Friday, December 21, 2012

Former UConn commit signs with FAU

Dean College defensive tackle Lance Burlingame, who committed to UConn, had a change of heart and signed with Florida Atlantic University.

Here is a link to the story on Burlingame on the Owls Access site with quotes on why he shifted from UConn to FAU.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

3 Huskies will play in Senior Bowl

UConn cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and defensive end Trevardo Williams have accepted invitations to play in the Senior Bowl next month.

Gratz had 53 tackles and three of the Huskies’ six interceptions during the 2012 season, He finished his career with 189 tackles and eight interceptions.

Wreh-Wilson, a two-year captain, had 47 tackles and broke up nine passes as a senior. His only interception of the season came in overtime in a win at Louisville. He finished his career with 181 tackles and eight interceptions. He is currently ranked as the No. 11 cornerback in the NFL Draft Scout site who projects Wreh-Wilson as a third-round pick in April's draft,

Williams had 11.5 sacks as a senior and finished as UConn's career with a program-record 40.5 sacks. The NFL Draft Scout site lists Williams as the 16th best outside linebacker prospect and projects him to be a fifth-round pick.

The Senior Bowl will be played on Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala. and will be televised live on NFL Network.

Other Huskies in the NFL Draft Scout site are Sio Moore, the 13th best OLB,  Ryan Griffin (No. 19 TE), Jory Johnson (No. 25 OLB), Dwayne Gratz (30th best CB), Adam Masters (No. 34 OG) and Michael Smith (No. 73 WR).

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Defensive coordinator Don Brown heading to BC

The feeling was that there could be a new coordinator in place for the UConn football team in 2013 but nobody thought defensive coordinator Don Brown would be the first one to go.

As first reported by Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, Brown is headed to BC after two successful seasons running the defense at UConn. The Huskies finished the season ranked 10th in total defense among FBS teams while ranking seven in rushing defense and 13th tackles for losses.

Brown has an impressive resume finding success wherever he's been. Eight of his 10 stops have been in New England including head-coaching stints at Plymouth State, Northeastern and Massachusetts. Not only does Brown figure to improve the Boston College defense but with Brown joining BC head coach Steve Addazio, a Farmington native and former head coach at Cheshire High School, recruiting Connecticut and the rest of New England is about to become even more challenging. Brown also recruited Florida for the Huskies and of course Addazio built relationships in the Sunshine State during his time as an assistant coach at the University of Florida so it will be interesting to see if BC beats out UConn for Florida prospects.

Here is a link to Boston College's release on Brown's appointment

Even if Brown had stayed, he would have had plenty of work to do with the graduation of UConn's all-time sacks leader Trevardo Williams, starting linebackers Jory Johnson and Sio Moore, starting cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson and top interior defensive lineman Ryan Wirth. The Huskies do return leading tackler Yawin Smallwood and injuries on the defensive line enabled plenty of returning players to see quality time in the defensive line rotation. The defensive line should also get a boost assuming defensive end Jesse Joseph is granted a fifth season of eligibility.

Brown also coached the cornerbacks at UConn and there is no position on the defense which will be under more scrutiny than the CBs. The ability of Wreh-Wilson and Gratz to lock up in man coverage enabled Brown to be more aggressive in sending his linebackers on blitzes. Taylor Mack  played well at times but was also beaten in man coverage. The other cornerbacks coming back are untested and head coach Paul Pasqualoni said late in the season that starting safety Byron Jones could be shifted to cornerback.

Safety Ty-Meer Brown is also back as are eight other players (including Joseph) who started at least one game on defense for the Huskies and the linebacking corps will be aided by Florida transfer Graham Stewart so Brown's departure does not mean that it won't be a dominant unit but it certainly does not help.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

UConn president releases statement on conference realignment

UConn president Susan Herbst released a statement regarding conference realignment. No news coming out of the statement as it is merely a plea to the fans to remain optimistic. Here is the statement

Dear UConn Friends and Colleagues:

It is difficult to write to you about athletics or any other conventional university items in light of the Newtown tragedy. We will never understand it; hopefully there will be some healing in the future, although that seems very far off right now. I ask that you consider giving one of the greatest gifts of all to the survivors of Sandy Hook Elementary: the opportunity to attend a top research university like ours. Please make a gift to a young child, so that he or she might have the honor of being a Husky some day. 

As you know, conference realignment continues at a rapid pace and UConn has new challenges we must face. I do not know when or how things will settle; no one does. There is more change to come that will reshape the landscape yet again. I assure you that the BIG EAST presidents are both unified and optimistic, working to strengthen the conference in imaginative ways that will see us through to a bright future for our students, coaches, and fans. Commissioner Mike Aresco is an outstanding leader at an extraordinarily complex time, and our university partners represent powerful, high-quality institutions that we are proud to join with in this conference.

I realize that this is aggravating to hear, but as in all things, we can only affect what is in our control. As a result, we strive for excellence at UConn daily across all departments, something very much in our control. We stand tall at UConn and we need not beg, plead, nor despair. That is not who we are, and my reading of our university history -- from 1881 to today -- conveys the pride of every generation, in good times and bad.

There are profound concerns about the future of collegiate athletics of course. I speak often to presidents across the nation, and we are hardly alone in our worries. Even many seemingly "secure" universities are fearful of the changes to come, not only in the realm of realignment, and hope for a long-term stability that seems elusive right now.

