Saturday, April 12, 2014

Some observations from UConn's Blue-White Game

Well, the 15 spring practices under the new regime at UConn are now in the books.

My duties covering the UConn women's basketball team's march to a record ninth national title prevented me from attending as many practices as I would have liked but my time away did make me even more curious about what I was going to see today.

The first thing I wanted to see who is came out as starters especially on the defensive front seven and on the offensive line. That interested me more than the final score (which was 46-37 in favor of the White over the Blue).

Well, there weren't a ton of shockers on either side of the ball.B.J. McBryde (the best defensive player on the field in my opinion) lined up with returning starters Angelo Pruitt and Julian Campenni on the defensive line. Jefferson Ashiru, Graham Stewart, Marquise Vann and Reuben Frank started at linebacker with the expected starting secondary of cornerbacks Jhavon Williams and Byron Jones and safeties Andrew Adams and Obi Melifonwu.

As far as the offensive line from right to left the first unit consisted of tackle Dalton Gifford, guard Tyler Samra, center Alex Mateas, guard Zach Rugg and tackle Richard Levy.

Graham Stewart was the most noticeable of the starting linebackers although the top tacklers were Jon Hicks and Cameron Stapleton, who could be pushing for starting spots at linebacker based on what I saw during the spring.

Offensively, the tight ends were featured early and often as tight ends Quinn Thompson, Tommy Myers, Jeremy Claflin and starter Sean McQuillan combined for 13 of the 38 receptions. Half of those 38 receptions were made by either receivers or tight ends in last year's recruiting class.

When wrapping up his first spring practice, Bob Diaco said that Andreas Knappe, who moved from defensive line to offensive line this spring, has probably made the biggest jump of any player from practice 1 to 15. Other players he mentioned as being impressed with were WR Geremy Davis, Vann, McBryde, WR Deshon Foxx, WR Thomas Lucas, WR Noel Thomas, CB Byron Jones, DL Foley Fatukasi, Frank and punter Justin Wain (who averaged 45.2 yards on 10 punts). Diaco also said that kicker Bobby Puyol was sick as could be and that likely impacted some of his less than pretty kicks.

I thought it was a nice touch that the team captains were not the star players like Davis, Jones, Pruitt or Mateas but under the radar players including former Hand star Nick Vitale.


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