Wednesday, July 31, 2013

UConn commit shines in 7x7 tournament

The New England 7x7 tournament wrapped up yesterday with UConn commit Logan Marchi helping his St. Paul's team finish second which is an impressive achievement for a Connecticut squad since the New England events tend to be dominated by Massachusetts teams.

ESPN Boston has a pretty nice recap of the event that I was originally planning to try to make it to before a little thing like covering the UConn women's basketball team's trip to the White House changed my travel plans.

St. John's Prep out of Boston won the title with a 16-14 win over Marchi and St. Paul in the championship game.

I thought I would pass on one quote from St. John's Prep's Jonathan Thomas and Maryland commit who was definitely impressed by Marchi.

“That was a good quarterback. He was one of the best athletes on the field,” said Thomas. “He throws some dimes.”


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pasqualoni talking up the freshmen

A year ago I made my way up to Newport for what proved to be the final Big East football media day and I remember UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni talking about the potential impact of true freshman running back Joe Williams and of course former Masuk High star Casey Cochran's name came up but that was pretty much it when it came to the freshmen. As it turned out, there wasn't much need to chat about those newcomers because the only one to make a significant impact was speedy defensive end E.J. Norris.

Well, things were significantly different today.

"I think this recruiting class, I think there are guys in this class that as they develop at UConn are going to be really good players, legit big-time players that you can line up against future opponents, let’s go play BYU, let’s go play Tennessee, let’s line up and go nose to nose," Pasqualoni said. "I think we are going to have guys who can do that."

When Pasqualoni was up at the podium he mentioned tight end Tommy Myers and offensive linemen Kyle Schafenacker and Tommy Hopkins. Off the podium as he was interviewed by primarily the same people who cover him regularly during the season receiver Brian Lemelle, defensive ends Cole Ormsby and Cameron Stapleton were other first-year players that Pasqualoni admitted he was anxious to see on the practice field.

Here are some of the highlights of Pasqualoni discussing the freshmen.

"I'm anxious to see Kyle Schafnacker from St. Thomas Aquinas.  I want to see what he looks like on Friday.  Tommy Hopkins, I want to see what he looks like.  I think those guys may be able to compete in preseason camp and maybe provide a little bit more depth over there.

"We brought in Tommy Myers from the state of Connecticut.  He's an in-state guy from Coventry.  He's just an outstanding athlete.  I don't know how far he'll come in preseason.  So the tight end position we're working hard at.  I think we've got a couple of guys that could help us there."

Pasqualoni was asked specifically about Myers during the group interview session.

"I would say that based on our needs at the position, the fact that we lost (John) Delahunt and we lost Ryan Griffin we are going to exhaust all possibilities over there. Tommy , track athletes are really pretty impressive. We went to watch him play basketball and at one point he was one of the top rebounders in the country and you put that all together with the track stuff ... It will just be a matter of the maturity level, learning (the offense) and does he have enough strength as a young guy. One of the factors for me when these guys are ready to contribute is their strength level. It is just going to depend of when he puts his hand on the ground, comes off the line of scrimmage and has to block somebody, can he move them? Is he strong enough and powerful enough as a young kid to do that. He was in our camp so we know he can catch."

Speaking about being able to catch, no Pennsylvania high school football player ever caught more passes and had more receiving yards than Lemelle did so that is another player Pasqualoni is intrigued by.

"We’ve got this guy Brian Lemelle who is a highly-recruited kid, he is a slot guy and I am kind of anxious to see what he looks like on Friday," Pasqualoni said.

Pasqualoni was asked whether more freshmen might play bigger roles than a season ago.

"I don’t care if they are freshmen or if they are seniors, the best guys are going to be on the travel squad," Pasqualoni said. "E.J. Norris was one of our better defensive ends and he was on the travel squad. He is another guy who was hurt and now he is back (elbow). I like the group, I like the size of them. I am kind of a (prototype) guy, a guy like Cole Ormsby from Windsor, this guy is a big guy. You shake this guy’s hand and you can’t even find your hand. You like guys like that, you really do. If one these guys can help us in some way, shape or form to create depth, competitiveness or go in on third down, play on first or second down we are going to use them.."

Pasqualoni was not the only person talking up these freshmen.

I asked quarterback Chandler Whitmer what his impressions were of tight ends Myers and Quinn Thompson.

"We were out there on 7 on 7 (drills), they are athletic guys and they have great hands," Whitmer said. "Once they get in the weight room a little bit, bulk up and get physical I think they will be very good guys to contribute on offense."

I also got offensive guard Steve Greene's take on Schafenacker and Hopkins.

"They are pretty far along," Greene said. "I was surprised personally with how well they know the playbook already so that will give them an advantage coming into camp. It is a little bit different when you strap on the pads and you will see how it goes then."

