Wednesday, December 31, 2014

UConn recrruiting target named to All-American team

Cheshire Academy sophomore receiver Tarik Black, a Hamden resident who recently received a scholarship offer from UConn, was the only Connecticut player named to the MaxPreps Sophomore All-American team.

Black had 57 catches for 926 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore and has 21 TD catches in the last two seasons.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Former UConn LB Smallwood remaining with Titans

Former UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood was one of eight players that the Tennessee Titans signed to futures contracts today.

Smallwood was originally drafted by Atlanta in the seventh round of this year's draft. Smallwood was cut by the Falcons on Aug. 29 and signed to the practice squad by the Titans last month.

Smallwood and the other seven signed players ended the season on the Tennessee practice squad.


UConn in NFL: Week 17 report

It's been quite an interesting journey for UConn products in the NFL this season. With the regular-season ending today, Darius Butler is the only former Husky likely to see time in the playoffs as he will be a key performer in the secondary for Indianapolis.

The highlight in Week 17 is Jordan Todman and Dwayne Gratz scoring touchdowns in the Jacksonville's 23-17 loss to Houston. It is just the second time that two former Huskies scored touchdowns in the same NFL game.  In Indianapolis' 45-44 playoff win over Kansas City last year Donald Brown had scoring runs of 10 and 3 yards while Anthony Sherman had 5-yard TD pass. This is the second season in a row five UConn products had touchdowns in the regular season and the fifth time in the last six seasons TDs were scored by former Huskies.

The best UConn related stories involved a trio of former defensive stars. Danny Lansanah spent time in the camps of four different NFL teams before finding a home in Tampa Bay. In a 2-14 season with few bright spots, Lansanah's breakout season with the Buccaneers was something to behold. In the 2014 NFL draft Shamar Stephen had a chance to be a mid-round pick but he slid down to the seventh round. Perhaps some teams are kicking themselves after the Minnesota Vikings rookie finished third among NFL interior linemen with 23 tackles this season. Then there is the story of perseverance courtesy of Trevardo Williams. A fourth-round pick of the Houston Texans in the '13 draft, he had 3 1/2 sacks in the 2013 preseason but injuries dashed his hopes of becoming a part of the Texans' plans. Arizona and Indianapolis both signed and then cut UConn's career sacks leader. Finally the Washington Redskins gave him a shot. He was signed to Washington's practice squad on Dec. 2 and exactly a week later was promoted to the active roster.

Another feel-good story was Anthony Sherman's emergence into a vital cog in Kansas City. He was in limbo when Bruce Arians took over in Arizona since he doesn't utilize the fullback so Sherman was traded to the Chiefs. Pro Football Focus, which rates every play in every game, had Sherman as the top-rated fullback pretty much all season long. While he did not get selected to the Pro Bowl, clearly people are noticing.

It wasn't all good news. Yawin Smallwood bypassed his final season of eligibility to turn pro and wasn't taken until late in the seventh round. He failed to make the Atlanta Falcons out of training camp. Smallwood had to wait nearly three months before he was signed to the Tennessee Titans' practice squad. Also, from Aug. 26-Sept. 9 Kashif Moore, Lawrence Wilson and Nick Williams saw their dreams of playing in the NFL during the 2014 season come to an end when they were waived. Four former Huskies ended the season on injured reserve. Donald Thomas, signed to upgrade the Indianapolis Colts offensive line, spent all but two regular-season games on IR over the last two seasons due to twice tearing his quadriceps muscle. Tyvon Branch and Sio Moore, both defensive stalwarts with the Oakland Raiders, and Blidi Wreh-Wilson of Titans also saw their seasons end prematurely. When the dust cleared, there were 10 teams to finish with at least 10 losses and seven of them featured UConn players on the active roster.

Here's the final breakdown of the season
Will Beatty, OT New York Giants: Started in 34-26 loss to Philadelphia. Started all 16 games at left tackle
Tyvon Branch, DB Oakland: Had 30 tackles in three games before being put on injured reserve with foot injury.
Donald Brown, RB San Diego: Had 10 carries for 39 yards and an 8-yard catch in 19-7 loss to Kansas City. Finished first season with Chargers with 223 rushing yards and 221 yards on 29 receptions.
Darius Butler, CB Indianapolis: Had one tackle in 27-10 win over Tennessee had 45 tackles in 13 games.
Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo: Did not have a catch in 17-9 win over New England. One of NFL's best special-teams players had 11 tackles in 10 games
Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville: Had four tackles and returned interception 55 yards for touchdown in 23-17 loss to Houston. Finished season with 51 tackles.
Ryan Griffin, TE Houston: Had 8-yard catch in 23-17 win over Jacksonville. After being targeted just three times in first 11 games he had eight catches on 12 targets in final five games.
Danny Lansanah, LB Tampa Bay: Had two tackles in 23-20 loss to New Orleans. Had 79 tackles with 1.5 sacks and three interceptions.
Robert McClain, CB Atlanta: Had six tackles in 34-3 loss to Carolina. Finished season with 59 tackles and two interceptions, both off of New Orleans QB Drew Brees.
Sio Moore, LB Oakland: Finished season with 90 tackles and three sacks despite missing five games in injury-shortened second season
Dan Orlovsky, QB, Detroit: Did not play in 30-20 loss to Green Bay. Did not appear in a game for playoff-bound Lions this season
Kendall Reyes, DT San Diego: Had two tackles in 19-7 loss to Kansas City. Finished season with 32 tackles and one sack.
Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City: Did not have a catch or reception in 19-7 win over San Diego. Had two carries for eight yards and 71 yards on 10 receptions.
Shamar Stephen, DT Minnesota: Had three tackles in 17-9 win over Chicago. Finished with 23 tackles
Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville: Had five catches for 46 yards including 23-yard TD and seven carries for 52 yards. Finished third in NFL with 972 kickoff return yards . Also had 186 rushing yards and 198 receiving yards.
Trevardo Williams, LB Washington: Did not have a tackle in 44-17 loss to Dallas. Had five tackles including a sack in three games.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Tennessee:  Had 57 tackles including first career interception in 11 games but finished season on injured reserve.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Four UConn commits named to USA Today All-State teams

It is the time of the season when All-Area, All-State and All-American teams get announced. USA Today got into the act announcing teams for every state which was a pretty ambitious undertaking.

Taking a quick look through the teams, four UConn commits were among those honors.

Three of them made the All-New York team. Mepham quarterback Tyler Davis,Trinity-Pawling defensive back Hergy Mayala and Canisius kicker Michael Tarbutt were honored.

Davis, who is set to enroll at UConn in the spring semester, passed for 1,092 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions and ran for 1,553 yards and 22 touchdowns. Mayala drew more attention for his play at receiver as he had 37 catches for 519 yards as a senior. Tarbutt had 11 field goals as a senior including kicks of 52 and 60 yards.

Also, defensive lineman William Richardson was named to the D.C. team after recording 15 sacks as a senior at Ballou High.

Also, Zordan Holman, a defensive end/tight end out of Cheverus High in Portland, Maine who is expected to visit UConn next month, was named to the All-Maine team as a defensive end.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

UConn commit honored

UConn commit Michael Tarbutt, a kicker who had field goals of 52 and 60 yards to lead Canisius High School in Buffalo, N.Y. to a 12-0 mark, was named to the All-USA Today second team.

Tarbutt was 11 of 17 on field goals and 57 of his 79 kickoffs went for touchbacks.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Former UConn commit Rodrick headed to UMass

Tom Rodrick, who was in preseason camp with UConn earlier this year before being medically disqualified from playing for the Huskies, announced on his Twitter account that he is in the process of completing a transfer to UMass.

AWESOME NEWS-Paperwork hasn't been done yet but for those asking I am expecting to be playing for UMass next year

If all goes as planned there's a chance that Rodrick could enroll at UMass for the spring semester which would enable him to take part in spring practice. He will be the second former UConn signee at UMass as Ska-Ki Holines had 34 tackles and two sacks at UMass in 2014.

UConn in NFL: Week 16 report

Since leaving UConn as the Huskies all-time leader in quarterback sacks injuries nearly sidetracked Trevardo Williams dreams of playing in the NFL. But after being let go by three teams this year, Williams made a splash with his first career regular-season sack to highlight UConn in the NFL's weekly alumni report. Also, Robert McClain continued his trend of picking off legendary passers. His first career interception came two seasons ago at the expense of Peyton Manning and on Sunday he intercepted Drew Brees for the second time this season.