We here at UConn have incredibly powerful and compelling teams, decades of accomplishment, joyful traditions at games, and great plans in the works, such as our men's ice hockey team entering Hockey East in 2014, the top conference in the nation, and our new building projects, like the UConn Basketball Development Center.

I know that it is difficult to read much of the internet content right now about athletics, which seems to be dominated by negativity. Many bloggers, journalists, and even fans from elsewhere would like to see UConn hurt, and hence write with a cynical tone. This flip discourse is again, not in our control. The truth is that this is a top national research university with a terrific athletics program that will flourish, no matter what conference we are in and no matter what the media chatter looks like.

I wish you could see my mail and answer my phone, to get a true sense of how dedicated and upbeat our best fans are. Far from being depressed or dragged down by negativity, they are more committed than ever before, and know that it is their very commitment that will determine our future. They know that we will be more than fine, even if there are months and maybe even years of conference uncertainty ahead. We still get to play and we still get to win. Our true fans and supporters so love our coaches and students, and enjoy their tremendous efforts on the field and court. That is what I appreciate, and what all university presidents hope for.

When it comes to athletics, I normally write to you - so often these volatile days! - about student-athletes and our need to focus on them. Again, there is much cynicism around this topic. I cannot speak for other institutions, but here at least, focusing on our students guides what we think and what we do. We care deeply about student academic success, and the pride that we feel about all of our sports is both immense and genuine.

So, Huskies: Let's all hang tough and please keep some perspective, as hard as it is in a time of great change. Win or lose, conference struggles or not, UConn is a research university. So if you are feeling low, just head to our university home page and glory in the amazing new faculty we are hiring at a rapid pace, our incredible student successes across disciplines, scientific awards and invention by our faculty, and all that matters most at your flagship university.

I was hired because I'm an optimist, and I cannot help being just that. I never see the productive value in cynicism and negativity, when there is so much to be proud of. It's a tough world out there, but you can count on me to be the Number One Cheerleader for this superb place I call home. I hope to see you at many games this year - basketball, hockey, and spring sports are not too far off, despite the temperatures out there! Support our beloved university, our outstanding coaches and students, and all really will be well.

I realize that it is difficult to have a truly happy holiday if you are at all close to Newtown or are simply touched by it, as so many are, around the world. But do please have a safe and restful break, and be thankful that we are so tightly bound to each other by this great university community.

Susan Herbst


Report: Don Brown heading to BC

Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports tweeted this morning that UConn defensive coordinator Don Brown will become the DC at Boston College. Obviously considering the work Brown did the last two years at UConn, that would be a significant loss for the Huskies. As it is, Brown would have had some serious work to do replacing all-time sack leader Trevardo Williams, starting linebackers Sio Moore and Jory Johnson, starting cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson and starting defensive tackle Ryan Wirth.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

UConn recruiting target a JUCO All-American

Dean College's Rodney Whitehead, who visited UConn earlier this month and is reported to have been offered a scholarship by the Huskies' coaching staff, was named a first team NJCAA All-American as a tight end after catching 30 passes for 602 yards and three touchdowns while adding 294 rushing yards. He also averaged 26.8 yards on 16 kickoff returns and averaged 16.8 yards on 16 punt returns while returning a pair of punts for touchdowns.

Whitehead's Dean team, Hamden's Byron Pinkston, was an honorable mention selection as an offensive lineman. When I spoke to Pinkston following an Oct. 27 win over Globe Institute, he said Florida Atlantic had offered him. According to yahoo, Coastal Carolina and Northern Colorado have also offered him scholarships.

Whitehead, who is from Manassas, Va., and Pinkston were also first team All-Northeast Football Conference selections while former Hillhouse star DaShon Riley was named to the second team as an offensive lineman.

UConn commit Lance Burlingame dealt with injuries during his sophomore season which likely kept him from earning postseason honors but the defensive tackle finished with 26 tackles including 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and four sacks.

Also, UConn commit Jamar Summers, a receiver/safety from Orange (N.J.) High was named a first-team All-Essex County pick on offense while future Husky Noel Thomas out of St. Luke's in New Canaan was named the Connecticut player of the year by MSG Varsity

Sunday, December 16, 2012

JUCO Tight End commits to UConn

J.D. Krill, a tight end from Saddleback Community College, announced on his twitter page that he has committed to UConn.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Krill had 10 catches for 98 yards and one touchdown as a sophomore.

With the graduation of tight ends Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt, Krill has a chance to come in and compete immediately for playing time. He tweeted that he will be signing his national letter of intent on Wednesday.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Catholic 7" announce they are leaving the Big East

After a conference call on Saturday morning, the presidents from the seven non-FBS schools in the Big East officially announced that they have voted to leave the conference.

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova said they will "pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established" in an official statement.

There have been reports that the seven schools will not lay claim to the Big East name although more details on their intentions figure to emerge in the coming days.

The Big East reacted to the news with a statement from Commissioner Mike Aresco

"The basketball institutions have notified us that they plan to withdraw from the Big East Conference.  The membership recognizes their contributions over the long distinguished history of the Big East.  The 13 members of the Conference are confident and united regarding our collective future.  We have a strong Conference with respected national universities, and are working together to forge the future.  We have a variety of options, and are looking forward with great partnership, collegiality and optimism."

Despite Aresco's optimistic awards, the departure of the seven schools leave the Big East on life support.

UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida remain full Big East members. Temple is currently a football-only Big East members with the rest of the sports joining next year. Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and Southern Methodist are scheduled to become full-time Big East members in 2013 with Boise State and San Diego State slated to join the conference as football-only members in 2013. In 2014 Tulane will join as a full-fledged Big East members with East Catholic and Navy slated to join as football-only schools in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The loss of the "Catholic 7" is the latest blow for the conference. Aresco was hired as commissioner because of his impressive background in the television world. Aresco is in the process of negotiating a new television deal for the Big East but with each exodus of schools, Aresco's job of selling the conference is becoming increasingly more daunting. Assuming the schools pledging to join the Big East don't get cold feet, the conference will be able to move forward albeit at a significantly weakened state.

Here is a statement from UConn president Susan Herbst on the matter:

"The tragedy that took place in Newtown on Friday should be the focus of the thoughts of the people in Connecticut and all Husky fans this weekend.

"The University of Connecticut believes that the BIG EAST Conference will continue to be a strong and exciting conference that is comprised of highly-regarded national universities.

"We ask our fans to steer all passion and concern to Newtown, and we will honor those lost when we gather together as a university community for events this upcoming week."

The seven schools are expected to leave the Big East in 2015 but recent history has shown that those dates are subject to change. The ball is now in the court of the teams who agreed to leave their conferences for the Big East believing it was a step up in conference strength and television money. If the TV deal doesn't make it worth those program's while, there could be no Big East to speak of.

UConn commit wins state title in record fashion

UConn commit Kyle Schafenacker was part of a starting offensive line which enabled St. Thomas Aquinas to set a Florida state championship game record with 604 yards of total offense in Friday's 41-25 win over Tallahassee's Lincoln in the FHSAA 7A title game.

Senior quarterback John O'Korn passed for 339 yards and two touchdowns and added another 95 rushing yards and two more touchdowns while Fred Coppet ran for 155 yards and a TD as the Ft. Lauderdale school won its seventh state title including the fourth in the last six years. Four of St. Thomas Aquinas' five touchdowns went for at least 40 yards including scoring plays of 51, 80 and 71 yards in a span of 5:22 in the first quarter.

Schafenacker started at left tackle as the Saints ran for 262 yards and passed for 342 more to break the FHSAA championship record of 581 yards of total offense set by Pahokee in 2005.

Yale commit Edward Gaines had five receptions for 43 yards including a 15-yard touchdown for Lincoln.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Big East on the verge of collapse

Right around the time the Big East was sending out the football matchups for the 2013 season, the seven non-FBS programs were uniting together to deliver what could be the final blow to the beleaguered conference.

ESPN, citing sources close to the situation, is reporting that DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's Seton Hall and Villanova have agreed to leave to the Big East. The report said a conference call is set for Saturday where there is a possibility the seven schools, which includes four original Big East members, officially announce their decision to leave the Big East.

One of the issues facing the seven schools is how they choose to leave the conference - or if they take control of the conference name. There is a stipulation that seven universities leaving the conference together can retain the automatic bid into the NCAA basketball tournament. One rumor circulating in recent days is that the seven schools could join a conference like the Atlantic-10 or look to entice other non-FBS Catholic schools to join them in a conference.

It appears that Louisville's decision to leave for the Atlantic Coast Conference as well as the feeling that Cincinnati and UConn were openly politicking to get bids from the ACC. In particular the decision to add Tulane as a full member seemed to irk the seven schools as they are reported to have feared it would damage the conference's RPI.

The move would leave UConn as the only original member of the Big East remaining in the conference, that is if the Big East name doesn't go with the seven Catholic schools.

It goes without saying that is devastating news for UConn. While this is a move initiated for basketball reasons, the further uncertainty surrounding the Big East could result in teams agreeing to come into the conference for football having second thoughts. It would be an understatement of incredible proportions to say this decision couldn't come at a worse time as Big East commissioner Mike Aresco is still leading negotiations for the new television contract for the Big East.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

UConn announces 2013 schedule

UConn announced its 2013 schedule including the dates for the non-conference games.

The Huskies will kick off the season by hosting Towson University on Aug. 29, which is one of seven home games for UConn. The highlight of the home schedule will be a September 21 game against Michigan. That comes a week after former UConn head coach Randy Edsall returns to Rentschler Field when his Maryland squad plays the Huskies. UConn's lone non-conference road game is on Sept. 28 against Buffalo.

UConn will also play home games against Big East foes Louisville, Rutgers, San Diego State and South Florida while the conference road games will be against Central Florida, Cincinnati, Southern Methodist and Temple.

UConn will play in the East Division of the Big East along with Central Florda, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida. Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, SMU and Temple will be in the West Division. The dates of the Big East games will be announced at a later date.

Right now the list of games on the 2013 schedule is about the only certainty in the Big East at the current time. Not only will Louisville and Rutgers, two of the four teams which earned a share of the Big East title during the 2012 season, leave for the ACC and Big 10 respectively but there are multiple reports that the Big East schools who do not play FBS football have discussed leaving the conference with the Atlantic 10 reported to be a potential landing spot.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wreh-Wilson named UConn's MVP

Senior cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson was named UConn's MVP at the team's awards banquet on Sunday.

Senior tight end Ryan Griffin was selected as the Offensive Player of the Year, senior defensive end Trevardo Williams and senior receiver Nick Williams were named the Defensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year.

Other award winners were DT Ryan Wirth (Jasper T. Howard Award), OG Adam Masters (Football Alumni Award), LB Sio Moore (Kendall Madison Award), TE John Delahunt (Joseph M. Gianelli Unsung Hero Award), LB Jory Johnson (John L. Toner Scholar-Athlete Award) and CB Dwayne Gratz (Brian Kozlowski Award).

