was no scholarship offer from UConn. That changed shortly after his commitment to UMass.

"I know for a fact that UConn was his No. 1 school," Mathis said. "Since his sophomore year when he went to a camp he felt that 'this is the school I want to do there.' He didn't get an offer from UConn after the one-day camp he went do so he looked at the offers he had and committed to UMass.

"He's a big strong physical athletic kid, really strong in weight room. He is exceptionally fast for his size, good hips, blocking ability, unbelievable hands."

Mathis said that Holines is projected as a rush linebacker or hybrid DE/OLB at the next level.

Commerce will play its final game of the regular season in Hartford on Nov. 17 against Bulkeley. The game will be at Dillon Stadium.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Story on UMass positional battles

Thought I would pass on a link to a story in the Springfield Republican updating some of the battles for starting positions for UMass, which will play at UConn in 10 days.

There is an item saying that nothing else is new regarding UMass No. 1 quarterback Kellen Pagel who is currently sidelined with post-concussion symptoms.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mike Osiecki glad to be back at UConn; St.Louis leaving

Seymour's Mike Osiecki met with the media for the first time since he made the decision to leave preseason camp for a couple days and then return on Thursday.

Osiecki, who is currently the No. 2 fullback for UConn, said he was happy to be back in the fold and the time away proved to him that he wanted to be at UConn.

"I had some personal things I had to deal with," Osiecki said. "Coach (Paul) Pasqualoni was really good and he was there for me. I just took care of it as quick as I could and came back. I've always wanted to be here so it kind of hurt me thinking about leaving and being home but I wanted to come back as soon as I was back home.

"I feel a lot better. I had to take care of some stuff but I am all good now. It was actually really hard (the 2/3 days he missed). I really wanted to come back. I just realize  how much I love football and I love the grind. I love it. I have been picking it up day by day.

Osiecki said he went into see Pasqualoni to talk about the issues he was having when Pasqualoni encouraged him to take some time off from football.

"I'm very happy," Pasqualoni said of Osiecki's return to UConn. "Mike practiced well in the preseason and he practiced well today. We are happy that he is back.

"Sometimes it might be best for the guy to leave or football is not for them but that is not the case with Mike. I could see that and when he went home I said you are going to figure this out in a day and call me."

Osiecki said he is grateful to Pasqualoni for the way he handled the situation.

"I kind of went in and talked about what was going on," Osiecki said. "He was very understanding. It was kind of like a mutual agreement. He was there for me and I really appreciate it. I was surprised, he was really there for me and get things straight."

Osiecki also talked about his brother Ryan, a quarterback at the University of New Haven who is getting preseason accolades as one of the best QBs in Division II.

"I am really proud of him," Osiecki said. "I gave him a call last night. We talk basically every night, he is  doing good.

"He is excited about the season and they should really good."

Mike Osiecki said it isn't always easy being at a different school from Ryan but they are both handling it well.

"It is (challenging) but we keep in touch, Whenever I have a chance to see him on a bye week or he has a bye week we always keep in touch and see each other."

At the end of practice Pasqualoni reported that junior safety Gilbert St.Louis informed him of his decision to leave the program.

"I don't know exactly where he is going but I am going to grant him a release to probably any school we don't play in the next two years" Pasqualoni said. "I wouldn't release somebody to go to another I-A program if we were going to play them. He just feels like he wants to go and have a chance to start."

With sophomores Ty-Meer Brown and Byron Jones entrenched as the starting safeties and a year behind St.Louis, it was unlikely he would earn a starting position with the Huskies.

Pasqualoni mentioned freshmen Andrew Adams and Wilbert Lee and junior David Kenney as players likely to see more reps at safety now that St.Louis is gone.

Freshman tight end Sean McQuillan appeared to injure his ankle late in practice and was taken off in a cart. McQuillan tripped over a fallen Jon Hicks and Pasqualoni believes it was an ankle injury.

"I think it is his ankle but I have to check," Pasqualoni said. "That is what happens when you fall on the ground. People think in football you are on the ground all the time but when you practice you are never on the ground and that is a art."

Pasqualoni said that junior guard/center Tyler Bullock is close to returning to practice while freshman DL Andreas Knappe had no pads on and was held out of drills.

"He (Knappe) got  a little nicked up and he is getting in shape," Pasqualoni said. "He will be back in a day or so. He is getting acclimated to it.

"Bullock has his red cross on, he was running around. He will  be in a green cross next and full speed before you know it."

As for the practice, tight ends Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt were noticeable snaring a bunch of passes including a brilliant one-handed catch by Griffin on a Chandler Whitmer pass. Whitmer threw the ball pretty well but when the first team offense and defense squared off running the ball between the tackles was a struggle. Speaking of defense, DT Julian Campenni saw quite a bit of time with the starters. Speaking of DTs, Shamar Stephen was getting around without crutches and Pasqualoni said he continues to make progress from a sprained knee.

This is the last day UConn will have two-a-day practices. The team seemed to be dragging at the end of the morning practice, which was moved indoors because the UConn staff did not want to risk unnecessary injuries on a rain-soaked outdoor practice field.

West Haven High assistant coach and former East Haven head coach Rusty Dunne was among those in attendance and Dunne said he saw a significant improvement in the quality of practice compared to when he came to UConn practice last year.

Labels: ,

Open practice called off

UConn's practice this morning is no longer open to the public because the wet grounds forced it to be moved indoors.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Osiecki back at UConn practice

Sophomore fullback Mike Osiecki returned to UConn yesterday and took part in Thursday's practice according to UConn SID Mike Enright.

Osiecki, a former Seymour High star who made the move from linebacker to fullback, asked for and was granted a chance to take a brief break from camp. After a couple of days away, Osiecki is back with the Huskies.

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni addressed Osiecki's situation after Tuesday's practice.

"I gave Mike permission to go home for a couple of days," Pasqualoni said. "He wanted to go home and just settle down and just think about what he is doing. He was having a good camp so I told him to go home and relax for a couple of days and then we will go from there. I have left the door open for him. I gave him permission to go home. We like Mike. He is a great kid. I like his family so we'll see. I want to do what he wants to do so whatever it is that he wants to do I am here to help."

