Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tyler Bullock officially the starter at center

Beginning with the start of fall camp there might not be another position on the UConn team more hotly contested than center.

After Moe Petrus was the unquestioned guy in the middle of the line in recent years, Penn State transfer Alex Mateas and Tyler Bullock were running neck and neck.

Mateas earned the No. 1 spot on the depth chart at the start of fall drills and remained there until yesterday when Tyler Bullock was named the starting center.

It's been an interesting competition because early on in camp I noticed that Bullock was seeing plenty of time with the first team offensive line before he was slowed by injury. Mateas started the first four games before he got hurt in the loss at Western Michigan.

Mateas, although he was in pads the following week when UConn hosted Buffalo, was held out of the game. He was back for the Rutgers game but it was Bullock who earned his second straight start and figures to start again when the Huskies host Temple on Saturday.

“During preseason camp there was a lot of competition for that spot,” Bullock said. “You sign up to come here and play and that is what we both wanted to do. Obviously the injury had a huge impact on my outcome at the start of the season. That is just the way the game is. Guys will go down and you have to pick up the pieces and go in for that offensive position. We have nothing against each other, we are teammates. I’ll help him and he will help me, we give each other advice. That is pretty much how that is going so far.”

Matteas, a redshirt sophomore, began his career at Penn State before opting to transfer. He started the first four games before injuring his ankle in a loss at Western Michigan. Mateas was in uniform against Buffalo but was held out with the hopes that the extra week of rest would help him get closer to 100 percent. He got some time in last week’s loss to Rutgers. Even though he is healthy enough to return to a starting role, Mateas doesn’t not blame the coaching staff for keeping Bullock in the starting lineup for UConn’s game with Temple on Saturday.

“It has been a close battle between me and Tyler Bullock,” Mateas said. “At that point in time the coaches decided that he was healthy and he’s been practicing pretty well. I think they made the right decision because he did have a very good game (against Rutgers).

"On Saturday against Rutgers I did get a couple snaps. It definitely could have gone a little better. I didn’t change anything in my preparation. It is not what I expect from myself and definitely not what the coaches expect. I have some work to do to get back but me and Bullock will be fighting for the spot I hope a little longer.”

Interestingly enough, it was the process of recovering from an injury which ultimately resulted in Mateas leaving Penn State for UConn.

“It was just a difference of opinion on some treatment,” Mateas said. “It wasn’t anything that was extremely horrible in terms of the injury but I felt like it was the best decision and it looks like it has turned out pretty well for me. I am very happy with where I am but it is time to get back in there a little bit, get healthy and start fighting again.”

Obviously much has changed since Mateas left Penn State. Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno resigned under pressure shortly before his death because of the handling of the sexual abuse allegations against his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Tuesday. The NCAA came down hard on Penn State for their handling of a Sandusky situation. Connecticut natives Silas Redd and Khairi Fortt were among the players who transferred.

"I've definitely been in touch with a couple of the guys I was really close with," Mateas said. "It is tough for them to talk about it even with me even though we are good buddies but it is just something tough to talk about. I think the players who decide to transfer or players who decide to stay on the team or stay at school, most of the guys are happy with their decision. They are slowly getting over it and getting over it in the right way so I think it is good."

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