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Matt Walsh caps his high school career in style

Most of his jubilant teammates had already made their way out of Rentschler Field when Matt Walsh took the slow walk towards locker room as if he was trying to absorb the magnitude of it all.

Walsh, who capped his impressive high school career by making 15 tackles and forcing two fumbles in Hand's 23-6 win over Windsor in the Class L final, plans on having many more glorious moments on this field as a member of the UConn football team. However, in the meantime he was going to enjoy the fruits of his labor after a dominant second-half defensive effort lifted the Tigers to their second straight Class L title.

"It is just like the icing on the cake here ending my high school career here with a great win and I will be starting my college career here hopefully with a big win," Walsh said. "I am 2-0 and I hope to keep that undefeated record for as long as I can."

Hand trailed 6-3 at halftime but wasted little time in showing that the second half was going to be a different story.

"It was like the Xavier game, we came back in the second half," Walsh said. "At halftime we realized what we had at stake. We had 10 years of football playing with each other and for this one moment to go out No. 1, state champions we weren’t going to let that opportunity go. We fought for each other, we fought for the man next to each other, we fought like we were in war for our lives the last 24 minutes and it paid off in the end. We came out and played Daniel Hand football.

"It felt unreal. Two years in a row, it is almost unreal. For us to do that senior year, it is an unreal feeling right now, no words can describe it."

Hand figures to be the No. 1 team when the final polls come out and that was about the only thing Walsh and his fellow seniors has yet to accomplish.

"There are four state champions in the state of Connecticut and to go out No. 1, you can’t compare that because there could be three teams better than you because you never know who is No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3 and No. 4," Walsh said. "But to go out as No. 1, there is no doubt we are the best team in Connecticut this year."

Walsh was far from the only defensive star on display in the final of the four state championship games played at Rentschler.

Weston Staples and Yale-bound Pete Gerson had two sacks each for Hand and Gerson was also credited with blocking an extra points.

Keith Benjamin of Windsor, a junior defensive tackle, was the best player on the field in the first half. He was credited with six tackles including 2.5 behind the line of scrimmage. I can believe the second number but it seems to me like he was seriously shortchanged in the tackles department as I would have guessed he was closer to 16 tackles than six. If UConn doesn't take a good hard look at the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Benjamin something is seriously wrong.

Friday, December 07, 2012

UConn commit one win from state title

UConn commit Kyle Schafenacker started at left tackle and helped St. Thomas Aquinas stun the nation's top-ranked high school team on Friday night.

St. Thomas Aquinas ran for four touchdowns behind a dominating effort from Schafenacker and the offensive line to defeat Manatee 35-18 in the FHSAA 7A semifinals on Friday. Next up is Lincoln, which defeated Kissimmee Osceola, in the Dec. 14 state championship game as the Raiders go for their fourth state title in the last six years.

TV/live streaming details for games featuring future Huskies

For those interested in checking out the three UConn commits taking part in state playoffs this weekend, here you go with the disclaimer that I have not tested out the links so you may have to register to see the live streams.

First up is Kyle Schafenacker, an offensive lineman for St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale which plays Manatee tonight in the FHSAA 7A semifinals. The game will be live streamed on the FHSAA site and Schafenacker wears No. 74. Manatee is the No.1 ranked team nationally in the USA Today Super 25 poll.

On Saturday at 2:30 p.m., senior linebacker Junior Joseph will lead his Wilson High out of West Lawn, Pa. against North Allegheny, which is ranked 22nd in the USA Today Super 25 poll, in the PIAA Class AAAA semifinals. The game will be shown on MSA Sports Network.

Joseph, who wears No. 2, has 73 tackles and five sacks. He also sees some time at running back and has run for 277 yards and five touchdowns while adding five receptions for 63 yards and another TD.

Finally, linebacker Matt Walsh (who wears No. 34) and Hand plays Windsor in the CIAC Class L final Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Rentschler Field and the game will air live on CPTV Sports.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Trevardo Williams unanimous All-Big East selection

The Big East announced its all-conference teams today. Senior defensive end Trevardo Williams was one of the three players named as unanimous selections and he was joined on the first team by sophomore linebacker Yawin Smallwood and senior linebacker Sio Moore.

Williams had 11.5 sacks as a senior and finished his career with a program-record 30.5 sacks. Smallwood led the Huskies with 59 solo tackles and 120 total tackles while adding four sacks, 15 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. Moore had 15.5 tackles for losses including eight sacks.

Senior tight end Ryan Griffin and senior offensive guard Adam Masters were second-team selections as was return specialist Nick Williams while senior cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson were named to the second-team as well.

Griffin led the Huskies with six touchdown receptions and an average of 16.7 yards per catch as a senior. Griffin hauled in 29 passes for 484 yards as a senior. Masters was named to the all-conference squad despite playing in just seven games in an injury-shortened senior season. Williams returned two punts for touchdown, averaged 12 yards per punt return and 20.4 yards per kickoff return. Gratz led the Huskies with three interceptions and 14 passes defended. Wreh-Wilson, a two-time captain, broke up 10 passes and his lone interception came in overtime in the upset win over Louisville.

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was named the Big East offensive player of the year while the defensive player of the year honor when to Rutgers' Khaseem Greene. The Big East Rookie of the Year was given to Stratford native Tyler Matakevich out of Temple.

