Monday, December 30, 2013

UConn in NFL: Week 17

It was a memorable final day of the regular season for some UConn alums.

Darius Butler had a team-high eight tackles and Donald Brown had a 1-yard scoring run as the Indianapolis Colts capped a run to the AFC South title with a 30-10 win over Jacksonville.

Sio Moore had a sack as he finished fourth among rookies with 4 1/2 sacks. Kendall Reyes also had a sack as San Diego clinched a playoff spot with an overtime win over Kansas City.

Will Beatty suffered a gruesome leg injury which put a damper on the Giants' season-ending win over Washington while Danny Lansanah made his first appearance in a regular season NFL game since the 2008 season..

Here's the breakdown with not only this today's accomplishments but also season recaps including players who are on injured reserve or on practice squads. This will be the final weekly report although I will update how the former Huskies fare in the playoffs. There are four UConn products on the active rosters of playoff-bound teams (Brown and Butler, Reyes and Kansas City fullback Anthony Sherman).

Will Beatty, OT New York Giants: Started in 20-6 win over Washington but suffered a broken leg in third quarter
Started all 16 games at left tackle

Tyvon Branch, S Oakland: On injured reserve with leg injury
Started two games and finished with five tackles and a sack

Donald Brown, RB Indianapolis: Ran 12 times for 31 yards including 1-yard TD and had three catches in 30-10 win over Jacksonville
Ran for 537 yards and six touchdowns and had career-high 27 catches while starting five games

Darius Butler, DB Indianapolis: Had eight tackles and fumble recovery in 30-10 win over Jacksonville
Had career highs with 54 tackles and four interceptions while starting seven games

Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo: Returned kickoff for 28 yards and had two tackles in 34-20 loss to New England
Special teams standout had 24 tackles and 83 yards on four kickoff returns and also recorded first two career NFL catches

Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville: Did not play (ankle)
Had 32 tackles and two interceptions despite missing six games with ankle injuries

Ryan Griffin, TE Houston: Had three catches for 49 yards in 16-10 loss to Tennessee
Had 14 of his 19 catches in the final three games of the season

Danny Lansanah, LB Tampa Bay: Did not record tackle in 42-17 loss to New Orleans
Played in first regular-season game in five seasons in Sunday's regular-season finale

Scott Lutrus, LB Indianapolis
Spent season on injured reserve

Robert McClain, CB Atlanta: Had two tackles and returned three punts for 34 yards
Had 65 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles and averaged 10.2 yards on 19 punt returns

Kashif Moore, WR Pittsburgh
Signed to practice squad by Pittsburgh Steelers

Sio Moore, LB Oakland: Had four tackles and a sack in 34-14 loss to Denver
Started 11 games and had 50 tackles with 4.5 sacks

Dan Orlovsky, Tampa Bay: Did not play in 42-17 loss to New Orleans
Made only appearance in Nov. 17 loss to Atlanta but did not attempt a pass

Kendall Reyes, DL San Diego: Had three tackles and sack in 27-24 overtime win over Kansas City
Started 16 games and had 34 tackles with five sacks

Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City: Had one tackle in 27-24 overtime loss to San Diego
Had career-high 18 catches and rated as best blocking fullback by Pro Football Focus site

Donald Thomas, OG Indianapolis
Started two games before suffering a season-ending torn quad

Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville: Had a 12-yard catch , two carries for three yards and had 50 yards on two kickoff returns in 30-10 loss to Indianapolis 
Ran for 276 yards and two touchdowns and 116 yards on 14 catches with another TD

Nick Williams, WR Washington: Averaged 18.6 yards on five kickoff returns in 20-6 loss to New York Giants
Had three catches for 15 yards and averaged 20.9 yards on nine kickoff returns

Trevardo Williams, LB Houston
Spent season on injured reserve with ankle injury

Lawrence Wilson, LB Chicago
Signed to practice squad by Chicago Bears on Nov. 19

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Tennessee: Had three tackles in 16-10 win over Houston
Had 13 tackles and a forced fumble in 13 games as a rookie

Thursday, December 26, 2013

UConn's Bennett projects as 5th round pick

Former UConn OT Jimmy Bennett, who started all 24 games over the last two season, is rated as the 25th best player at that position by the NFL Draft Bible site.

Bennett is projected as a fifth-round pick by the site, He will be training with fellow former UConn OL Steve Greene and some other NFL hopefuls in Pittsburgh and will be playing in the Medal of Honor Bowl on Jan. 11,

Bennett is one of three UConn players projected to be drafted as Yawin Smallwood is the No. 2 rated inside linebacker and projects to be taken in the second round while Shamar Stephen, the No. 21 defensive tackle, is projected to be a fifth-round pick.

Pro Bowl voting ends today

We will know shortly whether any former UConn players were voted to play in the Pro Bowl.

The voting ends today and seven former Huskies are on the ballot

Will Beatty, OT New York Giants
Tyvon Branch, SS Oakland
Marcus Easley, ST Buffalo
Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville
Sio Moore, LB Oakland
Kendall Reyes, DE San Diego
Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City

While it won't necessarily get him named to the Pro Bowl team it should be noted that Sherman was named the No. 1 fullback on the Pro Football Focus All-Pro team.

Sherman and Easley, who has drawn raves all season for his work on Buffalo's coverage teams, have the best chances of earning Pro Bowl spots.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

UConn commit advances on in Mr. Pennsylvania Football voting

It was a mixed bag for UConn commits in the Mr. Pennsylvania Football voting department.

Neshaminy defensive end/tight end Luke Carrezola is one of 20 candidates in the AAA/AAAA divisions but Ligonier Valley tight end Alec Bloom did not make the cut in the small school division.

Carrezola caught four passes for 45 yards and finished with 53 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks as Neshaminy posted a 13-2 record and advanced to the Pennsylvania AAAA semifinals before losing to eventual champion St. Joseph's Prep.

Bloom had 45 catches for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns in an injury-shortened senior season.

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UConn in NFL: Week 16

A pair of former UConn offensive stars who began the season at backups continued to make an impact down the stretch.

Running back Donald Brown had a 51-yard scoring run and caught a 33-yard touchdown pass as the Indanapolis Colts defeated Kansas City 23-7. Tight end Ryan Griffin had five catches for 66 yards as he led the Houston Texans in catches for the second straight game. Also, Nick Williams got a chance to return kickoffs for Washington and returned nearly 24 yards on four returns.

There was some bad news as rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz injured his ankle and he is not expected to play in the season finale.

Will Beatty, OT New York Giants: Started in 23-20 overtime win over Detroit
Donald Brown, RB Indianapolis: Ran for 79 yards and a touchdown and had two catches for 31 yards and a TD in 23-7 win over Kansas City
Darius Butler, CB Indianapolis: Had five tackles in 23-7 win over Kansas City
Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo: Had three tackles in 19-0 win over Miami
Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville: Did not have a tackle in 20-16 loss to Tennessee
Ryan Griffin, TE Houston: Had five catches for 66 yards in 37-13 loss to Denver
Danny Lansanah, LB Tampa Bay: Was inactive
Robert McClain, CB Atlanta: Had two tackles and returned two punts for 33 yards in 34-24 loss to San Francisco
Sio Moore, LB Oakland: Had four tackles 26-13 loss to San Diego
Dan Orlovsky, Tampa Bay: Did not play in 23-13 loss to St. Louis
Kendall Reyes, DT San Diego: Had two tackles in 26-13 win over Oakland
Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City: Did not record a catch or a carry in 23-7 loss to Indianapolis
Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville: Had six rushing yards and a five-yard reception in 20-16 loss to Tennessee
Nick Williams, WR Washington: Returned four kickoffs for 95 yards in 24-23 loss to Dallas
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Tennessee: Had two tackles in 20-16 win over Jacksonville


Monday, December 23, 2013

UConn's Smallwood named to All-ECAC team

UConn junior linebacker Yawin Smallwood was the only Husky named to the All-Eastern College Athletic Conference FBS squad.

