Thursday, March 26, 2015

Some under the radar position battles at UConn

Unless UConn moves tomorrow's spring practice to Albany (where I will be for the NCAA women's basketball regional) I won't be at the third practice that the media is allowed to watch the first 20-30 minutes.

That doesn't mean I don't have some thoughts on what has been transpiring during spring camp.

As always, there are some interesting positional battles. No, it is not all about quarterback, quarterback and more on the quarterback competition.

A couple things I noticed from the two practices I was able to watch is that Ryan Crozier seems like the guy at center and that after redshirting last season, Sheriden Lawley and James Atkins are getting long looks to get into the defensive end rotation.

Let's start with the center position. Coming into spring practice the feeling was that Daniel Oak, who redshirted a season ago, and Kyle Bockeloh would fight it out for the starting center spot.

During the opening practice, Crozier (who the last three games of the season at left guard as a true freshman) was the center on the starting offensive line with classmate Trey Rutherford moving into to the starting role at left guard. At practice No. 5, the lineup was the same. Crozier playing center and Rutherford at left guard was a subject I brought up in the press conference with Diaco.

'We are seeing if he can snap and block to the right, snap and block to the left with power," Diaco said on Crozier's work at center. "It looks like he can. We look at the gun snap and it looks like he can. What we've like to do is we'd like to have the best player play and most physically gifted play, to take those five guys and start there. Which guy can snap of those five? The other guys are doing a great job. We will be able to function with all three. The Crozier experience is going to continue to move forward.

"That (Rutherford's experience as a true freshman) is a big help. All of those guys have reps. Crozier was a starter, Rutherford played a ton, Samra was a starter, Andreas was a starter, Richard was a starter so you have five guys who either started or played a bunch of football and they are all back not that you are looking at '16 but this is a young group."

At defensive end Kenton Adeyemi, Folorunso Fatukasi and Cole Ormsby proved last season that they belong as rotational guys at defensive end. Diaco would like to have a fourth player in place before the start of preseason camp in August. When UConn did some 11 on 11 drills, Lawley was out there with the second-team defense.

"He is (competing) for the next guy in spot at defensive end," Diaco said. "You have James (Atkins), you have Sheriden, you have some guys coming in and somebody needs to take over that otherwise we will be 3 (players) for 2 (positions) at that end position where we will take Kenton, Foley, Cole and go 3 for 2. We'd like not to have to have to do that if we develop the next man in so we will see."

UConn announced some details of the March 31 pro day and April 11 spring game.

The pro day (which will not be open to the public) will be on campus beginning at 8:45 a.m. While most of the attention will be focused on NFL combine star Byron Jones and Geremy Davis, normally all the UConn seniors take part in the event.

As far as the spring game, parking lots open at noon (three hours before the spring game) with the gates at Rentschler Field opening at 1 p.m. The fan fest will also open at 1

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