For those who want to see UConn practice, the final open practice of the preseason is set for tomorrow from 8:45-11:15 a.m. Parking is free at Lot D which is adjacent to the on-campus practice field.


DeFilippo stepping down at BC

I am sure not too many tears were shed by UConn fans with the news today that Gene DeFilippo announced his retirement as the athletic director at Boston College effective on Sep. 30.

DeFilippo admitted that he did everything in his power to block UConn from joining the Atlantic Coast Conference when the ACC lured Pittsburgh and Syracuse out of the Big East.

It remains to be seen what DeFilippo's absence will mean when the time comes for the ACC to go after more teams.

At the press conference celebrating UConn joining Hockey East (to play alongside of Boston College) UConn AD Warde Manuel downplayed any issues between the two New England schools.

"The dialogue with BC is fine," Manuel said. "The dialogue with Gene DeFilippo, he has been a great friend of mine for a long time, the dialogue is fine with UConn. Where it goes, it will be up to the conversations that Gene and I have. We have a good relationship with BC moving forward. I can't speak to the past but I know Gene and I in our conversations know that we want to be there and try to work things out."

Obviously the final word on conference realignment has yet to be written but it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the future if the ACC comes knocking on UConn's door.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Big East commissioner ready for the challenge

Mike Aresco, the new commissioner of the Big East Conference, chose his words carefully and avoid answering most of the questions dealing with the upcoming television rights negotiations but he vowed that the Big East's future is bright and he proclaimed during a Wednesday morning press conference at the New York Athletic Club that one of his goals is to make the teams leaving the Big East regret their decision.

Aresco, a Middletown native and the Vice President of Programming for CBS Sports, knows he has his work cut out for him. West Virginia left after last season for the Big 12 while Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013. Aresco, who was unanimously approved for the role of commissioner in a unanimous vote of the conference's presidents, said "I think all of this is going to work and it is my job to make it work."

"This conference has the schools and it has ability to be a force on the national stage on the court and on the field and that is what it is going to come down to." Aresco does not start until September 1 which is also the day that the Big East can begin negotiating rights for a television package.

Aresco said he isn't planning on making changes in the Big East personnel and that meeting with all the conference's presidents and athletic directors is a priority.

"There are always things you can learn," Aresco said. "When I took the CBS job I had to learn things but I came up to speed quickly and think I have had a very successful tenure there. That is always the case with any new job and I am not concerned about that at all. I look forward to it, I really do because I have a deep interest in this. If I didn't I wouldn't have taken the job. "I think I am a quick study and I think I will get up to speed quickly. The thing to remember is although I have been in the media business for almost 30 years a good part of that has been involved in the college community. I have deep and long ties to the college community. I have always been interested in the issues of the college community. Fortunately I have outstanding relationships with lots of commissioners and athletic directors over the years. Obviously realignment has been a pressing issue so I think I have a perspective so that part doesn't concern me. I am really looking forward to rolling u my sleeves and learning about the issues. Also, I know what I don't know."

Aresco was joined at the press conference by University of Cincinnati president Greg Williams, the chairman of Big East's search committee. Williams believes that the conference could not have hired a better person for the job.

"There is nobody who really has more knowledge than he does or if they are, there are very few of them," Williams said. "The reputation he has, the respect that he generates around the country, he knows big-time college athletics. He is going to be a great leader for the Big East and we are truly excited to have him because of the respect and the ability that he brings to the job.

"This is very important. This is really a coup for the Big East to be able to bring in Mike Aresco, there is no question about that. Obviously there are other challenges that we face and we will face those challenges but with him as a leader we are very confident we are going to be able to face and overcome. They are a little less daunting. They are challenges but they are less daunting when you have somebody who is as well known and has the experience and expertise that he has. We feel like we are well positioned for whatever challenges may be presented in the future."

Here is the story I wrote off today's press conference

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

McCummings glad to be back

It was only natural that sophomore quarterback Scott McCummings was very much in demand from the media at Tuesday's practice since it is the first time McCummings took part in a practice the media was allowed to view.

McCummings missed the early portion of camp to tend to a personal matter. He returned Friday and while McCummings admitted he is rusty, he is trying to catch up as best he can.

"It was hard. I wanted to be here so bad," McCummings said. "It kind of stinks being at home working out problems. It is great to be back basically. I was just dealing with a lot of family problems, Coach (Paul) Pasqualoni helped a ton."

McCummings was used primarily as a runner out of the Wildcat formation and he was UConn's second-leading rusher in 2011. McCummings is working to become a better passer to offer opposing defenses another dimension to prepare for when he comes into the game.

"I am really hoping that I become more consistent as a passer," McCummings said. "In 7 on 7 and 1 on 1 (drills) I feel a lot more consistent, a lot more accurate but at the same time I have the occasional bad throw. It is going to take a while

"I still feel overall a lot more complete as a passer than I used to be so that is a good thing but I still feel like there is a lot of rust, a lot of stuff in the footwork that needs to get down so can transition myself better and be a better player."

Pasqualoni likes what he has seen out of McCummings.

"He didn't skip a beat, he is right on schedule," Pasqualoni said. "Obviously he is going to further along in some areas over some others just because of the number of plays he plays but I think he is doing pretty good."

Some other notes and observations from practice. Tyler Bullock, who saw plenty of time as the first-team center in the last practice I attended, had a walking boot on his right foot but Pasqualoni doesn't believe Bullock will miss much more practice time. Hillhouse coach Tom Dyer was among those in attendance. He was hoping to see his former player Rennick Bryan, a promising freshman offensive lineman but Bryan was forced to miss the practice dealing with some minor injuries.

Some players who caught my eye today included freshman safety Obi Melifonwu who followed up a blocked field goal by making some solid plays on defense. Ted Jennings, listed as a defensive end, played various spots on the defensive line and seems to be pretty comfortable playing alongside Ryan Wirth at defensive tackle.

"Our philosophy is we want everybody up front to be able to play every position," Pasqualoni said. "Last year Tywon Martin could play all four, Kendall Reyes could play all four so we pick days when guys just move around to different spots just so if something happens, you have a limited number of guys on the travel squad you've got to be able to play (multiple positions)."