Smallwood led the Huskies with 118 tackles, his second straight season with more than 100 tackles, and also had a team-leading four sacks.

Boston College running back Andre Williams was named the Offensive Player of the Year and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald was selected as the Defensive Player of the Year.

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UConn's Joseph to play in NFLPA Bowl

Defensive end Jesse Joseph became the third member of the 2013 UConn football team to accept an invitation to play in a postseason all-star game.

Joseph, who had 40 tackles including six tackles for loss as a senior and finished his career with 15 sacks, will be playing in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif. on Jan. 18.

While Joseph is hoping to open the eyes of NFL scouts during the practice sessions and in the game, he does have the option of playing in the CFL as the native of  Laval, Quebec was takeb by Montreal with the 23rd overall pick in May's CFL Draft.

Offensive tackle Jimmy Bennett will be playing in the Medal of Honor Bowl and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen has been selected to play in the Senior Bowl.

The news is not all good for former UConn defensive standouts as cornerback Dwayne Gratz, a rookie cornerback with the Jacksonville Jaguars, is not expected to play in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Colts due to an ankle injury. With the Jaguars already being eliminated from playoff contention, Gratz will finish his rookie season with 32 tackles and two interceptions as he started eight of the 10 games he played in.

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Winning the press conference not No. 1 goal for UConn's Manuel

Warde Manuel was thrilled to hear the reports from fans and alumni about how charged up they were after seeing the energetic Bob Diaco steal the show at the press conference announcing him as the new football coach at UConn. However, hiring somebody who is a dynamic presence at a press conference wasn't nearly as important to Manuel as getting an accomplished coach who can change the fortunes of the football program.

"It’s great to hear," Manuel said after Sunday's UConn women's basketball game against California at Madison Square Garden. "Our fans are really excited by him. I am glad that people are excited and able to see him, be excited about what he is going to try to do and accomplish here.

"Everybody said you knocked it out of the park by hiring him and the press conference. When you look at what he brings to the table, his experiences, his knowledge, the success that he had both as a player and as a coach, I am glad people liked the press conference but they will really like the level of excellence that the man will demand from the kids on a daily basis and hopefully the results will be there."

Manuel reacted to the news that offensive line/tight ends coach Mike Foley was the only assistant coach being retained by Diaco.

"I liked all of those guys," Manuel said. "Personally and professionally, it is the nature of where we are but it is also important for Bob to be able to determine his staff and be able to bring in the people he wants, the system that he wants to run. Mike Foley, he kept Mike and I think that is a great choice but the other guys would have been great as well but Bob has his sense of what he wants to do. He talked to all of the guys and talked to them about the things he wanted to talk about to assess things. He was up front with them when he talked to the staff and they all know that this is a business and it is a sad part of it but it is the process that has to take place."

With UConn ending the season on a three-game winning streak and so many of the playmakers in those three wins expected to come back, having a bright young coach in the fold and Yawin Smallwood already generating plenty of hype since declaring for the NFL draft, there's more positive energy surrounding the program at the current time than has been evident in the last couple of years and that is not lost on Manuel.

"Part of coming in and stepping into the head-coaching position, Bob saw that and many of the people I interviewed talked about that the team went into the last three games, the character of the kids on the team and those kinds of things, it was important," Manuel said. "When he met with the team, he told them so. He told them that he was watching knowing that the job was open and knowing that he’d interested. He was very proud of what they did and I echoed that of course because these kids never stopped working, they never stopped trying. We made mistakes and they were down on themselves for that but they never stopped working hard and they never stopped trying to give their best. The fans were behind them and it just worked out the way it did. We won those last three games and that was important for this team to do that and to go into the offseason knowing that we won the last three games and let’s keep up the effort in the workouts and see where we can be in our preparation for the next nine months."

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Former UConn TE heading home

Former UConn tight end John Delahunt, a native of Ottawa, was one of 24 players taken by Ottawa in the CFL's expansion draft earlier this week.

Delahunt, who switched to fullback as a rookie with the Grey Cup finalist Hamilton Tiger-Cats, had nine catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

He was taken by the Ottawa Redblacks with the 13th overall pick in the expansion draft.

In a story in the Ottawa Citizen Delahunt said "I’m happy that it gives me a chance to play in my hometown, and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Delahunt figures to battle it out with Patrick Lavoie, a former Montreal Alouettes fullback, who was also taken in the second round of the expansion draft. Lavoie had 33 catches during the 2012 but just six catches in 2013.

SMALLWOOD NO. 2 ILB
Yawin Smallwood, who declared for the draft after UConn's season-opening win over Memphis, is rated as the No. 2 inside linebacker trailing only Alabama's C.J. Mosley on the NFL Draft Bible's database.

Smallwood is projected as a second-round pick on the site.

Also, Shamar Stephen is rated as the No. 21 defensive tackle and projected to be taken in the fifth round.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Former UConn commit headed to Temple

Milford Academy offensive tackle Chasz Wright, who originally committed to UConn out of Hylton High in Woodbridge, Va., has flipped his commitment to Temple according to Milford Academy coach Bill Chaplick.

Chaplick said he was surprised that Wright didn't land at UConn but that he loved his visit to Temple and made the decision to commit there.

Chaplick said that cornerback Jamar Summers is 100 percent solid on UConn and has already sent in his academic paperwork to the school and that he will be enrolling at UConn in January.

Wright becomes the third commit UConn has lost since the firing of Paul Pasqualoni.

Justin Noye, a quarterback from Rochester, N.Y., is headed to Old Dominion and Jordan Fuchs, a tight end from Christ the King who prepped at Milford Academy, originally committed to Rutgers before switching to Indiana and reports are that he has already signed.

New UConn coach Bob Diaco and offensive line coach Mike Foley, the only assistant coach retained by Diaco, have been busy contacted all the committed recruits. It sounds like they are in pretty good shape with the others although Kent School OL Trey Rutherford did visit Minnesota last weekend.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Early look ahead to Bob Diaco's first UConn team





A week ago all the rumor mill finally went quiet and all the speculation surrounding who the next UConn football coach was going to be ended when Bob Diaco was hired as the Huskies new coach. Diaco is going his part to generate interest for the program with an entertaining press conference and a series of interviews including one on the Jim Rome Show.

There's no questioning that the former Notre Dame defensive coordinator has passion, energy and charisma. Now for the really important question, can he win at UConn?

Well, when the players who will be redshirt seniors were true freshmen the Huskies earned a spot in a BCS bowl for the only time in program history so it's not like he is venturing into unchartered waters.

While attrition is almost certainly to change the look of the roster between now and the season opener against Brigham Young on Aug. 28, here’s an early look at the Huskies position by position

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK: With the way Casey Cochran played in the wins over Rutgers and Memphis, you would have to think it is his job to lose. Of course, if Diaco shakes up the look of the offensive staff, the new group of coaches could have a different take on things. There is not a position where transfers tend to happen with more frequency than at quarterback (look no further than Mike Nebrich lighting things up when he left UConn after Chandler Whitmer was named the starter shortly before the 2012 season began). Whitmer’s situation bears watching. Does he want to stick around for another year or maybe be sitting behind Cochran and Tim Boyle? As for Boyle, I know he was incredibly disappointed when he was replaced as the starter but I spoke to his high school coach (Xavier’s Sean Marinan) last week and he said he believes Boyle is solid in his commitment to UConn. Kivon Taylor is an intriguing prospect who redshirted this past season while Scott McCummings missed all of the 2013 season after tearing his Achilles tendon. He could be in a similar boat as Whitmer as both are good students who could graduate and play elsewhere or make a run at earning playing time. As of right now St. Paul’s Logan Marchi is the only incoming freshman at that position.

