Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Leaders beginning to emerge for UConn

Redshirt juniors Jefferson Ashiru (32) and Andrew Adams (22)
combined for all of UConn's season-high four interceptions vs. UCF
It was a scenario that could have resulted in utter disaster.

UConn was coming off a valiant effort in a loss on the road against nationally-ranked East Carolina and now the Huskies were playing a Central Florida team which absolutely dominated them a season ago. Adding to UConn's potential misery was that it would be without two of its four captains as cornerback Byron Jones suffered a season-ending shoulder injury while receiver Geremy Davis was held out with an ankle injury.

UConn coach Bob Diaco and his staff has been challenging his veterans, even those not elected captains, to show some leadership both on and off the field.

Apparently those pleas did not fall onto deaf ears as redshirt juniors Andrew Adams (three interceptions), Sean McQuillan (season highs with four catches and 36 yards), Graham Stewart (career-high 12 tackles), Jefferson Ashiru (first career interception) and Julian Campenni (sack, 1 1/2 tackles for loss) delivered key plays in UConn's upset victory.

"It is time for that group of fourth-year players who are getting ready in a few weeks to formally own the team to get moving," Diaco said. "Let's go, it is time for some leadership, it is time for some real leadership from Andrew Adams, from Graham Stewart, from (Marquise) Vann, from Julian (Campenni), from Sean (McQuillan), from (Tyler) Samra, it is time, let's go, it is time for some real leadership. They have done a really nice job of answering the bell. I want to see some more personalities from our younger guys, don't sit and wait for it to be your turn, let's see who you are, freshmen and sophomores, let's go. If you have something to say, say it. You can weigh in, you can get passionate and have some energy, you can show a little bit of personality. We have been working on that for a few weeks. It came at the right time to have some energy without some of our captains."\

It's a pretty young team as the most recent depth chart lists five seniors on the offensive side of the ball and just two on defense so the juniors understand that they can't wait until next season for make their presence felt.
"I would say that especially in the last two weeks the leadership from the fourth-year guys has stood out," McQuillan said. "It started at East Carolina, we tried to be more vocal in the locker room, tried to take it onto the field and coach the younger guys when they come off. As a fourth-year guy myself, I am trying to take more of a role myself in my position group and also on the offense. Coach always talks about our group being the backbone of the team and if we can bring leadership along with the seniors, I think it is going to be beneficial for the entire team."

Adams was already viewed as a leader of the defense but following Jones' injury, he has taken an even bigger role.

"Leadership is a big thing in our program, the juniors stepping up is really a great thing, they are really the backbone of the team because we will be returning next year," Adams said. "Guys are stepping up, Graham, myself, Junior Lee, we try to bring a spark to the team, energy to practice day in and day out and if we keep doing that, I am pretty sure we will be OK."

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