Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Youngsters steal the show at UConn practice

After 10 straight games weeks following a grueling preseason camp, the members of the UConn football have a week with no game to play and seven days to get their minds right while allowing their bodies to heal.

So on Tuesday afternoon when the Huskies hit the practice field, the members of the first and second team offensive and defensive units only went about a hour which is half as long as a normal Tuesday practice. Then they were instructed to take off their helmets and shoulder pads even though practice had no yet reached its conclusion.

Then lined up on the sidelines inside the Shenkman Training Center and prepared to watch their understudies take the field.

Whether it was former Shelton High running back Jason Thompson shaking off a wicked hit, Aaron Garland coming up with an interception and breaking a few tackles during the return, Nazir Williams and Marshe' Terry unleashing hellacious hits or Connor Freeborn returning a fumble for a touchdown on the final play of the scrimmage, there was plenty of action. Nobody was enjoying it more than some of the Huskies' veterans. Senior safety Andrew Adams was especially exuberant in expressing his glee at each and every play from one of the defensive players.

It was a stroke of brilliance by head coach Bob Diaco to give the players set to see the field when UConn hosts Houston on Nov. 21 a chance to rest their bodies with a shorter practice while allowing for the team to bond watching the players who have spent nearly every practice working with the scout or look team.

"It gives the young guys get a chance to get out there and scrimmage which they haven't really for a while," UConn senior running back Max DeLorenzo said. "It is good to see those guys making plays, getting a little aggressive with each other. It was really good to see especially JT - Jason Thompson - at running back, he is really talented and he might not get the opportunity up here with us and he shows that every time he scrimmages.

"We can catch our breath on a bye week, talk a little trash with the defensive players, they talk a little trash to us and it is great. We love, they definitely love it."

During a normal practice full contact is frowned upon. The games are taxing enough on the bodies of the starters without taking unnecessary punishment during practice. There were no such restrictions when the third and fourth team players literally went head to head with plenty of pads popping.

"You always spend so much time practicing especially at this time of the year, they are trying to give a defensive look to the defense and you don't get to show what you can do as a player as much," UConn senior defensive end Kenton Adeyemi said. "Now they go out there and they have a lot of fun playing football which is what we all love to do.

"It is always fun watching the young kids. Obviously I try to get the defensive boys going so it is always fun watching them get better. We kind of talk them up before the game, let's see what you can do so they come out all fired up ready to go and we enjoy watching them."

Former UConn defensive back Darius Butler is up for the NFL's Clutch Performer of Week 9 thanks to his interception of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning after the Indianapolis Colts took a 27-24 lead to allow the Colts to hand the Denver Broncos their first loss of the season.

It was Butler's first interception since he picked off two passes in a 25-3 win over Houston on Dec. 15, 2013 and the 12th interception of his career.

Butler is up against two quarterbacks who threw game-winning touchdowns in overtime, standout receiver Antonio Brown and Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis for the weekly award.


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