Easily the best catch I have seen in the three practices I have been at was the one-handed stab of a reception by sophomore Deshon Foxx late in today's practice.

Paul Pasqualoni talks about Mike Osiecki's situation

Sophomore fullback and former Seymour High star Mike Osiecki was not at Tuesday's practice but he has not left the program according to UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni.

"I gave Mike permission to go home for a couple of days," Pasqualoni said. "He wanted to go home and just settle down and just think about what he is doing. He was having a good camp so I told him to go home and relax for a couple of days and then we will go from there. I have left the door open for him. I gave him permission to go home. We like Mike. He is a great kid. I like his family so we'll see. I want to do what he wants to do so whatever it is that he wants to do I am here to help."

Osiecki was listed as the second-team fullback behind classmate Reuben Frank on the preseason depth chart after moving over from linebacker.

UConn AD reacts to naming of Mike Aresco as Big East commissioner

UConn director of athletics Warde Manuel, who was a member of the committee which ultimately selected Middletown native and television executive Mike Aresco as the new Big East commissioner.

The choice of Aresco was met with Manuel's stamp of approval.

 "I like it, I like it a lot," Manuel said on Tuesday during UConn football practice. "I think it is an excellent choice. I was a part of the committee and part of the process and I am excited and thrilled for the Big East and looking forward to getitng to know Mike a little better.

"I knew of him, I knew of him and his reputation and from the start I thought he would be an excellent person for us to talk to. I think it is an excellent choice for us and I am excited about what he is going to bring to us. He brings a great dimension. His experience in terms of television, the media but his extensive knowledge to collegiate athletics are deep and I think will be very helpful to UConn and other institutions within the league, I think he bring a lot to the table and from my perspective it is a home run."

Manuel also talked about his experience watching six former UConn players and current UConn coach Geno Auriemma lead the U.S. women's basketball team to the Olympic gold medal for the fifth straight time.

"London was awesome, it was the first time I had the chance to meet the ladies, to see what they did and they way they carried themselves the way that they won on the international stage was impressive," Manuel said. "I saw us play Australia (in the semifinals) and championship game against France and it was just wonderful to watch. I am glad that six of our former (players) were on the team and to see Geno work his brilliance on the international stage was really phenomenal."

Aresco officially announced as Big East commissioner

The Big East announced that Middletown native Mike Aresco has been named the Big East commissioner. Here is the official release: MIKE ARESCO NAMED BIG EAST CONFERENCE COMMISSIONER PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Mike Aresco, Executive Vice President, Programming of CBS Sports, has been named Commissioner of The BIG EAST Conference. The appointment was made by a unanimous vote of the league’s Presidents. Aresco will assume Commissioner’s duties in early September. “The search to identify the new Commissioner of The BIG EAST Conference was truly an international search,” said Greg Williams, University of Cincinnati President and Chair of the Commissioner Search Committee. “We had many outstanding candidates, but we are fortunate to have Mike Aresco as our new Commissioner. His breadth of experience and depth of knowledge in intercollegiate athletics will continue to move the BIG EAST forward on a successful path. The BIG EAST has enjoyed a great history. Mike Aresco will help assure the conference of a vibrant future.” “The search committee identified some truly outstanding candidates and we are most pleased that Mike Aresco will be the person who will take the BIG EAST to future success,” said Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida President and Chair of the BIG EAST CEO Executive Committee. “He has all of the characteristics that we need in a Commissioner. His career has been filled with achievement and success in intercollegiate sports. Mike Aresco knows the BIG EAST and he has a great vision for our future.” “The Presidents have acted very responsibly,” said Interim Commissioner Joe Bailey. “They have appointed a leader with integrity, intelligence and energy. Bravo!” At CBS Sports, Aresco has been responsible for all college programming for the Network. In addition, he has been involved with the strategic development of CBS Sports Network programming. He joined CBS Sports as Vice President, Programming, in 1996 and was promoted to Senior Vice President in 2000 and named Executive Vice President, Programming in 2008. He is responsible for managing the division’s college sports properties, including contract negotiations and future acquisitions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, regular-season college basketball and football bowl games. He also has been responsible for administering the network’s various NCAA properties. Aresco was instrumental in negotiating the CBS Television Network’s current landmark agreement with the NCAA granting CBS Sports and Turner Sports exclusive rights to the NCAA Men’s Basketball through 2024 and the Network’s historic 15-year deal with the SEC. Before CBS Sports, Aresco worked at ESPN where he was responsible for overseeing the acquisition, scheduling and development of long-term strategies for all of ESPN and ESPN2 college sports properties. He joined ESPN in 1984 and was named Assistant General Counsel in 1988 before moving to the ESPN programming department. Aresco is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Tufts University (B.A., magna cum laude, history); the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (M.A., international relations), where he held a John Moors Cabot Fellowship, and the University of Connecticut Law School (J.D.). A native of Middletown, Conn., Aresco lives in Southport, Conn., with his wife Sharon. They have two sons, Matthew, who operates his own television production company and Brett, an aspiring actor in New York City. During an extensive search process, Russell Reynolds Associates and the BIG EAST met with many individuals, and regardless of their interest in the position, all provided valuable insight and were instrumental to the search and the decision made by the BIG EAST. Russell Reynolds would like to thank all of the individuals it spoke with for their willingness and enthusiasm to participate in the process, and Russell Reynolds was pleased to assist the BIG EAST in naming their new Commissioner.

Report: MIddletown native to be named Big East Commissioner

According to a report by former Boston Globe reporter Mark Blaudschun, CBS Sports VP Mike Aresco will be named the new commissioner of the Big East. Aresco is a Middletown native who now lives in Greenwich and a graduate of the UConn law school. He has worked at CBS since 1996 and has extensive background negotiating television deals for big-time college athletics. Here is a link to his bio

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mixed results for former Huskies in Colts game

It didn't take long for a former UConn star to make his presence felt in the Indianapolis Colts
 preseason opener as running back Donald Brown took the first pass that prized rookie quarterback Andrew Luck threw and scampered 63 yards for a touchdown in a 38-3 win over St. Louis on Sunday.

