Monday, March 23, 2015

QB Shirreffs taking first-team reps at UConn spring practice

There was a little extra treat for the media today as the post-stretching portion of practice began with 11 on 11 drills with the first team offense playing the first team defense before going into positional drills. Normally we only get to see stretching followed by positional drills before the time we are allowed to watch practice expires.

We were requested to shoot very tight videos on the 11 on 11, focusing on individual players instead of wide shots of formations so we don't give away information and trends to opposing teams. Unfortunately, since I use my iPhone to do the videos, I have no zoom capabilities so I held off on shooting video until the positions drills started. I did, however, take some notes on who was working with the first and second teams.

First up, Bryant Shirreffs took the snaps with the first team offense with Tim Boyle coming out with the second team. We only saw a series with each of them and not much to report. Shirreffs certainly looks comfortable throwing on the run but he also missed some pretty easy throws. There were a couple of drops as well while Shirreffs and Boyle took their reps.

Shirreffs looks extremely comfortable throwing on the run but when I asked Diaco about that, he chose his words carefully. He did not want to talk up any of the quarterbacks over the others just yet.

"He does look like that," Diaco said. "He is definitely a threat with the ball in his hands, that is for sure because he is big and fast."

Diaco was quick to add that he thought Boyle also threw the ball well while on the run. In my opinion, Boyle is at his best when he drops back to pass.

"It has looked very, very good," Diaco said. "We are pleased with the position, we are pleased with the battle. That group is going to be able to grow and the group is going to get bigger over the summer. There will be a couple of guys added to that group of three and Will (Rishell) but the competition happening between those three has been good. There has been some separation. I am reluctant at this point to say anything specific about it and I don't mean to be coy but there are more situations that need to happen. Right now it has been even situation downs, we got into a little bit of critical down work, we got into a little bit of red zone critical situation work. Guys will flourish as this string of situations unfold that all requite a different style of quarterbacking. It will happen soon I think, hopefully by the end of this week, hopefully there will be some separation."

Ryan Crozier is the No. 1 center as he was during the opening practice. This is what I had for the starters on both sides of the ball. Richard Levy and Andreas Knappe were the starting tackles, Trey Rutherford and Tyler Samra worked with the first team at guard. Ron Johnson was the tailback with the first unit. I did not get the numbers of all the receivers and tight ends but did see receiver Dhameer Bradley and tight ends Sean McQuillan and Tommy Myers out there during the first series.

On the defensive side of the ball, Kenton Adeyemi, Foley Fatukasi, Julian Campenni and Luke Carrezola were up front, Junior Joseph, Graham Stewart and Marquise Vann were at linebacker with the normal starting secondary of Jhavon Williams, Jamar Summers, Obi Melifonwu and Andrew Adams.

When the second team defense came out, converted fullback Matt Walsh was at middle linebacker.Cameron Stapleton, Mikal Myers, Vontae Diggs, Cole Ormsby, Sheriden Lawley, Jon Hicks, Javon Hadley, Brice McAllister and Junior Lee. My contacts may have been playing tricks on me since it is kind of early but I wrote down No. 25 as the other player with the second-string secondary and since that it backup receiver James Sullivan, my eyes might be playing tricks on me.

The second team offensive line consisted of Brendan Vechery, Tommy Hopkins, Zach Rugg, Steve Hashemi and Dan Oak.

Among the visitors at the practice were incoming freshman Aaron McLean and former defensive linebacker B.J. McBryde. McBryde, who was an absolute delight to cover, said he is getting fired up for the Mar. 31 pro day.

Diaco said he wanted to go right into the 11 on 11 drill just to make sure everybody was mentally engaged since it was the first day back after spring break.

"Monday mornings are always a little bit of a challenge," Diaco said. "Today is always a concern and they did a fantastic job today. I knew right away, I said in the team meeting that there is a different look, a different identity with them sitting there bright eyed, bushy tailed, they are ready to work and excited to be back together and I know we all feel like that.

"It is just in case the lights weren't on full blast, I wanted to hook battery charges up to their chest, give them a little shot of energy. It is hard to put your toe in the water when the first thing in practice after you warm up is to articulate good on good on an 11 on 11 situation. It is a drill we do, it is a speed drill more than it is a contact drill. It is mostly about the speed that they move and the speed of the communication and the challenge of the communication so it is running at an unrealistic pace. The ball is predetermined in the spots that it moves so it is easy to move it at a very fast rate."
There will be much more later today and in the coming days. Unfortunately with today being the first day of the resumption of classes, we were limited to a total of six minutes with a selected group of players. The good news is that two of the four were McQuillan and Stewart who are both quote machines so I should have some pretty good stuff from them to share.


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