Will Beatty, OT New York Giants: Started in 37-27 win over St. Louis
Donald Brown, RB San Diego: Had four carries for 12 yards and a 4-yard reception in 38-35 overtime win over San Francisco
Darius Butler, CB Indianapolis: Had three tackles and forced a fumble in 42-7 loss to Dallas
Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo: Did not have a catch or a tackle in 26-24 loss to Oakland
Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville: Had five tackles in 21-13 win over Tennessee
Ryan Griffin, TE Houston: Had three catches for 25 yards in 25-13 win over Baltimore
Danny Lansanah, LB Tampa Bay: Had two tackles in 20-3 loss to Green Bay
Robert McClain, CB Atlanta: Had five tackles including an interception in 30-14 win over New Orleans
Dan Orlovsky, QB, Detroit: Did not play in 20-14 win over Chicago
Kendall Reyes, DT San Diego: Had two tackles in 38-35 overtime win over San Francisco
Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City: Did not have a catch in 20-12 loss to Pittsburgh
Shamar Stephen, DT Minnesota: Did not have a tackle in 37-35 loss to Miami
Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville: Ran for 71 yards including a 62-yard touchdown run, had two catches and a 29-yard kickoff return in 21-13 win over Tennessee
Trevardo Williams, LB Washington: Had three tackles including a sack in second career regular-season game

Monday, December 22, 2014

UConn APR numbers in good shape despite departures

About a month ago I put up a blog documenting the attrition rate within the UConn football program over the last four years.

I counted 35 players who originally enrolled at UConn and would have been part of the program had they remained and one of the first things that I wondered about is the potential impact on UConn's Academic Progress Rate (which kept the UConn men's basketball team out of the postseason a couple seasons ago).

I starting doing some checking around and here's what I can report.

UConn's projected APR is 960 for the 2013-14 academic year which is three points higher than it was last year and two points higher than the mark two years ago.

The good news for UConn is the many of those who have left the team landed at other FBS or FCS programs meaning they left UConn in good academic standing. That is of paramount importance since people who leave school in poor academic standing will cost a school a two-point deduction when the APR is calculated.

The other thing to consider is that I included a couple of players who signed with UConn but never enrolled (Jordan Fuchs and Chasz Wright fall under that category) and they don't count towards UConn's APR number. Shakim Phillips and Ty-Meer Brown played this season at Boston College meaning they had to graduate from UConn first which will not hurt the APR score.

When you look closer at the list of players who have left the program, there weren't too many who failed to land at another school. That list includes Scott McCummings, who I have been told has graduated. So much of this APR thing is documenting when a player left school and what their academic standing was at the time. David Stevenson, Tyree Clark and Michael Boland left the team during preseason camp and before the start of the fall semester so their departures should not impact UConn's APR.

Here's perhaps the best explanation of how the APR works courtesy of St. Mary's

Here's the breakdown by recruiting class (Phillips is not listed because he was a transfer from Boston College before he headed back to BC after graduating)

 Josh Alexander DB Waldorf, Md.  WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN
 Ty-Meer Brown  DB McKeesport, Pa.  BOSTON COLLEGE
 Mark Hansson OT Clearwater, Fla.
 Tebucky Jones WR Farmington  FORDHAM
 Leon Kinnard WR Reistertown, Md. TOWSON
 Jonathan Louis DE Brockton, Mass. MAINE
 Lyle McCombs RB Staten Island, N.Y. RHODE ISLAND
 Scott McCummings Natick, Mass.
 Greg McKee OT Chicago
 Andrew Opoku DB North Brunswick, N.J. DELAWARE
 Mike Osiecki FB Seymour   Career ended prematurely due to injuries
 Gilbert St.Louis DB Davie, Fla.  BALL STATE
 Kamal Abrams WR Dover, Del. 
 Jefferson Ashiru LB Powder Springs, Ga.
 Tyree Clark DB Tampa, Fla. 
 Xavier Hemingway OL Powder Springs, Ga.
 Michael Nebrich QB Burke, Va.   FORDHAM
 David Stevenson CB Stone Mountain, Ga. 
 Brendan Battles-Santos DE Eastham, Mass.
 Rennick Bryan OL Hillhouse 
 Casey Cochran QB Monroe    Forced to retire due to multiple concussions
 Drew Ghio OL Bristol Came to UConn as walk-on
 Ricky Gutierrez WR Hialeah, Fla.  DODGE CITY CC
 E.J. Norris DE Upper Marlboro, Md.
 Neil Shortell TE Mission Hills, Kan.  EMPORIA STATE
 Wyatt Vinci LB Ridgewood, N.J.   DIABLO VALLEY CC
 Joe Williams, RB Allentown, Pa.   ASA COLLEGE
 Sha-ki Holines, DE    UMASS
 Cory Jasudowich LB North Branford  NEW HAVEN
 Richard Lagow QB Plano, Tex.   CISCO COLLEGE
 Kivon Taylor, QB Atlanta   FOOTHILL COLLEGE
 Quinn Thompson TE Edinboro, Pa.   BALDWIN WALLACE

Thursday, December 18, 2014

UConn's conference opponents announced

The American Athletic Conference announced the breakdown of home and away games for the 2015 season.

UConn will host East Carolina, Houston, Navy and South Florida and will have road games against Central Florida, Cincinnati, Temple and Tulane while not playing Memphis, SMU and Tulsa.

Here's a breakdown of conference and non-conference games on the schedule in the next few seasons

East Carolina, Houston, Navy, USF
Away: UCF, Cincinnati, Temple, Tulane
Does Not Play: Memphis, SMU, Tulsa

UCF, Cincinnati, Temple, Tulane
Away: East Carolina, Houston, Navy, USF
Does Not Play: Memphis, SMU, Tulsa

East Carolina, Memphis, USF, Tulsa
Away: UCF, Cincinnati, SMU, Temple
Does Not Play: Houston, Navy, Tulane

UCF, Cincinnati, SMU, Temple
Away: East Carolina, Memphis, USF, Tulsa
Does Not Play: Houston, Navy, Tulane

The following is UConn’s future non-conference schedule of games under contract:
2015: September 3, Villanova; September 12, Army; September 19, at Missouri; October 2, at BYU
2016: September 3, Maine; September 10, at UMass (Gillette Stadium), September 17, Virginia
2017: September 2, UMass, September 9, Holy Cross; September 16, at Virginia; September 23, Missouri
2018: September 8, at Boise State
2019: September 7, Illinois; September 21, at Indiana
2020: September 12, at Illinois; September 26, Indiana
UConn and Tennessee have a two-game home-and-home series under contract with dates to be determined.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Former UConn star on PFF All-Pro team

Former UConn standout Anthony Sherman was named as one of the two fullbacks as the Pro Football Focus site posted its Pro Bowl selections.

The site said that Sherman "has gone from afterthought in Arizona to the league's best fullback in KC."

Sherman has played all 14 games, starting five times. Sherman had two carries for eight yards and 10 catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. However, his greatest value in his two seasons at Kansas City has been as a lead blocker helping the Chiefs be one of three teams to average at least 4.7 yards per carry.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Former UConn LB Sio Moore on IR

The impressive sophomore season of former UConn linebacker Sio Moore ended when the Oakland Raiders placed him on injured reserve.

Moore, who missed last week's game against Kansas City with a hip injury, has 90 tackles with three tackles and one forced fumble in 11 games. He had four games with at least 10 tackles this season while only accomplishing the feat once in 15 games during his rookie season.

He is the second former Husky to be placed on the IR by the Raiders as safety Tyvon Branch only played three games this season before being shut down.

Just last week former UConn CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, like Moore a third-round pick in last year's draft, was placed on injured reserve by the Tennessee Titans.

Monday, December 15, 2014

UConn loses a recruit

It was a pretty good weekend with three players committing to UConn but it is not all good news as talented defensive back Justice Pettus-Dixon posted on his Twitter account a couple hours ago that he has decommitted.

Pettus-Dixon will be playing in the Crab Bowl on Sunday so it will given him a chance to showcase his talents.

Im announce i am officially decommit from the university of Connecticut i want to thank everyone and the coaching staff for the opportunity

It's so hard to project how good a player will be at the next level but since his coach at St. Frances failed to respond to my requests for stats both in the middle of the season and more recently after the conclusion of the high school season, I needed to look at the videos on the St. Frances' page on the site. I loved the physicality he played with and how aggressively he closed on opposing receivers and running backs. It will be interesting to see where he end up and how good of a player he becomes.