A couple of other things from Pasqualoni I thought was worth passing on was when he spoke about the athleticism of a couple of defensive backs.

He said that cornerback Byron Jones has one of the best vertical leaps of any player he has coached as it is in excess of 40 inches, He said the only player he could think of with a better vertical was Rob Moore, a receiver he coached at Syracuse and a player who had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his 10 years in the NFL.

Then there is this nugget on redshirt freshman Obi Melifonwu.

"Obi Melifonwu is one of the best athletes on the team and he might be one of the best athletes in this league," Pasqualoni said. "He's 6-4 he can run, he can jump, he can cover ground."


3 UConn practices open to the public

Fans who want to catch UConn practices, three of them will be open to the public.

Tuesday, August 6 (3p.m.-5:30 p.m.)
Tuesday, August 13 (3 p.m.-5:30 p.m.)
Saturday, August 17 (8:45 a.m.-11:15 a.m.).

All three practices will be held on the practice fields behind the old Memorial Stadium and new UConn Basketball Development Center site and are off of Alumni Drive. Parking for these practices will be available for free in Lot D.

Offensive line a popular topic at media day

Steve Greene and the rest of the veteran UConn offensive line is looking
to put a frustrating 2012 season behind them
Any discussion regarding the potential for success of the 2013 UConn football team begins up front.

With the dominating defense the Huskies had in 2012, if UConn even had a solid offense then a bowl bid would have been a near certainty. However, watching Chandler Whitmer getting crushed by defensive linemen and linebackers and Lyle McCombs being swarmed under by multiple defenders shortly after getting the ball told the story of the Huskies' season.

Nobody had to tell offensive guard Steve Greene and the other five returning offensive linemen who started games for UConn during the 2012 season that the unit's level simply needs to improve if the Huskies are to avoid a third straight losing season.

"We understand that last year was subpar;" Greene said at the American Athletic Conference football media day in Newport, R.I. on Tuesday. "It wasn’t up to our standards by any means. We want the opportunity to show that is not who we are. We want to be able to dominate the line of scrimmage and control the game.

"The biggest thing is we just have to finish, making sure we are blocking to the whistle, making sure that we are doing everything we can. That one extra push, that one extra second for Chandler to step up and make a read we have to do that little extra. If we all do those things then really the sky is the limit. We have the talent there is no doubt about that."

UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni was asked why the line would be better since the same guys (minus the graduated Adam Masters) will return to the same positions this season.

"It is the same personnel but this offensive line has really been together now," Pasqualoni said. "(UConn offensive line coach) George (DeLeone) took that group last year so they have been at it for a while and have really, really worked hard. The offensive line is more experienced now as opposed to learning the system, the realignment."

One aspect that should help the line is that left tackle Jimmy Bennett is no longer limited by his shoulder issues. When I spoke to Bennett several months ago when he was granted a sixth year of eligibility he said he was unable to do any upper-body weight lifting and his shoulder issues hampered his range of motion and ability to extend his arms. Considering how vital the use of arms are in pass blocking, obviously that made for a difficult season for Bennett. Now he has been given a clean bill of health and shouldn't have the same weight-training restrictions after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

"I feel so bad for Jimmy," Greene said. "He has been so injury plagued since he has been here but he’s healthy coming into this year, he was able to get last year under his belt. Really he was a fifth-year senior and it was his first year really being able to play so being able to gain that year of experience, I think this year is going to be real good for him."

Mike Aresco saying all the right things

Behind closed doors one would have to assume that American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco can't be loving the rumblings that the five major conferences could break off on their own leaving the AAC in jeopardy of being left behind.

However, at his address at media day he put on a brave face in addressing the latest obstacle he has faced since becoming commissioner of the Big East and now The American.

Where's what he had to say:

"Here is where we stand. Whatever the highest level of Division I is in the future, we expect to be part of it. And if a fourth division materializes, and of course we do not know whether that will happen, there are many issues attached to it that obviously have to be vetted. The American Athletic Conference belongs in it. Not because we say we do, but because the empirical indices say we do.

"Whether it's the size of our athletic budgets or our athletic revenues, whether it's the result of - whether our football results on the field, which I described to you in recent years, whether it's the size and importance of our markets, and we have very significant markets as you know in our conference, whether it's the heritage of our being a BCS conference, whether it's the heritage of other schools who participated in the old Southwest Conference when it would have been considered a BCS conference, whether it's the alignment of our  goals with those of the conferences that are being called the power five conferences, whether it's the
size of our stadiums, our attendance, our investment in facilities -- Houston and Tulane are building new stadiums, for example. Other schools in our conference are upgrading their facilities.

"We all need more detail as what such a fourth division might entail, how it would be governed, the costs associated with it. There's been a lot of discussion about it but there aren't really a lot of hard details at this point. Our presidents and our athletic directors will weigh in once more is known. But our strong indication is to do what is necessary to be part of such a division if restructuring occurs.