It was Brown's only reception and he carried the ball twice for two yards,

Brown is one of three ex Huskies on the Colts. Linebacker Greg Lloyd, recently acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, had one solo tackle and two assists but fellow linebacker and UConn alum Scott Lutrus suffered a sprained knee in the game. UPDATED ON 8/13 Lutrus suffered a torn ACL and is out for the year

It's been a tough preseason injury wise for UConn products. Offensive tackle Will Beatty has been in and out of New York Giants practices with a back issue, running back Jordan Todman missed Minnesota's preseason opener with an ankle injury and now Lutrus is banged up and there are reports that safety Tyvon Branch has missed time in practice for the Oakland Raiders because of an undisclosed injury. Oakland wraps up the first full week of preseason games with a game against Dallas tomorrow.

I also figured I would leave you with a link to the story I wrote on UConn freshman defensive tackle Andreas Knappe who has an interesting story as a native of Denmark who just started playing football three years ago.

Also I thought I would remind people that there are two more chances to check out UConn football practice Tuesday (3-5:30 p.m.) and Saturday (8:45-11:15 a.m.).

Saturday, August 11, 2012

McCummings back at practice

Sophomore quarterback Scott McCummings, who had missed the early part of training camp to tend to a personal matter, was back at practice today according to UConn SID Mike Enright.

McCummings return comes at an ideal time since UConn is a little thin at quarterback since Mike Nebrich left the team especially since prize freshman Casey Cochran still is unable to take snaps from center because of a broken left wrist.

Although McCummings missed a lot of time during fall camp, Pasqualoni believes his experience playing during the 2011 season and in spring camp should help McCummings get up to speed quickly.

McCummings was 5 of 10 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns during the 2011 season but his real impact was running the ball out of the Wildcat formation as McCummings' 285 yards and five rushing touchdowns were second on the 2011 UConn team behind only tailback Lyle McCombs' totals of 1,151 yards and seven rushing TDs.

Also, Pasqualoni said he does not have a firm date for announcing team captains but he thought it should happen the week leading up to the season opener against UMass on Aug. 30.

Labels: , , ,

Strong debut for Orlovsky

Former UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky was a perfect 8 for 8 for 91 yards for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in last night's 20-7 win over Miami. Also rookie free agent Kashif Moore out of UConn had one reception for five yards for the Cincinnati Bengals in a 17-6 win over the New York Jets.

In the CFL, former UConn DE Julius Williams had his first sack of the season in Edmonton's 28-20 win over Sasketchewan. Sasketchewan's top offensive player was a familiar name as Bloomfield's Kory Sheets ran 17 times for 78 yards and caught six passes for 138 yards.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Injuries and a transfer impacting QB and DT depth

The quarterback and defensive tackle spots were already positions of concern before QB Michael Nebrich left the program and DT Shamar Stephen was sidelined for a few weeks with a sprained right knee so the quality and quantity of players at those positions was the focus of my main story off UConn's annual media day.

Second-year UConn Paul Pasqualoni expressed confidence that the Huskies should be in good shape at both positions moving forward.

First here is his reaction to Nebrich's decision to leave.

“It was his decision to transfer,” Pasqualoni said. “I would love to have had Mike stay because Michael could come in and contribute and be a good player for us but at the same time the player has got to be happy. We are not going to stand in a guy's way in regards to what he wants to do but we are optimistic with the guys we have. Johnny McEntee played 12 games for us last year, played more than Mike played so it is good to have Johnny. Casey Cochran, he will be healthy pretty soon (after breaking his left wrist in an offseason bicycle accident) and Casey is making progress.

“I think at the quarterback position we are in the developmental phase. It is a work in progress every day but we are happy with the progress we are making.”

Cochran said he hoped to be able to practice without restriction perhaps as soon as before the Aug. 30 season opener against Massachusetts. Also Pasqualoni said he is hoping to have quarterback Scott McCummings back at practice next week. McCummings, used primarily in the Wildcat formation in 2011, has been excused from the first week of practice to tend to a personal matter.

As far as defensive tackle, Stephen suffered a minor sprain to his right knee but there is a chance he could be ready in time for the UMass game.

“It is frustrating but I am learning to deal with it so everything is all right now,” Stephen said. “They are
stepping up and filling in for me.”

Sophomores Angelo Pruitt and B.J. McBryde are among those defensive tackles seeing more time lining up next to starting defensive tackle Ryan Wirth with UConn’s starting defensive unit.

“It was good to know that he (Stephen) was going to be OK,” Wirth said. “He rehabs hard, he works hard and he will be back really quickly. We have a lot of talented guys who are working hard. The sky is the limit for some of these guys “

The defensive line could get a boost from 6-foot-9 freshman Andreas Knappe from Denmark who is expected to go through his first practice in full pads shortly.

UConn’s practices on Tuesday (3-5:30 p.m.) and on Aug. 18 (8:45-11:15 a.m.) at the on-campus practice field off Alumni Drive are open to the public.

Labels: , , , , ,

UConn's Cochran, Stewart talk about their health

Casey Cochran and Graham Stewart have more in common than just being  two of the highest profile in-state players on the UConn football team, they are both also spending about as much time with the medical staff as they are on the field.

Cochran, a record-breaking freshman quarterback who played at New London and then Masuk, injured his left (non throwing) wrist when he fell off his bike at home. The good news is that Cochran hopes to get the cast off and be able to practice fully perhaps as early as before the Aug. 30 season opener.

"All I can do is take it in stride," Cochran said. "It happened and I can't go back now. I am doing as much as I can. I think I learned more football these last couple of weeks ... I haven't been able to practice like the other guys. I am working as hard as I can. I think I probably am working harder than I would be injury free.

"I am getting extra reps after practice but I can't take any snaps yet. I am throwing and taking as many mental reps as possible, that is the biggest thing is just being behind the offense when they are running."

Stewart, a former Xavier High star, is not as fortunate. Stewart, a linebacker, was hoping to receive a waiver from the NCAA after transferring from Florida so he could play this season. However, when Stewart suffered a torn pec muscle while bench pressing UConn never followed through with the paperwork since the injury would sideline Stewart for the entire 2012 season.

