Tuesday, April 16, 2013

UConn's tight ends impressing during spring practice

There may not be another position on the UConn squad which collectively has had a more surprising spring than the tight ends.

With the graduation of Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt and with the only experience among the returnees coming on special teams, there was genuine concern whether the returning group of tight ends had what it takes to fill the void.

The quartet of Mark Hansson, Sean McQuillan, Spencer Parker and James Horan has been opening some eyes during the spring as they attempt to show that while they may be inexperienced, they do have an ability to fill one the void left by the departure of Delahunt and Griffin.

“It was probably one of our weakest points on offense at the start of the spring and it is growing to be a strength for us,” UConn offensive coordinator T.J. Weist said. “They are playing more physical as the spring has gone on at that position and they have proven they can go and make some plays on the perimeter.”

Hansson is the biggest of the four tight ends as he is listed at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds on the current UConn roster while the other three are all listed as weighing less than 240 points. Parker is the lightest of the quartet at 223 pounds but the redshirt senior has been in the program the longest while McQuillan has shown some impressive pass-catching potential during the spring.

“All four of the tight ends who are there are doing a great job,” McQuillan said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think we are going to continue to (improve) and we are going to play a big role in the offense.”

McQuillan and the rest of the returning tight ends gained valuable insight from Delahunt and Griffin during practices in the last couple of seasons and now they are hoping it translates to on the field production beginning with Saturday’s spring game.

“With guys like that the only thing you can do is take tips from them, learn from them,” McQuillan said. “They are great guys and it makes it easy when it is your turn to do the right thing. Having them there for two years was great and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

“They were leaders on the team and I am just trying to fill those shoes and I think we are all starting to do that as a tight end unit and I think the best thing is people didn’t think that tight ends were going to be a huge part of the offense after they left and after going through most of the spring I think people realized that we are going to be a big part of the offense.”

Considering that Weist came to UConn from Cincinnati where the Bearcats had one of the nation's best pass-catching tight ends in Travis Kelce, it seems like a good time to be a tight end for the Huskies.

"Coach Weist is a great coach and he has given me a lot of pointers himself," McQuillan said. "I think with him coming with a tight end like that from Cincinnati, it has been a huge advantage as well."

Before the start of spring practice the feeling was that no incoming freshmen could come in and make an impact quicker than the tight ends. While that may still happen, the most highly touted of the tight end signees will not be with the team for the 2013 season as Jordan Fuchs is planning to spend the fall at a prep school to gain more football experience before arriving at UConn.

“When we signed Jordan, he really wanted one more year to play football, because he has just started playing football,” UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. “We agreed to that. We said to him, get in a good prep school environment where you are playing pretty good football and then come in January.”

Pasqualoni said with only three quarterbacks, Scott McCummings will rotate between both teams during Saturday's spring game so that either Chandler Whitmer or Casey Cochran won't have to play the entire scrimmage with one team.


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