"Despite recent reports, nothing has been decided, discussions are ongoing. Representation on this committee should be a function of fairness and common sense and I believe fairness and common sense will prevail. If there is to be conference representation on the committee, then each of the ten conferences in the room should be represented along with the distinguished at-large group of individuals being considered."

Louisville picked to win AAC; UConn 7th

Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers, who were among four teams to finish tied for the 2012 Big East title, were selected as the top three teams in the American Athletic Conference preseason balloting.

Louisville received 28 of the 30 first-place votes.

UConn was picked to finish seventh in a balloting of selected media. The Huskies are coming off back to back 5-7 seasons and have to replace six starters off one of the nation's best defenses. However, the offense features the return of starting quarterback Chandler Whitmer, leading rusher Lyle McCombs, the two top receivers in Geremy Davis and Shakim Phillips and six offensive linemen who started games a season ago. The defense will be led by 2012 All-Big East linebacker Yawin Smallwood.

UConn will open practice on Friday.

Here is the preseason poll with first-place votes in parenthesis.

1. Louisville (28) 298
2. Cincinnati (2) 257
3. Rutgers          240
4. UCF              210
5. USF              155
6. Houston        134
7. UConn          131
8. SMU            118
9. Temple          60
10. Memphis     47

Monday, July 29, 2013

New faces dominate story lines in Newport

As I walked into Fort Hale State Park in Newport, R.I. on the eve of the inaugural American Athletic Conference football media day about the only familiar site was the scene of watching the lobsters being cooked at the annual clam bake.

Looking around at the coaches, the only holdovers from last year's media day was Louisville's Charlie Strong, Kyle Flood of Rutgers and Paul Pasqualoni of UConn. The three other teams who played in the Big East a season ago feature new coaches as Tommy Tuberville now coaches Cincinnati, Willlie Taggart is the new coach at South Florida and Matt Rhule took over at Temple when Steve Addazio left to take the job at Boston College.

It really hit home how much things have changed in just one year's time seeing players and coaches from Houston, SMU, Memphis and Central Florida walking around. Tomorrow morning it will become even more of a reality when the predicted order of finish is announced. It will be interesting to see where the teams coming in from Conference USA will figure into the balloting. I am not one of the media members who gets a vote but if I did get to cast a vote, I would say that Central Florida is the best of those four teams. I might even be tempted to put UCF into the third spot behind Louisville and Cincinnati and just ahead of Rutgers. It will also be interesting to see where UConn falls in the predicted order of finish. Coming off back to back 5-7 seasons, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Huskies fall somewhere between 6-8.

As for the Huskies, they will be represented by quarterback Chandler Whitmer, offensive guard Steve Greene and defensive back Byron Jones at tomorrow's media day festivities.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Report: Jason Sylva commits to UMass

According to a tweet from Brendan Hall of ESPN Boston, former UConn commit Jason Sylva committed to UMass.

Brendan Hall @BHallESPN
Per source, Dean College LB and former Tabor Academy star Jason Sylva is heading to UMass. Originally signed with UConn in 2012

Sylva, a linebacker, signed with UConn in 2012 before enrolling at Dean College with the expectation that he would enroll at UConn after he graduated from Dean. However, recently Sylva backed out of a his commitment to UConn.

Friday, July 26, 2013

UConn/Louisville game time announced

UConn announced that the Nov. 8 game against Louisville will start at 8:30 p.m.

It is part of what could be a high-profile night for UConn as the men's basketball team will play Maryland at 6:30 p.m.

Louisville is likely to be the preseason favorite when the American Athletic Conference announces its preseason poll at Tuesday's media day event.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Three UConn commits heading to Milford Academy

The 2013 Milford Academy football team will have at least three future UConn players on its roster.

Jamar Summers is one of three UConn commits who
will play at Milford Academy in the fall.
I previously reported that Jordan Fuchs, a tight end from Malvern, N.Y. who was a two-sport star at Christ the King, and cornerback-receiver Jamar Summers from Orange, N.J. were headed to Milford Academy. I just got off the phone with Milford Academy coach Bill Chaplick who confirmed that offensive tackle Chasz Wright from Woodbridge, Va. will also suit up for the Falcons.

"I like all three of them," Chaplick said. "Hopefully it will work out and they will be there in January."

Chaplick said all three are still firmly committed to UConn and he doesn't anticipate any academic issues with any of them.

Milford Academy starts practice on Aug. 10 and the Falcons opens up with a home game against Globe Institute on Aug. 24. The 12-game schedule also includes a trip to play the Yale JV squad on Oct. 20.

The Reading (Pa.) Eagle reported that UConn commit Jalan Branford will play at Fork Union Military Academy.

