Some thoughts from UConn's media day
Seniors Julian Campenni, Andrew Adams and Marquise Vann were named captains along with junior Andreas Knappe after a balloting from what UConn coach Bob Diaco said was a vote from everybody in the UConn football family.
He also said he would wait until Sunday to name his starting quarterback and go into specifics on most starting spots. Bryant Shirreffs has been running with the first team throughout preseason camp and it would be a surprise for him not to be the No. 1 guy at quarterback. The only other positions where there were multiple players seeing first and second team reps came at defensive end where Kenton Adeyemi and Cole Ormsby are both pushing for a starting spot and receiver where there has been a battle for the No. 2 spot. Diaco said Thomas Lucas is looking like he could start along with Noel Thomas, who was the most impressive player I saw at the three practices/scrimmages I witnessed.
Media day began with about 30 minutes of Diaco addressing a variety of issues. He was rather upbeat, as you would expect him to be, about how camp has progressed. The biggest surprise to me was him saying that older players could be in line to get reps over true freshmen Matt Peart and David Ryslik, who have been consistently working with the second team at offensive tackle and defensive tackle respectively. I think it would be wise to try to protect their redshirt this season so perhaps that is the plan. That would especially be the case with Peart since starting tackles Knappe and Richard Levy are only juniors so if Peart played this season, he would be a junior by the time Knappe and Levy graduated. If he is redshirted, he would have three seasons of eligibility.
"I think it is hard to play freshmen," Diaco said. "As ready as they are, they are still going to cost you. It is going to be that moment, they are freshmen, even the best freshmen I have ever been around that is all players. When you specifically boil it down and start thinking about freshmen participating at the power positions and skill positions, now it is like a disaster. The offensive line, the defensive line, the tight end position, in the linebacker corps and that group there, that could become a mess. So where are they participating? They are participating, potentially, in the skill positions. I am fairly certain that is going to be the hallmark of this year. I can't imagine in the two deep there being a true freshman that is going to be a guy that the team is counting on (at those positions). The exceptional freshmen, the only one would be Matt Peart at left tackle and he is by no means ready to go in the game and play. We'll see if we can get him ready to go into the game in a week.
"The skill players, they are really talented players. Tyraiq Beals is going to play, Hergy Mayala is going to play. He is exceptional, Tyraiq is exceptional. Aaron McLean, he is going to be in there and possibly Frank Battle. I don't anticipate any freshmen defensive player participating in the two deep at this point.
"We are going to slide Sean Marinan over and take a look at him behind Foley because David (Ryslik) is just not ready."
Diaco also said that tight ends Chris Lee and Zordan Holman should be on the travel squad and participating in very specific roles.
It isn't often that Diaco is critical of one of his players but he admitted that junior receiver Dhameer Bradley "had a very listless beginning to camp, a lackluster beginning."
Here's more of Diaco on Bradley.
"The reasons are irrelevant, he struggled producing. We love Dhameer, a great teammate but like a batter in a slump, almost like the harder you try the worse it gets or a golfer whose game is off the tracks and you are trying to get it back on the tracks and the harder you try, the worse it gets. He kind of went through a little bit of a phase like that which set him back a little bit. He has taken great accountability for that time, he is indomitable in changing it. We are going to allow for him to perform and produce at the level that he can and he should.
"Those younger players are on fire so yes it is a challenge."