"For me basically it is another obstacle," Stewart said. "I have gone through a lot going to a different school but I am in a better place now.

"Now I have no choice. Now it is 'all right, you really aren't playing.' I was looking forward to it. I was excited, I am a competitor, I'd like to come in and compete right away especially in my own home state and help out but either way I am coming out all right."

Stewart was attempting to max out at 440 pounds on the bench press when he suffered the injury.

"We were doing our max lifts," Stewart said. "I was doing my bench and my shoulder just gave out real quick, just a freak accident and something I didn't expect. It hurt . I had 440 on the bar, it was going up and I was feeling good. I was pumped that I was getting stronger. It was so freaky and in two days I am having surgery and now I have to recover."

The good news is that Stewart played at Florida as a true freshman so he has a redshirt season available. He should be ready to go in spring drills and will have three years of eligibility remaining.

"My teammates, they took me on and accepted me real well I enjoyed working with me, pushing them and them pushing me and just being in a new atmosphere is really nice," Stewart said. "I think it comes to a certain level of comfort. For me I felt really comfortable. I felt comfortable in Gainesville and I feel comfortable here but I get to see my family and I love them to death so that is basically it."

There were no lack of television viewing options last night but there was no way UConn senior DT Ryan Wirth was about to change the channel when his former teammate Kendall Reyes was making his NFL debut for the San Diego Chargers against the Green Bay Packers.

Reyes, a second-round pick of the Chargers, had four tackles and 1/2 a sack in the exhibition opener.

"I watched every play, you know that," Wirth said. "It is awesome. You have (Zach) Hurd over in Oakland, you have (Robert McClain) down in Atlanta, I got to catch a couple of these guys play. As a kid it's crazy how close that (goal) is. I have a lot of respect for those guys because those guys worked. If you are in the NFL, I have seen it being here so long, it is the guys who worked their butt off and those ar ther guys who actually make it."

Labels: ,

Hand's Matt Walsh talks about his decision to commit to UConn

A day after Hand rising senior running back/linebacker Matt Walsh received a scholarship offer from his dream school he made it official by committing to UConn during an unofficial visit to campus on Friday.

Walsh is physical two-way player who led Hand to the 2011 Class L title as a junior. He is also realizing a dream by committing to UConn.

"Since the beginning of the process and growing up I've always wanted to go to UConn," Walsh said. "It was always the big team around here; (UConn) was always the home team for me. I have been up to Storrs many times. The facilities are amazing and I love everything about it.

"The offer was yesterday," Walsh said. "I called them yesterday and talked to them and . It was what I have always hoped for. I didn't have to think about it. It was really exciting especially being in Coach (Paul) Pasqualoni's office but I still think it hasn't set in yet. It is going to take a few days to set in fully set in."

Although Walsh is a tremendous linebacker for the Tigers, UConn is looking for Walsh to come in as a fullback.

"(UConn offensive coordinator) George DeLeone has recruited him since April," Hand coach Steve Filippone said. "They did a great job recruiting him and he is going to be a good player for them. I think the first thing that stands out is the intensity that he plays with. He doesn't take any plays off and he goes hard all the time.

"(Fullback) was the position they thought he would be the most useful to them and a position that they might be looking for  a fullback at the end of this season."

Walsh, who saw time at both fullback and tailback as a junior at Hand, plays with a linebacker's mentality even when he is on offense.

Walsh admits the chance for his family and friends to be able to see him play his home games in Connecticut is a major plus in Walsh heading to UConn.

"I wasn't one of those finesse running backs or anything so I use my body, the size and strength to basically overpower people," Walsh said. "I just followed it up and my body size was he right type for what UConn
wanted to play fullback in their NFL, pro-style offense. It was the perfect fit for them and perfect fit for me."

With Hand's first practice on Aug. 20, Walsh was thrilled to have the recruiting process over and done with so he can focus on leading Hand to back to back titles since the Tigers won three straight Class M championships from 2003-05/

"I was hoping I could get this whole process over by the weekend," Walsh said. "It was perfect timing because now I have a week to kind of work out and get ready for the season Now I have to focus on winning another state championship."

Thursday, August 09, 2012

8/9 UConn alumni update

Just a quick recap of how former UConn stars fared in exhibition games on Thursday night

WR Marcus Easley, Buffalo: Had one catch for 12 yards in 7-6 loss to Washington
DB Robert McClain, Atlanta: Tied for team lead with five solo tackles and six overall tackles and had an interception in 31-17 loss to Baltimore
DT Kendall Reyes, San Diego: Had four total tackles and 1/2 a sack in 21-13 win over Green Bay
OG Donald Thomas, New England: Got start at LG in 7-6 win over New Orleans
LB Lawrence Wilson, New Orleans: Had four total tackles in 7-6 loss to New England.

There will be six more preseason games on Friday although there are reports that former Huskies Will Beatty (New York Giants OT) and Jordan Todman (Minnesota Vikings RB) will be held out because of back and ankle injuries respectively.

In the Canadian Football League Larry Taylor returned eight punts for 88 yards, had 85 yards on four kickoff returns and ran once for 13 yards in Calgary's 31-20 win over Hamilton. Taylor added to his league league in combined return yardage. He has 1,228 yards between kickoff, punt and missed field goal returns and no other CFL player has hit the 1,000-yard mark.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Nebrich leaving UConn

Sophomore quarterback Michael Nebrich has decided to transfer from UConn.

Nebrich has taken part in UConn's first five practices and in the two practices I saw he seemed to be the most effective quarterback throwing the ball.

I spoke to Nebrich after UConn's first practice about the quarterback situation since it was the day after Chandler Whitmer was named the Huskies' No. 1 quarterback.

"Me and Chandler are good friends," Nebrich said. "We really didn't care who Coach (Paul) Pasqualoni named the starter. Me and him have been working hard the whole offseason and we are going to continue to support each other."

UConn is a little thin at quarterback at the current time as Scott McCummings, primarily used in the Wildcat formation, has been excused from the early portion of practice for personal reasons and highly-regarded freshman Casey Cochran is still recovering from a broken thumb on his left (non throwing) hand leaving Whitmer and last year's starter Johnny McEntee as the only healthy options at the current time.


