Sunday, September 27, 2015

WR Beals making an immediate contribution at UConn

At the first practice the media was allowed to watch during preseason camp one of the first things I noticed was true freshman Tyraiq Beals already seeing some first-team reps in only the sixth practice. While the UConn coaches are wisely protecting the redshirt seasons for some of the other true freshmen who quickly worked their way into the two-deep rotation (offensive tackle Matt Peart, defensive lineman David Ryslik are at the top of the list), there has been no such strategy with Beals.

After catching three passes in each of the last two games, Beals saved his best effort - to date - for Saturday's game against Navy. Beals was targeted eight times (counting the 15-yard screen pass on the opening drive that was credited as a running play although it certainly looked like a forward pass when I watched a replay of the game).

Beals finished with a team-high six catches for 63 yards including a 39-yard touchdown reception, the first of his career. When the 15-yard "run" is added, he grabbed seven of the eight passes thrown his way and the lone exception was a pass a few yards away from him which he had no chance of even getting a finger on.

Just out of curiosity I did some checking and he is the first true freshman to lead UConn in catches in a game since Terence Jeffers and Brad Kanuch were among four players with a team-high two catches in 21-7 win over Army on Oct. 14, 2006. I have to do some more research to see where he fits nationally since Beals just misses being listed among the NCAA's leaders but it looks like he is 11th is catches per game for true freshmen at the FBS level and tied for eighth in overall catches. Taking it one step further, since 2002 no UConn true freshman has more catches or receiving yards through the first four games than Beals.

Here is the list
Player            POS Year      Season     1st 4 games
Terry Caulley RB 2002       25-205-1     9-59-0
Jason Williams WR 2002    23-354-3     9-104-1
Brandon Young WR 2002   22-269-3     6-53-1
Terence Jeffers WR 2006    17-200-2     1-2-0
Brian Lemelle WR 2013      16-177-2     0-0-0
Brandon McLean WR 2004 14-132-2     2-16-0
Brad Kanuch WR 2006       13-288-1      2-68-0
Tyraiq Beals WR 2015        13-132-1  13-132-1Dhameer Bradley WR 2013 13-119-1     2-6-0
Michael Smith WR 2008      12-137-0    5-49-0
Arkeel Newsome RB 2014   11-155-2    2-14-0
Beals was among the players requested to come in for interviews after the Navy game. However, since Bob Diaco's arrival, getting to talk to true freshmen is a hit or miss proposition with more misses than hits. It is kind of like Christmas morning but instead of seeing presents under the tree, you see a true freshman coming in to meet with the media. It happened last season a couple of times with Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson and figure at some point we will get to talk to Beals but I'm not sure exactly when that is going to be.

The good news is the others had no problems talking about Beals. There was plenty to talk about especially when he caught a touchdown on the same drive that he was absolutely lit up by Navy LB Daniel Gonzalez.

"He is a talented player and a tough guy," Diaco said. "He is everything you would want him to be as a youngster. He has to get bigger, stronger and faster."

Here's what Newsome, who was targeted a team-high 11 times, said about Beals.

"I was so happy for him. He has a really bright future, he is a really talented kid," Newsome said. "It is not all talent because he is working (hard)."

For those wondering, here is what I came up with for targeted passes (including the Beals "run" and two plays wiped out due to penalty

Arkeel Newsome     11 targets (5 catches for 51 yards)
Noel Thomas             9 targets (5 catches for 78 yards and almost came down with the pass on a flea flicker on first series)
Tyraiq Beals              8 targets (6 catches for 63 yards, TD; 1 run for 15 yards with screen)
Tommy Myers          2 targets  (1 catch for 6 yards, TD)
Alec Bloom              1 target    (1 catch for 11 yards)
Hergy Mayala           1 target    (catch wiped out due to a holding penalty)
Aaron McLean          1 target  (1 catch for 10 yards)
Thomas Lucas           1 target  (no catches)
Max DeLorenzo        1 target (no catches)

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