Greene and Syracuse receiver Alec Lemon joined Williams as the only other unanimous All-Big East selections.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (So., Miami, Fla.)

Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers (Sr., Elizabeth, N.J.)

Matt Brown, RB, Temple (Sr., Baltimore, Md.)

Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple (Fr., Stratford, Conn.)

Charlie Strong, Louisville
Kyle Flood, Rutgers

Pos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School
WR Alec Lemon * Syracuse Sr. 6-2 204 Crofton, Md./Arundel
WR DeVante Parker Louisville So. 6-3 205 Louisville, Ky./Ballard
OT Eric Lefeld Cincinnati So. 6-6 287 Coldwater, Ohio/Coldwater
OT Justin Pugh Syracuse Sr. 6-5 297 Holland, Pa./Council Rock South
OG Austen Bujnoch Cincinnati Jr. 6-5 285 Cincinnati, Ohio/Elder
OG Antwan Lowery Rutgers Jr. 6-4 305 Miami, Fla./Christopher Columbus
C Mario Benavides Louisville Sr. 6-4 280 Los Fresnos, Texas/Los Fresnos
TE Travis Kelce Cincinnati Sr. 6-6 260 Cleveland Heights, Ohio/Cleveland Heights
QB Teddy Bridgewater Louisville So. 6-3 218 Miami, Fla./Northwestern
RB Ray Graham Pittsburgh Sr. 5-9 190 Elizabeth, N.J./Elizabeth
RB Montel Harris Temple Sr. 5-10 207 Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian
K Maikon Bonani USF Sr. 5-10 176 Lake Wales, Fla./Lake Wales
RS Matt Brown Temple Sr. 5-5 165 Baltimore, Md./Peddie School/Milford Academy
Pos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School
DL Dan Giordano Cincinnati Sr. 6-4 260 Frankford, Ill./Lincoln-Way East
DL Trevardo Williams * Connecticut Sr. 6-2 233 Bridgeport, Conn./Canterbury 
DL Aaron Donald Pittsburgh Jr. 6-0 275 Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills
DL Scott Vallone Rutgers Sr. 6-3 275 Central Islip, N.Y./St. Anthony’s
LB Greg Blair Cincinnati Sr. 6-2 252 Pittsburgh, Pa./Schenley/Lackawanna CC
LB Sio Moore Connecticut Sr. 6-2 229 Apex, N.C./Apex 
LB Yawin Smallwood Connecticut So. 6-3 235 Worcester, Mass./Doherty 
LB Khaseem Greene * Rutgers Sr. 6-1 230 Elizabeth, N.J./Avon Old Farms
CB Adrian Bushell Louisville Sr. 5-11 184 DeSoto, Texas/Cedar Valley CC
CB Logan Ryan Rutgers Jr. 6-0 190 Berlin, N.J./Eastern
S Duron Harmon Rutgers Sr. 6-1 200 Magnolia, Del./Caesar Rodney
S Shamarko Thomas Syracuse Sr. 5-10 206 Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes
P Brandon McManus Temple Sr. 6-3 190 Hatfield, Pa./North Penn
* unanimous selection
Pos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School
WR Mike Shanahan Pittsburgh Sr. 6-5 225 North Huntingdon, Pa./Norwin
WR Devin Street Pittsburgh Jr. 6-4 190 Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty
WR Brandon Coleman Rutgers So. 6-6 220 Accokeek, Md./Bishop McNamara
OT Alex Kupper Louisville Sr. 6-3 298 Louisville, Ky./Trinity
OT Kaleb Johnson Rutgers So. 6-4 300 Jacksonville, Fla./Edward H. White
OT Martin Wallace Temple Sr. 6-6 300 New York, N.Y./Beacon School
OG Adam Masters Connecticut Sr. 6-4 298 Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman 
OG Mark Popek USF Sr. 6-7 299 Plant City, Fla./Plant City
C Ryan Turnley Pittsburgh Sr. 6-6 320 Hopewell, Pa./Hopewell
QB Ryan Nassib Syracuse Gr. 6-3 227 West Chester, Pa./Malvern Prep
TE Ryan Griffin Connecticut Sr. 6-6 247 Londonderry, N.H./Londonderry 
RB George Winn Cincinnati Sr. 5-11 210 Southfield, Mich./Detroit Jesuit
RB Jawan Jamison Rutgers So. 5-8 200 Stark, Fla./The Bolles School
K Brandon McManus Temple Sr. 6-3 190 Hatfield, Pa./North Penn
RS Nick Williams Connecticut Sr. 5-10 184 East Windsor, N.J./The Hun School 
Pos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High School
DL Walter Stewart Cincinnati Sr. 6-5 249 Ashville, Ohio/Teays Valley
DL Cory Grissom USF Sr. 6-2 316 La Grange, Ga./Troup County
DL Brandon Sharpe Syracuse Sr. 6-1 255 Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes
DL John Youboty Temple Sr. 6-4 250 Houston, Texas/Klein
LB Preston Brown Louisville Jr. 6-2 255 Cincinnati, Ohio/Northwest
LB Sam Barrington USF Sr. 6-1 230 Jacksonville, Fla./Terry Parker
LB Tyler Matakevich Temple Fr. 6-1 220 Stratford, Conn./St. Joseph’s/Milford Academy
CB Dwayne Gratz Connecticut Sr. 6-0 198 Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway 
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson Connecticut Sr. 6-2 190 Edinboro, Pa./General McLaine 
S Calvin Pryor Louisville So. 6-2 213 Port St. Joe, Fla./Port St. Joe
S Hakeem Smith Louisville Jr. 6-1 187 Jonesboro, Ga./Riverdale
S Jason Hendricks Pittsburgh Jr. 6-0 180 Brooklyn, N.Y./Hudson Catholic
P Pat O’Donnell Cincinnati Jr. 6-5 222 Lake Worth, Fla./Palm Beach Central
P Justin Brockhaus-Kann USF Sr. 6-2 214 Winter Springs, Fla./Winter Springs
Additional players added to the All-BIG EAST teams due to ties in the voting

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Report: Tebucky Jones Jr. transferring to Fordham

UConn sophomore receiver Tebucky Jones Jr. is transferring to Fordham according to a report in the New Britain Herald.

