Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Newcomers continue to impress

Quarterbacks Richard Lagow and Kivin Taylor are among
true freshmen making impact at UConn preseason camp
As I watched Tim Boyle and Richard Lagow zip throws all over the field, Josh Marriner opening eyes when he got carries, Brian Lemelle and Michael Boland involved in the passing game, Matt Walsh looking comfortable at fullback, Kyle Schafenacker working at right guard with the No. 2 offense as well as fellow true freshmen Junior Joseph and Javon Hadley getting reps with the second-team defense it made me realize what a difference a year makes.

At this point in last year's camp, the only true freshmen I recall making a push to be on the two deep chart were offensive lineman Tyler Samra, running back Joe Williams, cornerback Jhavon Williams and defensive end E.J. Norris.

With that in mind I asked UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni if these freshmen are that good or perhaps there is more of an opportunity for playing time considering the quality and quantity of the players the Huskies lost to graduation.

"It was hard for the freshmen (last season), you had some older guys," Pasqualoni said. "This year we have some older guys too but these freshmen they deserve to get the reps they are getting. Size wise, speed wise, strength wise they are all pretty looking kids."

Pasqualoni eyed widen in a significant fashion when I asked him specifically about Joseph playing defensive end on the second team defense.

"The guy benches nearly 400 pounds, he is a very explosive powerful guy and there are a number of these guys who show you flashes of competing and trying to get better and he is in that mix right now," Pasqualoni said.

Marriner's name also drew some lofty praise from Pasqualoni.

"Josh seems to be a little more comfortable with each day in practice and he seems to play with a little more bounce in his step each day, he is a very diligent, very smart kid," Pasqualoni said.

As for the quarterback, Boyle was the most consistently impressive of the three true freshmen. It definitely caught my eye that Boyle was the second guy out there when UConn went to 11 on 11 drills ahead of redshirt freshman Casey Cochran which is a change from previous practices I witnessed. Lagow had the best throw of any of freshmen with a perfectly throw long ball down the far sideline which dropped softly into the hands of classmate Dhameer Bradley. Unfortunately Bradley dropped the pass. The other true freshman quarterback (Kivon Taylor) had a tough day throwing the ball as did Cochran.

Here's what Pasqualoni's impressions were on the practice.

"I thought we got a lot of things done and had a chance to make some plays," Pasqualoni said. "We need to catch the ball better, we dropped some good balls on some big, explosive passes but I thought overall I thought the guys practiced with some energy and I see guys being productive on both sides of the ball.

"They are getting a lot of good reps," Pasqualoni said about the three QBs, "I think they are working very diligently at it, all throwing the ball well. They are doing about as well as we could expect freshmen quarterbacks to do."

Later on Pasqualoni spoke a little more about the three freshman QBs.

"The advantage they have is they have strong arms and they can see things and it is a big advantage and they can slide around a little bit, they are all can move and are all athletic," Pasqualoni said. "I think they are making pretty good progress but it is way too early to say who is who but it is fun to watch. They all have a good throwing motion, they take to coaching really well, they are working hard at meetings asking questions, Coach Day is grilling them on film sessions."

The aftermath of tailback Joe Williams' indefinite suspension was a popular topic of conversation. As my previous blog entry highlighted, Pasqualoni was very careful about what he said about Williams and his potential future with the Huskies. He did address the depth at the tailback position and believes UConn has plenty of quality options at tailback with or without Williams.

There were some notable players missing from today's practice led by senior defensive end Jesse Joseph as Kenton Adeyemi worked out at left defensive end with the No. 1 defense and played pretty well.

Tight end Spencer Parker, offensive guards Tyler Samra and Zach Rugg, defensive end Reuben Frank, receiver Noel Thomas were others that were out of practice today.

"Jesse’s fine and there is nothing major," Pasqualoni said. "It’s very typical middle of camp bumps and bruises but nothing overwhelming."

As for Parker, Pasqualoni said, "he is fine, another guy with a little sprain, a little soreness and we will get him back tomorrow."

Parker's absence at an already thin position led to Boland seeing time with the first and second team offenses which is pretty remarkable since he has only been at UConn for about a week Starting tight end Sean McQuillan went down with an apparent ankle injury after tussling with defensive tackle Julian Campenni in a blocking drill. McQuillan left the field but returned later and resumed practicing.

Center Tyler Bullock was out of action at the last practice the media was allowed to attend but he was back in action today although Alex Mateas got all the snaps at center with the first tea,

Finally, here are some of the highlights during the 7 on 7 11 on 11 portions of practice.

Chandler Whitmer looked extremely impressive during 7 on 7 drills highlighted by a perfectly thrown pass to Geremy Davis on a crossing pattern. The best catch I saw during this time was when Lemelle caught the back half of the ball while sliding to the turf. The biggest collision might have been delivered by fullback Jazzmar Clax who ran over safety Ty-Meer Brown. Angelo Pruitt had a sack followed by a tackle in the backfield by B.J. McBride. Adeyemi also had a sack while Obi Melifonwu had an interception and I was impressed with what I saw from reserve safety Wilbert Lee.

Just a reminder that Saturday's practice (scheduled to run from 8:45-11:15 a.m.) is open to the public and the weather is supposed to be glorious on Saturday.


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