TAILBACK: Lyle McCombs, who led UConn in rushing for the third straight season, and Max DeLorenzo were the top two rushers and both are coming back. They could prove to be a solid 1-2 combination as McCombs has outstanding speed and DeLorenzo is a bruising runner. However, the running game has struggled to produce regularly over the last two seasons. Josh Marriner was a highly-productive runner in high school who redshirted as a freshman and the situation of Joe Williams needs to be monitored as he was suspended after being arrested for illegal use of a credit card. If he is reinstated, he has the combination of size and speed than could earn him playing time. Ansonia High’s Arkeel Newsome rewrote the Connecticut high school record book while leading the Chargers to three state titles in a row and is another speedy, but undersized back and Suffield Academy’s Brice McAllister is also committed to the Huskies.

FULLBACK: When T.J. Weist was calling the plays the fullback was an under utilized position. I am not sure what the offense will look like under Diaco but if the fullback is not featured prominently, you’d have to wonder if they rethink the use of former state player of the year Matt Walsh as a fullback. Walsh showed great potential catching the ball out of the backfield during fall camp and is a tough competitor so he could be an asset at fullback. Jazzmar Clax is in a similar situation as perhaps he could see time at tailback because with UConn often going with three or four receiver sets, the fullbacks rarely saw the field.

RECEIVERS: Everybody who caught a pass during the 2013 season is slated to return. Geremy Davis had one of the best seasons for a Connecticut receiver during UConn’s time playing at the FBS level and when Shakim Phillips was healthy, it was a pretty dynamic receiving tandem. Deshon Foxx made tremendous strides as a slot receiver while true freshmen Brian Lemelle, Dhameer Bradey and Noel Thomas saw more and more time as the season wore on. Kamal Abrams and John Green are among the other receivers returning.

TIGHT ENDS: Sean McQuillan, when healthy, displayed plenty of potential as a pass-catching tight end. Converted defensive end E.J. Norris should be in better position with a full year to prepare to play offense. Freshmen Michael Boland, Tommy Myers and Quinn Thompson all redshirted and it will be interesting to see how they develop. Alec Bloom is a commit who bears watching assuming he comes to Storrs.

OFFENSIVE LINE: UConn loses four senior starters in tackles Jimmy Bennett and Kevin Friend and guards Steve Greene and Tyler Bullock. The rock-solid consistency of Greene figures to be the hardest to replace. Guards Tyler Samra and Kyle Schafenacker were highly-touted prospects from premier high school programs. Samra got one start while Schafenacker was redshirted. Gus Cruz began the season as the starter at right guard but his season ended prematurely due to a cardiac issue. If he can be cleared, that would be a huge bonus for an otherwise young offensive line. Zach Rugg saw some time at guard as a redshirt freshman. Rising senior Alex Mateas heads into the 2014 season as the returning starter while Dalton Gifford showed signs of improvement late in the season filling in for an injured Friend and he figures to be a full-time starter at tackle. The other tackle spot will be interesting. Xavier Hemingway, Paul Nwokeji and Richard Levy pushed for playing time during the ’13 season while Tommy Hopkins was redshirted. Chasz Wright, who spent last season at Milford Academy, Lamont Bradford and Trey Rutherford are all committed to UConn (although Rutherford did take a visit to Minnesota last weekend) with Wright having the added bonus of being able to take part in spring drills as a January enrollee.

DEFENSE
DEFENSIVE END: Change was already coming with the graduation of Jesse Joseph and Tim Willman but when you factor in that Diaco ran a 3-4 defense at Notre Dame and it will be intriguing to see what he does at the defensive end and outside linebacker positions. Angelo Pruitt figures to be a key contributor at DE regardless of the scheme as he has the size and physicality to play end in a 3-4 alignment and has proven productive playing either DE or DT in a 4-3. Reuben Frank, a converted fullback who has pass-rush potential, would seem better suited to being an rush outside linebacker in a 3-4 than playing end in that scheme. Kenton Adeyemi would seem capable of playing defensive end in a 3-4 but the freshmen who redshirted (Cole Ormsby, Cameron Stapleton and Jalen Stevens) seem like better fits at linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: The statistics don’t indicate how much the graduating Shamar Stephen meant to the UConn defense. He was able to occupy multiple blockers and when he was disrupting things at the line of scrimmage, the defense offered some resistance. Assuming Diaco runs a 3-4, rising junior Julian Campenni who started all 12 games alongside Stephen as well reserves B.J. McBryde and Mikal Myers are options to man the nose tackle position and it’s possible one of them could be shifted to defensive end. Foley Fatukasi is a player who bears watching as he did some good things in preseason camp before being redshirted. Andreas Knappe, a 6-foot-9 native of Denmark, is a fascinating prospect who is still looking to find a home and there are some who think he would be a natural to be shifted to play offensive tackle given his huge frame and long arms. Barring any more decommitments among those who pledged to join the Huskies, there will likely be about 8-10 scholarships left to Diaco to fill and I would not be surprised if bringing in multiple DT/DE types would be at the top of his recruiting wish list.

LINEBACKER: Yawin Smallwood did it all during his three seasons at UConn and he will be dearly missed when he heads to the NFL a year early and Ryan Donohue also departs. Due to the injury-plagued seasons of starters Donohue and Graham Stewart, plenty of players received valuable playing experience this season. Jefferson Ashiru and Marquise Vann lead that list  Omaine Stephens looked very good during camp but didn't get on the field very much so keep an eye on him while Brandon Steg and Jon Hicks are other returnees with plenty of potential. Junior Joseph was one of the most highly-touted recruits in the final class signed during the Paul Pasqualoni era and it will be interesting to see if he pushes for playing time after redshirting.

CORNERBACKS: The true measure of Taylor Mack's importance in the secondary came when he was forced to miss five games due to a shoulder injury. It was hardly a coincidence that when he came back, the Huskies won the final three games of the season. The good news is that Jhavon Williams saw plenty of time in place of Mack so he could step right in at one cornerback spot and Byron Jones will return to the other starting spot. David Stevenson, Tyree Clark and Javon Hadley all saw playing time with varying degrees of success. Commit Jamar Summers had an outstanding season as a post grad at Milford Academy and assuming he enrolls in January, he could push for time as well. Thomas Lucas saw time in the secondary and at receiver during camp but I would not be the least bit surprised for him to find a home at corner considering the overflow of returnees at receiver.


SAFETIES: So much hinges on the health of Ty-Meer Brown, a big hitter who is also outstanding in coverage. Brown missed the last five games of the season with shoulder/neck issues. Andrew Adams, who started the final six games and Obi Melifonwu, who started all 12 games, would make a solid starting tandem without Brown and if Brown is able to play, this could be the Huskies' deepest position on defense. When given a chance to play, Wilbert Lee has shown the ability to make plays while Jordan Floyd saw action in every game in 2013, mostly on special teams.Ellis Marder, who could also play cornerback, could also compete for time.

SPECIAL TEAMS
RETURNERS: UConn missed Nick Williams in a major way last season as McCombs and Lemelle failed to provide the big plays as punt returners (UConn did not have a punt return of longer than 19 yards) and the Huskies didn't strike fear into teams in the kickoff return game either. McCombs, Foxx, Phillips and Green all returned kickoffs last season.