UPDATED (12/16): Pettus-Dixon posted on his Twitter account that he has committed to Towson

Sunday, December 14, 2014

UConn in NFL: Week 15 report

Danny Lansanah's impressive season continues
with a career-high 1 1/2 sacks for Tampa Bay
Trevardo Williams, recently activated from the practice squad, made his regular-season NFL debut as he had a pair of tackles in the Washington Redskins' loss to the New York Giants to highlight this week's alumni report. There was plenty of other noteworthy moments as Danny Lansanah continued his breakthrough season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a career-high 1 1/2 sacks and Darius Butler helped the Indianapolis Colts win the AFC South for the second year in a row.

Will Beatty, OT New York Giants: Started at left tackle in 24-13 win over Washington
Donald Brown, RB San Diego: Had five carries for 18 yards and four catches for 38 yards in 22-10 loss to Denver
Darius Butler, CB Indianapolis: Had two tackles in 27-20 win over Atlanta
Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo: Had one tackle in 21-13 win over Green Bay
Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville: Had three tackles in 20-12 loss to Baltimore
Ryan Griffin, TE Houston: Had two catches for 11 yards in 27-20 loss to Indianapolis
Danny Lansanah, LB Tampa Bay: Had eight tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 19-17 loss to Carolina
Robert McClain, CB Atlanta: Had three tackles in 27-20 loss to Pittsburgh
Sio Moore, LB Oakland: Was inactive (hip) in 31-13 loss to Kansas City
Dan Orlovsky, QB, Detroit: Did not play in 16-14 win over Minnesota
Kendall Reyes, DT San Diego: Had one tackle in 22-10 loss to Denver
Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City: Had a 1-yard catch and two tackles in 31-13 win over Oakland
Shamar Stephen, DT Minnesota: Did not have a tackle in 16-14 loss to Detroit
Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville: Had 19-yard catch, seven yards on three carries and 38 yards on two kickoff returns in 20-12 loss to Baltimore
Trevardo Williams, LB Washington: Had two tackles in 24-13 loss to New York Giants

Latest UConn commit "an awesome football player" and "special" kid

Before taking over the program at Stranahan High School in Ft. Lauderdale Tally Adams spent three seasons on the staff at Bethune-Cookman so he has a better sense than most coaches at the high school level when it comes to major college prospects.

Adams did not hesitate when I asked him about the potential of Stranahan defensive end Kirk Livingstone, who committed to UConn earlier today, at the next level.

"An All-American," Adams said. "See how fast I answered that question. He could be an All-American, there is no doubt in my mind. As a freshman I have no question, I know he will go first-team all-conference. He is an awesome football player, the kid is special. UConn is getting a real steal, he can play at any level in college."

Livingstone, who had 14 sacks in eight games as a senior, was set to continue his football career at UAB. However, when UAB closed down its football program the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Livingstone was left to go through the college selection process all over again.

"It was tough when he heard the news because he had his heart set on going to UAB," Adams said. "A lot of recruiters stayed away from him because he was solid (in his commitment to UAB). The program decided to go in a different direction and he had to go in a different direction as well.

"I think it (UConn) is the perfect spot for him. Kirk is very smart, he is not just an intelligent football player, he is an intelligent kid. He is A student in the classroom and outside of the classroom, he is just an all-around great person."

Adams said the Livingstone, who also was the starting left offensive tackle as a senior at Stranahan, could have had a sack numbers in the 20s had he only played defense.

"He is unstoppable," Adams said. "If we just said 'get after the quarterback' it is going to be a long night for anybody. Being the athlete Kirk is, we didn't just have him getting after the quarterback, we had him teeing on the running back, put him in coverage sometimes. He even took an interception back to the house."

Livingstone was among the uncommitted high school seniors at the Husky Football Awards Show on Friday and three of them committed today. The additions of offensive tackle Nolan Ulizio and defensive end Dallas Parker brings the list of committed players to 23 for the Huskies.

Closer look at UConn's 22 commitments

Hergy Mayala is among 22 early UConn football commits
Here's a look at how the senior seasons went for the 22 players (so far) who have committed to UConn

WR Frank Battle, Belen Jesuit (Fla.): 22 catches for 327 and three touchdowns in run-dominated offense for team reaching the Florida 8A regional quarterfinals
WR Tyraiq Beals, East Orange (N.J.): Had games with 16, 13 and 10 receptions, had four games with multiple touchdown catches including six in game against West Essex
DL Trey Blackwell, Cedar Creek (N.J.): Leader of defense which posted four straight shutouts in middle of season, Blackwell had 11 tackles for loss in first four games
TE Ian Campbell, Pequannock (N.J.): 21 catches for 280 yards including touchdowns in back to back games for 9-2 team which reached the NJSIAA North 1, Group 2 semifinals
OL Brian Cespedes, New London: Helped Whalers have five games with at least 338 yards of total offense en route to state playoff berth
QB Tyler Davis, Mepham (N.Y.): Was 73 of 129 passing for 1,092 yards with 13 TDs and six interceptions, ran 213 times for 1,553 yards and 22 touchdowns. Will enroll at UConn for spring semester
TE/LB Connor Freeborn, Salesianum (Del): Earned second-team All-Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association honors at linebacker
DB Aaron Garland, Fenwick (Ill.): Had four interceptions, two he brought back for touchdowns, two fumble recoveries and 38 tackles for team which reached Illinois 7A quarterfinals
TE Chris Lee, Severna Park (Md.): 27 catches for 353 yards and six touchdowns, three coming in a 28-27 loss to Annapolis. Earned first team Anne Arundel County honors
WR/DB Hergy Mayala, Trinity-Pawling (N.Y.): Had 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns, also saw time as cornerback and punter
WR Aaron McLean, St. Mark's (Mass.): Had TD catches of 14 and 65 yards in win over Thayer Academy. Team MVP and was also named to All-NEPSAC Class C team for second year in a row
DL/OL Kevin Murphy, West Chester (Pa.) East: Two-way starting lineman earned second-tea, All Ches-Mont honors as an offensive lineman although he projects to be a defensive lineman with the Huskies
DE Philippe Okounam, St. Paul's (N.H.): Team captain and Montreal native saved his best for last with seven tackles in 33-7 win over Rivers in season finale
DE Dallas Parker, Ponte Vedra (Fla.): Had four games with at least 10 tackles as a senior including 17 with a sack and four quarterback pressures against Merritt Island
OL Matthew Peart, Governor's Academy (Mass.): Offensive tackle helped Governor's Academy to the Wayne Sanborn Bowl Game as offense scored at least 25 points in seven of first eight games
DB Justice Pettus-Dixon, St. Frances Academy (Md.): Physical corner who excelled both in press coverage and while playing zone. Had interception in loss to Gilman and will play in next week's Crab Bowl
DL/TE William Richardson, Ballou (D.C): Had a sack in win over Wilson and interception in loss to Woodson after recording 8 1/2 sacks as a junior
WR/DB John Robinson IV, Dwight Morrow (N.J.): 24 catches for 372 yards and 5 TDs, also caused two fumbles and recovered another as a defensive back
K Michael Tarbutt, Canisius (N.Y.): Was 11 of 17 on field goals with kicks of 52 and 60 yards for 12-0 team. Also, 57 of his 79 kickoffs went for touchbacks and had punts of 47 and 50 yards
WR/DB Marshe Terry, Northern Burlington (N.J.): 4 of his 11 catches went for TDs. Had interception and fumble recovery in 12-6 loss to Pemberton in Commander's Cup game.
OL Nolan Ulizio, Lakota West (Ohio): Offensive tackle helped Lakota West reach Ohio Division I quarterfinals. Offense threw for 200 yards six times and ran for at least 180 yards in five games
WR/DE Nazir Williams, Bridgeton (N.J.): 35 catches for 566 yards and 3 TDs; 45 tackles, 9 sacks, 5 pass breakups with back to back games with two sacks

Ohio lineman, Florida DE latest UConn commits

Nolan Ulizio was among the uncommitted recruits in attendance at Friday's Husky Football Awards Show.

Well, he is undecided about his college destination no longer as the 6-foot-6, 280-pound offensive lineman out of Lakota West High in West Chester, Ohio announced via his Twitter account that he has committed to UConn.

Proud to announce that I have officially committed to the University of Connecticut

Ulizio helped Lakota West pile up at least 350 yards of total offense in five of the first six games of the season en route to a berth in the Ohio Division I quarterfinals.

There was a time during this recruiting cycle when UConn didn't have an offensive lineman on its list of commitment but three of the last four (New London's Bryan Cespedes, Matthew Peart of Governor's Academy and Ulizio) are offensive linemen.

