Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Seniors Davis, Jones deliver for UConn on and off the field

When it came time for Bob Diaco to figure out which of his players would be accompanying him to Newport, R.I. for the American Athletic Conference media day, it didn't take him very long to pick senior receiver Geremy Davis and cornerback Byron Jones.

Diaco said it wasn't even their football exploits - as impressive as they are. Instead, it was their work as true student-athletes and positive role models that resulted in them joining Diaco as members of UConn's travel party.

Let's start with the football. Diaco did not hold back in raving about the two players who could very well be playing on Sundays a year from now.
"Geremy has an incredible catch radius, he is very physical. he can not only get open based on short space but he get open with body control and strength," Diaco said. "Those guys usually do well in games at college but also at the next level when they get a chance. He may not line up and run the very fastest time but he doesn't use that for separation and the ability to get open so he has some unique traits. He reminds me of Michael Floyd, a guy we were around (at Notre Dame), (Larry) Fitzgerald at Pitt, I am not saying he is at that level yet but that (frame) where he is hard to cover, he wins a lot of individual matchups because he is more physical than the defensive backs who are going to try to defend him and he is faster and quicker than the linebackers who try to cover him and he has great, great hands. If it is in his catch radius, it is a lock."

I followed up by mentioning that Davis said that during practices he would seek out Jones so he could test himself against the best.

"It is great because they are competing against each other constantly," Diaco said. "Byron, in terms of size, speed, athleticism you could put his numbers up against anybody in the country and anybody in the country who has achieved over the last 10 years. He is big, real fast, crazy explosive, excellent change of direction, he can bend and twist, these are all things you are going to see."

As I mentioned in the story which ran in today's paper, Davis and Jones have chosen to become roommates. As Diaco pointed out, they also happen to be two of the best students on the UConn football team. Davis has already graduated and is currently closing in on a second degree while Jones is a decorated student-athlete.

Going through graduation ceremonies was a very special moment for Davis.

"We are student-athletes, students first," Davis said. "I would feel like I let them down if I came here (and didn't graduate), I wanted them to see me get my degree. My mom, grandma, my girlfriend and (fellow receiver) John Green came to see me graduate and they saw me walk across that (stage) to get my degree."

A source with ties to the NFL told me recently that Davis and Jones are the only seniors considered to be draftable players. Of course players like Alex Mateas, Angelo Pruitt, B.J. McBryde could play their way onto the radar of NFL teams with strong senior seasons.

It is not something that Davis or Jones is fretting about these days.

"I haven't really thought about it," Davis said. "I don't want to be that guy who says 'I am going to this place.' I love these guys and I want to grow with them."

One thing I didn't get into the story that I wrote yesterday is that redshirt freshman receiver Thomas Lucas drew plenty of praise from Davis. Unfortunately, sometimes when I shift from my tape recorder application on my phone to shooting video, my tape recorder will shut off and that is what happened when Davis spoke about Lucas but Davis said that Lucas, who started preseason camp during his true freshman season as a defensive back, has incredible hands and big-play ability. Lucas, tailback Josh Marriner and tight ends Tommy Myers and Quinn Thompson are the redshirt freshmen who I think could add some big-play ability to the UConn offense this season. Unfortunately I am anticipating getting to see too much of the preseason practices but hopefully I will be able to see those players in action in the media access portion of the practices we will be able to witness.

Finally, I wrote a story on Stratford's Tyler Matakevich, a junior linebacker at Temple for today's paper. At media day I asked him if UConn freshman Steve Hashemi was at St. Joseph High School when Matakevich was and it turns out that he was. Matakevich said he has been in touch with Hashemi, offering any support he can.

"I have known him and his family for a while," Matakevich said. "I think staying in state and playing at UConn, I think that's awesome  I talk to him all the time and he calls me when he is struggling and I wish the best of luck to him."

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