Jones had two catches for 11 yards as a sophomore and finished his UConn career with 15 receptions. Jones was UConn's No. 5 receiver during the 2012 season but with the graduation of Michael Smith and Nick Williams, he likely would have had an expanded role had he chosen to stay.

Jones had a six-yard catch against UMass and a five-yard reception in the game against South Florida.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Stitched up nose and all, Matt Walsh back at Rentschler

It wasn't until Matt Walsh saw the officials turning various shades of pale white that he fully comprehended the scene his badly ripped up nose was creating in the opening moments of Sunday's Class L semifinal.

The Hand senior linebacker and captain broke his chin strap on the opening kickoff and planned on getting his equipment fixed after the first defensive series. The hard to miss stitch work on the bridge of his nose at Monday's CIAC football luncheon at Rentschler Field was a pretty good indication that things didn't quite go the way he had planned.

"On kickoff on the first play of the game my chin strap snapped and I didn’t want to come out for the first play because I didn’t feel like I needed to," Walsh said. "I didn’t think that one play I was going to end up making a tackle. There was nothing holding it on and no protection so the facemask came up and ripped apart my face. I was able to go off to the sideline and Terri (Ajaski) our trainer did a nice job patching it up for the whole game, she kept redoing it whenever I needed it and she was able to keep me in there. It was kind of pouring out and the refs were kind of skeeving out on the field."

Even as Ajaski was working to stop the bleeding, Walsh had an eye on the field and was eager to get back on the field. As if Walsh didn't already have a reputation as a tough as nail competitor before, he certainly has it now.

"We were concerned but our trainer did a tremendous job patching him up," Hand coach Steve Filippone said. "I give him credit and I give his family credit. A lot of people would say no, the scar is going to be there for the rest of his life and the game is only tonight but I think he and his family have the right perspective, they know how hard he has worked to be here and it was the right choice for him and the football team.

"Take a good look at him, how many kids would go out on the field with that. Not many. I think we have plenty. I think any of these guys who are here would have done exactly the same thing. I think we have a lot of kids like that in our program and I think that is why we are successful."

Successful would be an understatement especially for Walsh and his current seniors who go after a second straight Class L title.

Filippone, who won his 200th career game at Hand in Sunday's semifinal win, believes a win would allow this group of seniors to be ranked as highly as any other class during his remarkable coaching career.
"Extraordinary," Filippone said of the senior class. "If we are fortunate to win on Saturday, they would have won 26 games in a row, they would have won 36 out of 38 (games) and they were undefeated as freshmen. They are right there with our 2003-2004-2005 team which was a great sophomore, junior and then senior class and the one thing that group did that this group hasn’t done is to be the No. 1 team in Connecticut. If they can pull this off on Saturday and we can maintain that position, you have to put these guys right there with the best we have ever had."

Walsh looked like he was ready to strap on his shoulder pads and newly-repaired helmet and take on Windsor on Monday

"There is not a better feeling in the world especially running out there for the second straight year knowing I am going to be playing here for the next four years and running with the best group of men they could possibly put together," Walsh said. "It is going to be an unbelievable feeling there is nothing that can compare to it.

"With us compared to other schools, some private schools we went up, we all great up together and we played against North Branford in youth football and they lost some kids to places like Xavier and Cheshire Academy and we kind of all stayed together. We basically grew up together and now we are here together. This last game is going to be one of the last times we are all together and we are going to make it a memorable one."

Walsh is one of the UConn commits who have taken to twitter in support of a Connecticut program which just finished a second straight 5-7 season. Walsh did not make it up to Rentschler on Saturday for an official visit like so many of his future teammates since he had one final practice before facing Masuk. But Walsh has really positive vibes about the quality of the class he will heading into UConn with.

"I’ve had good relationships with a lot of them," Walsh said. "I know a lot of them had a great time up here on their official visit. They watched the game and even though UConn came up short, they had a great experience. They love everything UConn is doing right now, they love being on campus. With all the other commits, I can’t wait to get up here and play with everybody

"I think we have some great recruits who can turn everything around. We will start working towards the Big East championship just like UConn wants to do every year, that is our goal next year." 

Walsh has seen time as a short-yardage and goal-line back as a senior and when he gets to UConn he is projected to play fullback.

Filippone, who played for UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni and offensive coordinator George DeLeone at Southern Connecticut State, believes Walsh will make an impact sooner rather than later for the Huskies.

"Once he can focus on one position, train for that position I think he will be a very significant contributor to UConn’s success over the next couple of years," Filippone said. "I’ve known Coach P and Coach DeLeone, they were my college coaches at Southern. I have known them my entire adult life and I wouldn’t ever throw something their way I wasn’t sure would give them some payback and I am absolutely that certain that he is going to be a great player."