That leaves the destination of two more Pennsylvania products - Harrisburg linebacker Chris Britton and Dunmore defensive tackle Michael Boland.

I spoke to Harrisburg football coach Calvin Everett today and he said Britton hasn't decided on a prep school yet but that could happen at some point next week. I haven't had luck getting information of where Boland will be enrolling yet.

UConn commit stars in 7x7 event

According to a report by, UConn commit Logan Marchi led his St. Paul squad to the Northeast 7x7 South Regional title, becoming the first Connecticut team to win a regional title.

St. Paul emerged victorious from a 40-team field including 38 squads from Massachusetts in the event held yesterday at Ames High School in North Easton, Mass. St. Paul defeated Mansfield (Mass.) High 35-29 in the championship game. Both St. Paul and Mansfield advance to the New England Championship on July 30 at Bishop Fenwick High in Peabody, Mass.

ESPNBoston also had a post about the Super 7 Showcase which reported that UConn commit and Ansonia record-breaking running back Arkeel Newsome was one of the standouts.

Another link of note I figured I would pass on is one from the Reading (Pa.) Eagle which reported that 2013 UConn commit Jalan Branford will enroll at Fork Union

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22 former UConn products in NFL training camps

NFL training camps kick off this week and by my count there are 22 former Huskies on NFL rosters heading into camp including four with the Indianapolis Colts and three with the Houston Texans.Actually, the three Texans are already in action as Houston's rookies had its first day of camp yesterday. Below is the list of players who will be in camps with opening date of camp.

Player, POS     TEAM                   Training Camp Open
Will Beatty, OT New York Giants July 26
Tyvon Branch, S Oakland July 25
Donald Brown, RB Indianapolis July 27
Darius Butler, CB Indianapolis July 27
Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo July 27
Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville July 27 (July 23)
Ryan Griffin, TE Houston         July 25 (July 21)
Danny Lansanah, LB New York Jets July 25
Scott Lutrus, LB Indianapolis July 27
Robert McClain, CB Atlanta July 24
Kashif Moore, WR Pittsburgh  July 26
Sio Moore, LB Oakland July 25
Dan Orlovsky, Tampa Bay July 24
Kendall Reyes, DT San Diego  July 24
Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City July 25
Michael Smith, WR  Houston July 25 (July 21)
Donald Thomas, OG Indianapolis July 27
Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville July 27
Nick Williams, WR Washington July 24
Trevardo Williams, LB Houston July 25 (July 21)
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Tennessee July 24
Lawrence Wilson, LB Chicago July 25

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Teggart keeping his NFL dreams alive

I took a ride up to Worcester earlier today so I could catch up with former UConn kicker Dave Teggart who hosted the first camp as part of the Teggart Total Kicking program he recently started with his father. A story on how he decided to become a kicking coach will appear in tomorrow's edition of the Register.

However, don't think for a minute that this endeavor means that he is giving up on his aspirations to be a kicker in the NFL.

Teggart impressed at a kicking showcase in Arizona in March which resulted in a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks. Although he was not signed by Seattle, he is hoping he opened enough eyes there to be on the radar when a team needs a kicker.

He was signed as a free agent by Chicago coming out of UConn and made it to training camp but he was unable to unseat the Bears’ incumbent kicker Robbie Gould. He spent six months in Los Angeles working out under former NFL kicker Michael Husted that culminated with an impressive showing at a showcase in March.

“Robbie Gould he is a great kicker,” Teggart said. “He is a great guy to learn from but competing against a guy like that, I think he is pretty safe there. It was a great learning experience, I learned from the best. I went to California and trained. At a showcase in Arizona in March, won the field goal portion and I ended up they flew me to Seattle for a workout.

“Hopefully I keep getting these workouts,” Teggart said. “All I can control is staying ready and be ready when I get the call.

“There are so many kickers out there and so few spots. I have no illusions that it is easy. Obviously it is not the easiest position to make it, there are four quarterbacks, four linebackers for each position and for kickers there is only one. You have to get lucky and stay ready; you never know when the call is going to come. I will always stay in shape, always stay ready. I am still booming the ball. I am going to keep training forever, it is one of those things that I can use my abilities to help kids and keep myself in shape.”

Teggart said the biggest improvement he has made as a kicker has come on kickoffs since he knew that a kicker who struggled kicking the ball off has little chance to making it an NFL roster.

“I feel like I am kicking better than I ever have,” Teggart said. “At UConn I never really (kicked off) because we had Desi Cullen and he got it into the end zone every time and Chad (Christen) does very good kickoffs and I never really got the chance to showcase that ability. That is something I have improved upon; field goals have never been a problem for me it is just kickoffs. I am putting the kickoffs out of the end zone now and it is just a matter of getting into the right place at the right time, have somebody see me and take a chance on me.