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Smallwood working his way back; Stephen sidelined

UConn sophomore middle linebacker Yawin Smallwood has been limited at times during the first week of practice with a lower-body injury but following Tuesday's practice Smallwood said he is feeling pretty good about where he is.

"I didn't take as many reps as I usually do but we will see what happens from here on out," said Smallwood, whose 94 tackles was second on the 2011 UConn squad. "I got enough game experience from last year and practicing out here is the same thing so I think I will be ready."

Smallwood is one of three redshirt sophomore who was among the Huskies' top eight tacklers last season. Both starting safeties are sophomores with Byron Jones and Ty-Meer Brown being counted on for big things along with Smallwood from thre UConn coaches.

"We made a real key investment in those guys last year," UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "We played them in big games and that investment is very evident right now. We are hoping that they can continue to get better, have an impact on the team and play like sophomores and not freshmen.

"They have been thrown into the deep end of the pool and they have done a good job with it."

Smallwood has benefited from having veteran linebackers to follow since he arrived including Greg Lloyd, Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson, who are all currently in NFL camps. With Smallwood having dreams of playing in the NFL, he is obviously keeping a close eye on how his former teammates are handling the transition from college to professional football.

"When I came in as a freshman we had Greg Lloyd, a great linebacker, Scott Lutrus, Lawrence Wilson and now we have Sio (Moore) and Jory (Johnson) so it is great to see guys like that how they get better, how they work hard and stuff like that and hopefully that is going to carry over for me," Smallwood said. "Now that I know what it takes, I know what I have to do on the field I know what I have to do off the field and little things like that is going to help me prepare myself if I want to make it to that next level."

The defense was missing a key player at Tuesday's practice as junior defensive tackle Shamar Stephen suffered a sprain knee at Monday's practice. Pasqualoni said that Stephen would undergo an MRI tomorrow  but he was optimistic is was just a Grade II level sprain which typically would sideline a player for just a few weeks.

"I'll know more about that tonight," Pasqualoni said. "I am optimistic that it is not going to be a long drawn out deal. The way he sprained it is somewhere around Level II. We are going to get a lot of ice on Shamar and get him back as fast as we can."

Pasqualoni also said that he should know more about the timeline for quarterback Scott McCummings's return perhaps as early as the next couple of days. McCummings has missed the first part of camp to tend to personal matter. Freshman defensive tackle Andreas Knappe was supposed to arrive from his native Belgium this evening.

Among the true freshmen, running back Joe Williams was among the most highly touted and a couple of times during Tuesday's practices he displayed the blazing speed that has the UConn coaches excited about his potential. Another true freshman opening some eyes is former Hillhouse star Rennick Bryan.

Bryan saw some time at right offensive guard with the No. 2 offensive line and Pasqualoni likes what he sees from the 6-foot-1, 326-pound Bryan.

"He understands football," Pasqualoni said. "He likes football. He has a really good look on his face when he is out here. Having said that, the amount of plays and information is overwhelming but for a freshman who has only been here for five days, I put it in the category  of fighting through it and battling every day and having a a good approach. We are happy with what he's getting done.

"Obviously the first thing that stands out is his physical attributes and he has a lot of them. He is a very good athlete. He is a very fluid athlete. He is a powerful kid, he is a flexible guy so we certainly look at that but you also look at that look in his face to see if he is overwhelming and it is too big for him or whatever. It is not. He doesn't have any distant deer in the headlight look when he is in the huddle and the protection is called and he comes the blitz he has a good, bright look on his face which I look for. His body language is good so we are positives."

With Moore limited today, redshirt freshman LB Jefferson Ashiru saw time with the starting defense and another LB who caught my eye was senior Ryan Donohue. On offense, mammoth tackle Jimmy Bennett looks pretty good.

"Considering what he has been through, he is out here going full speed and he hasn't missed a rep," Pasqualoni said of Bennett. "He has to  play himself back into shape in preseason camp, football shape but I am encouraged."

Monday, August 06, 2012

One year later Dave Solomon's loss still stings

It was a year ago today when I received a phone call from my boss that still sends chills up my spine.

The first call came when I was in Stratford covering a softball tournament and Sean Barker, the Register's sports editor, asked me to call him when I got home.

I figured there was an assignment he wanted to me cover on short notice or something of that sort. So when I returned home I did as he wished. Sean hesitated for a few seconds, took a deep breath and began to break the unthinkable news that the Register's esteemed sports columnist Dave Solomon was killed in a one-car accident on his way home from UConn football practice.

Even now a year later I find it hard to believe that Dave is gone. I fully expect to see him show up at UConn practice tomorrow although I know that is simply not the case. In my eyes Dave was the epitome of what a sports writer should be - tough but fair, versatile, a born storyteller and one of the most passionate people I've ever accounted. He put as much care into writing a column off a Super Bowl as he did off of high school or youth sports event. I learned more from him than any other person I've worked with in my 25 years in this business and his absence is still felt by those at the paper not only professionally but personally as well.

I think it is fitting that his widow has started a scholarship in Dave's name at UConn which will support future journalists. Dave took more than his share of young writers under his wing so it is only natural that his memory will be honored by doing pretty much the same. In honor of the one-year anniversary of Dave's passing I made a donation to the Dave Solomon Scholarship fund at UConn and would encourage others to do the same. The address is

Story on UConn commit; Open Practice info

Here is a link to a story on recent UConn commitment Cameron Stapleton, a tight end/defensive end out of Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, N.Y. from the New York Post.

Also, UConn's practice tomorrow is open to the public. Practice runs from 3-5:30 p.m. on the on-campus practice field which is up the stairs from the old Memorial Stadium. Parking at the adjacent Lot D is free to the public.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Forner No. 1 pick's retirement could aid former Husky

Offensive guard Robert Gallery, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft, informed the New England Patriots that he was retiring from football. That should be of interest to UConn fans since former Husky Donald Thomas is pushing for a spot at guard for the Patriots.

Thomas played in 10 games for the Patriots including earning his first career start in a Dec. 24 win over Miami. However, Gallery was signed by New England with the expectation that he could add depth at guard.