KICKER/PUNTER: Kicker Chad Christen and punter Cole Wagner had up and down senior seasons but they will still be missed. Bobby Puyol, who filled in for an injured Christen in the 2012 finale, and former Valley Regional kicker Rick Harrison are the only kickers on the roster while Justin Wain will go into camp as the guy to watch at punter although Blake Feagles, the son of former NFL punter Jeff Feagles, certainly has the blood lines to be a punter.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

UConn commits up for Mr. Pennsylvania Football honor

UConn commits Alec Bloom and Luke Carrezola are candidates for the Mr. Pennsylvania Football award.

Bloom, a tight end who 45 catches for 830 yards and12 touchdowns in eight games at Ligionier Valley as a senior, is in contention for the Class A/AA honor while Carrezola, who had 20 tackles for loss, eight sacks and caught four passes as a senior defensive end/tight end for Neshaminy, is a candidate in the Class AAA/AAAA divisions. 

Mike Foley only UConn assistant returning

Offensive line coach Mike Foley is the only UConn assistant coach who will be a part of Bob Diaco's staff, a source confirmed to the Register.

Offensive coordinator T.J. Weist, who served as the interim coach for the final eight games, defensive coordinator Hank Hughes, who has coached at UConn since 1998, Kermit Buggs (running backs/special teams), quarterbacks coach Shane Day (who called the offensive plays during the season-ending three-game winning streak), safeties coach Darrell Perkins, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Jon Wholley and cornerbacks coach Shane Fogarty were all let go.

Diaco is in the process of putting together his staff and that will include announcing what role Foley will have on the new staff. Foley had a successful stint coaching the offensive line but when Paul Pasqualoni was hired, he appointed George DeLeone to coach the offensive line and Foley took over coaching the tight ends. When Pasqualoni and DeLeone were fired after an 0-4 start, Foley was moved back to coaching the offensive line.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

UConn's Shamar Stephen to play in Senior Bowl

UConn senior defensive tackle Shamar Stephen will be playing in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala.

Stephen was one of UConn's captain and named the team MVP after leading the 3-9 Huskies with 10 tackles for loss, finishing third on the team in total tackles and registering three sacks.

It's the fourth straight year and fifth time in the last six years that a player from UConn has been selected to take part in the Senior Bowl.

Last year cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, defensive end Trevardo Williams and linebacker Sio Moore all took part although Williams was injured during the practice week and his spot was taken by Moore. It was defensive lineman Kendall Reyes in 2012, linebacker Lawrence Wilson in 2011, lineman Will Beatty, defensive lineman Cody Brown and DB Darius Butler in 2009. In 205 linebacker Alfred Finger and quarterback Dan Orlovsky were the first two Huskies to play in the Senior Bowl in 2005..

He is the second UConn player who has accepted a spot in an all-star game as offensive tackle Jimmy Bennett will be playing in the Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, S.C. on Jan. 11.

BUGGS TWEETS THAT HE IS LEAVING
UConn's running backs coach and special teams coordinator Kermit Buggs tweeted that his best wishes to the UConn football family as it appears he is headed elsewhere as new coach Bob Diaco begins to put his staff together.

Buggs was on the Penn State staff from 2003-11 and spent the 2012 season at Lock Haven before coming to UConn when Clayton White took a position on the North Carolina State staff.

UConn in NFL: Week 15



It was a week to remember for former UConn stars in the NFL.

Jordan Todman, starting for an injured Maurice Jones-Drew, ran for a career-high 109 yards and also had four catches for 44 yards in a 27-20 loss to Buffalo. While injuries paved the way for rookie tight end Ryan Griffin to lead the Houston Texans with six catches and 62 yards against Indianapolis.

On the other side of the ball, Darius Butler had a pair of interceptions to lead Indianapolis to its ninth win of the season and Robert McClain recovered a pair of fumbles in Atlanta's win over Washington.

There were four games (Jacksonville/Buffalo, Indianapolis/Houston, Washington/Atlanta and Kansas City/Oakland) featuring UConn products playing for each team.

The news wasn't all good, however. as Indianapolis RB Donald Brown was knocked out of the Houston game with a stinger and his status moving forward is unknown.


Will Beatty, OT New York Giants: Started in 23-0 loss to Seattle
Tyvon Branch, S Oakland: Placed on injured reserve with leg injury
Donald Brown, RB Indianapolis: Had five carries for 38 yards in 25-3 win over Houston
Darius Butler, DB Indianapolis: Had one tackle and two interceptions in 25-3 win over Houston
Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo: Did not have a catch in 27-20 win over Jacksonville
Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville: Had four tackles in 27-20 loss to Buffalo
Ryan Griffin, TE Houston: Had six catches for 62 yards in 25-3 loss to Indianapolis
Danny Lansanah, LB Tampa Bay: Was not active
Robert McClain, CB Atlanta: Had five tackles, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 27-26 win over Washington
Sio Moore, LB Oakland: Had one tackle in 56-31 loss to Kansas City
Dan Orlovsky, Tampa Bay: Did not play in 33-14 loss to San Francisco
Kendall Reyes, DT San Diego: Did not have a tackle in 27-20 loss to Denver
Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City: Had 15-yard reception and two tackles in 56-31 win over Oakland
Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville: Had 109 rushing yards and 44 receiving yards in 27-20 loss to Buffalo
Nick Williams, WR Washington: Had a 4-yard catch in 27-26 loss to Atlanta
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Tennessee: Had three tackles including a tackle for loss in 37-34 loss to Arizona

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Former UConn commit headed to Old Dominion

Justin Noye, a quarterback from Rochester, N.Y., who decommitted from UConn last week, announced on his Twitter account that he has committed to Old Dominion.

Justin Noye @Smooth_NewtonIV
Sorry to the Uconn Fans and staff. I will like to Announce that I have made a Verbal Commitment to Old Dominion University #FieldDreams

Noye becomes the second UConn pledge to commit to another Division I team since Paul Pasqualoni was fired as UConn's head coach as Milford Academy tight end Jordan Fuchs is now committed to Rutgers.

UConn Hall of Fame excited about new football coach Bob Diaco

The phone of UConn AD Warde Manuel was getting plenty of use on Wednesday as Manuel was closing in on the hiring of Notre Dame defensive coordinator as the Huskies' new football coach.

Manuel ignored the majority of incoming calls but when he saw a call from UConn Hall of Fame women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, he knew it was in his best interest to answer the call.

Auriemma was as curious as many others in the state on where Manuel stood in hiring a coach. He certainly got his answer.

"I called and said 'hey Warde, how's the search going?'" Auriemma said after Sunday's practice. "He said 'I think we are close, I think we are hiring a coach and as a matter of fact, he is right here do you want to say hi?' I said hi and that was it. It was just a five-minute conversation but he sure sounds like the kind of guy who can get people motivated. When you are an established program, your program speaks for itself and it may not be as urgent. But when you are a program that is trying to make a national impact, we had that, we had a national impact we went to the Fiesta Bowl but I think on the big scheme of things if you are going to make a splash and you are do some things a little different and he seems to be a little different, I think he is going to shake things up for sure and I am anxious to see it."


BIG PLANS FOR JIMMY BENNETT
It's a special time for UConn offensive tackle Jimmy Bennett who finished up his classwork at UConn, is set to play in the Medal of Honor Bowl on Jan. 11 in Charleston, S.C. which could be a major step as he looks to embark on a career in professional football.

Did I miss anytihng? Oh yeah, he proposed to his girlfriend - former UConn forward Heather Buck who said yes.

Current UConn center Stefanie Dolson said she is thrilled for Buck and Bennett.

"Super excited, I was really happy for her," Dolson said. "They are awesome, they are the perfect couple. First of all, they are both huge and secondly, they are cute together. They are great people and I am very happy for them."

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Opportunity for former UConn TE?

