Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Return of Cruz could provide much-needed help to UConn's OL

UConn football coach Bob Diaco has garnered a reputation for boundless enthusiasm and straight-shooting bluntness in his short time here in Connecticut.

He displayed plenty of both during Tuesday's American Athletic Conference football media day. He was never more to the point about the prospects in the upcoming season than when asked about the state of an offensive line which lost four seniors off a unit that has struggled mightily in the last couple of seasons.

"There are not a whole lot of dudes there that are going to be able to play competitive, winning football for 12 games this season so they are getting better," Diaco said. "I would say that is one position where I can't wait to see in their pads and see the growth that has been made over the last eight months physically and mentally and also see the interaction and how the newcomers fit into that role."

The line figures to get a boost from the return of senior guard Gus Cruz.

Cruz started the final four games of the 2012 season and first five contests last year at right guard before he was shut down due to a cardiac issue which left his football career very much in limbo.

Diaco said that Cruz has been cleared and he is expected to be on the field when UConn holds its first preseason practice on Saturday.

"My understanding , almost every single player is going to be a full go on day one," Diaco said. "We'll take anybody 6-3 plus, 300 pounds who can run well and bend and twist, absolutely."

Cruz, always considered to be popular with his teammates, only improved his place on the team and in the locker room with the way he dealt with his medical scare.

"Gus is probably one of the funniest guys I know," UConn senior receiver Geremy Davis said. "In spite of having that issue, you can still see that faith that he believes in. He was still joking around, laughing and showing everything he can in the weight room and in the training room. Thank God he gets to play his senior year. You never know who is going to play and to get that opportunity to play again, I am happy for him and I hope he takes advantage of it and becomes that leader that all of us know he can be.

"Gus is very vocal and the words that he uses and the offensive line, he would help them grow. I remember when we were redshirting as freshmen and we were having that slump at the end of the season he was the one who spoke up and his words really touched everybody and that was when we won five in a row.

Cruz enters preseason camp as the co-No. 1 guy at right guard on UConn's depth chart.



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