The reports are that Thomas was having a strong camp so even before Gallery's surprising decision, Thomas has put himself in position to earn a spot with the Patriots. With Brian Waters' status unknown and Logan Mankins recovering from an offseason knee injury, Thomas has had the opportunity to take snaps as a starter.

As hard as it it to believe, the NFL preseason schedule kicks off tomorrow when the Arizona Cardinals face the New Orleans Saints. Each team has a former UConn player on the roster as Anthony Sherman is a fullback with Arizona and Lawrence Wilson is a linebacker with New Orleans. The game will air on the NFL Network beginning at 8 p.m.

Cameron Stapleton, a tight end at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, N.Y., has committed to UConn. Here is a link to a scouting report on the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Stapleton.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Whitmer talks about first practice as UConn's starting QB

With Paul Pasqualoni announcing yesterday that Chandler Whitmer was No. 1 on the depth chart at quarterback, naturally Whitmer was a popular guy with the media following Friday's practice.

Whitmer discussed the advantage of heading into fall camp knowing he is the No. 1 guy.

"It is chemistry," Whitmer said. "I think getting out there and getting into a rhythm with the guys who are going to be out there is something that is exciting

"He (Pasqualoni) called me in the office. I have been working all summer and he told me yesterday. I have been trying to improve myself all summer and get better and try to win games."

Pasqualoni, who resisted the temptation to name Whitmer the starting QB despite an impressive showing in the spring game by the junior college transfer and again at the Big East media day on Tuesday, addressed why he made the move on Thursday.

"We wanted to give the starter coming into camp more of an opportunity with the reps to work with the first team guys in an effort to develop the communication aspect, the chemistry aspect, the feel for each other aspect," Pasqualoni said. "Under the conditions of the position right now I just thought we'd go this way. It is a judgment call on my part. Sometimes you try to gather all the important information you can and you make the gut call. I think it is going to help Chandler in regards of being the starter and I think it is going to help the selection of who the backup is because we are not going to make it through the season with one quarterback. We are going to need another guy to go in and win the game so I felt it was going to help us all around."

While Whitmer may be the No. 1 guy at QB, Michael Nebrich may have been the most consistently impresssive thrower on Friday. Bear in mind it was a practice without pads and almost no contact so take this info for what it's worth but Pasqualoni said he was impressed with the improvement Nebrich has made on throwing the deep ball. Whitmer threw some nice balls but also forced the issue a little too much leading to some ill-advised throws.

"I think the whole offense kind of did click which is surprising since it is our first day," Nebrich said. "I think the offseason work really panned out for all of us and hopefully we keep it going through the rest of camp."

Nebrich downplayed the announcement of Whitmer at the No. 1 QB.

"Me and Chandler are good friends," Nebrich said. "We really didn't care who Coach Pasqualoni named the starter, me and him have been working hard the whole offseason and we are going to continue to support each other out here. I think that is what you saw today, we were both completing a lot of throws today. We are both trying to make each other better. Whoever can help the team win the best that is who they are going to play. I am going to support him; he is gong to support me it doesn't matter."

Staying on the subject of the quarterbacks, Pasqualoni said that Scott McCummings should be returning soon but he did not know the exact date. McCummings has been excused from the early part of camp to tend to personal matters, A broken left thumb kept freshman Casey Cochran limited to the role of reluctant spectactor. Pasqualoni did not have a definitive timeline of when he would come to a decision whether or not to redshirt Cochran.

"We could make it by the UMass game but typically we might not make it until the sixth game of the year and that is kind of the rule for freshmen redshirt guys," Pasqualoni said. "Some of them it is a clear that you redshirt them at the end of camp, other guys it is not quite as clear. It (varies) depending on the guy, depending on the needs."

Labels: , , , ,

Pasqualoni breaks down positional battles

With fall camp opening later today there are going to be some interesting battles for starting positions or at least spots on the two-deep rotation so I figured this would be a good time to share UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni's take on the positions.

QB: It was announced yesterday that Chandler Whitmer will start camp No. 1 on depth chart. Scott McCummings will miss the beginning of camp because of "excused personal reasons" and Casey Cochran will have a cast protecting his injured left thumb.
"That is a position that is a big, huge concern. Chandler Whitmer clearly had the most production in the spring game."

TB: Lyle McCombs is the unquestioned starter and one of the best tailbacks in the Big East but the battle is for playing time behind him.
"We have to find depth at the tailback position. We know what Lyle can do. He had a really good year. We have some young players. We have a young guy in Joe Williams, we have an older guy in Martin Hyppolite, we have a younger guy in Max DeLorenzo but they're kind of untested. We are going to see exactly how the handle preseason and how far they can come in preseason for depth because you need depth."

FB: Reuben Frank enters camp as the starter put he could be pushed by converted linebacker Mike Osiecki.
"Reuben Frank played the position last year and he is a prototype guy, height, weight, size he looks like a big-time fullback. We are kind anxious to see that. We have moved Mike Osiecki from linebacker to fullback. He was a good fullback at Seymour High School so we want to see if Mike can bring something to the fullback position."

WR: UConn lost its top two receivers in Isiah Moore and Kashif Moore, who is currently in camp with the Cincinnati Bengals. The return of Mike Smith, an experienced playmaker who was academically ineligible last year, will help.
"We lost Kashif who was a pretty productive guys for us. Mike Smith, who has played a lot of football, didn't play last year but he is ready to go and Shakim Phillips who transferred in has played and is a good looking player. Nick Williams is kind of that quick slot  like a Wes Welker kind of guy. Putting together the wide receiver position is going to be an exciting thing for us because I think we are going to have some guys there who can play and will be productive."

TE: One of UConn's strongest positions with the return of Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt and there wasn't much time spent on addressing this position.
"The two tight ends are back intact."

OL: UConn has to find replacements for Moe Petrus (in camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and left tackle Mike Ryan. Both starting guards (Adam Masters and Steve Greene) return as does starting right tackle Kevin Friend.

"We have to replace Moe Petrus who was a good center and Mike Ryan, who was a good tackle so the organization of the offensive line (is a priority), Jimmy Bennett coming back from an injury so the organization of the offensive line and defensive line, I have always felt that when you start building, you build up front first."

