Tuesday, October 07, 2014

UConn's Knappe staying calm in preparation for first career start

When UConn takes to the field against Tulane on Saturday, it will be a landmark moment in the young life of Andreas Knappe.

Knappe and his family made so many sacrifices resulting in his leaving Silkeborg, Denmark to play collegiate football in the United States. He redshirted during the 2012 season and only played in one game as a redshirt freshman.

Knappe was pushing to be the starting right offensive tackle before a lower-leg injury sidelined him for the first two games of the season. He snap count progressively increased in each of the last three games and with starter Dalton Gifford to be sidelined for a while, Knappe is set to make his first career start on Saturday night.

"I still prepare with the same intensity and put my head into the game so it doesn't really change my preparation to be honest,' Knappe said.

"It tests your patience when you are an athlete because you want to play so getting nicked up and having to sit out obviously it was a little bit of a hard time for my preparation but  going through all the mental reps and going through everything at that point was great."

Knappe played almost the entire game after the first series in the loss to Temple and with UConn not playing last week, has more time to get ready for his first start.

"The bye week came at a good time and then again, you always want to get out there so not having a game this weekend was kind of an empty feeling me," Knappe said. "You get to practice a little more, get to work on your craft and hopefully it will pay off."

I'm not sure how many people in Denmark have access to ESPNews but I am sure his inner circle of friends will be staying up to check in on the pride of Silkeborg even if will be 2 a.m. in Silkeborg when the UConn-Tulane game kicks off.

"Mostly my former teammates, my close friends and family are like 'wow, this is huge.' Just getting to play in general, I am lucky to be in the position I am and I am thankful," Knappe said.

Knappe said there is a buzz back home especially with up and coming players considering following the path he is blazing.

"I have talked to a couple of younger guys, they have facebooked me and they asked 'how did your recruiting process work?' I am just trying to help those guys out and achieving their dream too. I think back home more people will try to pursue this."

It doesn't hurt that UConn's road games include stops in Tampa, New Orleans and Memphis.

"I love traveling, seeing new places and every time we go somewhere new it is a new place I haven't been to in the U.S. so that is really cool too," Knappe said.

As for other items of today's press conference, UConn coach Bob Diaco said safety Obi Melifonwu who was injured making a tackle in the second quarter of the Temple loss, has been cleared to participate as has punter Justin Wain although Diaco stopped short of saying Wain will resume his punting duties just yet.

Diaco also said that true freshmen running backs Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson are expected to see more playing time moving forward.
He also said he'd like to continue to use multiple quarterbacks but how much he utilizes sophomore backup Tim Boyle will be determined by how he is feeling.

"Nothing too crazy," Boyle said of his lower-leg discomfort, "I am physically able to go but just some discomfort here and there.

"I'm very anxious, this discomfort has been there for a little bit. I am fighting through it, doing rehab. I can't wait to feel 100 percent and excited to get out there."

Diaco wants to get Boyle some live-game reps but he isn't going to put him in harm's way.

"Tim is the quarterback of the future. He is going to be the quarterback of the team - unless he gets beat out - he will be the quarterback of the team in 2015 and '16, another reason why it is incredibly encouraging, the future," Diaco said. "That is the reason why we want him to play in every single game. You saw that pass that he threw (against Temple), just lack of focus, lack of intensity, late down the middle, off target, gets picked and that is a learning moment that we definitely want him to learn right now. We don't want him to learn it in the back 2/3 of this season and we don't want him to learn it in '15 and definitely not in '16. The only way to learn that lesson is to play in games, there is no other way to simulate it."

Diaco also made it clear that Deshon Foxx is in play to see more time at quarterback after finishing out the Temple game at QB.

"It is not a Foxx package, it is the offense," Diaco said. "I guess the opponent can look at it any way they want to look at it but if they want to look at it as wildcatish, if they want to look at the Foxx plan as a wildcat plan then they would be making a mistake because Foxx can thrown all of the passes, he has a strong arm, he can run our offense. He can run our offense from the gun, he can run our offense from under center so to say it is a Foxx package, they can do whatever they want. They want to see it as a wildcat but it is not, Foxx can run an offense, all the calls and all the plays "

As a result of having two bye weeks in a three-week span UConn will play one game in a 25-day span.

It was clear that Diaco wasn't a big fan of how that part of the schedule shook out.

"That is really bizarre and the biggest concern would be timing," Diaco said. "The only thing I can relate to is time preparing for the national championship game (at Notre Dame). That long break, preparing the team for timing in that game became a big issue. How far should we go with timing as opposed to (concern) over the health of our players. It is an interesting, it won' happen again or at least in the near future. It is a quirky portion for sure."

The players downplayed the impact of Saturday's game being the only one from Sept. 28 to Oct. 22.

"I didn't notice it when the schedule came out but I kind of tried to focus on the first game of the season," UConn senior receiver Deshon Foxx said. "It is not my favorite thing to have just one game in that time but especially coming off a loss we needed (the bye week). It defintiely is a good thing if you look at it as a good thing and a negative thing if you look at it as a negative thing."

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