Xavier coach Sean Marinan concurs with Filippone on Walsh's bright future.

"I think he will do well," Marinan said. "He plays hard, he plays fast. He has good size, he has good strength and he is a hard-nosed kid and he will be on the field, starting."

Walsh is just one of three UConn commits playing in state playoffs this weekend.

The Class L final between Hand and Windsor is set for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Rentschler Field. The game as well as the Class S, M and LL championships games will be televised live on CPTV Sports.

Linebacker Junior Joseph wiill lead Wilson High of West Lawn, Pa. up against North Allegheny in Pennsylvania's Class AAAA semifinal on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona. Offensive lineman Kyle Schafenacker will lead St. Thomas Aquinas against Manatee on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Florida's 7A semifinals.

Marinan, who is trying to lead Xavier to its third straight Class LL title, provided an update on his son Sean Marinan Jr. who was sidelined this season with a back injury.

Sean Marinan Sr. said that his son, a freshman defensive end who came to UConn as a preferred walk-on, was cleared to return to practice three weeks ago.

"He is back doing contact so he is happy to be back on the rebound," Marinan Sr. said. "He is starting to get his strength back a little bit and he is looking forward to spring practice.

"He had what we thought was a hip issue in the spring. He and Graham (Stewart) were going to this gym. They thought it was his hip and it was his back. He was up there lifting again, doing a squat and at the 10th rep he couldn’t get up.  It is a long road back. He is looking to get his strength back. 

"When he started non-contact stuff and he was a different person once that started. He got through it and hopefully he gets his strength back.

"After the first practice he called me. He calls me about every week. He was doing scout team stuff (late in the season). Being a part of the team again out there on the practice field, it makes a huge difference."

Marinan Sr. said that Stewart, who ironically was injured while lifting just two days after Marinan Jr. got hurt the same way, is still likely a couple months away from being able to fully cleared.

"They are going to let that just sit," Marinan Sr. "I think it is going to be another couple of months. 

"The NCAA didn’t give him the hardship (waiver to play this season after transferring from Florida). If you are going to get hurt, you obviously don’t want to, but those are the circumstances to do it. He didn’t really lose anything. Hopefully everything mends well and it won’t be an issue."

On Sunday's media conference call, Stewart was one of the young players that Pasqualoni touted as a potential impact player during the 2013 season. With the graduation of starting linebackers Jory Johnson and Sio Moore could open up a spot for Stewart at linebacker.

"I think he is going to have an impact" Marinan Sr. said of Stewart. "He flies around, plays hard and especially with the kids graduating you will see him out there I think he is going to make a difference."

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Big East bowl matchups

Although UConn's loss to Cincinnati kept the Huskies from being bowl eligible, five Big East schools were selected to play in bowls led by Louisville facing Florida in the Sugar Bowl and two other matchups include showdowns between current and former Big East programs. Here is the breakdown:

Belk Bowl • Dec. 27
Cincinnati vs. Duke............................ 6:30 p.m.
   Television: ESPN
   Series: First meeting

Russell Athletic Bowl • Dec. 28
Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech................... 5:30 p.m.
   Television: ESPN
   Series: Virginia Tech leads, 11-3
   Last Meeting: Oct. 4, 2003 — Virginia Tech, 48-28

New Era Pinstripe Bowl • Dec. 29
Syracuse vs. West Virginia................ 3:15 p.m.
   Television: ESPN
   Series: Syracuse leads, 32-27
   Last Meeting: Oct. 21, 2011 – Syracuse, 49-23

Allstate Sugar Bowl • Jan. 2
Louisville vs. Florida.......................... 8:30 p.m.
   Television: ESPN
   Series: Florida leads, 2-0
   Last Meeting: Oct. 24, 1992 — Florida, 31-17

BBVA Compass Bowl • Jan. 5
Pittsburgh vs. Mississippi....................... 1 p.m.
   Television: ESPN
   Series: First meeting

Pasqualoni focused on recruiting not on rumors

After Saturday's season-ending loss to Cincinnati and during Sunday's media conference call, UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni talked very much like somebody who is planning to return for a third season with the Huskies.

The loss left the Huskies with two straight 5-7 seasons and a second straight bowl-less season.

"In the past two years we have been in a lot of close games," Pasqualoni said. "There were, a few games where a touchdown or less decided the game, and we had a few of those games this year. A little thing here, a turnover here, a field position there, a missed kick here; so my outlook on it is that you are out there every game to play. It is always hard (with tough losses) to accept them. I always feel like we should have won that game, and I think the kids on the team feel that way too.

"We feel good about it. With one recruiting class, I think it takes more than that. You go back on the season just like you go back on last season, what costs you to lose is a bunch of little things. We have been in a lot of close games but we haven’t won the games that as a coach you would like to win."

Pasqualoni said that he would like to do the evaluations on the staff sooner rather than later to see if any changes will be made on the staff but his current focus is on recruiting.

"You get into the recruiting which we are into right now," Pasqualoni said. "We will be out on the road next week. I think from the football standpoint just from the nature of this is the contact portion of recruiting season, we will step back for just a few days to get back on top."

It will be interesting to see how this offseason shakes out. Every indication I have is that Pasqualoni will be back as the head coach. Whether AD Warde Manuel pushes Pasqualoni to shake things up on his offensive staff is something which bears watching as UConn finished tied for 109th among 120 FBS programs in total offense. Making matters worse was the sparse turnout for Saturday's game, a contest that the Huskies needed to win to become bowl eligible and also the last home game for the UConn seniors.

