Tuesday, September 15, 2015

UConn's Walsh preparing the same regardless of Vann's availability against Missouri

Former Hand High star Matt Walsh drew praise from UConn coach Bob Diaco after making his first career start at linebacker in Saturday's win over Army.

Walsh remains listed as a backup to Marquise Vann on the two-deep chart but with Vann, last year's leading tackler, pulling up as he tried to chase down Army's Joe Walker on a 71-yard touchdown catch and run, could Walsh be starting again?

Diaco called Vann day to day and expected him to be at practice today. Walsh said his preparation this week will not change whether Vann is able to play or not.

"Everybody on our team prepares like they are going to be the starter on Saturday and nothing will change until we show up on Saturday and everybody will be able to play whatever," Walsh said.

Walsh said the Huskies are taking a similar approach when going on the road against nationally-ranked Missouri out of the SEC on Saturday.

"We treat every week the same because you go in and prepare, both teams it doesn't matter who they are, one is ranked and one is not ranked everybody always expects the win so everybody goes in and everybody has the same mindset, just treat it like another week, it doesn't matter who we are playing."

Walsh saw plenty of time at fullback in his first two seasons but he is loving life at linebacker.

"When I got over to the defensive side of the ball, it was almost as if I found my home again," Walsh said. "I was able to let loose and play football for the first time in a couple of years.

"I feel like I always tried to play with the linebacker's mentality because you always because you always grow up watching the great defensive players and a lot of the real tough guys on the field are usually the linebackers. Even when I played offense as a fullback, I tried to play with a linebacker's mentality there that nobody is going to stop me, try to be the most dominant most physical player on the field."

If there was a question about Walsh coming out of high school it was whether he had the speed to play linebacker at the FBS level. He has proven that he is plenty fast enough to get to the ball carriers.

"Coach (Matt) Balis and the whole strength staff has done an awesome job, the biggest difference from high school is training in season, we take that very seriously and the whole conditioning and running aspect. I feel like the biggest improvement I've made is probably my flexibility and my speed, not as much straight forward 40-time speed but more like quick change of direction, kind of running laterally to help me go sideline to sideline."

Seven receivers appeared in the game participation report but none of them are named Dhameer Bradley.

Among the returning players, only Noel Thomas caught more passes than Bradley a season ago. Not only has Bradley not played in either of the first two games, he wasn't even warming up with the receivers before the game. I saw him on the sideline congratulating Ron Johnson after a nice run in the season opener but I am not sure if he was on the sidelines in the Army game.

Once again Diaco was asked about Bradley and here is what he said.

"I'd say Dhameer right now indefinitely, a time to be determined by him and his ability to work on his health," Diaco said. "He had a little lower leg nagging thing based on the circumstances, right now he is focused on healing that and he also has some lofty academic goals, he is very bright young man and he has some very lofty academic goals and based on circumstances right now, he is going to focus on those two things basically transcript health and physical health until that changes on his side of the ledger. We are loving him and (doing) whatever we can do to support him as part of our football family."


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