Monday, November 04, 2013

UConn defense close to full strength

While it is not an excuse for the way the Huskies have struggled, it should be notes that Friday night could be the first time that UConn could have the services of every defensive player listed on the two-deep chart headed into preseason camp.

The injury bug began when Andrew Adams, a projected starter at safety, injured his shoulder in a blocking drill late in camp. Adams needed to undergo surgery and missed the first four games. A high-ankle sprain suffered in the Maryland game knocked linebacker Graham Stewart out of action for four games. A shoulder issue kept cornerback Taylor Mack out of the lineup for the last four games. David Stevenson, who came into the season as the top reserve cornerback, was suspended for four games.

Now they are all expected to be in action when the Huskies host Louisville on Friday night (8:30 p.m., ESPN2).

Mack's return could be the most important considering how much the young secondary has been exposed over the last couple of games.

"(He's practicing) in pads, all the tests are positive," Mack said. "I spent the bye week in pads and I’m doing light contact, I do it every day and see how it feels. The way that the tests look and the way my shoulder is now, I will be cleared to play."

Mack's absence was due to a nerve issue with his shoulder and neck after he made a hit in an unsuccessful attempt to keep Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner to score a touchdown.

"My whole shoulder, neck, arm went numb, it was more intense pain than it was before," Mack said.

"I am working every single day trying to get my shoulder right, with the nerve in my neck and there is no electricity to give you the strength back in my arm," Mack said. "It is frustrating because you want to get back and there is nothing you can do. They say patience is a virtue. I prayed and luckily I should be able to come back (against Louisville). It was the play when I hit Devin Gardner going into the end zone.

Stewart returned to action in a 62-17 loss to Central Florida but he is still not 100 percent.

"I’ve been (practicing) since the UCF week so that is my time frame to get back but I have been trying to get back since Buffalo but ankle (injuries) are annoying," Stewart said.

"At the end of the day it is the kind of injury that it is going to nag you no matter what you do and the training staff has been taking good care of me and I am feeling better."

Stewart believes the Huskies can still salvage the season even if it won't result in a trip to a bowl game.

"I feel a sense of urgency," Stewart said. "I am glad to be back and I need to make plays. The season hasn’t gone our way but the season is not over, we can turn it around with this game and win out. That is what we want to do but I am trying to work hard, get back in the swing of things and put us in position to win.

"My reps are limited during practice and during a game. It is whatever I can do I am out there to do. It is a tough situation to be in because I know what I can do but my body is not letting me, whether it is I can’t cut or I can’t accelerate like I want to."

It is not Stewart's first brush with injury since he transferred from Florida. Last year he tore his pectoral muscle while trying to max out in the bench press.

"That is the worst thing that you can do is feel sorry for yourself," Stewart said. "Maybe it is some bad luck but all I can do is focus on the next  day and know it is going to get better.

"Through any adversity that you go through in life you always have to stay positive. There is no use of being negative or feeling down on yourself because you snap your finger and anything can change. Primarily what I am focused on is how can I get better and how can I help the team and at the end of the day that is all I can worry about."

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