All of a sudden former UConn tight end Ryan Griffin is looking to be the top option at that position for the Houston Texans.

Griffin, a sixth-round pick of the Houston Texans, began the season as a third-string tight end. However, injuries could leave Griffin as the best option at tight end for tomorrow's game against Indianapolis.

Top tight end Owen Daniels is on the injured reserved designated to return list due to a leg injury he suffered in early October but he has not practiced this week and interim coach Wade Phillips said he is not expected to play. Garrett Graham is iffy to play due to a hamstring injury.

Griffin has played in 12 games as a rookie and has five catches for 67 yards including a 2-yard touchdown against Arizona.

Glorious ending for UConn commit


UConn commit Arkeel Newsome found the end zone four times and threw a touchdown pass as he ended his incredble high school career by leading Ansonia to its third straight state championship and 43rd win in a row.

Newsome ran 34 times for 259 yards and had scoring runs of 6, 2, 8 and 3 yards to go with an 11-yard touchdown pass as Ansonia defeated Woodland 51-12 to win the Class S title Friday night.

Just in case there were any questions regarding his intentions, Newsome said after the game that he is looking forward to headed to UConn.

Newsome broke his own state record for rushing yards in a season as he finished with 3,867 yards  on 333 carries with 64 touchdown runs and 68 total touchdowns scored. It was the 26th time during the 43-game winning streak that Newsome ran for more than 200 yards in a game.

Here's a partial list of the Connecticut records he holds since I don't think there's enough time in the day to list every record he leaves Ansonia with. National rankings according to NFHS record book in parenthesis.

Most career rushing yards: 10,865 (6)
Single-season rushing yards: 3,867 (7)
Consecutive 400-yard games: 2
Consecutive 300-yard games: 3
200-yard games: 26
Career touchdowns: 187 (3)
Career rushing touchdowns: 172 (3)
Touchdowns in a season: 68 (3)
Rushing touchdowns in a season: 64 (4)
Points in a season: 422 (4)
Points in a career: 1160 (3)

AMBROSE, TOWSON MOVE ONTO SEMIS
Former UConn offensive coordinator Rob Ambrose, a candidate for the UConn football job that went to Bib Diaco, is two wins away from coaching Towson to a national title.

Terrance West, who ran for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Towson's season-opening win over UConn, rumbled for a FCS playoff record 354 yards and had five TDs in the Tigers' 49-39 win over second-seeded Eastern Illinois in the quarterfinals on Friday night.

Now Towson will face the winner of the Eastern Washington/Jacksonville State game in the semifinals.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Diaco ready to hit ground running at UConn

Everything I've heard about new UConn football coach Bob Diaco was he was energetic, charismatic and a walking sound bite.

Well, he did not disappoint during his introductory press conference on Thursday afternoon.

Both Diaco, who was the Notre Dame defensive coordinator for the last four seasons, and UConn director of athletics Warde Manuel stated the final details of the hiring of Diaco were not done until somewhere between 1:15-1:30 Thursday morning. But Diaco showed no signs of grogginess as he spoke in Latin, made references to Pavlov’s dog as well as St. Augustine, Garth Brooks and Knute Rockne.

“I’ve been thinking about UConn football and their rise, so when did I think about the UConn job?” Diaco said. “For as long as I could be thinking about college football.”

Diaco will be paid $1.5 million in 2014 and his salary increases by $50,000 each season during the 5-year contract. If he is still employed at UConn on Dec. 31, 2018, he will receive a $500,000 bonus.

The first time he spoke with Manuel he left no doubt about his intentions. He could have played it cool as a coordinator at a tradition-rich program could certainly feel was their right to do. Instead, he made sure Manuel knew that he wanted this job, really wanted this job.

Diaco wasn't at Notre Dame when the Huskies went to South Bend and beat the Fighting Irish 33-30 in overtime in one of the signature wins in program history. In his lone season at Cincinnati, the Bearcats hosted the Huskies but he does have a recollection of a previous trip to Storrs.

He does have previous experience playing at UConn as he mentions in this video clip.

H
"We brought a team in here and it was really ugly so I don't want to recap it for too long," Diaco said. "But I do want to say that we were driving these buses and it was packed. The grills are going and the music is playing and people are hollering at the buses. It was a hostile, energetic environment."

Diaco said he did not pay attention to rumors about front-runners for the job.

"The news reports are irrelevant; I don't really care," Diaco said. "You put a list of coaches together that are still living I don't know where I fall. It's not one or two, it's probably 562. I don't know who on the list, maybe it was Parcells or Belichick. I'm just glad for me and my family because we are where we want to be. We're at UConn. That's exactly the right fit for us. I'm exactly the right fit for this team and they're exactly the right fit for me. We're going to grow together and create championships here."

Manuel didn't pull any punches in the press conference saying reports of another candidate (like Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi) being offered the job were not accurate.

"I'm going to make this clear to everyone, he was my top choice," Manuel said. "The things that are out there - you all can write whatever you like. This is my top choice. This is the person that I chose. He was the first interview of the day and it was a great interview. He was constantly there on my mind. Read what you like, think what you like. I'm telling you, he was my top choice.

"People talk about spectacular leader; tremendous teacher; passionate about student-athletes, not just the game of football, but about the student-athletes; cares deeply about the places he's been; shows love and affection and doesn't just talk about football; unbelievable recruiter. As I'm sitting there last night, my phone's blowing up. We didn't finish until 1:30 am. I know all of people were saying the deal was done at eight, nine, ten o'clock at night. It hadn't been done until 1:30 a.m. As I'm sitting there, his phone is blowing up with his former players who care deeply and want to say, "Coach, congratulations on the things that I'm hearing." That's important. It solidified that I made the right choice. He presented a great plan. He talked about the academic success of the student-athletes being first and foremost and important. He talked about consistency of championship performance. He talked about the process, he talked about the development of players, on and off the field, of young men. It was clear he knew about the greatness of UConn; the greatness of the state; our history of championship success in football and other sports; and great fans. I'll let him tell you about when he came here last as an opponent of the Huskies and how that resonated with him about this opportunity."

Manuel also said reports that UConn had issues paying enough for a staff were simply not true and he expected the salaries of the assistant coaches to be right near the top of the American Athletic Conference.

Diaco said he is planning to return to UConn on Monday and will interview all the current staff members before moving forward in the process of putting together a staff.

"I don’t want to go in with a predetermined thought in mind," Diaco said. "I made the analogy of going to the the Army with a club and all of a sudden there is somebody at the door trying to show me a howitzer but I am too busy to talk to him so I go marching out there with my club. I don’t have a determined anything, let’s talk and if we put something together, we put it together. If we don’t I am going wish each (person) the best and move on. It might take two days."

Diaco said he wants to get all the committed recruits on the phone while he can still make unlimited calls. He also said his intention is to honor to commitments accepted from players when Paul Pasqualoni was running the show.

"The commitment from the prospect to UConn, if it was done properly, they made a commitment to the institution and that shouldn’t change," Diaco said. "UConn made a commitment to the prospect. If it was done the right way, it shouldn’t change. The defensive and offensive systems are going to be a little bit different but every person has value

"It is an incredible recruiting hotbed. People from all over America come to the Northeast to pluck players. There are more than enough prospective student-athletes to collect about 25 a year for UConn."

Diaco met with the UConn team on Thursday and was thrilled with how that went.

"I am standing there and I am looking at their faces and they are looking at me like ‘who is this guy?’: Diaco said. "I understand it, I do, a couple of coaches in so many years but about five minutes in there, their faces kind of changed and 10 minutes after that it changed again and by the time we were done we were kind of looking at a team."