Pasqualoni said that the turnover issue is one that the staff needs to take a look at. UConn's quarterbacks threw 18 interceptions and lost another fumbles. He is also concerned about replacing graduating tight ends Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt and starting cornerbacks Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz

Pasqualoni said that moving Byron Jones from safety to corner is a possibility and other options since top reserve corners Taylor Mack and David Stevenson are just 5-9 and 5-8. Pasqualoni said he likes the young group of players, many of whom have yet to see the field. Among those he mentioned were defensive tackle Mykal Myers, linebackers Omaine Stephens and Graham Stewart, running backs Joe Williams, Max DeLorenzo and Jazzmar Clax, safety Ellis Marder, offensive linemen Tyler Samra and Richard Levy and defensive linemen Andreas Knappe and E.J. Norris among others with potential to step in.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Tough ending for Huskies

Heading into the fourth quarter UConn was just four points down to a bowl-bound Cincinnati team and if somehow the Huskies could rally for a victory in its regular-season finale, the UConn seniors would have one more game to play.

However, starting quarterback Chandler Whitmer was knocked out of his second straight game with a concussion, tight end Ryan Griffin would also be forced to watch the final minutes after a hard fall on his hip. Record-breaking defensive end Trevardo Williams was limited to a handful of plays due to a tender ankle while kicker Chad Christen was supposed to be limited to short field goal tries and extra point although he attempted neither.

What followed was a meager end to a disappointing season as the Huskies wilted late en route to a 34-17 loss to Cincinnati.

"We were kind of working with a patchwork team," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "We were certainly far from healthy. We had guys who were playing who were banged up. They are trying to do the best they can do limping around out there."

Whitmer said he was feeling OK after the game although he did not remember getting assistance from the Cincinnati coaches after he was wobbly following his final play of the season.

"I remember getting up and Lyle (McCombs) telling me to go down," Whitmer said. "Other than that I was fine. It was just a headache, they took precautions based on last week and didn’t want me to go back in. I just remember talking to Lyle. I will get some rest and I will be fine. I will do whatever they tell me to do. I'll get back to work and get ready for the offseason."

Not only did the UConn seniors not get the win which would have made them bowl eligible but they had to watch Cincinnati coach Butch Jones and the Bearcats celebrate after earning a share of the Big East title.

"It sucks," UConn senior tight end Ryan Griffin said. "They are dumping Gatorade on their coach and it sucks.

"We can’t complain, it is the team that we are. We finished 5-7 and we are what our record said we are."

That doesn't mean it did hurt.

"Right now in the moment I am playing for UConn and I wanted to play one more with UConn," senior cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson said. "Walking off the field I was thinking ‘this is really happening.’ I remember a couple years ago we played Pitt that was Darius Butler’s (senior season) and it was like an eerie scene. They were fighting trying to get back into the game and the stands were empty and it just came to an end. Now I am in the same situation without a bowl game."

Wreh-Wilson and UConn's nationally-ranked defense would like to have the first drives of the first and third quarters back when Cincinnati QB Brendon Kay when he was 7 of 8 for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns on those two drives. He was just 12 of 21 for 126 yards for the remainder of the game.

"That was bad," Wreh-Wilson said. "Usually the way we start reflects the way we play. We bounced back after it. We got close, it was 14-10 at halftime and when we started we wanted to start fast. It was a one-possession game, it was a two-possession game and that made it tough for our offense. They got us in it again and they scored again."

Labels: ,

Swan song for seniors?

The scenario is rather simple - win and live to play one more game, lose and their collegiate careers are over.

Yes, this figures to be an emotionally-charged day for the UConn seniors. While other classes may have recorded more victories as a class, this group of seniors certainly were a productive bunch led by record-breakers Trevardo Williams and Nick Williams.

Now they will take the field against Cincinnati needing a win to become bowl eligible. With a loss, the seniors will exit with a second straight losing season. If the Huskies win, the top bowl options are the Beef O'Brady's Bowl on Dec. 21 in St. Petersburg, the Compass Bowl in Bimrngham, Ala. on Jan. 5 and Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31.

Williams has a program record 30.5 career sacks while Williams' 2,420 combined kickoff and punt return yardage is more than any other UConn player. Williams is one of six seniors to record more than 100 career tackles while Ryan Griffin and Michael Smith gives the class a pair of players with 100 career catches.

Here's a breakdown of the headliners in this senior class
OT Jimmy Bennett 14 career starts
TE John Delahunt 28 catches, 338 yards
CB Dwayne Gratz 184 tackles, 8 interceptions
TE Ryan Griffin 113 catches (second most of any UConn tight end) for 1,415 yards and 9 TDs
DE Teddy Jennings 33 tackles, 3.5 sacks
LB Jory Johnson 218 tackles, 20 tackles for losses
DE Jesse Joseph 118 tackles, 13 sacks
OG Adam Masters 30 career tackles
QB Johnny McEntee  12 career starts, 2,136 passing yards
LB Sio Moore 271 tackles, 43 tackles for losses, 15 sacks, 4 interceptions
WR Michael Smith 101 catches for 1,275 yards and 3 TDs
WR Nick Williams 3010 all-purpose yards 
DE Trevardo Williams 134 tackles, 30.5 sacks
DT Ryan Wirth 52 tackles, 3.5 sacks
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson 178 tackles, 8 interceptions
Bennett, Jennings and Joseph are expected to apply for an additional season of eligibility.