Saturday, October 10, 2015

True freshman receivers making an impact for UConn

The production of Tyraiq Beals has been well documented but one day soon, perhaps it will even be today, fellow true freshmen receivers Hergy Mayala and Aaron McLean will make their presence felt.

McLean does have one catch this season. Mayala's lone catch was wiped out due to a penalty but with each passing week all three of the first-year receivers (Frank Battle is being redshirted) are getting more comfortable with things.

None of the true freshmen have been made available to the media this season but I did catch up with receivers coach David Corley and offensive coordinator Frank Verducci about the first-year receivers.

"Those guys are very conscious about paying attention, being coachable," Corley said. "Definitely early on in camp they showed a lot of flashes and we were excited about them just based on what they did before they got here. They quickly stepped in here and showed that they can make some contributions."

So what does it take for a kid fresh out of high school to make an immediate impact like Beals, who has 16 catches for 165 yards in the first five games of the season.

"Just to have that maturity about yourself and have the self confidence that you do belong and be consistent," Corley said. "A lot of times young guys will flash. They have the attributes but they are not able to have the consistency. These guys are mature enough to come in and work hard every day. Maybe it is a physical thing where physically they aren't capable of carrying the load but these guys have been impressive and our strength staff has done a great job of getting them prepared and they have done a great job themselves of with the mental aspect.

"I think with what we do here as a program, we are always looking for guys to come in and contribute and they are always going to have an opportunity to be evaluated so if somebody is going to be able to help us succeed, we are going to give them that opportunity as long as they show us that they can so that is what they are all about."

There was a sense that at least one of the true freshmen could work their way into the receiver rotation. With the uncertainty surrounding Dhameer Bradley, there have been even more opportunities.

"It is a hard thing because you have some more experienced receivers who understand the game a little better," Verducci said. "You've got younger players with such high ceilings and exceptional natural talent so as they matured, as they polish off those rough edges they become very competitive and it is a real battle for playing time.

"It is very impressive. You have to look at them all individually because they all have unique skill sets. All of them have improved, even Frank Battle who is going to redshirt this year, we see continued improvement from him and it is a real positive for us that he continues to work with the varsity even though he is redshirting. They are going to be a great group moving forward, no doubt."

The good thing is that all of the first-year receivers bring different thing to the table.

"They all have different body types, different things like that but they all do a pretty good job of just extending and catching the ball, soft hands, strong hands and those are things they have in common," Corley said.

Beals already is tied for fifth among true freshmen (during the FBS era) with 16 catches and he needs 35 yards to join Terry Caulley, Jason Williams, Brandon Young, Terence Jeffers and Brad Kanuch as the only true freshmen with 200 receiving yards.

"He has really strong hands for somebody when you look at him and he doesn't look like the biggest, strongest guy out there but his hands are strong," Corley said of Beals. "When you get the ball around him, he does a terrific job of pulling it in, a really good catch radius. If you put it in his general area, he does a pretty good job of coming up with the ball."

The live blog for today's game (3:45 p.m. on ESPNews) is now up and running so feel free to check it out


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