On Wednesday, Diaco had an itinerary that involved recruiting for Notre Dame. All that changed when Manuel called him. Diaco was on a plane and was instructed to turn his phone off in preparation for takeoff. Mauel was asking him to come up for a final interview.Diaco, who made it abundantly clear to Manuel from the first meeting that he very much wanted the UConn job, didn’t get to inform anybody of his decision to take the job until he accepted the position.

“It was hard, hard, hard,” Diaco said. “It was bad. I don’t know how it happened, I really don’t. Maybe this doesn’t happen on a national level, but it starts blowing up and I am not even close. 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock, I am engaged in a conversation like this and now my butt is (buzzing). I am tying to focus on the president of the university and it is ‘bzz, bzz, bzz.’ Her phone and that phone over there and we all kind of chuckled like, ‘We have to look at our phones.’ It is my wife and my son because I didn’t talk to them, and it is bad. I know the public is consumed and it is an interesting story, but my son watched that on the news, he didn’t hear that from dad last night. I didn’t tell anybody anything until it was done.”

The native of Cedar Grove, N.J., has spent the last four seasons running the defense at Notre Dame and was the architect of a unit which powered the Fighting Irish to last season’s BCS national championship game. Although he has never been a head coach, Diaco was in the running for the Cincinnati job in 2009 and at Boston College last year.A standout linebacker for Hayden Fry at Iowa, Diaco began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Iowa in 1996. His first full-time job was coaching the running backs and working with the special teams at Western Illinois in 1999 and 2000. After stints at Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, Diaco received his first job in a major conference, spending the 2006-08 seasons as the linebackers/special teams coach at Virginia.

After a year coaching in the Big East at Cincinnati, he followed Brian Kelly to Notre Dame in 2010. Diaco helped recruit New Jersey during his time at Notre Dame and has been described as extremely personable and a charismatic leader by those who have dealt with him.

UConn fired Paul Pasqualoni after the Huskies got off to an 0-4 start in his third season at the helm. Manuel waited until after the season-ending 45-10 win over Memphis to begin interviewing candidates.UConn, which ended the season with three straight wins after an 0-9 start, will return quarterback Casey Cochran, who threw for a school-record 461 yards against Memphis, its top two rushers and all but one player who caught a pass this season. However, the Huskies must replace four offensive line starters, six defensive starters — including leading tackler Yawin Smallwood and team MVP Shamar Stephen — as well as kicker Chad Christen and punter Cole Wagner.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Diaco hired as UConn football coach

Bob Diaco, a 40-year-old rising star in the college coaching scene, has been hired as UConn's new football coach a source confirmed to the Register.

He will be introduced at a 3:30 p.m. press conference on Thursday.

Diaco comes to UConn following a successful run as the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame.

CBS is reporting that Diaco agreed to a $5 year contract to coach the Huskies.

A source told the Register that Diaco is "very personable, a great recruiter and a great coach."

New Haven native Pat Narducci was reportedly offered the job Wednesday morning but turned it down.
This will be the first head coaching job for Diaco was the defensive coordinator for rival Cincinnati in 2009 before heading to Notre Dame. Diaco was named the winner of the Frank Broyles Award in 2012 as the top assistant coach in the country. Ironically, Narduzzi won that award this season.

Diaco, 40, has coached primarily in the Midwest but the native of Cedar Grove, N.J. did have a successful stint at Virginia from 2006-08 before spending one season as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator. He followed Brian Kelly to Notre Dame to be the defensive coordinator.

"UConn is getting a great man for the job," former Notre Dame and Northwest Catholic lineman Mike Golic Jr. posted on Twitter this evening.

Diaco was the 2012 winner of the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach. Ironically, Narduzzi was the winner of that award this year.

UConn is known to have interviewed Ball State head coach Pete Lembo and current interim head coach T.J. Weist, who has served in that role since Paul Pasqualoni was fired following an 0-4 start. There have been reports Towson head coach Rob Ambrose, a former UConn offensive coordinator, has also been interviewed for the position.



Justin Noye decommits from UConn

Now the number of UConn decommits is up to two.

Justin Noye, a quarterback out of Rochester, N.Y. who projects to be a receiver at the next level, announced on his official Twitter account that he has decommitted from UConn.

Justin Noye @Smooth_NewtonIV
I would like to announce my decommitment from Uconn... #FieldDreams

Noye is set to graduate later this month so he can enroll in January and take part in spring drills. This doesn't mean that the new UConn coach can't make a run at him to get him back into the fold as a UConn commit but it does signal to the people calling the shots at UConn that they'd better get a coach hired extremely soon.

Milford Academy tight end Jordan Fuchs was the first of the UConn commits to withdraw his pledge. He is now committed to Rutgers and like Noye is set to be a January enrollee.

High School Coaches Weigh in UConn Coaching Search

Earlier today I headed over to the Aqua Turf for the CIAC's pre-championship football luncheon to catch up with UConn commit Arkeel Newsome as he prepares for his final game at Ansonia. While I was there I cornered some of the eight coaches to get their take of what UConn should be looking for in its new football coach.

Of course since their lives revolve around coaching high school football in Connecticut, each one mentioned the importance of keeping the best in-state talent at UConn (that was also what helped Paul Pasqualoni land the UConn job back in 2011) but they weighed in with some other opinions as well.

I spoke to Ansonia's Tom Brockett since he is the head coach of a UConn commit, Brookfield's Rich Angarano since he coached former UConn linebacker Scott Lutrus in high school, Joe DellaVecchia of St. Joseph High because one of his former players is Temple's All-American Athletic Conference linebacker Tyler Matakevich, New Canaan's Lou Marinelli, who was one of the most vocal proponents of the hiring of Paul Pasqualoni at UConn and Fairfield Prep's Tom Shea simply because he came off as a quote machine when he spoke to the gathering of players, coaches, administrators and media members at the luncheon.


RICH ANGARANO, BROOKFIELD HIGH
"Obviously you want to have somebody who has experience at that level of football and obviously he is going to bring in a great staff to get UConn back to where it was because no head coach does it himself, you have to have a great staff."

TOM BROCKETT, ANSONIA HIGH
"There are so many different things, there are so many great coaches out there, I haven’t spent one second thinking about it, a lot of it is timing, a coach has to walk into the program at the right time and win. I am sure whoever they hire is going to be highly-qualified for that job and you are not going to get the job because you woke up the other morning and want to be the UConn football coach.

JOE DELLAVECCHIA, ST. JOSEPH HIGH
"I would like to see somebody in interested in-state kids, somebody who is going to take genuine interest and not just take token kids but use them as players. Somebody who is going to be creative in their offense, open it up a little bit and make it exciting throwing the football.

"I think it is real important for the state, I think we need a good person. It doesn’t have to be a name person, it just has to be somebody who has a lot of passion and can bring players into UConn and generate a lot of interest."

LOU MARINELLI, NEW CANAAN HIGH
"I am the wrong person to ask, I am still upset about how they treated Paul (Pasqualoni) and George (DeLeone). I don’t care what they do. I am sorry to say that, it is a great institution but what they did to those two, two of the finest men that I know, I have nothing to say.

"I have a kid who is starting at Notre Dame (Conor Hanratty) who didn’t get a look from UConn so hopefully the guy who comes in will start anew and look closer at the kids in Connecticut. I think the last two games were won by a Connecticut quarterback and that is the way it should be. If the new coach would look closer at the state, I think he would be surprised at the talent."

TOM SHEA, FAIRFIELD PREP
"Clearly he has to be a great recruiter, a great motivator, he has to be able to hire great assistants and I hope that he is going to be dedicated and committed to the state of Connecticut. You can’t fill your roster with guys from Connecticut but there are some outstanding players here and over the years I don’t think UConn has gotten their fair share of them. If you are going to build a great state program you have to master your own state, I hope they will do that.