He was not the only prospect at the dinner who decided that UConn was the place for him as Dallas Parker, a defensive end out of Ponta Vedra, Florida also committed today. His commitment was posted on Twitter by arguably the Huskies' best recruiter - quarterback signee Tyler Davis who was also at the awards show.

Parker ended his high school career by making 17 tackles with a sack and four quarterback hurries in a 21-10 loss to Merritt Island. He had 71 tackles in the seven games he played in as a senior.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Adams, Foxx, Lee among winners at UConn Football Awards show

UConn brought the 2014 season to a close by holding the Husky Football Awards Show at the Rome Commons Ballroom on campus.

Senior receiver Deshon Foxx was named the Offensive Player of the Year, junior safety Andrew Adams was selected as the Defensive Player of the Year while junior defensive back Wilbert "Junior" Lee was named the Special Teams Player of the Year.

Also being honored were sophomore offensive tackle Andreas Knappe (Joseph M. Giannelli Newcomer of the Year), sophomore safety Obi Melifonwu (John L. Toner Scholar-Athlete Award), junior defensive lineman Julian Campenni (Kendall Madison Award for the most outstanding power player), senior receiver Geremy Davis (Jasper T. Howard Outstanding Skill Player Award), junior long snapper Dominick Manco (Football Alumni Bleed Blue Award), junior linebacker Graham Stewart (Kozlowski Award) and sophomore defensive lineman Sean Marinan (Look Team Player of the Year).

As has been the case for everything else first-year coach Bob Diaco has done this season, the awards followed a different script. Normally season-ending awards are dominated by honors given to the team captains and seniors. However, Davis was the only one of the four captains to receive an award and of the 10 awards given out, just two went to seniors. I also found it curious that Knappe, who has been with the program for three year was named the team's newcomer of the year but congrats to him as he made tremendous strides over the course of the season after moving from defense to offense. Hard to argue too much with the three major awards given out. Adams was UConn's best player, Foxx provided some of the most explosive plays on offense while Lee was an absolute terror on the special teams coverage units, which ranked among the nation's best.

Here's the list of finalists for the other awards with the winner listed first.

Joseph M. Giannelli Newcomer of the Year Award: OT Andreas Knappe.  P Justin Wain, CB Jamar Summers, RB Ron Johnson.
John L. Toner Scholar-Athlete Award: S Obi Melifonwu, CB Byron Jones, TE Tommy Myers, RB Josh Marriner.
Kendall Madison Award: DT Julian Campenni, OT Andreas Knappe, OG Tyler Samra, DT Mikal Myers..
Jasper T. Howard Outstanding Skill Player Award: WR Geremy Davis, Foxx, Jones, WR Noel Thomas.
Football Alumni Bleed Blue Award: Dominick Manco Marriner, DB Nick Vitale, DT Mikal Myers.
Kozlowski Award: LB Graham Stewart, FB Jazzmar Clax, TE Sean McQuillan, LB Marquise Vann.
Look Team Player of the Year: DL Sean Marinan, DB Chris DeBerry, WR Tony Tully, QB Bryant Shirreffs.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

UConn's Mateas moving up CFL scouting ratings

Alex Mateas, who started the last 25 games at center for UConn, has moved up four spots to the No. 2 in the latest Canadian Football League Scouting Bureau's ranking of the top 20 prospects for the 2015 CFL Draft.

Mateas, a native of Ottawa, trails only UNLV offensive lineman Brett Boyko in the rankings. This will be the last rankings before the CFL combine from Mar. 27-29 in Toronto. The final pre-draft rankings will be released in April by the scouting bureau made up of scouts, personnel directors and general managers from the CFL teams.

Yale running back Tyler Varga, who recently accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, dropped four spots to No. 6 in the rankings.

No date has been announced for the CFL Draft at this point.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

No UConn players on AAC All-Conference teams

The American Athletic Conference released its all-conference team a few minutes ago and of the 59 players on the first team, second team or listed as honorable mention selections, none are from UConn. In fact the only Connecticut representation was Stratford's Tyler Matakevich of Temple, who was named to the first team.

UConn was the only team not to have at least one player named to the team. I thought junior safety Andrew Adams would garner a spot somewhere on the team. He was the only player in the AAC to rank in the top 10 in tackles and interceptions and in conference games only, he was tied for second with four interceptions. The top two candidates coming into the season were seniors Geremy Davis and Byron Jones and they combined to miss seven games during injured-plagued senior seasons. Davis was also hurt by the inconsistent quarterback play and the fact that UConn attempted fewer passes than any other team in the conference.

Memphis led the way with six first-team picks and 10 selections overall. Central Florida and East Carolina had nine players each honored.

Here are the award winners and all-conference selections.

Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina (Sr., Houston, Texas)

Tank Jakes, LB, Memphis (Sr., Phenix City, Ala.)




Pos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown/Last School
WR Breshad Perriman UCF Jr. 6-3 214 Lithonia, Ga./Arabia Mountain
WR Justin Hardy * East Carolina Sr. 6-0 188 Vanceboro, N.C./West Craven
OT Eric Lefeld 1 Cincinnati Sr. 6-6 310 Coldwater, Ohio/Coldwater
OT Al Bond Memphis Sr. 6-4 305 Memphis, Tenn./Southwind
OG Parker Ehinger Cincinnati Jr. 6-7 315 Rockford, Mich./Rockford
OG Rowdy Harper Houston Sr. 6-5 295 Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow
C Taylor Hudson East Carolina Sr. 6-5 285 Greenville, S.C./Mauldin
TE Alan Cross Memphis Jr. 6-1 245 Millington, Tenn./Millington
QB Shane Carden East Carolina Sr. 6-2 221 Houston, Texas/Episcopal
RB William Stanback 2 UCF So. 6-1 225 Hempstead, N.Y./Uniondale
RB Marlon Mack USF Fr. 6-0 195 Sarasota, Fla./Booker
K Jake Elliott 1 Memphis So. 5-10 165 Western Springs, Ill./Lyons Township
RS Deion Sanders Jr. SMU So. 5-7 183 Atlanta, Ga./Atlanta Sports Academy
DL Terrell Hartsfield Cincinnati Sr. 6-3 246 Raleigh, N.C./Copiah-Lincoln CC
DL Terry Williams East Carolina Sr. 6-1 353 Loganville, Ga./Grayson
DL Joey Mbu Houston Sr. 6-3 310 Richmond, Texas/Foster
DL Martin Ifedi 1 Memphis Sr. 6-3 275 Houston, Texas/Westside
LB Terrance Plummer 1 UCF Sr. 6-1 236 Orange Park, Fla./Orange Park
LB Jeff Luc Cincinnati Sr. 6-1 256 Port St. Lucie, Fla./Florida State
LB Tank Jakes Memphis Sr. 5-11 227 Phenix City, Ala./Holmes CC
LB Tyler Matakevich 1 Temple Jr. 6-1 235 Stratford, Conn./St. Joseph's
CB Jacoby Glenn 1 UCF So. 6-0 186 Prichard, Ala./Vigor
CB Bobby McCain Memphis Sr. 5-11 195 Oxford, Ala./Oxford
S Clayton Geathers UCF Sr. 6-2 208 Georgetown, S.C./Carver's Bay
S Adrian McDonald Houston Jr. 5-10 190 Lawton, Okla./Eisenhower
P Mattias Ciabatti USF Jr. 6-0 189 Tampa, Fla./Hillsborough
 * unanimous selection                                                                                                           
ALL-CONFERENCE SECOND TEAMPos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown/Last School
WR Deontay Greenberry 1 Houston Jr. 6-3 200 Fresno, Calif./Washington Union
WR Keevan Lucas Tulsa So. 5-10 198 Abilene, Texas/Abilene
OT Torrian Wilson UCF Sr. 6-3 305 Miami, Fla./Miami Northwestern
OT Ike Harris East Carolina Jr. 6-7 304 Irmo, S.C./Dutch Fork
OG J.T. Boyd East Carolina So. 6-4 302 Fort Mill, S.C./Nation Ford
C Kyle Friend Temple Jr. 6-2 305 Carlisle, Pa./Cumberland Valley
TE Bryce Williams East Carolina Jr. 6-6 250 Winston-Salem, N.C./Marshall
QB Paxton Lynch Memphis So. 6-7 230 Deltona, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy
RB Kenneth Farrow Houston Jr. 5-10 218 Hurst, Texas/L.D. Bell
RB Brandon Hayes Memphis Sr. 5-8 198 Chicago, Ill./Scottsdale CC
K Andrew Gantz Cincinnati Fr. 5-9 158 Dayton, Ohio/Centerville
RS Keiwone Malone Memphis Sr. 5-11 155 Memphis, Tenn./Alabama
DL Jaryl Mamea UCF Sr. 6-1 283 Fagasa, American Samoa/Chabot College
DL Thomas Niles UCF Jr. 6-2 270 Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville
DL Matt Ioaniddis Temple Jr. 6-4 285 Ringoes, N.J./Hunterdon Central
DL Praise Martin-Oguike Temple Jr. 6-2 250 Woodbridge, N.J./Woodbridge
DL Derrick Alexander Tulsa Jr. 6-2 270 Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington
LB Zeek Bigger East Carolina Jr. 6-2 228 Gastonia, N.C./Ashbrook
LB Brandon Williams East Carolina Sr. 6-1 230 Rock Hill, S.C./Hargrave Military
LB Efrem Oliphant Houston Sr. 6-`1 220 Houston, Texas/Langham Creek
CB William Jackson Houston Jr. 6-1 185 Houston, Texas/Trinity Valley CC
CB Lorenzo Doss Tulane Jr. 5-11 187 New Orleans, La./St. Augustine
S Brandon Alexander UCF Sr. 6-2 195 Orlando, Fla./Evans
S Sam Scofield Tulane Sr. 6-1 186 Lafayette, La./St. Thomas More
P Spencer Smith Memphis Fr. 6-1 175 Newnan, Ga./East Coweta 
ALL-CONFERENCE HONORABLE MENTIONPos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown/Last School
QB Gunner Kiel Cincinnati So. 6-4 208 Columbus, Ind./Notre Dame
LB Nick Temple Cincinnati Sr. 5-10 224 Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central
WR Andre Davis USF Sr. 6-1 205 Tampa, Fla./Jefferson
C Austin Reiter USF Sr. 6-3 296 Bradenton, Fla./Lakewood Ranch
CB Tavon Young Temple Jr. 5-10 174 Oxon Hill, Md./Potomac
LB Nico Marley Tulane So. 5-9 200 Weston, Fla./Cypress Bay
CB Parry Nickerson Tulane Fr. 5-11 179 Terrytown, La./West Jefferson
P Dalton Parks Tulsa So. 6-3 202 Kansas City, Mo./Staley 
1 American Athletic Conference First Team selection in 2013
2 American Athletic Conference Second Team selection in 2013

