Friday, June 27, 2014

Record-breaking Newsome can't wait to get to UConn

Arkeel Newsome has made the journey up to the UConn campus plenty of times in the past but he admitted when he goes up there on Sunday to begin college life "my heart is definitely going to be racing."

It has been a long journey for Newsome, owner of pretty much every Connecticut high school rushing and touchdown scoring record during his brilliant four-year run at Ansonia High.

"I'm very excited but also a little nervous but once I get there I have to work hard in all I do," Newsome said after being named the New Haven Register's Male Athlete of the Year on Thursday night.

Newsome has been in contact with the new coaching staff and is fired up about what the next four or five years is going to be like.

"The new coaching staff, I love them, they are all great guys," Newsome said. "The freshman class is great too, I have kept in touch with a few of them so I am looking forward to being up there with that group of players."

When Newsome signed with the Huskies it looked like Lyle McCombs and Max DeLorenzo were going to provide the 1-2 punch at running back as they did during the 2013 season. However that quickly changed when McCombs, the team's leading rusher in each of the last three seasons, was dismissed from the team.

"I thought I had an opportunity (to play as a true freshman) when he was there," Newsome said. "I felt bad when I heard about him being kicked off the team now it is like it is a bigger opportunity for me."

DeLorenzo is the only experienced tailback as Newsome will be vying with redshirt freshman Josh Marriner and fellow incoming freshmen Ron Johnson and Brice McAlister. With a new head coach, offensive coordinator and running backs coach, it's hard to predict how the carries are going to be allotted but with the departure of McCombs and Joe Williams, who also moved on after some off the field issues, it seems more likely than not that at least one of the true freshman could make it onto the field.

Ansonia coach Tom Brockett doesn't know if Newsome will be on the field this season but he knows he will do the work necessary to put him in the ideal position.

"He will be prepared," Brockett said. "He has done everything he could and now he goes up there and it is the coach's (choice), they will evaluate him and do whatever they think is best whether it is redshirt him or if that is playing him. I know one thing, he is going to go up there and compete for an opportunity

"He's been a kid for four years who has done everything he was supposed to do in every aspect. When you are a high-profile kid like that, people are always waiting for you to stumble and he hasn't done that.
I think he is real excited. He is real happy where he is going and he is looking forward to it, when you talk about UConn and he is all smiles so I think he is real happy."

I spoke with Bridgeton (N.J.) High coach Dave Ellen this morning to get a better idea of what kind of prospect new UConn commit Nazir Williams is. One of the last things he said to me before hanging up was "you are getting a good one."

Williams plays both wide receiver and outside linebacker at Bridgeton but he is expected to play on the defensive side of the ball at the next level.

"He has a real high ceiling," Ellen said. "He has only been playing football for two years and he has a very big frame. he has a chance to put a lot of muscle. He has good size now but I think he's going to be a lot bigger."

Ellen said Williams is about 6-4 and 225 pounds right now and he believes he has all the physical attributes to be a dynamic outside linebacker at UConn.

"His first step is pretty good coming off the edge, he has nice long arms to keep people off of him," Ellen said. "He has very good grip strength when he gets ahold of somebody, they usually don't get away. We have him at outside backer and sometimes he comes up (to the line of scrimmage). He hasn't had his hand in the dirt at all for us so he will be up anyways. It should be a good transition, we are definitely going to try to get him well prepared for next year."

Ellen said that Bridgeton will play with three, four and sometimes five down linemen which means that Williams is put into a variety of different positions. Sometimes he simply takes off after the quarterback, other times he will engage and shred blockers at the point of attack and other times he drops so he can provide man to man coverage. He has displayed versatility as he had 8.5 sacks as a sophomore but had two interceptions during his junior season.

Ellen came away impressed with the way UConn recruited Williams.

"They went after him early, they liked him and they offered him," Ellen said. "They kept in communication with myself and with Nazir. We were talking and I said your visitations are going to be important. You are going to visit campus and you are going to get that feeling and when you do, you'll make your decision. He came home the other night, shot me a text and said he loved the visit up there. I told him to sleep on it and the next day he shot me a text and said he fell in love with it. He really felt like it was going to be his home. It is a good feeling, it think it was a feeling of relief for him and now he can concentrate on the season."

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