Thursday, September 26, 2013

UConn is capitalizing on Pruitt's versatility

Angelo Pruitt has been able to contribute while playing nearly
every spot on the defensive line over the last two seasons
One advantage of having UConn's game against Michigan televised on ABC is it gave me a chance to look back at what transpired.

At the top of the list of the things I was eager to get a closer look at was how the playing time at defensive end was doled out.

By my unofficial tally, the snap count was divided almost equally among Tim Willman (46 snaps), Jesse Joseph (42) and Angelo Pruitt (41) while Reuben Frank was used almost exclusively on obvious passing downs.

When Joseph was in the game he was usually lined up at the left defensive end while Willman was used to the right DE. However, Angelo Pruitt was moved all over the place. Not only did he play both defensive end spots but every once in a while he would be used inside when the Huskies lined up defensive ends side by side in an attempt to breath some life into what was a struggling pass rush.

By game's end I thought that other than defensive tackle Shamar Strephen (who drew praise all night long from analyst and former NFL linebacker Chris Spielman) no defensive lineman was more impressive than Pruitt.

I asked UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni about Stephen's performance on Saturday which went under the radar not only by us media folks but also the stat keepers. The tape shows that Stephen threw the Michigan offensive lineman into quarterback Devin Gardner which resulted in Gardner's fumble. Ty-Meer Brown scooped up the ball and ran it in to put UConn up 21-7.

"I think he is playing really consistent," Pasqualoni said. "He is probably our most consistent, steady player on defense. He is not going to get a lot of the fanfare not going to get a lot of accolades but he is a guy who gives you everything he's got with effort, fundamentals and dependability. Shamar is very smart, he wants to be a great player and he is playing very consistently."

In one sequence Pruitt drew a hold on Michigan's all-everything left tackle Taylor Lewan wiping out a long run by Devin Gardner and then dropped tailback Fitz Toussaint in the backfield. Pruitt finished with six tackles including two tackles for loss.

"Although I am moving around on the field, fundamentals and techniques stay the same," Pruitt said. "When I am on the outside, I am setting the edge on the inside and taking on a double team, being in great position to take on the block."

Pruitt usually split time with Joseph at the left DE spot in the first two games but he saw more time on the right side against Michigan. Considering that meant a matchup with Lewan, who is projected to be a top five pick in April's NFL draft it is an indication of how much confidence the UConn coaches have in Pruitt. Pruitt said the approach doesn't change regardless of which side he lines up on.

"Teams are changing their tight ends so any moment each side can be the strong side," Pruitt said. "I think both sides are the same with technique and responsibilities and setting the edge. It works hand and hand."

Pruitt said while his teammates never lost faith in their ability to be a top-flight defense after rough games against Towson and Maryland, it did feel good to show the nation that the Huskies can still be an elite defensive unit.

"This game didn’t really prove anything to us because we knew who we are and our record doesn’t reflect us as a team or reflect our work ethic but I think it just proved to the world that we are the UConn defense that has been pretty good for the last couple of years," Pruitt said. "We have the potential to do something great."

Since Pruitt hails from Cincinnati I was curious if he had any reaction to the tragedy suffered by his hometown school as Cincinnati freshman offensive lineman Ben Flick died in a car accident and two other Bearcat football players were hospitalized after the Saturday night crash.

"For my teammates and teammates across the nation, that is a very unfortunate event," Pruitt said. "You never want someone to get hurt on the field or off the field so me hearing about that, I am saddened about it and I wish that program the best of luck so they can recover from this."

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