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

UConn progress report by the numbers

There's a lot more to football than merely crunching numbers but that's not going to stop me from comparing the year-end statistics from the 2013 season against those from the recently-completed 2014 campaign.

The running game, while hardly dynamic for most of the season, saw an increase of yardage of nearly 22 percent going from 1013 to 1296. The average per rush went from 2.6 to 3.3. There's still work to be done but it is a start especially considering that three of the four tailbacks never had a collegiate career coming into the season.

UConn's pass defense, despite the midseason loss of star cornerback Byron Jones, showed improvement. Not only did the Huskies allow nearly 500 fewer passing yards but the yards per attempt (from 7.6 to 6.4) and yards per completion (from 13.5 to 10.9) bodes well for the direction the defense is headed.

UConn did not allow a sack in three of the last four games and overall the number of sacks allowed dropped from 42 to 29 to tackles for loss dipped from 92 to 81.

In no area did UConn show more improvement than on special teams units. UConn led all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in kickoff return coverage. The 15.5 yards per return was nearly a 10-yard improvement from a season ago. UConn's net punting and net kickoff numbers both moved in the positive direction despite the loss of a pair of senior specialists.

While UConn ran for more yards, it also gave up more yards as well. The final tally shows an increase of 413 yards with yards per carry jumping from 3.7 to 4.2. The feeling that a team should get better as the season move forward goes out the window as the Huskies gave up 258 rushing yards and an obscene 5.2 yards per carry in the final four games of the season.

UConn ran 91 fewer plays than a season ago and the time of possession dropped by 30 seconds off an already poor number. The result was the defense wearing down in the second half of games.

The Huskies' defense did not make as many splash plays as in season's past recording three fewer sacks, five fewer tackles for loss, six fewer interceptions and four fewer fumble recoveries.

The increase in penalties is staggering as there was a jump of nearly 25 percent in accepted penalties against the Huskies. That translated to 22.8 penalty yards per game against the Huskies. Some of that could be explained away to a more aggressive mindset but the continued appearance of pre-snap penalties throughout the season is inexcusable.

While the interceptions dropped from 18 to 12 (although attempting eight fewer passes per game needs to be factored in), the fact that only Eastern Michigan and West Virginia lost more fumbled than the 16 given away by the Huskies is clearly an area that will need to improve. What's most troubling is that most of the fumbles came on seemingly low-risk plays. The result was not only five defensive TDs and two safeties allowed but 25 scoring drives of less than 50 yards.

One offensive touchdown in the first quarter of games is pathetic and resulted in UConn playing from behind as UConn did not have the lead heading into the second quarter in any game this season.

The red zone offensive numbers are downright offensive as UConn only got points on 58 percent of the trips to the red zone, which is last among 128 FBS teams. South Florida was the only team to score fewer touchdowns on red-zone possessions than the 10 recorded by the Huskies.

Former UConn star Williams added to Redskins roster

It's been a whirlwind of a season for UConn's career sacks leader Trevardo Williams, who was promoted to the active roster by the Washington Redskins today.

Williams began the season with the Houston Texans, the team which selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft but he was released on Aug. 1. He was signed by the Arizona Cardinals the next day but cut on Aug. 8. He was signed to the practice squad by the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 23 before being let down on Nov. 25. The Redskins became the fourth NFL team to take a chance on Williams, who has been dealing with injuries since the 2013 NFL Combine by signing him to the practice squad a week ago.

The Redskins play at the New York Giants on Sunday so if he were to make his NFL regular-season debut, his friends and family from Bridgeport won't have far to go.

Taking an 180-degree turn, former UConn cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson was placed on season-ending injured reserve by the Tennessee Titans after he separated his shoulder in Sunday's loss to the Giants.

UConn in NFL: Week 14 report

It was a pretty quiet week for UConn products in the NFL unless you count Sio Moore calling out San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick on instagram, Blidi Wreh-Wilson likely heading to injured reserve after separating his shoulder or Donald Brown drawing the ire of his own fan base for stepping out of bounds after catching a short pass in the final 2 minutes of the first half. As for the most noteworthy performances of the week, Jordan Todman is now second in the NFL in kickoff return yards after  returning four kickoffs for 111 yards, Danny Lansanah had another strong game and Ryan Griffin had his longest catch of the season.

Will Beatty, OT New York Giants: Started in 36-7 win over Tennessee
Donald Brown, RB San Diego: Had five catches for 49 yards in 23-14 loss to New England
Darius Butler, CB Indianapolis: Had four tackles and a pass breakup in 25-24 win over Cleveland
Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo: Did not have reception or tackle in 24-17 loss to Denver
Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville: Had three tackles in 27-13 loss to Houston
Ryan Griffin, TE Houston: Had 25-yard reception in 27-13 win over Jacksonville
Danny Lansanah, LB Tampa Bay: Had team-high eight tackles including tackle for loss in 34-17 loss to Detroit
Robert McClain, CB Atlanta: Had seven tackles in 43-37 loss to Green Bay
Sio Moore, LB Oakland: Had one tackle in 24-13 win over San Francisco
Dan Orlovsky, QB, Detroit: Did not play in 34-17 win over Tampa Bay
Kendall Reyes, DT San Diego: Had three tackles in 23-14 loss to New England
Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City: Had two catches for eight yards in 24-17 loss to Arizona
Shamar Stephen, DT Minnesota: Had three tackles in 30-24 win over New York Jets as he made his third start in a row
Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville: Had 11 yards on three carries, a 5-yard reception and 111 yards on four kickoff returns in 27-13 loss to Houston
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Tennessee: Had one tackle before leaving with shoulder injury in 36-7 loss to New York Giants

Monday, December 08, 2014

Honors for UConn's Adams, Williams

UConn defensive backs Andrew Adams and Jhavon Williams received honorable mention recognition from the College Football Performance Awards.

Adams, a junior safety, returned a fumble 32 yards for a score, forced another fumble and had three tackles while Williams, a sophomore cornerback, had two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and five tackles in a 27-20 loss to SMU.

It was the second time Adams made the list as he was named the Defensive Back Performer of the Week after he had three interceptions in a 37-29 win over Central Florida.

