Friday, August 02, 2013

Impressions from first day of practice

It's always hard to read too much into the first day of football practice especially with UConn not strapping on the pads for another five days but figured I would pass on my take on Friday's 2 1/2 hour practice.

I thought the best player I saw out there was senior defensive end Tim Willman. It seems like he was in the backfield on every play during 11 on 11 drills. I also thought that converted fullback Reuben Frank was very active at defensive end.

The lone defensive score I saw came when redshirt freshman Mikal Myers had a sack, fumble and return in rapid succession.

All-American candidate Yawin Smallwood saw sporadic time with the starting defense. Marquise Vann saw most of the first-team reps at middle linebacker in his place while Omaine Stephens lined up at outside linebacker along with Ryan Donohue. Graham Stewart, who figures to push for a starting OLB spot, wasn't at practice since his sister was getting married today.

I saw Byron Jones pick off a couple of passes and thought Jhavon Williams looked pretty good out there at corner as well.

Jesse Joseph was back out there as well and looking pretty good after suffering a season-ending torn Achilles. Perhaps the best quotes from Pasqualoni came at the expense of the fifth-year senior defensive end.

"He is running full speed, we just have to make sure nothing else flairs up," Pasqualoni said. "Jesse is like 48 years old, he is like an old man but if we can keep him healthy he is a player, he has a ton of snaps under his belt. He has the tough edge, that competitiveness to him and he along with a guy like Shamar Stephen can do nothing but help."

On offense was first caught my eye was how dynamic Martin Hyppolite looked at running back. I wasn't even sure if Hyppolite's hip (which was injured when he was a passenger in a car involved in a fatal accident) would allow him to practice early on during preseason camp but he looked extremely explosive.

Something else that I noticed was the amount of first-team time that sophomores Tyler Samra and Xavier Hemingway saw at guard and tackle respectively. (UPDATED: Checking my notes, it was actually Paul Nwokeji working as the first team RT and not Hemingway). Again one day is a little early to start obsessing on how lined up with the first team and who was with the second team but it looked to me that Samra and Nwokeji were primarily working with the 1's with Gus Cruz and Kevin Friend playing with the 2's.

"We wanted to see how far they’ve come and they did a pretty good job with their lifting so we wanted to see where they are at," Pasqualoni said.

There were far more highlight plays for the defense than the offense today but Shakim Phillips' 70-yard grab of a pass from Chandler Whitmer was certainly an impact play. 

Last but certainly not least (since it was the focus of my story in tomorrow's Register) was seeing quarterback Scott McCummings working out with the receivers.

McCummings, who was listed at 224 pounds last year, weighed 240 in the spring and is now listed at 257 pounds. While Pasqualoni didn't rule out McCummings returning to his familiar role as a run-first quarterback in the wildcat formation, it is clear that he was not happy with the condition came to camp in.

"It made sense to get him out there plus it will give him a chance to do a little bit more running, burn a few more calories and he has to drop some weight," Pasqualoni said. "I am excited about it and he can catch the ball, I didn’t see him drop one."

It was also a big difference seeing five scholarship quarterbacks available to run through drills.

Returning starter Chandler Whitmer was thrilled to see the extra bodies.

"That was nice," Whitmer said. "I haven’t done that yet since I have been here but it feels good working with those guys and getting them adjusted to the speed of the game."

Whitmer's roommate is freshman Tim Boyle, a highly-touted recruit out of Xavier High. Whitmer was having fun with Boyle playfully asking him how he was feeling and running from one field to the other, he grabbed Boyle's shoulder.

"He is my roommate now and I am trying to take him under my wing, get him going," Whitmer said. "He wants to learn and he is doing a great job. He is serious about it and he wants to be good and that is what you ask of anybody. He has a good relationship with me already and we are taking advantage of that just to be better."


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