Regardless of whether Teggart ever appears in an NFL regular-season game, his legacy in Connecticut was forever sealed when he blasted a 52-yard field goal against South Florida in the 2010 regular-season finale to kick the Huskies into a BCS game and showdown with Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

“That was one of my favorite moments to be able to go to a BCS game like that,” Teggart said. “At the time when you are lining up you are not really thinking of all the things that go with it. You are like ‘man, I’ve got a kick here and I’ve got to treat it like an extra point. I have to put it through or we are going to lose.’ That whole experience, that whole Fiesta Bowl ride, that was something you will never forget.”

I also addressed some other UConn-related topics with Teggart including his take on seeing five of his former UConn teammates (Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Sio Moore, Trevardo Williams and Ryan Griffin) taken in April's NFL draft.

"It goes to show everyone of those guys who were drafted are great people off the field as well," Teggart said. "I am really good friends with all of them and it just goes to show how much off the field matters as much as one the field. They are all great guys and they deserve everything they get. I wish them luck in the upcoming season."

When current UConn kicker Chad Christen missed four field goals in a loss to Temple, he told the media that Teggart was one of the first people to reach out to him.

"I have known Chad for a long time," Teggart said. "I have developed a great relationship with him over the time he was here, he was my holder for two years. He had a huge game winner against Louisville and believe me I was up on that screen watching. I was dying for him ‘hey, you’ve got to make it.’ When he did, I was going nuts. I was probably more excited than if it was me kicking it."

Finally here are Teggart's thoughts on his time at UConn.

"UConn was the best four years of my life," Teggart said. "It is indescribable what I think of that place, all the fans, everybody treated me great. Coach Edsall gave me a shot and Coach Pasqualoni when he came in he treated me very well. It has given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had any other place, I attempted more field goals than any other place in the country. UConn is a great place to be a field goal kicker, we were always in tight end games and we were always kicking field goals. I loved every minute at UConn."

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Another prestigious honor for UConn's Yawin Smallwood

Add more preseason recognition for UConn rising junior linebacker Yawin Smallwood who was named to the watch list for a national award for the fifth time in the last 12 days.

This one is the most impressive of the bunch as he was one of 11 defensive players named to the Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list.

Smallwood has been on the watch list for the Butkus, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards which are all presented exclusively to defensive players and to the Lombardi Award which considers offensive and defensive linemen in addition to linebackers.

Smallwood led UConn with 120 tackles as a sophomore including 15 tackles for losses and four sacks. Smallwood had six games with at least 10 tackles during the 2012 season including back to back 14-tackle efforts against North Carolina State and Maryland. He had nine tackles for loss and four sacks in the first three games of his sophomore season.

The other defensive players named to the Walter Camp Awards, which is presented annually to the national player of the year, are UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Rice defensive back Phillip Gaines, Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, Notre Dame defensive end Louis Nix III, Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton, Notre Dame defensive Stephon Tuitt and BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

Ten semifinalists for the Walter Camp Award will be named in mid-November with the winner being announced on Dec. 12.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

McCombs a Doak Walker Award candidate

UConn junior tailback Lyle McCombs was named to the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award.

McCombs ran 860 yards and six touchdown during the 2012 season and his three 100-yard rushing efforts included a season-high 133 yards in an upset of Louisville. McCombs also caught 24 passes for 230 yards as a sophomore as he was one of 63 players named as candidates for the award, presented annually to the nation's top running back.

McCombs, a 5-foot-8 169-pound redshirt junior from Staten Island, N.Y., burst onto the scene as a freshman when he recorded six 100-yard games in the first nine contests of the 2011 season. He ran for 1,151 yards and seven touchdowns. He is one of nine UConn players to record more than 2,000 rushing yards and needs 505 yards to break into the top five.

The Doak Walker Award semifinalists will be announced on Nov. 25 and the winner will be revealed on Dec. 12.


Rennick Bryan has work to due to get back to UConn

Checking in on former Hillhouse offensive lineman Rennick Bryan, who signed with UConn before landing at Dean College, was pretty high on my to-do list this summer.

I ran into Hillhouse coach Tom Dyer at the Military Bowl at Rentschler Field and he said while Bryan still wanted to return to UConn, he had business to tend to at Dean. The next step was to reach out to Bryan himself to see if all was going according to plan. Well,. sometimes the stars just align because I was assigned to write a feature off the women's basketball summer league run by the city of New Haven and when I headed out to Wilbur Cross Monday night, who else did I run into other than Rennick Bryan?

When I approached him he chose his words carefully and while he said he could return to UConn, it is hardly a sure thing.

Bryan actually took part in practice at UConn for about a week last summer but the NCAA red-flagged his academic transcript. Bryan quickly landed at Dean.