Adams led UConn with 65 solo tackles (the most for a UConn defensive back since Terrance Smith's 70 during the 2003 season), four interceptions (the most since Jerome Junior and Blidi Wreh-Wilson each had four in the 2010 season) and eight pass breakups. When the All-American Athletic Conference is announced on Wednesday I'm not sure how many UConn players are going to be on the list but I would expect Adams to be UConn's best candidate to be named to the first team.

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After disappointing 2014 season at UConn, time to look ahead

Coming off back to back seasons when a team loses 19 games and suffered some of the most infuriating losses in program history, perhaps the best thing is to try to take a peek into the future.
First-year coach Bob Diaco is claiming that better times are coming. I guess time will tell if that is actually the case of if it is more of his glass is half full personality attempting to put a pretty bow on an ugly picture.
The fact is that most of the players who have impact roles down the stretch figure to be part of the 2015 squad. Here's a look at the team position by position

QUARTERBACK: It's hard not to wonder how things would have looked had Casey Cochran not been forced into retirement after suffering one too many concussions. Chandler Whitmer gave it the old college try as he leaves ranking fourth in program history in passing completions and yards but he also threw too many costly interceptions and took as much punishment as any quarterback in the country. Tim Boyle has been called the quarterback of the future by Diaco but Boyle had his struggles when he was inserted as the starter late in the season. There have been rumblings that Diaco would prefer a dual-threat option at quarterback which if that is the case could open the door for North Carolina State transfer Bryant Shirreffs or incoming freshman Tyler Davis to ascend to the No. 1 job since both have reputations of being able to make things happen with their legs.

TAILBACK: Ron Johnson began the season as the No. 3 or 4 option in the running game but ended it as the featured back . Johnson was the Huskies' leading rusher in the last three games and posted his first career 100-yard game in the season finale against SMU. Fellow true freshman Arkeel Newsome showed big-play ability especially in the screen game and on special teams but struggles with pass protection and holding onto the ball cut into his playing time. Junior Max DeLorenzo began the season as the No. 1 back only to become a forgotten piece of the equation for several weeks. He finished the season making his presence felt so perhaps he will be a factor as a senior. There might not be a bigger surprise than the dwindling role of Josh Marriner. The way Diaco was talking him up in the preseason I was expecting him to be the Huskies' top back. Instead he failed to get a carry in four of the last eight games.

FULLBACK: While we're on the subject of surprises, the fullbacks were more prominently involved in the offense than I thought they would be. Jazzmar Clax and Matt Walsh will again look to add physicality to the running game and would expect more of the same moving forward.

RECEIVERS: The one position hit hardest by graduation with Geremy Davis, the Huskies' career leader for catches and receiving yards during the FBS era and Deshon Foxx, who had the team's longest run, reception and special teams return, combined for 74 of the 134 catches by receivers during the 2014 season. Noel Thomas (team-high four TD catches), Dhameer Bradley, Thomas Lucas and Brian Lemelle all came in during last year's recruiting class and each have had their moments. The Huskies addressed the need for reinforcements at receiver during the current recruiting cycle.

TIGHT ENDS: Sean McQuillan, one of six players with at least 10 catches, will be the active leader in career catches on next year's team with 41 over the last two seasons. Redshirt freshman Tommy Myers made strides as the top blocking tight end and got the start against SMU while true freshman Alec Bloom has star power written all over him. It will be interesting to see whether former St. Joseph High star Steve Hashemi, who saw time on special teams, will move to the offensive line considering how many tight ends the Huskies will be bringing in for the 2015 season.

OFFENSIVE LINE: If a checklist of the positives coming out of the season where to be compiled the development of the line would obviously be at the top of the list. Not only did UConn not allow a sack in three of the last four games but there was noticeable improvement in the running game.After the East Carolina game UConn had one game with at least 160 rushing yards in the last 31 contests. The Huskies accomplished the feat three times in the last five games with the 249 yards against SMU is the most since a Nov. 11, 2010 game against Pittsburgh. Center Alex Mateas is the only senior to start late in the season. The improvement of tackles Richard Levy and Andreas Knappe was truly impressive, true freshman Ryan Crozier started the last three games at left guard while Tyler Samra had a solid junior season. Former starter Dalton Gifford could push for time at tackle, Trey Rutherford saw plenty of time as a true freshman and although he redshirted as a true freshman, center Dan Oak drew rave reviews for his work in practice.

DEFENSIVE LINE: The interior positions appear to be in great shape with the return of Julian Campenni, who led all defensive linemen with 35 tackles, Mikal Myers (6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) and Foley Fatukasi. Cole Ormsby (a team-leading 3.5 sacks) and Luke Carrezola had moments of brilliance as freshmen while Kenton Adeyemi started the final 11 games on the other side. The lack of a consistent pass rush is a concern but with the only losses being Reuben Frank and B.J. McBryde, this is a group that got to learn on the job and that should pay dividends next season.

LINEBACKERS: Marquise Vann (a team-leading 105 tackles), Graham Stewart (team-high 10.5 tackles for loss) were two of the most impactful players on the defense while freshman Junior Joseph had 22 of his 41 tackles in the last four games of the season. Fellow freshmen Cameron Stapleton and Vontae Diggs received valuable playing time.

SECONDARY: An injury to a player like Byron Jones was a huge blow but it did give Jhavon Williams, Jamar Summers, John Green and Brice McAllister a baptism under fire. Williams was the only one who had played a defensive snap at the college level coming into the season. At times that lack of experience was exposed but the quartet did have their moments as well. At safety the combination of Andrew Adams, who led the Huskies with 65 solo tackles, four interceptions and eight pass breakups, and Obi Melifonwu finished two of the Huskies' top four tacklers. Melifonwu had some issues in pass defense but that duo will be among the best safety duos in the AAC next season.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Justin Wain and kicker Bobby Puyol had inconsistent seasons. UConn ended the season by averaging less than 40 yards per punt in the last eight games while Puyol had four field goals of more than 40 yards, he was just 3 of 6 on kicks between 30-39 yards. Although the Huskies were second to last nationally in touchbacks on kickoffs, the Huskies led the nation in kickoff return coverage and ranked 26th in punt return coverage. Arkeel Newsome showed explosiveness on kickoff returns but the Huskies will need to find a new punt returner with the graduation of Foxx.

COACHING: It was an interesting debut season for Diaco. He certainly showed the ability to find the silver lining during even the toughest of times. But, as they say, talk is cheap. You can already feel the grumbling coming from the fan base with the way the season came to an end and especially with his weekly "we are getting better" comments when that improvement wasn't usually being translated to game-day performance.

Obviously Diaco knows how to coach defense and there were promising signs on that side of the ball. However, the offense was a different story. He admitted to having a shorter leash on offense because of all the early season turnovers and that will need to change. Completing five passes against a team like SMU is inexcusable and with the offensive line seemingly in the best shape coming into a season for the last few years, it is time for the offensive coaches to show a little more imagination and aggressive mindset than they did this season. Diaco's substitution pattern is also beyond baffling especially at the offensive skill positions. Max DeLorenzo was under utilized during the middle of the season and trying to figure out how the young receivers and tight ends were worked into the passing game is enough to make your head spin.

The good news is that after two seasons when the offensive systems underwent a complete overhaul, UConn should have some continuity going into next season. Also don't underestimate how difficult it is to run your system without players recruited for that style of play. Ron Johnson, Ryan Crozier and Vontae Diggs were among the freshmen recruited by the new staff and now Diaco's staff has an entire year to add his type of players to the mix. Ultimately the success of this regime will be determined over next couple of seasons as Diaco overhauls everything within the program.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

UConn commit ends HS career in style

UConn commit Michael Tarbutt certainly knows how to make an exit.

The senior kicker was a perfect 3 for 3 on field goals including a 60-yarder, yes you read that right, 60 yards as Canisius High won the inaugural New York Catholic state title with a 23-10 win over Archbishop Stepinac earlier today.

Tarbutt finished the season with a pair of field goals of at least 50 yards and was 11 of 17 on field goals as Cansius finished the season with a 12-0 record.

As far as I can tell it is the second longest field goal in New York high school history. Long time NFL punter Todd Sauerbrun kicked a 62-yard FG for Ward Melville in 1990.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Playoff time for pair of UConn commits

This weekend one UConn commit will look to keep alive his state championship dreams while another one will go after championship glory.

Offensive tackle Bryan Cespedes is up first as his New London High team plays at Brookfield today at 2 p.m. in the CIAC Class M-Large semifinals. The game will be available at

Tomorrow kicker Michael Tarbutt's undefeated Canisius High School team will play Archbishop Stepinac in the inagurual New York Catholic state championship. The game is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday  at Mitchell Field in Uniondale.

