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."


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home