Sunday, June 16, 2013

Impressions from Big 33 Classic

Perhaps the best part of having three UConn signees competing in the Big 33 Classic is that is has allowed receiver Brian Lemelle, defensive end Junior Joseph and linebacker Chris Britton to get more familiar with each other before they head up to campus in 11 days to enroll in summer school.

Lemelle and Joseph will be rooming together at UConn, Britton and Joseph have the talent to add a couple of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and it camaraderie between the two was rather evident and it's hard to ignore the benefits of Lemelle and Britton both attending high school in the city of Harrisburg.

For my thoughts on the talents of the trio:

Lemelle has all the makings of being an impact player as a slot receiver. He is quick, has outstanding hands and there's no questioning his credentials as no Pennsylvania high school football player has caught more passes or has more receiving yards than Lemelle. He looked pretty comfortable shagging punts in the pre-game warmups and if not for the presence of the electrifying Pittsburgh commit Tyler Boyd (who returned the opening kickoff for a TD, had three touchdowns on offense and threw a 68-yard TD pass to Lemelle) he might have been used more as a kickoff returner rather than being an up man. He did go back to field punts but did not have a return. You have to give Lemelle's mom some credit for the interesting way she supported her son. She had "Lemelle squad" t-shirts made which were worn by several fans at the game.

Britton was a force both on defense and special teams. While there were restrictions of how much blitzing could be done. Britton was able to get into the backfield a couple of times and looked comfortable dropping into coverage. He played on kickoff return, kickoff coverage and punt coverage. He's a pretty intriguing prospect who was primarily a basketball player growing up. He was talked into playing football as a junior but injuries cost him part of that season so his senior season is the only full football campaign he has played.

While Lemelle and Joseph said they are heading to UConn on June 25, Britton's arrival date is still to be determined. After the game when I asked him when he was going to Storrs he said 'I'm supposed to talk to (UConn defensive coordinator) Hank Hughes tonight."

Joseph didn't record as many tackles as Britton (unofficially I had Britton with four and Joseph with two) but his ability to bring pressure off the edge was pretty impressive. It will be interesting to see how the Huskies use him. He is listed in the Big 33 Classic program as standing 6-2 and weighing 235 and he was listed at 6-1, 243 on the UConn release sent out on national signing day. I asked him whether he would be a linebacker or defensive end and he said he was told he would be a hybrid.

As for the game itself, it's been a few years since I attended one of these football all-star games but this was a first-class operation especially before the game. Not only did they have a national guard unit present colors but cheerleaders held an enormous flag at midfield similar to what you might see at the Super Bowl and a helicopter did a flyover. The national anthem singer was former Big 33 cheerleader Marialana Merrick and she did an outstanding job. When the players were introduced, each of them had a "buddy" and the kids were reveling in being able to meet these football players.


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