Thursday, August 06, 2015

Looking at center position at UConn; Poindexter's special honor

Once again the quarterback competition will be a popular topic of conversation during UConn's preseason camp. However, the leg injury suffered by Ryan Crozier leaves some question marks of just how will be snapping the ball to the UConn quarterbacks.

Crozier started the final three games at left guard and made to move to center during spring practice to replace the graduated Alex Mateas. However, Crozier's injury will sideline him for the season leaving the competition at center very wide open.

Offensive line coach Mike Cummings addressed the unfortunate timing of Crozier's injury as well as possible candidates to take over in the middle of the line.

"I feel bad for Ryan and as soon as I feel bad for Ryan, I won't let him disconnect from this football team because he had an injury, we will move forward and get the next man in," Cummings said. "I feel bad for him because he is a great competitor but here's the good news, he played last year and has a redshirt year so he is still going to get him full four years of reps.

"I think we have trained everybody but three guys who have all snapped, the freshmen I haven't worked with them yet so ... We have Dan Oak, (Kyle) Bockeloh, (Brendan) Vechery has been snapping so will put the next best guy in."

I was curious about sophomore Trey Rutherford, who showed the ability to play a variety of positions on the offensive line as a freshman but Cummings said he wants to keep Rutherford, who is listed as a second-string right tackle, playing on the outside.

"We kind of have to settle down where he plays and I think it really will help him to solidify one spot," Cummings said.

With Tommy Hopkins ending spring practice as the No. 1 guy at left guard and with none of the three candidates to start at center having started at UConn, the Huskies will likely have two first-time starters among the three interior offensive line positions.
"You've heard of (Hall of Fame lineman) Anthony Munoz, he had a first game too and that's how I look at it," Cummings said. "Here's the good news, Tommy Hopkins has played in the games. He has played on offense and he played on the punt team so he doesn't have that anxiety, that is biggest part of it, the anxiety and the situation in the game. Tommy Hopkins is very tough and very smart and I think he will be fine. With the center, we will get somebody ready to go. We could have a young player in there but we have three experienced guys who can help them out."

One of the biggest surprises to me on the depth chart in the UConn football prospectus is that former St. Joseph of Trumbull lineman Steve Hashemi is listed as the No. 2 guy at left offensive tackle. Hashemi was moved to tight end as a true freshman because more bodies were needed there. He went from being listed at 262 pounds as a freshman to 286 pounds on the most recent depth chart. He is ahead of Dalton Gifford and other more experienced linemen on the depth chart.

"Steve Hashemi went from being a tight end to now he is going to be a tackle and has committed himself to gaining weight and getting bigger," Cummings said. "He is tough, loves his team, he loves his university, loves his state, he has a great personality."

The exploits of UConn defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter during his days as a safety at Virginia have been well documented. He had his number 3 retired at Virginia and is one of the most decorated players in Virginia football history. He added another prestigious honor as he is on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2016.

While the list of candidates came out a couple months ago, this was the first time I have had a chance to speak to Poindexter since that time. He doesn't even recall the specifics of how he was informed of this special recognition.

"I guess they posted it on Twitter or Facebook, somebody sent me a message,' Poindexter said. "I hadn't been tracking it but somebody sent me congratulations and I looked it up. It is a nice honor, hopefully one of these days I will make it in.

"It goes back to my coaching, my teammates and stuff like that but it is a nice honor. "

The members of the Class of 2016 will be announced in January.


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