I headed up to a Dean game in October to catch up with Bryan and he said "that is my goal and that is what I want to get back to, going back to UConn. I’ll be taking summer classes here hopefully doing a year and a half and be there by second semester of next year."

Bryan's timeline changed when I spoke with him on Monday.

"I don’t know about (enrolling at UConn in) January because you have to have 48 credits to transfer back to it so it is going to take a full year, it is not going to be that quick to get back into it," Bryan said. "It is going to take the whole year. I’ll probably have to end up taking more summer classes after this year so I can be up to par with it but I am trying to stay in shape."

He also brought up the possibility of landing somewhere else which was not the case when I spoke to him at Dean.

"I am just trying to keep it going, try to keep my hopes up but if things don’t work out and I can’t go back (to UConn)  and there are other schools out there looking for me, I would be happy, I wouldn’t mind changing my mind to where I am going. It all comes down to whatever happens."

The next step is for Bryan to return to Dean to finish up his academic work because he has to graduate from Dean before he can enroll at UConn or any other four-year college. I hope that happens although when I asked him when he was planning to head back to Dean he wasn't exactly sure saying "(in) August. I have to call Coach (Todd Vasey) and ask about it."

That answer is a little alarming. I do hope that Bryan returns to Dean, takes care of his academic responsibilities and then he heads back to a four-year college.

I really like Rennick. A lot of kids in his situation would have politely declined to speak with him and I hope everything works out for the best.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Update on some New Haven area prospects

For those who enjoy reading about the potential future Huskies, I figured I would pass on a story my colleague Mike Pucci wrote about some of the top players from the New Haven area who are drawing Division I interest including West Haven's Ervin Phillips, Harold Cooper of Hillhouse and Hamden Hall's T.J. Linta who have each garnered some interest from UConn.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Suffield Academy's McAllister commits to UConn

According to a post on his twitter account, Suffield Academy running back/defensive back Brice McAllister has committed to UConn.

Brice McAllister @BMcAllister_3
As of today I officially verbally committed to the University of Connecticut.   Thank you to everyone…

As a junior McAllister ran for 1,723 yards and 22 TD runs as a junior in just eight games (averaging 11.4 yards per carry). He also had 11 catches for 268 yards and four more touchdowns.

Here's a link to McAllister's highlight video

Suffield Academy coach Drew Gamere said that McAllister is being recruited as a running back. Gamere said Boston College has been expressing interest in the 5-foot-11, 190-pound McAllister but had not offered him a scholarship. UConn was the only BCS program to offer him and that happened a couple weeks back when Gamere was up at UConn. Gamere also said that McAllister was a strong enough student to draw interest from Ivy League schools.

"He's very explosive and versatile," Gamere said. "He really explodes through the hole but he is also very good at catching the ball out of the backfield.

"He has been (to UConn) two or three times and really felt comfortable with the coaches."

McAllister and Suffield Academy will play in the New Haven area on Oct. 19 when they are at Cheshire Academy for a 6:30 p.m. game.

Smallwood named to Butkus, Lombardi watch lists

A year ago at this time Yawin Smallwood was one of the best-kept secrets in college football as his more experienced teammates were the ones receiving all the national recognition.

Well, those days are over.

Following up a rock solid freshman season when he was UConn's second-leading tackler, Smallwood recorded a team-high 120 tackles as one of the stars on the Huskies' nationally-ranked defense.

People are obviously taking notice as he was named to the Butkus and Lombardi Award watch lists on Monday after previously earning the same honor for the Bednarik and Nagurski Awards.

The Butkus Award, named in honor of Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, honors the nation's best lineman while linemen and linebackers are eligible for the Lombardi Award.

Since earning the starting middle linebacker spot at UConn as a redshirt freshman Smallwood has had at least five tackles in every game. He returned a fumble 64 yards in his second career game and before the end of his fifth game he had a fumble recovery, forced fumble, sack and interception. In his 24 career collegiate games Smallwood had recorded at least seven tackles 21 times including a career high 14 stops in back to back games against North Carolina State and Maryland during the 2012 season.

With the graduation of linebackers Sio Moore and Jory Johnson, defensive end and career sacks leader Trevardo Williams and cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Smallwood is the unquestioned face of the UConn defense.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Former Huskies shine in CFL

Julius Williams had a sack against his former team
Former UConn defensive end Julius Williams had a pair of tackles including his first sack of the season as the British Columbia Lions defeated Edmonton 17-3 in a Canadian Football League Saturday night.

It was the eighth career sack for Williams and ironically the other seven came with Edmonton, a team he played with during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Former UConn tight end John Delahunt registered his first professional touchdown as he caught a 12-yard TD with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter. Delahunt's touchdown proved to be the winning score in Hamilton's 25-20 win over Winnipeg on Saturday.

