Friday, August 07, 2015

UConn OC Verducci has familiar face in camp

Frank Verducci thinks the world of Billy Williams, who he coached a season ago at Northern Iowa.

There's not much he wouldn't do for the Knoxville, Tennessee native. Well, except for place a call to the staff of a conference rival on Williams' behalf.

Williams, who had catches of 58 and 36 yards as a freshman at Northern Iowa, found himself with a player without a position when a change in offensive philosophy downgraded the importance of the tight end position. When he decided to transfer, he called Verducci with a favor.

"He had actually asked me to call Memphis for him and we play Memphis and I said 'I can't call Memphis and have you scoring touchdowns against me so why don't you come here?'" Verducci said.

That is exactly what happened as Williams transferred to UConn. After sitting out the 2015 season due to NCAA regulations on transfers, he will have three years of eligibility remaining.

"I know the type of young man Billy is, I know his skill set and he is going to be a nice addition to the team," Verducci said. "He will do a great job as a scout team player this year as he mandatory redshirts and more than anything else, I think he is the type of young man we want in the program."

There aren't many tight ends who averaged 47 yards per catch but that is precisely what happened with Williams as a true freshman at Northern Iowa.

"We kind of just piece mealed him last year because he was a true freshman," Verducci said. "We gave him a couple of things to do and those things he did very well. We actually moved him to receiver at one point when some receivers got hurt and brought him back late. I really admired his resiliency as we went through the fall last year. He is a kid who is 1,000 miles away from home in the middle of Iowa and he really developed as a player. He will be a nice piece to plug into the team in '16."

You've already heard Bob Diaco said that converted fullback and former Hand High star Matt Walsh will be competing with last year's leading tackler Marquise Vann for one of the starting linebacker slots. Now it is time for Walsh's position coach to weigh in.

We had access to the assistant coaches and high up on my to-do list was to get Vincent Brown's take on Walsh's rapid development.

"What Matt showed during spring football is that he has a high level of football intelligence, he's got contact toughness, he's got the ability to make plays," said Brown, a former NFL linebacker. "At the end of the day that is what you are looking for from inside linebackers, guys that are smart, that are great communicators that can make everybody else around them better. We understand that it is not going to be given to him but what he showed is that he has this ability to compete and help and it is going to make all the other guys around him better.

"He has some natural football IQ, he's got this ability to communicate. If you have a great defense, you are going to need that."


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