"It seems to me that it is really important that UConn get in a better conference, one that will enable them in football. They have been the best men’s basketball program in the last 15 years and they are undoubtedly the best women’s basketball program and I don’t know if they will be able to continue that success in their current conference so they need to improve their football in order to get into one of the conferences, the big ones, I think they would fit well into."

LUTRUS MAKING BROOKFIELD PROUD
Naturally when I was talking to Angarano, I got his take on Lutrus emergence from talented high school player to dominant college player and now a pro player (although he is spending this season on injured reserve with the Indianapolis Colts).

"Scott Lutrus, is more than a great football player, he is an outstanding individual and what he has done with his career is outstanding. Right now he is Indianapolis, he is on injured reserve and hopefully when he gets cleared something will happen to him in Indianapolis or something.

"It is special for Scott. When Scott was there we went to three state championships and that says a lot about him as a player, he was special."

MATAVEVICH MAKING AN IMPACT
Considering the amount of effort Pasqualoni spent recruiting Connecticut players I always found it strange that he missed out on Matakevich. Actually UConn had two shots at him, one when he was coming out of St. Joe's and the other after he spent a season at Milford Academy.

With Matakevch, now a sophomore linebacker at Temple, earning first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors right around the time that the luncheon began, I thought I would get DellaVecchia's thoughts on what a force of nature Matakevich has become for Temple.

"We are really proud of Tyler, our staff follows him closely," DellaVecchia said. "His dad’s on my staff so I have known Tyler since he was born. He’s a great kid, he represents us in a great way. He is a positive role model for our kids and our kids look up to him so we couldn’t be any happier for him.

"I think it is what he has inside of him. He is a fierce competitor; he wants to win; he wants to impress; he wants to be better than everybody and he won’t quit until that happens. He has set goals and he plays hard every single day, that includes practice and he just wants to be the best."

Top UConn commit keeping his options open

I spoke to record-setting Ansonia High running back Arkeel Newsome a couple days after Paul Pasqualoni was fired as UConn's head coach and Newsome was rock solid in his status as a UConn commit.

I caught up with Newsome at today's CIAC pre-championship game luncheon and he wasn't ready to say that he is 100 percent firm on his commitment. The question I posed to him is if he told that other schools expressing interest to go away because he is set to head to UConn.

"Right now, no , I am not too sure," Newsome said. "My main focus right now is UConn. I definitely hope it works out."

Newsome feels comfortable with UConn interim head coach and offensive coordinator T.J. Weist as well as running backs coach Kermit Buggs but he isn't sure who is going to be the head coach at UConn.

"It is kind of scary because I need to get to know them," Newsome said. "Right now, I pay attention. I know the head coach, the offensive coordinator, we talk a lot. I am anxious to know who the head coach is going to be so I can meet him and have a relationship.

"The finished off fantastic with three wins, the last game against Memphis was a blowout, it was great to finish off that way."

Newsome's approach on his recruiting is similar to many of the players who committed to UConn when Paul Pasqualoni was the head coach. Rochester (NY.) quarterback Justin Noye (who projects to play receiver), Suffield Academy running back Brice McAllister and Leicester (MA) linebacker Tom Rodrick are among those who have gone on the record as saying they are committed to UConn and taking a wait and see approach. The only player known to have decommit was Milford Academy tight end Jordan Fuchs, who is now committed to Rutgers. Milford Academy coach Bill Chaplick said cornerback Jamar Summers and offensive tackle Chasz Wright are still committed to UConn and looking forward to enrolling at Connecticut next month.

Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said he expects that Newsome will head to up as long as the new coach wants him there.

"UConn has done a good job of being in contact with him and have stepped up, the guys who have recruited them are still there," Brockett said. "He wanted to play for the home state and it was important to him so obviously there are a lot of people around the country who would like him to be here next year. At this point he is still firm on that and we will wait and see if the new coach wants him, that is where he will end up.

"Obviously he is one of the top backs in the country so you are going to have interest (from other colleges)."

Newsome owns pretty much every single-season and career rushing and scoring record in state history. He will wrap up his extraordinary career on Friday when the Chargers face NVL rival Woodland in the Class S title game.

Newsome has run 299 times for 3,608 and 68 touchdowns for the 14-0 Chargers. He needs 156 rushing yards to break his own state record set during the 2011 season. Newsome has 25 games with at least 200 yards rushing, 13 300-yard games and three games, including two in the last three contests, over 400 yards.

Newsome admitted to feeling pressure to end his high school career with a third consecutive title.

Despite the incredibly gaudy numbers, Newsome doesn't enjoy being viewed as the sole reason behind Ansonia's success.

"We are just a big family," Newsome said. "We push each other, we help each other out.

"It kind of does(bother him) because they think we are a one-man show but my team definitely helps out a lot, they don’t get the publicity."

Brockett said the individual accolades are not anywhere on Newsome's list of priorities.

"That is not important to him," Brockett said. "You can take all those things, the player of the year awards and if you talk to Arkeel Newsome and he thinks about one thing and that is getting a win on Friday night.

"A lot of people could learn from him, how humble he has been, how he has kind of pushed to get better and better so it has been a remarkable career and it is incredible how he has handled it."


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Report: Narduzzi turns down UConn job offer

New Haven native Pat Narduzzi has turned down an offer to become UConn’s head coach according to a report by the www.footallscoop.com site.

Narduzzi confirmed the report with a statement issued by Michigan State.

"After consideration, I have withdrawn from the search, and I'm devoting my full attention to our players and team in preparation for our Rose Bowl game. Go Spartans!"

According to the report, UConn director of athletics Warde Manuel offered the job at Narduzzi on Wednesday morning and while the financial deal to become the head coach was “aggressive, it was not as robust (for assistant coaches) as was hoped for.”

Narduzzi, the defensive coordinator at Michigan State and winner of the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach, met with Manuel in Atlanta earlier this week.

I've heard from multiple people that Narduzzi wanted to coach in the Rose Bowl even if he took a head coaching job. While I am not ready to report that he made a condition that UConn simply couldn't live with, it is something to consider.

UConn is known to have interviewed Ball State head coach Pete Lembo and T.J. Weist, who has served as UConn’s interim coach since Paul Pasqualoni was fired following an 0-4 start. There have been reports that Towson head coach Rob Ambrose, a former UConn offensive coordinator, has also been interviewed for the position. Narduzzi is the latest name attached to the search out of the running as Dave Clawson left Bowling Green to take over at Wake Forst and former UConn offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead signed an extension through the 2021 season to remain the head coach at Fordham.

The coachingsearch.com site is reporting that UConn has made an offer to a candidate and it is not Lembo.

Yawin Smallwood earns first-team All-AAC honors

UConn junior linebacker Yawin Smallwood was the only Husky named to the All-American Athletic Conference first team.

Smallwood was the  the Huskies’ leading tackler in each of the last two seasons and wrapped up his career with a two-sack game in a season finale against Memphis, He finished with team-leading totals of 118 tackles and four sacks as a junior.

Senior defensive tackle Shamar Stephen was the only other Husky honored as he was a second-team selection. Stephen led the Huskies with 10 tackles for loss and was third on the team with 53 tackles.

All being named to the first team is Temple sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich, a Stratford native.


The UConn players who I thought would make their way onto one of the teams were receiver Geremy Davis, who was third in the AAC in receiving yards per game, and offensive guard Steve Greene.

