Thursday, September 11, 2014

UConn's freshmen running backs drawing plenty of praise

Arkeel Newsome (22) and Ron Johnson (3) are already making their
presence felt two games into their freshman season at UConn
At first glance the numbers put up by true freshman tailbacks Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson in the first two games of the season won't jump out at you.

However, the duo has shown more explosion than their combined 53 rushing yards in 15 carries would seem to indicate.

Newsome, who shattered so many rushing and scoring marks in the Connecticut high school football record book during his spectacular run at Ansonia High, not only has the team's longest run (22 yards against Stony Brook) but his 18-yard reception against BYU (on his first career offensive touch) is the longest by a Husky running back this season. He also has the team's longest kickoff return (34 yards) this season.

On his weekly radio show UConn football coach Bob Diaco raved about Newsome's promising future and his veteran teammates have also been impressed with what they have seen from him.

"He is a great back, very explosive and he is quick on his feet and he is a very special player, UConn senior receiver Deshon Foxx said. "I like how he gets the ball and he goes vertical, he doesn't believe in dancing and when he gets the ball he is running."

While the 5-foot-8 Newsome is known for his incredible quickness, the 217-pound Johnson is a bruising runner.

"They are two great young backs," UConn junior offensive tackle Dalton Gifford said, "Arkeel is explosive, Ron is a huge dude who can run people over. It is like a perfect little duo of running backs, one coming down on you to take you out and the other is going to run right past you."

A couple of things I noticed about Johnson on Saturday had little to do with his running ability. The team comes out onto the field in a couple of waves with the offensive linemen usually the last to make their way down the stairs. As the second group headed towards the field Johnson walked to the stairs so he could welcome them by extending his hand. Then after a strong four-yard run during the game Johnson went to each offensive lineman and did exactly the same thing, exchanging a quick slapping of hands as a way of thanking them for the hole to run through. I've never spoken to him but just from seeing those two actions I am seeing a kid with plenty of maturity.

I asked Gifford is that was an indication that Johnson was much more vocal than the very reserved Newsome and he said that wasn't necessarily the case.

"They are both running backs and both young, they haven't really opened up yet but I am sure their personalities will come out in coming years and in the coming games," Gifford said.

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