DL: At defensive end UConn returns Trevardo Williams, who had 12.5 sacks as a junior, and Jesse Joseph, a three-year starter. Defensive tackle took a hit with the graduation of Kendall Reyes (a second-round pick of San Diego) and Twyon Martin.
"First, we have to replace Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin on the defensive line so any time you lose two players who have played the number of games that they have played, have the experience and are as talented as those two guys were that is a concern. I am anxious to see this group of Shamar Stephan, Ryan Wirth, Angelo Pruitt, I am anxious to see how they work. I was pleased with what they got done in the spring game, we ended on a pretty positive note. I am anxious to see where that position starts out.
"You have some real experience with Jesse Joseph as a defensive end, you have Trevardo as a defensive end and then you have Teddy Jennings as another so we have a rotation of three senior defensive ends that will really, really help us especially when you consider that the two inside guys have played but haven't started. You have seven guys who have played a lot of football here."

LB: UConn returns its top three tacklers in Jory Johnson, Yawin Smallwood and Sio Moore although it should be noted that in the depth chart Johnson is sharing top billing at one outside backer spot with Ryan Donohue.
"Sio is a senior and Jory Johnson is a senior so you have two senior linebackers who have played. We are going to have much, much more depth at the linebacking position so we are going to be able to play more players at the linebacker position." 

DB: The Huskies have one of the best cornerback tandems in the Big East in seniors Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. At safety Jerome Junior, who led all UConn DBs in tackles in 2011, was dismissed from the team but Byron Jones and Ty-Meer Brown combined for 96 tackles and five interceptions as freshmen.
"We started two redshirt freshmen safeties last year Byron Jones from St. Paul High School and Ty-Meer Brown from McKeesport, Pa. They really had a pretty good year. They really grew up and I am excited to see them grow even more so that is a big deal

"We've got to find a third and fourth corner. Blidi Wilson and Dwayne Gratz are pretty established corners but we need depth, we need corners No. 3 and No. 4 to emerge. Taylor Mack is going to be one of those guys so we will see how that goes." 

Special teams: The huge loss is record-breaking kicker Dave Teggart although UConn does return punter Cole Wagner and top returner Nick Williams.
"I think the biggest (issue) will be replacing David Teggart who is an excellent kicker. Chad Christen is going to try to compete for that. We brought in Bobby Puyol who is a very good kicker so they will compete to see who does the field goal deal so that will be a big concern.
"With David you were pretty sure that whenever you got down in there you were at least coming down there with three which is obviously a good feeling to have especially in close games at the end of the half and end of the game. It really has a great deal to do with your thinking, what you are trying to do to win the game, Chad has a strong leg but we really have to work on consistency in this preseason. Puyol is pretty accurate but we have to work on consistency. That is a big guy to replace."

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Former UConn LB traded to Colts

Former UConn linebacker Greg Lloyd Jr. was traded by the Philadelphia Eagles to the Indianapolis Colts in a deal which landed Philadelphia defensive back Kevin Thomas and a conditional 7th round pick in next year's draft.

Lloyd had two unassisted tackles for the Eagles during the 2011 preseason but spent the majority of last year on the practice school. He spent the last five weeks of the season on the active roster but did not appear in a game.

Lloyd becomes the third UConn product on the Colts roster joining fellow linebacker Scott Lutrus and running back Donald Brown.


Chandler Whitmer No. 1 on QB depth chart

UConn announced that sophomore Chandler Whitmer will start fall camp as No. 1 on the depth chart at quarterback and also that Scott McCummings will miss the beginning of camp due to excused personal reasons.

Whitmer moved to the front of the pack during spring practice and had an outstanding showing at the spring game. With McCummings not at camp early on and freshman Casey Cochran likely being hampered by a cast to protect a broken left thumb there should be time for Whitmer, last year's starter Johnny McEntee and Michael Nebrich to try to get a jump on the competition.

UConn listed a depth chart in the prospectus handed out at Big East media day and listed the five quarterbacks alphabetically,

Here is the rest of the depth chart which is obviously subject to change
LT: Adam Masters or Jimmy Bennett; Paul Nwokeji
LG: Steve Greene; Tyler Bullock
C: Alex Mateas; Kyle Bockeloh
RG: Adam Masters; Gus Cruz
RT: Kevin Friend; Stephen Brown
TE: Ryan Griffin or John Delahunt; Sean McQuillan
WR: Shakim Phillips; Geremy Davis; Deshon Foxx
WR: Michael Smith; Nick Williams; Tebucky Jones
FB: Ruben Frank; Mike Osiecki
TB: Lyle McCombs; Martin Hyppolite or Max DeLorenzo; Joseph Williams

DE: Jesse Joseph; Ted Jennings
DT: Shamar Stephen; B.J. McBryde or Tim Willman
DT: Ryan Wirth or Angelo Pruitt
DE: Trevardo Williams; Kenton Adeyemi or Jonathan Louis
LB: Sio Moore; Jefferson Ashiru
LB: Yawin Smallwood; Marquise Vann
LB: Jory Johnson or Ryan Donohue
CB: Blidi Wreh-Wilson; Taylor Mack
CB: Dwayne Gratz; David Stevenson
S: Ty-Meer Brown; Gilbert St. Louis or Wilbert Lee
S: Byron Jones; Andrew Adams

PK: Chad Christen; Bobby Puyol
P: Cole Wagner; Chad Christen
H: Cole Wagner
DS: Adam Mueller; Dominick Manco
KR: Nick Williams; Taylor Mack or Wilbert Lee
PR: Nick Williams; Taylor Mack or Deshon Foxx

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Injury sidelines Graham Stewart

Former Xavier High star and University of Florida transfer Graham Stewart will miss the upcoming season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle.

UConn was in the process of applying for an NCAA waiver allowing the linebacker to play this season when Stewart suffered the injury during a July 23 workout. He underwent surgery on July 27 and with Stewart being sidelined UConn never completed the paper work since he would have had to sit out the season due to the injury.

Stewart, a Durham native, played in 12 games and had one tackle and returned a blocked punt 14 yards for a score in the Gator Bowl as a true freshman at Florida in 2011. The linebacker will have three years of eligibility remaining.