Friday, August 03, 2012

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."


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