Former Husky Larry Taylor had 135 all-purpose yards in Calgary's 22-14 win over Montreal on Friday.

Taylor had two catches for 29 yards, returned three kickoffs for 71 yards and added 35 yards on six punt returns.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Fogarty hired as assistant coach

UConn announced the hiring of former Huskies' quarterback Shane Fogarty as the new safeties coach.

Fogarty, who spent last season at the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at Fordham, replaces
Matt Cersosimo who left to become the head coach at Conard High School.

Cersosimo's departure resulted in some shifting responsibilities for some of the other assistant coaches. Linebackers coach Jon Wholley added the title of recruiting coordinator while Darrell Perkins moves over to coach the cornerbacks after spending the last two seasons with the safeties.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

American Athletic Conference announces Military Bowl partnership

The American Athletic Conference announced that one of its teams will play in the Military Bowl beginning in 2014.

Here is the release from the conference

Commissioner Mike Aresco has announced that the American Athletic Conference has entered into a long-term partnership with the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, beginning with the 2014 football season.

The American will send an eligible team to the Military Bowl each year from 2014 through 2019. 

“We are proud to announce this partnership with the Military Bowl,” said Aresco. “Our objectives when choosing bowl partners are to find quality matchups in desirable destinations attractive to our teams, coaches and fans. The Military Bowl not only meets these objectives, it embodies the core values and identity of our reinvented Conference. We admire the work of the DC Bowl Committee in supporting the USO and our men and women in uniform. We look forward to creating memorable experiences in the National Capital Region for our student-athletes and fans.”

The Military Bowl will be played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. – the home site of future American member Navy – beginning in 2013. The first five editions of the game were held at RFK Stadium in Washington.

The American Athletic Conference representative in the Military Bowl will come from a pool of the third through sixth selections of bowl-eligible teams. 

“We are excited to partner with the American Athletic Conference as it reestablishes its brand,” said Military Bowl President & Executive Director Steve Beck. “We expect The American to field a highly-competitive league. With so many schools and their alumni within driving distance, we believe fans will come out and support their teams in our game.”


UConn's Smallwood a candidate for Nagurski Award

Another day brings more national recognition for UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood as the rising junior was one of 81 players named to the Bronko Nagurski Award watch list.

Smallwood led UConn with 59 solo tackles and 120 tackles during the 2012 season. He also had four sacks, 15 tackles for loss, two forced fumble and four pass breakups.

In his two seasons as the Huskies' starting middle linebacker Smallwood has 214 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for losses.

The award for the Nagurski Award, presented annually to the nation's top defensive player, will be announced on Nov. 21 with the winner be revealed on Dec. 9.

Smallwood was previously named as a candidate for the Bednarik Award and was on the College Football Performance Award watch list for linebackers. With the Butkus and Lombardi Award watch lists being announced on Monday, more recognition could be coming Smallwood's way.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ansonia's Newsome commits to UConn

                                                                                  (Photo by Peter Casolino)
Ansonia High running back Arkeel Newsome committed to UConn.
Ansonia High's dynamic tailback Arkeel Newsome committed to UConn

The 5-foot-8, 180-pound Newsome ran 227 times for 2,245 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior and also had three touchdown receptions for the Class S champions.

Newsome had five 200-yard rushing games during the 2012 season including a pair in the state playoffs.

As a sophomore Newsome ran for 3,763 yards and 58 touchdowns in 14 games including scoring runs of 87, 95 and 98 yards. He ran for more than 300 yards in seven games including a 401-yard effort against Derby. He enters his senior season already owning the state record with 118 career touchdowns and has a chance to break former Ansonia High star Alex Thomas' Connecticut state record for career rushing yards and rushing TDs.

"They (UConn) have always been my No. 1 choice,” Newsome said. “I was basically just testing the waters with recruiting. It feels great. I don’t have to worry about the recruiting process anymore.”

Here's a video I put together on him during his six-touchdown game against Berlin in the 2011 state playoffs.

I spoke to Newsome before the start of his junior season and shortly after he was in attendance at UConn's 2012 season opener against UMass.

"It was a great experience and they won," Newsome said. "It was kind of weird because both of the schools gave me offers and I went to the game and UConn won.

"It was really exciting, they have an amazing crowd and I was happy to be a part it."

He is the fourth known commitment for the Class of 2014 and second from Connecticut joining St. Paul quarterback Logan Marchi.

Judging by the tweets I have seen, Ansonia coach Tom Brockett spent the better part of the late afternoon reaching out to the reporters who cover his team to let them know about Newsome's commitment. It's a class move by Brockett (and a rather rare one as well) as he not only takes care of his player but shows a level of respect to those who cover his team.


Familiar names on UConn roster

UConn posted its fall roster on its official site earlier today as as the UConn Report picked up on, receiver Ricky Gutierrez, fullback Wyatt Vinci and defensive end Jonathan Louis are not on the roster.