Tarbutt is 8 of 14 on field goals with a long of 52 and 53 of his 73 kickoffs have been touchbacks.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Ready to brush up on UConn's seniors?

Certainly there have been larger senior classes and ones with more NFL prospects but the group of 14 (counting redshirt sophomore and early graduate Casey Cochran) players will be honored before tomorrow's SMU game as part of Senior Day festivities.

Since there is not time to go back and recap each of their stories this week, I thought the next best thing was to provide links to some stories I have written on them in the last couple of years

Casey Cochran gives up football
Cochran named starting quarterback

Comeback almost complete for Gus Cruz

After health scare, Cruz back on field

Mateas says line in good shape

Soccer once sport of choice for Mateas

Byron Jones out for season

Davis, Jones accept leadership roles

Geremy Davis finds strength in his faith

Former walk-on DeBerry rewarded for hard work

Parents continue to inspire Deshon Foxx

Foxx an option at quarterback

McBryde makes an impact as a senior

Cincinnati game a homecoming for Angelo Pruitt

Chander Whitmer back having fun at UConn

Mateas saving his best for last at UConn

It hasn't been the easiest of seasons for the three seniors who served as captains for the UConn football this season.

Cornerback Byron Jones suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in a game at East Carolina while Geremy Davis missed 2 1/2 games with an ankle injury and just now is he back at 100 percent according to UConn coach Bob Diaco. That leaves Alex Mateas, the center on an offensive line that has received plenty of criticism over the last few years.

From 2011-13 only Pittsburgh, Miami (Ohio), Washington State, Hawaii and UCLA gave up more sacks than the 115 given up by the Huskies. In the first eight games, it was more of the same as the Huskies gave up 28 sacks and countless other times UConn's quarterbacks were running for their lives.

It wasn't until UConn held Memphis, which came into last week's game leading the American Athletic Conference in sacks, without a quarterback sack. Going a step further, UConn has given up two sacks in its last 100 passing attempts. As a point of reference, UConn gave up 14 sacks during the first 100 pass attempts of the season.

As the veteran of the line, nobody is happier about the improvement of the line that Mateas (except perhaps quarterbacks Tim Boyle and Chandler Whitmer).

"I am very proud to see the improvement," Mateas said. "You can feel the improvement in every game and every week in practice but it is always nice to see it on the board a little bit. I am really happy with the guys and trying to soak in the experience.

"Every part of the equation is helpful. Coaches start off everything by teaching us the schemes, the way they plan out the game plans and we just try to do what they tell us to. We are really enjoying it. They are going to be in great shape, they are a great group of guys and work really hard and are really hungry. The ceiling is tremendous for them. I would like to think that Gus (Cruz) and I have tried to do all that we can, help the guys out as much as we can. I have really enjoyed working with the young guys and finishing off my senior year with Gus Cruz has been a pleasure."

With the season-ending shoulder injury suffered by safety Obi Melifonwu, Mateas will be the only UConn player to start every game during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Meanwhile, fellow senior offensive lineman and three-year starter Cruz lost his starting left guard spot to true freshman Ryan Crozier a few weeks ago.

"He has dealt with it really well, he is a great guy a great teammate," Mateas said of Cruz. "I don't much of the situation but whoever they put beside us, we just have to be prepared to play the best we can."

Mateas, much quieter than fellow captains Jones and Marquise Vann, has grown into his role as a leader.

"It has been an experience of a lifetime," Mateas said. "I wouldn't have been able to do any of it without the team, we have a really good group of guys and everybody is really hungry. It is going to be something I will never forget."

Not only has UConn's sack numbers dropped, the rushing statistics have improved at the same time. In the first seven games of the season the Huskies averaged 77.4 yards per game with a 2.6 yard per carry mark. In the last four games UConn is up to 117.3 yards while the YPC numbers are up to 3.7.

With Crozier now starting, Mateas is the only starting lineman not coming back next season. The stating tackles are sophomores Richard Levy and Andreas Knappe, junior Tyler Samra has started every game at right guard. Crozier has the makings of a star and he is far from the only true freshman with seemingly bright futures. Trey Rutherford has seen time as a reserve lineman in 10 of 11 games this season and Daniel Oak, expected to replace Mateas as the starting center, has been getting talked up quite a bit by UConn coach Bob Diaco even as he is being redshirted. Former St. Joseph High Steve Hashemi is athletic enough to be moved to tight end. Hashemi has seen time blocking for field goals and was in the area of holder Blake Feagles' fake field goal earlier in the season. Considering the number of tight ends UConn is bringing in next season, Hashemi figures to move back to the offensive line.

"They are really good, they work really hard and have great attitudes," Mateas said. "They listen well, take a lot of information and apply it to games. Those young guys along with the other guys on the offensive line, we look like we are in good shape and there is definitely going to be competition."

Mateas is one of 14 players who will be honored during Senior Day festivities before Saturday's game against SMU. His two sisters, mother and father will all be making the eight or nine hour drive from Ottawa to be there for his final collegiate game.

"I couldn't have done anything without them especially my mom, she is a saint," Mateas said. "All the credit goes to her. They come when they can, my mom probably comes a little too much because it is a drive. I owe all of this to her and I love her to the end. We have been through a lot."

There's a chance that Mateas will be playing much closer to home at the next level. Every Canadian native who has been on scholarship has either played or been drafted into the CFL. In the prospect ranking posted on Sept. 11, Mateas was rated as the No. 6 available player.

"That would unbelievable, it would be just a dream come true," Mateas said. "I am going to take everything I learned here, apply it to whatever happens to the future."

With the CFL season ending with Sunday's Grey Cup (won by Calgary) you would assume that Mateas was transfixed to the game, right. Well, not exactly.

"I unfortunately didn't get to see much of the game," Mateas said with a laugh. "I was watching a little bit of it and then I had to watch the Walking Dead with Casey (Cochran), Andreas (Knappe) and Zach Rugg. Probably should have stayed and watched a little bit more but it was the finale
for this part of the season."

Getting back to the way UConn's line is ending the season, here is the list of teams having allowed two or fewer sacks in the last 100 passing attempts

Team             Sacks (Opponents)
Appalachian State 1 (Georgia State, Louisiana Monroe, Arkansas State, Louisiana Lafayette, Idaho)
Ball State 1 (Northern Illinois, UMass, Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green)
Oklahoma 1  (Iowa State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas)
Alabama  2 (Mississippi State, Western Carolina, Auburn)
Cincinnati 2 (East Carolina, UConn, Temple)
Florida State 2  (Virginia, Miami, Boston College, Florida)
Louisiana Tech 2 (UAB, Old Dominion, Rice)
Rutgers 2 (Indiana, Michigan State, Maryland)
UConn 2 (Central Florida, Army, Cincinnati, Memphis)


Thursday, December 04, 2014

More hands on deck at UConn?

There is a perception, perhaps aided by me, that there is a significant jump in the number of players who have gotten into games for the Huskies this season.

Much of it is because first-year coach Bob Diaco uses multiple players at almost every position but the numbers tell a bit of a different story.

Heading into the 2013 regular-season finale a total of 64 players including 22 playing for the first time got playing time in the first 11 games of the season. This year the number is at 68 with 26 of them being first timers. The one area that I thought would vary significantly is how many opening-game starters are in line to do the same in the last game of the year. However, even that is not the case.

In 2013, of the 22 first-game starters on offense or defense just 13 started in the final game of the season (five on offense and eight on defense). This year I would say either six or seven offensive starters will be the same depending on whether UConn opens with three receivers or two running backs and six or seven on defense based on whether B.J. McBryde or Folorunso Fatukasi get the start at defensive tackle.

Where there is a noticeable change is in the class by class breakdown with four more upperclassmen seeing time in 2013 while eight additional sophomores or freshmen seeing time this season.

CLASS               2013               2014
SENIORS           13                    10
JUNIORS           16                    15
SOPHOMORES 17                   21
FRESHMEN       18                   22

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

UConn in NFL: Week 13 report

A little late on my weekly alumni report but it's a hectic week preparing for both the SMU game and the UConn/Notre Dame women's basketball game on Saturday.

It was a pretty good week for some former Huskies. Ryan Griffin had his first touchdown since a Nov. 10, 2013 game against Arizona, Dwayne Gratz forced a key fumble enabling the Jaguars to rally for a win against the New York Giants while Danny Lansanah had three tackles for loss among his 14 tackles.