OFFENSE
 Pos.  Player                               School          Cl.        Ht.       Wt.         Hometown/Last School
WR     Deontay Greenberry               Houston           So.          6-3          198            Fresno, Calif./Washington Union
WR     DeVante Parker                        Louisville          Jr.          6-3          209            Louisville, Ky./Ballard
OT       Eric Lefeld *                               Cincinnati         Jr.          6-6          309            Coldwater, Ohio/Coldwater
OT       Jamon Brown                            Louisville          Jr.          6-6          350            Fern Creek, Ky./Fern Creek
OG      Jordan McCray                         UCF                   Sr.          6-3          310            Miami, Fla./Southridge
OG      Justin McCray                           UCF                   Sr.          6-3          310            Miami, Fla./Southridge
C         Jake Smith                                 Louisville          Jr.          6-4          312            Jacksonville, Ala./Jacksonville
TE       Blake Annen                              Cincinnati         Sr.          6-5          250            Upper Arlington, Ohio/Upper Arlington
TE       Tyler Kroft                                  Rutgers            So.          6-6          240            Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown East
QB      Blake Bortles                             UCF                    Jr.          6-4          230            Oveido, Fla./Oveido
RB       Storm Johnson                         UCF                    Jr.          6-0          215            Loganville, Ga./Miami (Fla.)
RB       Paul James                                Rutgers            So.          6-0          210            Glassboro, N.J./Glassboro
K         Jake Elliott                                  Memphis          Fr.         5-10        160            Western Springs, Ill./Lyons Township
RS       Ralph David Abernathy IV      Cincinnati         Jr.          5-7          161            Atlanta, Ga./Westminster School
RS       Demarcus Ayers                      Houston            Fr.         5-10        173            Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster




                                                                                                                                   
DEFENSE
Pos.  Player                               School          Cl.        Ht.       Wt.         Hometown/Last School
DL       Jordan Stepp                             Cincinnati         Sr.          6-1          285            Indianapolis, Ind./Ben Davis
DL       Marcus Smith                            Louisville          Sr.          6-3          252            Columbus, Ga./Hardaway
DL       Martin Ifedi                                 Memphis          Jr.          6-3          265            Houston, Texas/Westside
DL       Aaron Lynch                              USF                   So.          6-6          244            Cape Coral, Fla./Notre Dame
LB       Terrance Plummer                   UCF                    Jr.          6-1          234            Orange Park, Fla./Orange Park
LB       Yawin Smallwood                    UConn               Jr.          6-4          236            Worcester, Mass./Doherty
LB       Tyler Matakevich                      Temple             So.          6-1          230            Stratford, Conn./Milford Academy
CB       Jacoby Glenn                            UCF                    Fr.          6-0          176            Prichard, Ala./Vigor
CB       Charles Gaines                          Louisville         So.         5-11        174            Miami, Fla./Central
S         Calvin Pryor                               Louisville          Jr.          6-2          208            Port St. Joe, Fla./Port St. Joe
S         Hakeem Smith                          Louisville          Sr.          6-2          179            Jonesboro, Ga./Riverdale
P          Tom Hornsey                             Memphis          Sr.          6-3          210            Geelong, Victoria, Australia/St. Joseph’s College




                                                                                                                       * unanimous selection
                                                                           

ALL-CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM
OFFENSE
Pos.  Player                               School          Cl.        Ht.       Wt.         Hometown/Last School
WR     Anthony McClung                     Cincinnati         Sr.          6-0          177            Indianapolis, Ind./Pike
WR     J.J. Worton                                UCF                    Jr.          6-2          211            Homestead, Fla./South Dade
WR     Jeremy Johnson                      SMU                  Sr.          6-0          179            Tyler, Texas/John Tyler
OT       Chris Martin                               UCF                   Sr.          6-5          303            Fort Walton Beach, Fla./Choctawhatchee
OT       DeAnthony Sims                      Houston            Sr.          6-3          320            Houston, Texas/Westbury
OG      Sam Longo                                 Cincinnati         Sr.          6-5          305            Spring Valley, Ohio/Ohio State
OG      John Miller                                 Louisville          Jr.          6-2          321            Miami, Fla./Central
C         Betim Bujari                               Rutgers             Jr.          6-4          295            Secaucus, N.J./Secaucus
TE       Mike McFarland                        USF                    Jr.          6-5          244            Tampa, Fla./Florida
QB      Teddy Bridgewater                  Louisville          Jr.          6-3          205            Miami, Fla./Northwestern
RB       William Stanback                      UCF                    Fr.         5-11        205            Hempstead, N.Y./Uniondale
RB       Marcus Shaw                            USF                   Sr.          5-9          178            Arcadia, Fla./De Soto
K         Shawn Moffitt                            UCF                    Jr.         5-11        178            Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips
RS       Janarion Grant                          Rutgers             Fr.         5-11        170            Trilby, Fla./Pasco




                                                                                                                                             




DEFENSE
Pos.  Player                               School          Cl.        Ht.       Wt.         Hometown/Last School
DL       Silverberry Mouhon                Cincinnati         So.          6-4          248            Norcross, Ga./Norcross
DL       Shamar Stephen                      UConn               Sr.          6-5          313            Brookville, N.Y./Long Island Lutheran
DL       Lorenzo Mauldin                       Louisville          Jr.          6-4          243            Atlanta, Ga./Maynard Jackson
DL       Luke Sager                                 USF                   Sr.          6-3          275            Niceville, Fla./Niceville
LB       Greg Blair                                   Cincinnati         Sr.          6-2          252            Pittsburgh, Pa./Lackawanna CC
LB       Preston Brown                          Louisville          Sr.          6-2          260            Cincinnati, Ohio/Northwest
LB       DeDe Lattimore                        USF                   Sr.          6-1          237            Athens, Ga./Cedar Shoals
CB       Deven Drane                             Cincinnati         Sr.         5-11        187            Plantation, Fla./Plantation
CB       Zach McMillian                          Houston            Sr.         5-10        178            Missouri City, Texas/Dulles
CB       Kenneth Acker                          SMU                  Sr.          6-0          195            Portland, Ore./Grant
S         Clayton Geathers                     UCF                    Jr.          6-2          207            Georgetown, S.C./Carver’s Bay
S         Trevon Stewart                         Houston           So.          5-9          192            Patterson, La./Patterson
P          Richie Leone                              Houston            Sr.          6-3          215            Roswell, Ga./Roswell









Milford Academy duo still committed to UConn

UConn already lost one recruit who spent the fall semester at Milford Academy when tight end Jordan Fuchs flipped to Rutgers. With Milford Academy hosting its 25th annual combine recently with a host of Division I coaches coming to the New Berlin, N.Y. campus to check out the Falcons' players, there was some concern that UConn commits Jamar Summers and Chasz Wright could be plucked away by another school.

However, when I spoke to Milford Academy coach Bill Chaplick last night he said that both Summers, a cornerback from Orange, N.J., and Wright, an offensive tackle from Woodbridge, Va., are firmly committed to UConn and both intend to be enrolled when the spring semester at UConn begins on Jan. 21.

UConn has to feel fortunate that Fuchs is the only committed player to slip away so far and with the process of naming of head coach heating up, if the Huskies only lose one committed recruit during the months without a full-time head coach that would be an enormous boost to the program.


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

UConn commits earn all-conference honors

A pair of UConn commits from Pennsylvania earned all-conference honors over the last couple of days.

Alec Bloom, a tight end for Ligonier Valley, was named the Southern Alleghenies Football Coaches Association offensive player of the year after catching 45 passes for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games in an injury-shortened senior season.

Luke Carrezola of Neshaminy High earned Surburban One League National Conference first-team honors on offense as a tight end and defensive as a defensive end.

Carrezola caught four passes for 45 yards and helped the Redskins average 281 rushing yards per game en route to a run to the Pennsylvania AAAA semifinals.

Carrezola finished with 56 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks to lead Neshaminy to a 13-2 record.