By my count, 12 players who were listed on the spring roster are not on the current roster. Besides the trio of Gutierrez, Louis and Vinci also missing are running back Eric Brainard (who led all rushers with 12 yards in the spring game), tight end Mark Hansson (which it was previously reported will not be with the program in 2013) and North Haven's Chris Matteis. None of the 12 players are listed as having been letterwinners.

On the other side of things, thee were some names that caught my eye including former Cheshire High quarterback Michael Ecke, former Valley Regional kicker Rick Harrison and former Hand High receiver Nick Vitale are on the roster. Of the trio the player who intrigues me the most is Vitale who was a game-breaking receiver and dynamic return specialist cut from the mold of a Nick Williams. As a senior Vitale had 11 touchdown receptions for Hand. Vitale originally enrolled at Stony Brook. It will be interesting to see if the speedy Vitale can work his way into the rotation for playing time at receiver or as a punt/kickoff returner.

I posted a video I put together on Vitale for a story I wrote when he was a senior at Hand.

Also, four of the 25 players who signed with UConn in the most recent recruiting list are not on the roster meaning they are headed for prep school. The list includes defensive tackle Michael Boland, tight end Jordan Fuchs (heading to Milford Academy), linebacker Chris Britton and offensive lineman Chasz Wright.

Any interesting note is that I count 29 true freshmen on the UConn roster and five are quarterbacks as Tim Boyle, Richard Lagow and Kivon Taylor are joined by Ecke and fellow walk-on Liam Salquist.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Smallwood named to Bednarik watch list

UConn rising junior linebacker Yawin Smallwood was one of 75 players named to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list.

Smallwood led UConn with 120 tackles during the 2012 season to go with 15 tackles for loss, four quarterback sacks and two forced fumbles. Smallwood had five games with more than 10 tackles including season-high totals of 14 tackles in back to back games against Maryland and North Carolina State.

Semifinalists with the Bednarik Award, presented annually to the nation's  best defensive player, will be announced on Oct. 29, three finalists will be revealed on Nov. 25 with the winner being named on Dec. 12.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

UConn offers Miltary Appreciation Offer ticket promo

UConn announced that for every season ticket purchased from July 1-7 that a single-game ticket will be donated to either active of retired members of the Connecticut National Guard for the Nov. 8 game against Louisville.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Chad Christen on CFPA watch list

Chad Christen was one of 34 kickers named to the College Football Performance Awards watch list.

Christen was 22 for 22 on extra points and 14 of 21 on field goals with a long of 50 yards coming against South Florida. He finished the season by making his last seven field goals in his first season as the starting kicker. He also had 16 touchbacks on 43 kickoffs.

Christen joins linebacker Yawin Smallwood as the only Huskies on the CFPA watch lists.


UConn officially member of American Athletic Conference

Today is when it all became official and UConn's run as a Big East school has come to an end. The Huskies; first day as a member of the American Athletic Conference came without too much fanfare (unless you count those posting about the Central Florida logo being left out of a graphic on the UConn official site).

My colleague David Borges, who covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Register, headed up to the conference offices in Providence today and caught up with AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco.

Here's some of what he had to say:

"It’s felt like we’ve already launched, in the sense that we’ve got the new name, the new logo. July 1 is more of an official date -- you note it on the calendar. The practical effect is that we have the four new teams come in.

"We look back at where we were in December and January. There were a lot of people who gave us no chance. They thought we would dissolve, or the whole thing would be come completely a litigious mess in every respect. They thought the Catholic 7 would devolve into that kind of situation. They thought that once we got that settled, we’d have a big fight over the money between the old and new schools and we wouldn’t have good cohesion between the newcomers and the core group. They thought UConn and Cincinnati, and maybe South Florida, wouldn’t buy into the new arrangement. And they have. UConn’s been one of our biggest supporters -- in private, too. People can’t see what goes on. (UConn president) Susan Herbst and (UConn director of athletics) Warde Manuel have been real champions of our effort."

As for the conference, they sent out an excerpt of what they sent to schools making up The American.

As we proudly mark today as the official launch date of the American Athletic Conference, I am extremely pleased to welcome the University of Central Florida, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis and Southern Methodist University as members of our reinvented Conference.  We are delighted to have these distinguished institutions join us.  We also look forward to welcoming Tulane University, East Carolina University, and the University of Tulsa in 2014 and the United States Naval Academy in 2015.

As you know, we have made enormous progress during the past months in so many key areas, and we approach the future with energy and optimism as well as enormous confidence in our prospects. We have created a strong foundation and we will be an outstanding Conference in every respect.  We will emphasize academic performance, good citizenship and sportsmanship, and we will provide our accomplished student-athletes with the highest level of competition.