Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teammates react to Jesse Joseph's season-ending injury

When senior defensive end Jesse Joseph gingerly walked off the Byrd Stadium field during Saturday's game there was a sense of deja vu as the scene was eerily similar to the sight of fellow senior DE Teddy Jennings leaving the field in a season-opening win over UMass. Unfortunately for the Huskies the final result was the same as Joseph joins Jennings on the list of players whose season is over.

Joseph is one of the more energetic, vocal and positive players on a defensive unit with more than their share of soft-spoken play makers. Joseph's teammates admitted that the intangibles that Joseph added to the defense might be harder to replace than what he brings in terms of run support and pass rush ability.

"I talked to Jesse yesterday," UConn senior linebacker Jory Johnson said. "He seemed happy still the same old guy he is not letting it get to him too much. I haven't seem Teddy but I have talked to him a few times. He is ready to do his recovery and he is ready to come back."

Junior Tim Willman is now listed as the starting DE in place of Joseph and while he will do his best to fill the void he knows that replacing what Joseph and Jennings brings to the team is a near impossibility.

"You hate to see anybody go down but especially Jesse," Willman said. "He is a really good friend of mine. He is a great guy, a good leader and has so much experience but the game is going to be played no matter what so we have to send guys out there and we can't miss a beat.

"It is tough to see anybody no matter who it is go down and of course there is a little heartache for all of us. (Joseph brings) a lot of leadership, he has a lot of experience and he has such good technique and fundamentals. He is always doing the right thing."

Senior defensive tackle Ryan Wirth benefited from having a responsible veteran like Joseph on the defensive line.

"They are good guys and they are very, very close to me," Wirth said. "They are hard workers, I joke with them and try to lighten them up saying I am going to bring my family to their games next year because they are going to be there so long. You can't replace guys like that leadership wise, talent wise they are just great guys all together now we have some young guys who have to step up. Those guys are going to have a key role in getting them ready. I think they can help us still even though they can't physically play. My heart goes out to them every week and as I take the field every week I really, really think of those two guys. It was Teddy now it is Jesse. It just shows that you have to play every play, you really don't know when it is over in this game or when you have to sit out for a little bit. It is sad. It hurts me the loss of those two guys.

"Jesse, he has been starting since he was a freshman. Just a great guy. When people were down he was always firing people up. Physical ability, he is a great defensive end hands down but there is even another spectrum of how much he helped our defense. It is something hopefully he can still bring to the table."

The feeling is that Joseph, who played as a true freshman, should not have a problem recapturing the year of eligibility although the process of petitioning the NCAA does not begin until the season is over. It's a little trickier with Jennings since he had a redshirt year and getting a sixth year of eligibility doesn't figure to be an easy task.

UConn AD Warde Manuel was not available to discuss rumors of a possible game against Notre Dame at Fenway Park in 2014 and UConn officials refused to comment on the reports that negotiations are underway for the Fighting Irish and Huskies to play the first football game at Fenway since 1968 citing a policy of not commenting on games until the contract is signed.

At the current time there is no contract between UConn and Notre Dame to play in 2014 but there is an opening on the schedule to make it happen. Since it will be a Notre Dame home game, the negotiations with Fenway Park need to come from the ND side of things.

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni chose his words carefully when the subject came up today.

"It would be exciting but that is all I know. I am just a coach here."

"Warde is working on that really hard," Pasqualoni said. "Connecticut has always played a really high-level non-conference schedule. We have some pretty good ACC teams, we have Tennessee coming on. We talk about it but that scheduling business that is a full-time job especially in this day and age."

I asked Pasqualoni what it would be like to play in a historic venue like Fenway. Maybe it was the fact that I grew up on the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border (even though I was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan rather than a supporter of the Red Sox) that led to me referring to Fenway as a "magical place" in my question to Pasqualoni. That choice of words wasn't too well received by the Yankee fans in the room.

"Green Monster seats, it is a good place there is no question about that. I know this, my kids would be excited," Pasqualoni said.

In other news, Pasqualoni said that senior CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson is getting better after missing the Maryland game with a hamstring injury and that the Huskies continue to deal with the stomach bug which weakened players over the weekend.

Pasqualoni said that junior DT Shamar Stephen, who saw his first action in Saturday's game at Maryland, could see an expanded role even though he is not listed on the two-deep chart. He also said that freshman QB Casey Cochran's status has not changed even though he had the cast removed from his injured left thumb.


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