Will Beatty, OT New York Giants: Started in 25-24 loss to Jacksonville
Donald Brown, RB San Diego: Had one carry for minus two yards and a 6-yard reception in 34-33 win over Baltimore
Darius Butler, CB Indianapolis: Inactive (ankle) in 49-27 win over Washington
Marcus Easley, WR Buffalo: Had two tackles in 26-10 win over Cleveland
Dwayne Gratz, CB Jacksonville: Had five tackles and forced a fumble in 25-24 win over New York Giants
Ryan Griffin, TE Houston: Had an eight-yard touchdown catch in 45-21 win over Tennessee
Danny Lansanah, LB Tampa Bay: Had 14 tackles including three tackles for loss in 14-13 loss to Cincinnati
Robert McClain, CB Atlanta: Had two tackles and pass breakup in 29-18 win over Arizona
Sio Moore, LB Oakland: Had seven tackles in 52-0 loss to St. Louis
Dan Orlovsky, QB, Detroit: Did not play in 34-17 win over Chicago
Kendall Reyes, DT San Diego: Had six tackles in 34-33 win over Baltimore
Anthony Sherman, FB Kansas City: Had one tackle in 29-16 loss to Denver
Shamar Stephen, DT Minnesota: Had four tackles in 31-13 win over Carolina
Jordan Todman, RB Jacksonville: Had 51 yards on three kickoff returns
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Tennessee: Had six tackles in 45-21 loss to Houston

McBryde leaving UConn with lasting memories, NFL dreams

Five years after arriving in Storrs from football-rich Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, B.J. McBryde will depart with sociology and criminology degrees, plenty of football memories both good and bad as well as a burning desire to strap on the shoulder pads even after his time as a Husky is complete.

McBryde's future endeavors may be a bit unknown at the current time, what he does know is he will be one of 14 players who will take part in Senior Day festivities before Saturday's regular-season finale against winless Southern Methodist. Unlike many of those 14, McBryde is expected to see significant action in his final collegiate football game.

"It is my last game, the last time a lot of us will be putting on pads," McBryde said. "It will definitely be an emotional thing. I am really excited about ending with SMU, ending with a bang. We really have a good chance of getting a 'W'. My family is coming up all the way from Pittsburgh so I am really happy about that. When you have your parents there it is something different. They give you that extra boost, that added support so when family is around it is always great."

McBryde is encouraged by the response he has been getting from the pro scouts. The 25 tackles, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries in 11 games as a senior may not be staggering statistics, the 6-foot-5, 304-pound McBryde has the size that NFL teams are looking for in defensive line prospects.

"I am very hopeful for a nice Pro Day, maybe a combine," McBryde said. "I am getting feedback from people, I have been putting some good things on film and I am excited about. If not I will have my degrees from UConn."

While McBryde and his fellow seniors are fighting to urge to use this week as a time to look down memory lane at the expense of preparing to meet SMU, he did take a couple of moments to reflect on how he has worked his way into the best shape of his life.
"I'm not saying that anything the other coaches were doing was wrong but I did a transformation Tuesday and I saw the picture (of himself) from the spring going into the summer and results don't lie. What Coach (Bob) Diaco and (strength and conditioning) Coach (Matt) Balis have been able to do with this program , it is showing everywhere but the scoreboard right now. Like Coach Diaco has been telling everybody, it is gong to show up. The changes that he is making, the recruits coming in, everything is being done for a reason and I believe in it.

"I am jealous of all the freshmen because they get to have Coach Diaco for four or five more years. At first I was a little upset about it because I won't be around for this great time that is going to be happening because I guarantee that it is going to be great times. Going through a season, maturing a little bit and being able to see the different changes, I am happy for those guys. I am happy to see a not so great past turn into a promising future. With Coach Diaco, I believe that is going to happen. I was a little upset at first, a little jealous but I am happy."

It's been an interesting season for the senior class. Former starter Angelo Pruitt lasted one game before his season came to an end, former starting long snapper Adam Mueller was beaten out by Dom Manco, three-year starters Chandler Whitmer and Gus Cruz lost their starting jobs to younger teammates and even players like McBryde and linebacker Reuben Frank have been losing snaps to underclassmen as the season has progressed.

"An interesting thing is all the years I was here in the past watching Kendall (Reyes), watching Shamar (Stephen), they were gassed, they were on the field for a long time," McBryde said. "They were coaches' guys and me being the young guy I was like 'Coach, let me run in there, give me some snaps, give these guys a breather.' I feel like I have that now, I have something that Kendall and Shamar didn't necessarily have, I have younger guys like Foley (Fatukasi) coming on to sort of fill in there. he is doing much more than just filling in. Foley is an extraordinary player, he is going to be an extraordinary player. He is so young now, so powerful, so strong. I have been able to show him some things and he has been able to show me some things. it is a learning process and I always tell people that in my short time of playing football, I only played my senior year in high school and I am still learning the game so I am excited about everything. I am excited about where my future is with football and where we are going to go."

He firmly believes that the program is headed in the right direction despite the 2-9 record including losing the last two games by a combined score of 82-10.

"Coach Diaco has said we are going to build off (this season), you have to keep your head up and keep fighting. As a senior, maturing from my freshman year. I was that guy. There was a point when I didn't think I'd ever win and I am coming from Beaver Falls High School when we are winning week after week. I come here and see that college was an entirely different world. We ended up going to the Fiesta Bowl and playing against Oklahoma. You can never lose faith because you never know what will happen."

Here's a look at the players who will be honored before Saturday's game
QB Casey Cochran: Led UConn to a three-game winning streak to end last season, setting a single-game program record with 461 passing yards in a season finale against Memphis. He started the season opener against BYU but suffered a concussion and to prevent the risk of long-term health issues, retired as a player. Top-notch student, Cochran is graduating at the end of his redshirt sophomore season.
OG Gus Cruz: Three-year starter overcame a potentially career-ending cardiac issue caused by a blood clot to start the first nine games of the season at left guard before giving way to freshman Ryan Crozier in the last two games.
WR Geremy Davis: His 162 catches and 2,270 receiving yards rank fifth and seventh respectively on UConn's career lists but first during the Huskies' time playing at the FBS level. Davis appears to be back at 100 percent after missing 2 1/2 games with an ankle injury.
DB Chris DeBerry: Former Torrington High's work habits in practice resulted in the former walk-on receiving a scholarship for his senior season. He has yet to appear in a game.
WR Deshon Foxx: Only player at FBS level to have his team's longest run (68 yards against Central Florida), reception (88 yards vs. East Carolina) and special-teams return (72-yard punt return vs. Stony Brook). Dating back to 1970, Foxx and D.J. Hernandez are the only UConn players with games with 100 yards receiving and rushing. Foxx is not only the only one to do it in the same season but he accomplished the feat in back to back games.
LB Reuben Frank: If there is a player who has seen time at more positions over the last four years than Foxx it is Frank. A former starting fullback, Frank moved to defense for the final two seasons. He has seen time at defensive end and outside linebacker and has 7 1/2 career tackles for loss, three sacks and 12 receptions in his four seasons.
CB Byron Jones: NFL prospect had his senior season ended after seven games due to a shoulder injury but he is still tops among current Huskies with 223 tackles, eight interceptions and 18 pass breakups.
C Alex Mateas: With safety Obi Melifonwu undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday, Mateas will be the only player to start every game in the last two seasons. Leading of an offensive line that has made drastic improvements, the Ottawa native is expected to be taken in the CFL draft.
DE B.J. McBryde: Has seen time at defensive end and defensive tackle. He has six games with multiple tackles this season including a season-high six against South Florida.
LS Adam Mueller: Another decorated student-athlete, Mueller was a semifinalist for the prestigious Campbell Trophy often referred to as the academic Heisman Trophy. He was the long snapper for his first three seasons before giving way to Dom Manco this season.
OL Bryan Paull: Played in four games during the 2013 season but career was shortened due to injury.
DL Angelo Pruitt: Came into the season expected to be one of the Huskies' top defensive linemen but his college career came to end after starting in the season opener against BYU. He still has aspirations of a pro career.
LB Brandon Steg: Has seen time in 44 career games as a backup linebacker and special-teams performer. Has six tackles this season and 31 career stops.
QB Chandler Whitmer: Been quite the ride for Whitmer who arrived at UConn after stops at the University of Illinois and Butler Community College.. The starter for all of the 2012 season, the first four games a season ago and eight games as a senior, Whitmer is one of four quarterbacks at UConn with more than 400 completions and 5,000 passing yards.