Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Now time to focus on other UConn positional battles

Now that the drama surrounding the naming of a starting quarterback is out of the way, it is a perfect time to focus on some other hotly-contested battles for starting positions at UConn.

TAILBACK: Max DeLorenzo is the returnee with the most experience but I will go on the record as saying that I expect Josh Marriner to be UConn's leading rusher this season. I am very interested to see how true freshmen Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson are utilized. Springing a game-breaking player like Newsome on teams for 6-10 snaps a game could add some much-needed juice to the offense.

Brian Lemelle (84) and Dhameer Bradley (1) are in the mix
to be the No. 3 wide receiver for UConn during 2014 season
NO. 3 WIDE RECEIVER: I do not expect UConn to use the three-receiver sets as much this year as a season ago simply because UConn coach Bob Diaco is going to use more multiple tight end formations. Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx are unquestionably the top two receivers. Thomas Lucas has been getting plenty of love in the preseason. Brian Lemelle, Dhameer Bradley and Noel Thomas, who had 16, 13 and five catches respectively as true freshmen, will be in the mix. I haven't heard much about Kamal Abrams but wouldn't be surprised to see him in the rotation.
DEFENSIVE END: There's been plenty of buzz surrounding Reuben Frank, whether he lines up as a defensive end or outside linebacker on the right side, but no position appears to be more competitive than the defensive end on the other side of the ball as B.J. McBryde and Kenton Adeyemi appear to be running neck and neck. Adeyemi has run out with the first unit in the last two practices the media was able to attend but Diaco raved about McBryde when I asked about the competition between the two of them after a recent practice.

Both Adeyemi and McBride had sacks during the spring game and figure prominently in UConn's defensive line rotation regardless of which one ends up drawing the starting position.
NO. 2 CORNERBACK: Byron Jones is unquestionably UConn's top corner. Jhavon Williams received plenty of work as a nickel corner a season ago and he figured to be a starting CB this year. However, true freshman Jamar Summers has been opening eyes since he arrived on campus in January. He finished tied for third on the team with five tackles in the spring game and with Williams less than 100 percent early in camp, Summers was seeing plenty of first-team work. Javon Hadley is another talented youngster with the capability to push for playing time.

KICK RETURNER: Diaco said that Foxx will be the primary punt returner and will be handling kickoffs as well. Now the question is who will go back with Foxx on kickoff returns. Diaco said that Bradley, Lemelle and all the tailbacks are in the mix for that position. Unfortunately, I did not see UConn work on shagging kickoffs during the media access portion of practice so can't offer too much insight into who has been getting most of the work back there.

The Arena Football League will hand out its individual awards tomorrow in Cleveland and among the candidates for the Rookie of the Year has to be former UConn star Teddy Jennings.

Jennings led all rookies with 11 sacks during his rookie season with the Philadelphia Soul as he was a first team AFL pick at defensive end. I can't say I follow the Arena Football League enough to come up with a complete list of the top candidates but the only other player to earn first team honors was Portland defensive back Varmah Sonie, who had nine interceptions and led all first-year players with 86 tackles. Orlando receiver Greg Carr was a second team selection and he finished sixth in the league with 113 catches and 1,435 yards. Another player to consider is A.J. Cruz as the former Brown star led the league in kickoff return average, was sixth in punt returns and also returned a missed field goal 58 yards for a score.

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